General Motors has built an electric bike and it’s pretty damn good

A clever take on urban mobility from automotive giant GM

Ariv Merge folding bike unfolded driveside

Ariv is the brand name for an all-new electric folding bicycle from automotive giant General Motors. Designed from the ground up by GM engineers, and some faces very well known to the bike industry, Ariv bikes bring genuine innovation to a relatively stale sector.

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The Ariv range consists of two models: the Merge and the Meld. We’ll concentrate on the Merge because the latter is just a simpler, non-folding version of the same bike that’s been created to hit a lower price point.

All Ariv bikes use a 16in-wheeled alloy frame and fork that houses GM’s own motor system and a 240Wh battery that delivers a claimed range of up to 64km/ 40 miles on its most conservative power setting. A full charge of the removable battery pack will take three and a half hours.

Unusually for folders, the Ariv range has hydraulic disc brakes on its 16in wheels. Full-length mudguards are also fitted as standard.

Ariv Merge electric folding bike folded and unfolded in home
The Ariv Merge in its folded and unfolded state
Ariv/General Motors

Ariv folding bike folding procedure

GM clearly understands that in order for bicycles to be successful with people who aren’t already cyclists, it has to be user-friendly and intuitive. For that reason, particular attention has been paid to the fold of the Merge.

The procedure starts with the pull of one tab at the front of the bike’s steerer assembly. Then, thanks to some very smart engineering, the handlebars can be rotated about the stem and, at the same time, the steerer assembly and central hinge are both simultaneously unlocked.

Ariv Merge folding bike release lever
Some very clever engineering means just one pull at this lever releases several catches at once.
Oliver Woodman/Immediate Media

Little more than some well-positioned force is then all that is required to get the bike totally folded.

That said, I managed to make an absolute meal of it on my first, second and third attempts. More practice was definitely required.

A folded Merge certainly doesn’t pack down quite as small as some of its competitors, but the folding process goes without all of the fiddly clamps and annoying fixtures that are commonplace on most folding bikes.

While folded, the Merge can then easily be wheeled around thanks to the paralell positioning of its wheels.

Ariv Merge folding bike steerer assembly and cables/hoses
Peeping inside the steering assembly gives a glimpse into the complexity of this little folder

The Merge comes in at a claimed 22kg /48.5lbs, while the Melve is lighter at 19.5kg /43lbs.

Patented GM Motor system

You will not recognise the motor on this bike from anywhere else. The GM-branded unit was developed in-house and uses planetary gears to achieve its claimed 75Nm torque output.

Despite its grunt, the motor is around 40 percent smaller in size than the majority of its competitors. This frees up more room for the 250Wh lithium battery, and also means the bike’s chainstays can remain compact.

General Motors' electric bike motor from Ariv Merge electric bike
It isn’t the quietest but GM’s electric motor is seriously impressive
Oliver Woodman/Immediate Media

A simple interface on the handlebar is used to control the motor between one of four power levels, while the bike’s battery status and power button are neatly integrated within the top tube of the bike.

The big red button on the handlebar is used to activate the bike’s walk assistance feature.

Ariv Merge handlebar controller
The thumb controls for the GM motor couldn’t be easier to use. The red button is for the bike’s walk-assist mode.
Oliver Woodman/Immediate Media

Integration, integration everywhere

The Merge’s smartphone integration goes far beyond the Quadlock handlebar mount, thanks to integrated GPS and GSM tech within the frame.

Ariv Merge Quadlock mount
Make use of the Quadlock phone mount and the Ariv app and you’ll unlock a lot more information from your rides.
Oliver Woodman/Immediate Media

With its own dedicated app, a connected rider will receive detailed information on human and motor power outputs, as well as ride statistics including elevation. It’ll also function as an odometer, measuring distance travelled.

The bike will output power via a USB port so that a device will maintain its charge level while in use.

Ariv Merge display unit and battery status indicator
The power button and battery status indicator are particularly nicely integrated into the frame itself.
Oliver Woodman/Immediate Media

GM has a dedicated team of software engineers that will commit to continually updating the app, with features such as GPS tracking already in the pipeline.

Other examples of neat integration can be found at the front light, which doubles as a structural handle. The same can be said of the five LED unit that is built into the bike’s seatpost and includes a sliding foot so that this component can double as a retractable kickstand.

Ariv Merge seatpost with five illuminated LED lights
The Ariv Merge seatpost incorporates five illuminated LED lights
Oliver Woodman/Immediate Media

Ariv Merge pricing and availability

You won’t be finding these bikes in General Motors dealerships anytime soon. Instead, GM will sell these bikes directly to the consumer via three debut territories: Germany, Netherlands and Belgium.

The Ariv Merge retails for €3,300 and the Ariv Melve at €2,800. International pricing for both bikes is still to be confirmed.

A company called Life Cycle will act as a support network for those early adopters. Eventually, the bikes may be sold in other territories though these are still to be confirmed.

Ariv Merge first ride impressions

GM staff joined us for a short cycle around Brussels during the launch event, which gave us a decent opportunity to find out exactly how the Ariv Merge rides.

As someone who is more than familiar with the ride of a Brompton, and more recently, Brompton’s first electric bike, I was really curious how the Merge would compare.

I also can’t forget the ride of this rather horrible electric folding bike, which lends itself as a benchmark for how to not create an electric folder.

Ariv Merge folding electric bike being ridden over a bridge in the sunshine
The Merge has a far more stable ride than anything else I’ve ridden with 16in wheels
Ariv/General Motors

Heading out on the ride, it was immediately obvious that a good deal of development had gone into the geometry of this bike. The steering is relatively fast and precise but has none of the twitchiness that a Brompton exhibits. The overall sense of stability far surpasses anything I’ve ridden with wheels of this size.

I enjoyed the slightly floaty sensation offered by the Vee branded tyres too, which I’m assured offer a good level of puncture protection — something that’s particularly important with a folder because puncture repairs can be fiddly and time consuming due to space restrictions and tooling required.

For what it’s worth, nobody in any of our groups managed to pick up a flat during the ride.

Vee Tyres Goodie Goodie
The Goodie Goodie from Vee Tyres seemed to be an impressive choice

At 6ft 3in / 191cm, I’m slightly outside of the height range this bike is designed to accommodate but, despite this, I never felt too cramped or uncomfortable.

Developing its own motor is no small feat and GM seems to have come up with a really great first effort. The powerplant is eager and develops real shove right up until its limiter, though tapers off nicely towards the top end, so you don’t have that rev-limiter-style top out that you get with some designs.

It also does a good job of smoothly cutting power, which again is more than can be said for some competitors.

It’s very vocal though, and probably the loudest in its class. This isn’t something that bothered me, in fact, I actually quite enjoyed its peculiar little whine.

The handlebar mounted controls and top tube display make for intuitive and simple operation, and it’s always easy to see the status of the battery.

Ariv Merge brakes and grips
All of the controls are well chosen and work really well
Oliver Woodman/Immediate Media

The Merge is specced with an 8spd Shimano Alfine hub gear as standard along with a flat bar shifter. The hub shifts nicely in combination with the drivetrain and doesn’t snag or pull like some mid-drive options can.

For the flat ride we enjoyed around Brussels, this gearing did seem a little excessive. The motor’s torque provides so much flexibility in terms of cadence that it almost didn’t matter which gear you were in. And when you consider that the Melve — a cheaper, non-folding version of the Merge — is equipped with a singlespeed transmission as standard, I reckon that for a lot of people, one gear might actually be enough.

The Tektro hydraulic disc brakes offer well-modulated, powerful stopping in all weather conditions and are leagues ahead of any rim brakes.

Tektro hydraulic disc brakes on Ariv Merge folding bike
The Tektro hydraulic discs make for stopping that’s simply in another league from most folding bikes
Oliver Woodman/Immediate Media

A short section of off-road track was the ideal place to feel for flex in the mainframe and steerer. While some was present, it was far less than expected and the bike remained comfortable and very stable. This is definitely the least intimidating folder I’ve ridden, and yet, it was in no way boring.

Overall, I was left incredibly impressed with the Ariv Merge from GM. I have some reservations around the fold, and the pricing is undoubtedly high, but the overall quality and ride characteristics give me the impression that this is going to be a very good bike indeed.

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Crucially though, this is a bike from a car company that is not simply a cheap rebrand of something that already exists. The automotive sector is finally taking electric bikes very seriously indeed and it could be for the benefit of us all.