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AIMA Santa Monica Review

aima santa monica
By
Tony Donaldson,
Pro E-Bike Reviewer
aima santa monica
By
Ashley Reid,
Contributing Editor

40 mi

RANGE

28 mph

TOP SPEED

5 hrs

CHARGE TIME

66 lbs

WEIGHT

Rear Hub

MOTOR TYPE

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Ideal for...

  • Regular Commutes: With a realistic 30-40 mile range, the AIMA can help people replace their cars on daily commutes.
  • Touring: The decent range, impressive torque, and powerful motor are ideal for riders who like to explore.
  • RVing: The Santa Monica isn’t just a city bike. The 2.6” tires and suspension fork make both urban and light trail riding smooth.
  • Increasing Mobility: The step-through frame and 750 W motor make bike riding easy again for riders with limited mobility.

AIMA Santa Monica Review Overview

As one of the leading e-mobility brands in China, AIMA already has several decades of experience. It now aims for a global reach — and will likely succeed with its first American-designed computer e-bike: the Santa Monica.

With a class-leading 750W motor, a torque sensor, and a 720Wh battery, the Santa Monica has everything it needs to be quite a hit when it launches in April 2024. In fact, I expect the bike to sell quite well, considering AIMA has already enlisted over 200 stores across the United States to carry this new model.

The Santa Monica is just AIMA’s second e-bike built to U.S.-specific specifications, preceded by the 2023 Big Sur (and Big Sur Sport version). As you might be able to guess from the names, the California coast and culture have greatly inspired AIMA’s U.S. bike designs.

While Big Sur falls more into the adventure e-bike category, the Santa Monica is definitely a commuter model — the first of its kind for AIMA. Speaking of firsts, AIMA has partnered with Bafang to create exclusive components, like the Santa Monica’s aptly named ‘Route 66’ motor.

If the one-of-a-kind motor isn’t enough to make you consider the Santa Monica as your next commuter e-bike, perhaps the shockingly low $1,599 price is. Of course, there are some minor drawbacks, like a somewhat uncomfortable saddle. But overall, it’s a complete steal, especially considering the high-performance components.

What We Like

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Smooth ride quality
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Natural power delivery with torque sensor
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Massive amounts of power with a compact 750 W motor made exclusively for this bike
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Integrated brake lights, turn signals, and a very bright headlight for safe commutes

What We Don't Like

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Heavy 66 lb frame
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Overly padded seat becomes uncomfortable
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Loud turn signals
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Fairly short realistic range for a commuter bike

Specs: Weight & Dimensions

Weight
66 lbs
Battery weight
8.6 lbs
Rider height range
5'2"-6'2"
Max. rider weight
300 lbs
Max. cargo weight
22 lbs

Specs: Electrical

Battery
720Wh LG 21700 Li-ion cells
Charge time
5 hrs
Motor
750W
Rear Hub
Bafang Route 66, developed exclusively for AIMA
Motor sensor
Torque Sensor
Torque
72.97 Nm
Safety certifications
UL 2271; UL 2849 pending  More Info
AIMA Santa Monica beauty shot on the beach
We can’t ignore how great the Santa Monica looks in its namesake, Santa Monica, CA.

Shipping and Assembly

I received the bike fully assembled — but only because it was a pre-launch model. Normally, AIMA doesn’t sell directly to consumers to help avoid any assembly mishaps. If you want to get the Santa Monica, you can find an AIMA dealer and even take the bike for a test ride.

Apps and Connectivity

AIMA doesn’t offer an app. However, the Santa Monica’s display does have a USB-A port that lets you charge your phone while riding.

If you decide to do that, you might want to invest in a few accessories, like a handlebar mount for your phone and the correct cable. That way, you can use apps like Google Maps or Strava to guide you and track your rides.

How the AIMA Santa Monica Performed

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed my time riding the AIMA Santa Monica. Let me tell you why.

The Motor

Up close shot of AIMA Santa Monica motor
AIMA partnered with Bafang to create the Route 66 motor exclusively for the Santa Monica.

Most commuter e-bikes include 250-500 W motors, but AIMA wanted something more powerful — yet more compact — for the Santa Monica. Thanks to its partnership with Bafang, the Santa Monica includes a 750 W motor called Route 66. It looks the size of a 500W motor but emits 50% more power.

Like AIMA’s Big Sur model, the Santa Monica sports a torque sensor that provides a more natural pedaling experience. Traditionally, manufacturers included torque sensors in high-end bikes with mid-drive motors, so I think this trend of putting them in lower-priced, hub-motor-powered bikes is simply fantastic!

The Battery and Charger

The removable 720 Wh battery fits in the down tube and only requires a key to unlock. This system simplifies winter storage since you can keep the battery inside. You can even take the battery off for charging — or charge it right on the bike if you prefer.

AIMA Santa Monica charger
AIMA clearly placed its logo on the charger to avoid any confusion.

I want to give kudos to AIMA for its attention to detail, right down to the molded logo on the charger. So many companies source a generic charger and never put their name on it, risking the possibility of someone plugging one of their e-bikes into the wrong charger. Not only could this damage the system, but it could also cause a fire. AIMA really stepped it up here.

The Fit

The Santa Monica accommodates riders of all sizes. The step-through frame facilitates mounting, and you can adjust both the seat and stem with simple tools like an Allen wrench. If there’s enough room, you could even add a suspension seatpost for an extra cushy ride.

Speaking of cushy, AIMA opted for a huge, highly padded leather seat, similar to the one on the Big Sur. I understand that the goal was to offer a seat that nearly everyone would find comfortable. However, I have to say I didn’t love it. It was great for the first part of my ride but then became quite uncomfortable. Plus, it adds a few extra pounds to the bike.

The handlebar has a pretty big sweepback, which might work for some riders. I personally prefer a flatter bar, but the fit wasn’t uncomfortable.

The Extras

Touch points include leather grips, aluminum platform pedals, and retro-reflective strips on the side of the wheels for better night visibility. The Santa Monica comes stocked with sturdy plastic fenders to keep you clean while riding through rain or puddles.

This commuter e-bike also sports a bright 100 lux headlight, a color TFT display, and a throttle for when you don’t want to pedal. There are turn signals and a horn, but I have to say they are much too loud for my taste.

While the AIMA Santa Monica doesn’t include a rear rack, it does have bosses to mount one on the top and bottom of the seat stays. You can also find bosses on the down tube for mounting things like water bottles. Just note that there are no mounting points on the head tube or fork.

The Riding Experience

Once you turn on AIMA’s Santa Monica and step through the frame to mount, you’re in for a fun time. It offers immediate — but natural — power, thanks to the torque sensor.

I’m glad AIMA chose the SR Suntour suspension fork, as it’s a respected and time-proven component on commuter bikes. It offers 60 mm of travel, enough to take the shock out of bumpy roads. The large-volume 27.5”x2.6” tires also glide nicely over the road. Between their volume and the little bit of travel from the SR Suntour fork, bumpy roads feel smoother.

The Santa Monica includes five levels of pedal assist, and you can definitely feel the difference. Even on level 1, you receive plenty of power. The motor is quiet, producing a very light hum, barely audible over the sound of the tires on the pavement.

A Shimano Altus 8-speed drivetrain with trigger shifters also offers a good range of gears and keeps you moving on steep hills. Even though Altus ranks on the lower end of Shimano’s offerings, it’s still really good. On top of that, the Tektro hydraulic disc brakes with 203 mm rotors offer ample stopping power.

up close shot of Santa Monica's drivetrain
The Shimano Altus 8-speed drivetrain gives plenty of gear options to keep you going on hills.

Because I tested a preproduction model, the programming wasn’t finalized. I was able to reach 32 mph with pedal assist still helping me. By the time of AIMA’s official Santa Monica launch, the speed will max out at 28 mph with pedal assist and 20 mph with the throttle. That technically pushes this e-bike to the out-of-class category, so make sure to check your local regulations before getting it.

Performance: Hill Climb Test

I rode the Santa Monica mostly around its namesake, Santa Monica, California, where there are plenty of hills to climb. I have one in particular that I love on Kenter Avenue — and it’s extremely steep.

I rode a little over five miles to reach the hill, specifically trying to torture-test their new 750 W Bafang motor. I have actually drained some test bikes’ batteries just getting to the trailhead. Needless to say, the Route 66 performed well.

Once I got to the climb, I put the motor on level 5 and pedaled to make it all the way, trying the throttle once or twice. With the throttle, the bike can technically go up to 20 mph, but it wasn’t going over 12-15 on the steep hill, even while putting out a peak of over 1,200 W!

I pushed it pretty hard because hub motors often overheat and shut down on long hills. This Bafang Route 66 motor had no issues, though.

Performance: Brake Test

Up close shot of Santa Monica brakes
The Tektro hydraulic brakes are certainly a highlight on the AIMA Santa Monica.

AIMA made a great choice by including the Tektro hydraulic brakes with 203 mm front and rear rotors. Most bikes in this class tend to use 180mm rotors. However, the larger-diameter rotors offer more leverage for the calipers and better modulation, which is a must on heavier, more powerful commuter bikes like the Santa Monica.

It’s nice to have the premium quality and control of hydraulic disc brakes. These Tektro ones provide more than enough stopping power and are easy to modulate — which became especially clear on my descent from the trailhead. Even good brakes can fail on a steep, two-mile descent, but the Tektros and rotors handled it with no issue and got me back down safely.

Performance: Range Test

AIMA claims a range of “up to 60 miles” for the Santa Monica. That wording makes sense since my ride test yielded a much, much lower range. The 60-mile maximum might be feasible riding in perfect conditions in eco mode with no cargo — but is that realistic for a commute?

I tested the range here in Santa Monica, where there are plenty of hills. I spent a lot of time in eco — or mode 1 on the display — but for some hills, I upped it to level 4 just because I could. The whole trip totaled a mere 10.86 miles and used 28% of the battery. Doing some simple math would show an estimated range of about 39 miles.

Considering just how much time I spent in mode 1, I think most riders could expect 30-40 miles out of a full charge, depending on terrain, rider weight, and pedal-assist mode. The torque sensor should theoretically lengthen the range since it reduces battery dependency, but I don’t see the range ever reaching the 60-mile mark.

Things to Consider

Although the AIMA Santa Monica performed quite well, I did find a few things the company could improve — mainly the weight. It comes in at 66 lbs, which definitely teeters toward the heavier side. If your commute includes steps or a subway, the e-bike’s weight might make the journey more difficult. Even hoisting the bike up the stairs to my apartment proved challenging.

Up close shot of AIMA Santa Monica seat
While it looks cushy, it wasn’t that comfortable for me after a while.

Comfort is a bit subjective, but I think it’s worth pointing out just how uncomfortable I found the saddle after a while. Not only does it add several pounds on an already heavy bike, but it wouldn’t make a daily commute very enjoyable — especially one that’s 20+ minutes. If I were buying this bike, I’d likely swap it out for a lighter, fitted one, like the ones from SQ Lab.

I mentioned this above, but the limited range poses some concerns for a commuter e-bike. If the claimed 60-mile range was true, that would be one thing. But I could only get a realistic 30-40 miles out of it, which might not cover a longer commute. You don’t want to get stuck with no charge, trying to pedal a 66 lb bike.

AIMA Santa Monica Review: Takeaway

Overall, this ranks as one of my favorite commuter e-bikes. I could even compare it to the Aventon Level.2, another commuter e-bike comparable in componentry, range, and price. The Santa Monica’s powerful Bafang Route 66 motor definitely makes it stand out, though, and I can’t wait to see what else comes of this AIMA-Bafang partnership.

The fenders are also a nice touch, as are the lighting and retro-reflective strips on the tire sidewalls. There’s no denying it’s a chic bike reminiscent of the city that inspired its design.

While designed as a commuter bike, I would only recommend it for people with short or average commutes — nothing super long unless you can charge the bike at work. It would also make a great touring or light adventure bike. The step-through frame and powerful motor mean it could even work for riders with limited mobility. And the low price tag doesn’t hurt!

Specs & Components

Display
Bafang color TFT
Controller
48V; 25A
Headlight
100 lux (unbranded)
Taillight
Available but unbranded
Charger
100-240V; 2A
Wheel Size
27.5"x2.6"
Tire Brand + Model
Chao Yang
Brake Brand
Tektro
Brake Type
Hydraulic disc
Rotor Size
203 mm (front and rear)
Front Suspension Brand
SR Suntour
Front Travel Amount
60 mm
Shifter Brand + Model
Shimano Altus, 8-speed
Derailleur Brand + Model
Shimano Altus
Cassette Size
11-34 t
Chain Ring Size
52 t
Crank Arm Length
170 mm
Frame
6061 Aluminum
Number of Pedal Assist Levels
5

The specs above come from the manufacturer and may vary from what you’ve experienced. Notice something that needs correcting? Let us know.

Ratings

Power
5/5
5

The brand-exclusive Route 66 motor is top-of-class. Bafang managed to design a 750 W motor (the legal limit in the U.S.) that was the size of a 500 W motor.

There’s more than enough power for even the most power-hungry rider. Using pedal assist does seem better than using the throttle, though.

Range
3/5
3

The 720 Wh battery has plenty of range to take you at least 30-40 miles through the city or countryside. Having a torque sensor instead of a cadence sensor adds to that.

However, that might not be enough for commuters. Just riding 15 miles each way could leave you with no charge.

Comfort
4/5
4

Adjusting the stem and seat height allows you to accommodate various rider heights. The sweep of the handlebar may also work for many riders, although I prefer a flatter bar.

The padded seat is comfortable at first, working with the fork’s suspension travel and the tires’ volume to tame the bumps in the road pretty well. However, the seat became uncomfortable fairly quickly.

Durability
4.5/5
4.5

It’s a heavy bike, but that’s also why it feels so sturdy. Nothing rattled on any rides, and there was no flex anywhere there shouldn’t have been.

The Shimano Altus drivetrain is also durable, lasting 1,000+ miles before needing a replacement. AIMA even offers a 2-year warranty on the bike.

Style
4.5/5
4.5

The Santa Monica’s frame design mimics its predecessor, the Big Sur — and that’s a good thing. The step-through frame design looks chic, especially with the leather seat, and facilitates mounting and dismounting.

That said, the 66 lb weight kept me from giving this a full five stars.

Our Research Methodology

We personally research and test every e-bike featured in our reviews and guides to provide accurate, data-driven recommendations. Learn how we review.

About Our Editorial Team

Tony Donaldson
Written by Tony Donaldson
Pro E-Bike Reviewer
Tony Donaldson is a professional photographer, writer, and content producer. He’s lived his whole life on two wheels, from BMX racing and freestyle to mountain bikes and motorcycles.
ashley reid headshot
Edited by Ashley Reid
Contributing Editor
Ashley is a professional writer, editor, and teacher with over ten years of experience. Her real passion is traveling - and biking - around the world.
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