Electric Mountain Bike Review
So that’s how 500 miles feels, in a little under 8 weeks I have covered this distance since taking delivery of my Focus electric mountain bike.
I commute around 17 miles round trip and this includes road, trails and a country park so pretty much all surfaces and as I live in Plymouth; pretty much all weathers. Starting point is at over 500ft above sea level and finish over 540ft above; the journey in between has many a fall to sea and subsequent rise again often very steep, it was the hills that were starting to kill me on my previous bike (a Trek 7.2FX) once I passed the 40 year mark the usual aches and groans got louder especially back and knees. Standing up to vigorously attack all the hills turned once little niggles in to pain, so I needed a little bit of help.
I looked in to Mopeds and Scooters but as I love cycling and it is my main method of keeping a reasonable level of fitness I couldn’t go that way (Add to that a Wife who does not like motor bikes!). I have a car but it takes up to 30 minutes longer with today’s level of traffic and is massively more frustrating than being on a bike.
Electric bikes it seemed to be then, I remember all the horror stories about electric bikes and how the motors in the wheels made them heavy and awkward. However I tried a Haibike and enjoyed it but the cost was well out of my range. After a good couple of month’s research and the reading of many reviews I found 50 cycles website. It was clear and easy to use; with the instant chat feature I was able to discuss my requirements with an experienced member of staff and was advised that the crater impulse would be the most suitable bike for myself. As previously mentioned I am mainly commuting but I also have a 16 year old son who likes to go out and play on tracks around Dartmoor with me.
As soon as the bike arrived I set it up, peddles on, saddle up and handle bars straightened, absolutely no hassle at all instructions were spot on and exactly as promised. Power on, calibration complete, straight out and in to the street, we live on a hill so I went downhill first to get used to the bike, gears and but I was really looking forward to turning at the bottom and going up the hill!!!
I was in 5th gear and moving up the hill, selecting ECO mode I felt the assist immediately kick in; my smile got bigger, Sport mode selected I was flying but I had to try Power mode….. I must have looked like the Cheshire Cat. The speedo rose past 15.5mph and the assist started to cut out it felt like a parachute had opened up behind me. No worries though, I just went back down the hill and up again smiling all the way. The gear changes were seamless and although you feel the power drop off through the change you do not lose your momentum at all.
You do have to learn how to use the gears and power to gain the best out of the bike; you cannot just select power and attack everything in top gear. Selecting the correct gear in time and knowing what speed to hold especially on the hills comes after a few weeks of riding. Don’t expect to become an instant expert. You do also have to put quite a bit of effort in but it is more of a cardiovascular type than muscle grunt. On a hill I may be in a lower gear peddling a lot faster than those stood on pedals forcing the crank around but I am in front of them and pulling away. Other cyclists on the same commute as me don’t try to overtake me anymore; they just try and keep up. Even the most ardent cyclist on a very, very expensive road bike hasn’t managed it yet (Even Bigger Smile) he says he will!!
My first battery charge lasted 70 miles with a little left in it, bearing in mind I like to use the power setting most I thought this was fantastic, I put it on recharge overnight and was all set to go the next morning. I have since discovered that it takes a few hours to recharge but with the intelligent cells and charger you will not burn the battery out as it stops charging itself. All subsequent charges are getting around the same results at present depending on weather conditions and how much POWER I use. I set the goal of using just ECO for a week but after 1 trip I was back on POWER well if you’ve got it!!
As the battery gets below a third and moving into its final quarter you do notice that the assist is not as strong. It’s not like a car where you can still do any speed regardless of fuel level; as the battery drains it cannot help as much as when fresh. Simple solution is I now recharge at a third and if out for a bigger ride I select SPORT.
The bike is a pleasure to ride on road, trail and off road, the suspension is fantastic; especially for Plymouths pot holed roads and speed bumps. Pulling out at busy roundabouts and junctions is a lot safer with the assist, when pulling off from traffic lights the cars are late in to second gear as the assist cuts out and they pass me. It really has made town riding safer. The dynamo style lights really are as bright as stated in all the literature and do stay on for a sufficient time when stopped, I have however added a front and rear set of lights for my own peace of mind. The hydraulic disc brakes are amazing in both wet and dry conditions so no trust issues there. The tyres are knobbly enough for all but the muddiest off road tracks and suitable for road use as well. I am looking in to a set of wet weather road tyres to get me through Plymouth's winter and 50 cycles have been there to offer their expert advice.
I have a 10 minute ferry crossing on my commute and all the other cyclists and motor cyclists have been asking questions and I suspect a few will be looking in to an electric bike in the future. Especially as upon leaving the ferry it is straight in to a one mile hill and all they see is my tail light.
What put me off looking at electric mountain bikes sooner? Well it was probably the same as everyone else:
What is the REAL battery life? Well this has definitely not been a problem thus far!
How heavy are these bikes? In real terms they are about as heavy as the first full suspension mountain bikes but they handle a lot better and with battery assist you really don’t notice it.
They cost too much! Not at all, to use my car to do this distance would have cost me over £130 before you put wear and tear on it, over £23 ferry cost, and saving at least 30 minutes each day.
You can’t keep fit on one. I feel fitter on this than before on my Trek, as I stated it is more cardiovascular than muscular grunting!! I know what I prefer
You don’t go as fast on them!! On the flat I would have to agree but downhill is the same speed as everyone else and uphill…..well let’s just say that I tell everyone that I am not racing them, I don’t need to!!!!
Only problem now is after a family cycle ride is the question of who gets to ride my bike up the hills!