Affordable electric bikes are now a reality
A few years ago, I reviewed the fantastic EVO City Wave Electric Bike. I loved the speed and convenience of the pedal assisted ride, but felt the $3500 price was just too high for an average consumer. Thankfully, the market has changed rather quickly, and it is now possible to find an excellent electric bicycle for under two thousand dollars.
Australian company Velectrix has been designing electric bicycles for over ten years, targeting the affordable end of the market. At $1495, the Urban 2.0 model is a unisex bike with a classic european step through frame, perfect for vertically challenged riders like myself.
Knowing very little about bikes, I showed the Urban 2.0 to a lycra-clad cyclist friend, who was impressed with the build quality and parts used. He assured me that Velectrix had made some clever choices to reduce costs — you won't find the fancy handlebar computers you see on some electric bikes for instance — but there are surprising touches of quality here too; like the disc brakes on the back wheel.
The frame is heavy, with the main weight coming from the battery on board and the electric motor on the rear hub. But thanks to the pedal assist motor, the weight is not a problem at all, even on the steepest hills.
As a commuter bike, this is a smooth ride on bike paths and roadways, but the lack of suspension makes you feel every bump on a dirt path.
Placing the battery on the rear hub reduces the cost of manufacturing (I'm told), and gives the pedal assist a slight jolt when taking off, like you're being pushed from behind as the motor kicks in. It feels a little strange at first but I found, when stopped at a traffic light, that either turning down the assist or moving into a lower gear smoothed out that initial jolt.
The 250 watt motor is whisper quiet, capable of producing a top speed of 25 kph, which is low when compared to powerful Bosch ebike motors capable of up to 40 kph. But I found 25 kph plenty fast on the winding bike path that makes up the majority of my commute. On roadways I'd even limit the assist to avoid rear-ending the cars around me stuck in traffic.
I'm hideously unfit, but have been able to ride the 17 kms to my office every day, in around an hour, without breaking a sweat. That means there's no need for a shower when I get to the office, one of the major drawbacks of riding to work. And as the afternoon wore on I found myself looking forward to the commute home, something I never felt when contemplating a crowded train.
Despite the assist, there is still a health benefit to riding every day. I'm spending an hour each way pedalling, and with the motor assist on its highest setting the level of exertion is similar to being on an exercise bike set to the lowest resistance; constant aerobic exercise without almost no strength needed to turn the wheels. As I use the bike more I'm hoping to rely less on the assist, to increase the workout.
The 11Ah Panasonic battery will power around 60km of riding, so you should only need to recharge the bike every other night. If you do need to charge more frequently, the battery slips off easily to charge at your desk.
Overall, I'm incredibly impressed with the Velectrix Urban 2.0. It's shaved 30 minutes of my commute, and made that commute a much more pleasant experience.