Chatham E-bike by Fifield—American Gem.
When I first reviewed the Jetty by Fifield, I was taken by the online images of their flagship electric bike, the Chatham. With an in-house created chrome moly frame, a belt-drive matched to a mid-drive motor, and some sweet looks, its style and technical advancements had me dreaming of a long fun ride with all it offers. That time has come (and is still happening). There is so much to gush about on this E-bike, but I will try to get it all in this one post.
I guess I’ll start with the looks and the feel. I am all about upright roadster type bikes (I call them college bikes). They match my needs more than any low-bar road bike, cruiser or mountain bike. When it comes to classy bikes through the decades, this is the style that pops in most everyone’s mind. I am so over E-bikes that look clunky and those with lots of extra clumsy body work. I like those that look like bikes, just like this Chatham. Even though it does have an English theme going, this baby is all American.
Sure you will find some pieces from other countries, like the 11 speed rear geared hub, but the heart and soul comes from American minds and hands. Many of the pieces are local too, like those fantastic hammered French style aluminum fenders and the leather saddle from Velo Orange. So many of the individual parts on this bike speak quality and ooze a fit and finish that is hard to find in the E-bike world (regular bike world too). Fifield has some cool colors on the books, yet this one is in a custom painted green. From what I hear, yours can be any fantastic color you can dream up.
Riding the bike is a special treat. Smooth and sleek, you can feel the combination of great components with each push on the pedals. Knowing it looks incredible can make your ride more fun, yet with eyes forward you can still absorb the stand-out appearance of the Chatham. Even though it might have the look of 40’s Europe, all the modern tech brings you into today’s era. Strong (yet not too strong) hydraulic disc brakes slow you with nary a care, while the CenterTrack belt drive calmly gets you back up to speed.
The mid-drive motor adds electric assist when you are ready, but this lightweight gem glides so easily, you don’t have to lean on it much. Although the specs show it as a 400 watt unit, I think (judging by the power and max watt readout on the display) it is really more like a 250 or 300 watt power plant. Not to worry though, as most commercial mid-drives are rated the same and unless you are a speed demon, this beauty will get you all the climbing and motive power you desire.
You probably know that the mid-drive runs its power through the drivetrain, allowing the bikes gearing to give flexibility to the motor’s torque and horsepower. So for a given amount of power, it is increased in pull or speed depending on the gear ratio used at any given time. It does require more attention to being in the correct gear at the correct time (as opposed to a hub-motored E-bike). Also, it is important not to shift under power, although the geared hub won’t change gears until the power of the motor is reduced or stopped.
I have to admit I found that 11 gears is more than this E-bike needs. Most every time I changed 2 gears at a time (whether shifting up or down). When not using the assist, the extra gears were helpful, yet under power not really needed. The thumb shifter works great and has an indicator to tell you which gear is selected. The belt-drive is sleek, clean, maintenance-free, and quiet as can be. I do expect as the years flow, we will be seeing belts on more and more bikes. For now, enjoy what it has to offer on this high-end E-bike from Fifield.
This is a dual control E-bike, meaning you can get the electric-assist (in 5 levels) automatically when you pedal, or by use of the thumb throttle (mounted on the left side of the bars). I did suggest to them a minor programming change (that should be on their bikes by now, I hope), that allows the throttle to give full power regardless of the assist level chosen. This bike limits that power to the level the display is set to, when you add full throttle. I like it to be able to get full juice from the throttle no matter what, in intersections and when the need for some extra scoot arises. Sometimes you don’t have time to toggle the switches, so I think this change will be a good one.
You may have seen my recent article on how much I like the saddle they have chosen to spec on the Chatham. Comfort goes a long way to increasing the enjoyment of a bike ride, so with a bike this nice, having the right saddle is important. I think Fifield used this thinking as they picked out all the pieces that make up the Chatham, as nowhere is to be seen a junky or sour looking part of the bike. Just check out that wonderful chain guard if you are wondering what I mean.
I can pretty much guarantee you won’t see any basic penny-counters riding a Chatham. When you compile such nice pieces and wrap them up in a custom in-house frame, you are bound to jump to a higher price point. This is a special E-bike for discerning riders. With all its high-tech features and smooth riding qualities, I do think many who wanted to lowball their way into E-biking, will reconsider and move up the ladder to this sleek and fancy machine. There is so much here to love, even as you look past the glowing beauty, you will find a ride that is hard to equal.
I should have written this review much sooner, but I have been enjoying riding the Chatham so much, time seemed to fly. It was kind of their mistake though, as since they are on the opposite side of the country from me, they shipped me the bike for this extended test. Many times my reviews come from as little as 4 hours with a E-bike, some from a couple days to a week. When I can have a bike this long (well over a month by now), I really get the whole effect, and my reviews mirror that (good or bad). It has been my go-to bike for all that time, and giving it up will be tough. It will happen soon, yet for now I am still turning the pedals.
There just isn’t one angle to view this bike from that doesn’t please, no matter if you are in the saddle or on the sidelines. It might push your plastic a little harder than some to get one in your driveway, yet remember that saying about the cake. This baby is as sweet as can be, and is worth every indulgence you might need to sacrifice to hop on board. Oh my, sweet Chatham, you will want a second helping of this American goodness at every opportunity.
Why wait? Get what makes you happy, Turbo Bob.
“Have fun, be active. Ride a bike instead of driving a car, for example”.—Dan Buettner.
You can find Fifield on their website—and of course they have a Facebook page.
Here is a walkaround video of the Chatham. I might soon add a riding one.