ThorFire Bike Lights—High-output & Low Buy-in

ThorFire Bike Lights—High-output & Low Buy-in.

This is everything that came in the packages—BL02 on the left, BL01 on the right.

I don’t know about you, but my head spins every time I see a person on a bike at night with no lights. Many just have the dimmest of taillights thinking that will keep them seen and light the way. Don’t think so. I’ll be the first to admit as a kid I rode countless night miles with nothing but an occasional moon to light my way (no reflectors either). Back then you had two choices (three if you count mine), a wheel turned generator set that barely glowed and taping a two-celled D flashlight to the handlebars. Things have really changed with bike light selections, road density and the lack of careful, observant drivers.

This BL02 from ThorFire packs a big punch. Well made too.

I’m not sure if money is a reason for those riders with no lights, but if it is, here is the solution. ThorFire lighting systems (I call it a system because they pack a cool laser taillight in the box at no additional cost) have put out an incredibly bright pair of headlights at a fee that anyone who can afford a bike in the first place can handle. The strong lithium battery is good for hours of riding time and all the needed goodies are in the box. There is no longer an excuse for riding dark.

The first thing I liked about these lights was that once I decided to try some, they were at my doorstep before the ’check’ cleared the bank. They are available on-line from a couple sources, including that big one that wants to start delivering with drones. I got mine by a truck that seemed to have the speed of a swooping, flying delivery machine. This company has many LED products for all kind of uses, yet the ones for bikes got to me. They will have more bicycle oriented items out very soon.

Just setting on the ground, the laser taillights cast an eerie pattern.

I got the single light (BL01) and double light (BL02) sets. These are complete with lithium battery & holder, wiring, charger, O-rings (to mount the lights) and a pretty good manual. Like I said before, you will find a free laser taillight in the box too, let’s talk about that first I guess. It runs on a pair of AAA batteries and is not the same quality level of their headlamps in a couple ways. These are more or less regular LED lights with a added twist. The laser part is called a safety zone light. These are two high-intensity focused LED lights that shoot red beams on each side of your bike.

The laser part is kind of a gimmick, but cool enough. The approaching cars won’t see it, but you and your riding friends will. The lights are all plastic and the taillight part is not nearly as bright as many I use. Still, with several blinking modes it will do the job (the laser lights can blink too). They hold to your bike with beefy O-rings and that is ok for these light-weight units. Unlike the modern electronics in the headlamps, to turn them off you need to toggle though all the modes, while the headlamps just require you to hold the button for a couple seconds.

Here you can see the small LED that does some big work. No focusing is involved—just lots of light. The BL01.

The headlamps are well built and made mostly of sturdy aluminum. The wiring appears well done too. They have 3 levels of brightness and include a blinking function too (way bright). The aluminum acts like a heat sink to keep things cool, yet when on high you don’t want to touch them until they cool after being shut-down. The switch on the back (remember I am talking about both headlights for most of this) is water sealed and has a good feel. Surrounding the switch is a light to tell you the charge left in the battery with different colors as the indicators.

The beam is un-focused and un-diffused. Not a big problem here as most LED headlamps are the same. Only two out of the many lights I have used (these were top-end European units) are focused with a flat beam on top, like cars and motorcycles. The beam the ThorFire lights project is fully round with most of the light in the center. It is up to you to aim the light in a way that works best for you and the surrounding world. At slower speeds point it down a fair amount, yet a bit higher as you speed up so you can see the road ahead well. When I use the flashing mode in the daytime, I set the light level to the ground so it really catches the eyes of all ahead of me.

The power button is on top, the back has a three color light to tell you how the charge level of the battery is doing.

When you first turn it on it goes to max output. The next push is for medium and then low. If you double toggle, that actuates the flashing beam (high-output only). When you hold the button it turns it off. This pretty much the norm for most good bike lights, and makes good sense as you use it. The run times are long with the high-capacity battery. We are talking 24 hours for the double and 57 for the single when set on low. Most likely you will use the medium beam and get 6 and 8 hours respectively. At high they are speced at 2 and 4 hours.

Lumen ratings———-BL01 (single)—–High (674)—–Medium (240)—-Low (85)

BL02 (double)—-High (1240)—-Medium (450)—-Low (150).

Weight (w/battery)—-BL01 (single)—12 oz.——BL02 (double)—14 oz.

The safety zone taillights are cool, but more for you and your riding friends, than the rest of the world.

There are a couple things to mention here. One is that the Velcro strap on the battery holder is designed well for large diameter bike frames and the such, but not so much for the smaller handlebars. You can modify it or add another strap of your own I guess. On several of the bikes I used them on I just put the battery in the front carry bag. The cord is long so the battery can fit anywhere that works. The charging unit supplied isn’t a smart charger. The instructions don’t cover it, but their tech squad told me about 5-6 hours is the correct time when the battery is flat of charge. Best to give them a 24 hour first charge, but only that time, don’t leave them plugged in more than that 6 hours if you can help it.

As far as when to charge, the built-in light (on the back of the headlight) will glow blue when all is well. It will go to yellow to tell you it is at maybe half capacity left, and when it hits red you are overdue for a recharge. There is an extra cord included to allow you to recharge one battery from another, which really doesn’t make to much sense to me, yet the option is there. Last up is the O-ring mounting. It just isn’t strong enough to hold the headlight solidly in place when you hit bumps in the road (making it tilt down). Two diameter sizes of O-rings come with each light. I am thinking about getting some beefier ones, yet in the meantime I just readjust the light every now and then. I also tried a cardboard shim under the O-ring that helped make it fit tighter.

It’s hard to photograph how bright they are. Check the videos I posted too.

These are very bright lights. The manual reminds you not to look directly into it. That includes the people and pets around you. As with any bright light, be responsible and smart. Turn it off or point it down when you feel it might harm others. Don’t touch it (or let others) if it has been on high for a while. These lights can save your skin, but keep in mind what else they can do that isn’t good.

Did I mention they are radically affordable? Turbo Bob.

“She who succeeds in gaining the master of the bicycle will gain the mastery of life.”—Frances E. Willard.

Just Google ThorFire for more info and ordering sites.

Here are the matching videos I posted.


Posted in Bike accessories | Leave a comment

E-Freedom E-bike from Green World Bike—Black Thunder

E-Freedom E-bike from Green World Bike—Black Thunder.

Looks aren’t everything, yet when matched with good performance, it sure doesn’t hurt.

Just recently up-graded to a 500 watt motor, this is one E-bike that really knows how to stretch its legs. Add the matte black paint, some sleek mag wheels and a plush fork, and you have a bike that aims to please with each rush of power. I was able to rack up some decent miles on this E-Freedom and had a lot of fun doing it. I felt like I was flying under the radar, as the lithium battery is hidden from view, and the sport feel it offers makes you want to push your excitement levels to high.

Unlike many rear hub motor E-bikes, this one has a more balanced ride, thanks to the battery being fairly low and in the center of the chassis. The power and speed talk 48 volts, yet it has the more common 36 volt system (10 Ah too). Pull and climbing ability have much more to do with a balanced electrical system than just voltage. When everything works in harmony you can expect a good experience.

The command center is lean and mean.

It has a premium display panel in the center of the bars. Much can be seen there, including the wattage the motor is pulling at any given moment. Of course speed, distance and the such are included, along with a readout of the level of assist you have set from the thumb close button panel. Being able to make your settings without taking your hand from the grip is a good thing indeed.

This E-Freedom uses a dual control layout that works in a way I like. The automatic pedelec system was responsive with a good range between the 5 levels. It too has an 0 (off) position that keeps the motor off during pedaling, yet allows the bike to stay on so all the display readings are visible. Another good thing is that the thumb throttle (right side) stays active in all the settings including 0. The only thing that I could see be improved here is having the throttle programmed to be a true override. It will increase the power during use, but doesn’t override the pedelec function to allow a lower power output when the pedelec level is set in high.

500 watts feels pretty nice.

The display parameters are adjustable in many ways. Such things as time delay of the pedelec when starting and stopping pedaling can be set. I got the (secret?) manual to show me all the settings, yet is was in poorly translated English, so I didn’t enter those menus to play with the settings. I am told they are working up a more understandable tutorial to make it easier to tailor the motor programming to each rider’s needs. The default settings the bike came with was fine for me though.

The sport feel of the cockpit on this Green World Bike will work for many. I’d rather sit more upright, but I do enjoy my time on bikes like this. The 7 speed shifter and button panel had good positions for easy use. The soft fake-o (?) leather hand grips felt good and the E-Freedom comes with a Velo saddle that might not need up-grading for most riders (just wide and soft enough for a nice feel). The small bell is built-into the left brake lever and a super solid kickstand is mounted on the aluminum frame. The headlamp works ok, is powered from the motor battery, and is switched from the button panel.

Derailleur protectors aren’t seen too often nowadays, don’t know why.

The E-freedom I got was extra fast. I am thinking the governor wasn’t set, as 24 mph was easy to attain. On the whole, the handling was acceptable, and the Suntour fork has good damping. It didn’t take long to find the right preload setting on the fork that worked well for my weight and riding preferences. The gearing was close enough to what I like, so no gripes there. Going thought the gears was fun, especially with all that assist power on tap. The cable operated disc bakes never failed to please during each phase of testing.

Right away I noticed some extra flex in the rear. I quickly found it is due to a lack of total rigidity in the mag wheels. This did hamper my confidence some and the extra aggressive tires sure didn’t help that when riding on the pavement. The tires do have a center raised rib for smoothness when going straight, yet when laid over in the turns it was hitting on the knobbies, so I decided not to get anywhere near my perceived limits. I loved the way the mags looked, but for my tastes, a good set of standard spoked rims and more street-worthy tires would be welcome. That, or having some better, beefed up mags would work to help.

Not only are they up-dating the battery latch, the white part will be changed to black.

The lithium battery fills the void in the frame well. It is easily removed with the included key, and that is a good thing as it does need to removed for each recharging. Like all the E-bikes I test, the E-Freedom comes with a smart charger that does the job as intended. The battery has a main power switch on the housing as well as a set of lights to show remaining charge capacity. The display also shows cleanly how your battery levels progress during your ride. It has a carry handle too. One thing though, when reinstalling the battery in the frame, make sure it solidly clicks in place. It does take a good firm push.

Right now Green World Bike has 3 US models. Their brochure shows some others including a fat-tire E-bike. I was told they are prepping to launch more models here, so I would think with the popularity of the sand and snow E-bikes, that will be one of them. I even see some E-scooters there, and a couple folding E-bikes, the smaller of the two will be my next test subject from this E-bike company. Plus, more up-grades are in the works for this bike, including better tires, a reworked battery latch, and a rear taillight among others. So keep an eye on their website and Facebook page to see what they will be offering next.

Feast your eyes on this.

Green World Bike had a great first showing at my last E-bike seminar. Many flocked to try them out and from what I saw the response was very positive. Their 16” wheeled easy fold E-Trolley (my next bike from them) was one of the many big hits of the event. They seem to have a company policy of great bikes and happy customers. The way the E-bike industry is growing, I think we all see the need to please is a key to success.

See if you can test out an E-Freedom, I did. Turbo Bob.

“The bicycle is the most civilized conveyance known to man. Other forms of transport grow daily more nightmarish. Only the bicycle remains pure in heart.”—Iris Murdoch, The Red and Green.

Find them on the web and Facebook.

The E-Freedom—Ready to roll.

Here is a walkaround video I posted on this E-bike.


Posted in E-bike test reviews | Leave a comment

e-Prodigy Logan E-bike—Mid-drive Magic

e-Prodigy Logan E-bike—Mid-drive Magic.

The e-Prodigy Logan, a well balanced E-bike

You can feel the magic when riding this Logan from e-Prodigy. What, you say? Most of the magic comes from the NuVinci Harmony automatic shifting rear transmission, the rest comes from this cool riding E-bike. You may remember my experience with the Harmony when it was still a prototype (3 years ago on a different mid-drive E-bike), and then again on the AutoBike (a non-electric, great riding bike). I’ll include links to both those articles below if you want some more insight to how the Harmony works.

There are some drawbacks to mid-drive E-bikes. The main one is that mid-drive E-bike motors are very sensitive to correctly timed shifting, and being in the right gear at the right time. Much of this is side-stepped with the miracle that is the NuVinci Harmony. Replacing the manually shifted geared hub or derailleur set-up with this continuously variable auto-shifting transmission really helps to tame the beast. E-Prodigy is one of the few to realize this and you can reap the benefits.

With the NuVinci Harmony, the Logan really purred.

The base model Logan is equipped with a more or less standard 8-speed derailleur drivetrain. Even with this set-up you will probably love the ride and excitement if offers. With a sporty cockpit and hill-climbing grunt, it lets you know all the reasons E-bikes gain popularity daily. This model with the Harmony up-grade is so fresh, I don’t see it on their website yet. I for one hope to see it offered on all the mid-drive bikes in their catalog (which is all of them except one).

e-Prodigy uses a motor of their own design. Quiet and smooth, it adds a stealthy look and a balanced weight distribution. Although you can save a bit by choosing the 350 watt version, almost every E-bike they make has the 450 watt motor like the bike I rode. In addition to the extra power, the 450 watt bikes come with a larger capacity lithium battery. Power and range are a big shopping point for E-bike riders, so it makes sense to go this route. Believe me, as the hill gets steeper, the power comes onto its own.

e-Prodigy has their own motor that pumps out 450 watts of hill-climbing juice.

With my first peek at the Logan, I could tell it would probably satisfy my riding needs. The 700c tires have a fairly large cross-section to help roll over and smooth out the rough stuff. The sleek front suspension fork takes care of the rest. Full coverage light-weight fenders cover the meats well, and the disc brakes can easily push the braking traction to its limits. I was glad to see the brakes are cable operated, as more and more I find the hydraulic ones are just too sensitive for all but the most experienced riders. Even with my bike control expertise, I have had some close calls with them. ( I think a full article about hydraulic disc brakes is up-coming).

The NuVinci Harmony is easy to control—as is the E-system on the Logan.

Before I go deeper into the bike’s feel, control system and the such, I wanted to tell some about the fun two days I had with the e-Prodigy crew during their visit to town. As often happens, they contacted me via the net to see if I had the time to try out the bikes (they also brought a Jasper, the up-right version of this E-bike). I cleared my schedule and charged up my camera batteries with anticipation. Ever since my first ride on one of their E-bikes at Myron’s Extreme Machines last year (their Whistler model), I’ve been trying to get one for review and to have them be a part of my twice-a-year E-bike seminars.

Tony and I did a lot of riding—and discussing E-bikes.

As much as they wanted to be there to participate in my seminars, being based in Vancouver, Canada made it a long haul that hasn’t worked out yet (and—they will be there for my event this fall). With over 20 retail outlets in Canada, they have been striving to make a bigger splash in the states, thus this west coast scouting trip. Tony and Maria were already a week into this journey, with many stops on their agenda. Word is they locked in several new US dealers before they made the U-turn here to head back north. So I spent an afternoon learning about the bikes and the company (shot a couple videos too), and then got a big surprise when they told me they were holding off the return trip long enough for a battery’s charge worth of riding with me the next morning. Thanks e-Prodigy, good times.

Fun times—Thanks Tony and Maria.

This is a dual control E-bike (as are all of theirs it seems). The pedelec control has many levels of assist, and the throttle (left side thumb throttle) will override them any time you feel the need. Each level is spaced well, and matched the bike’s gearing at all the speeds I rode. One of the many benefits of a mid-drive is how the motor’s power and torque are optimized when climbing, cruising and accelerating, something that was easily felt on the e-Prodigy Logan. When ridden correctly, the efficiency level goes up too, so some long, satisfying rides are yours for the taking.

As you ride, you feel the auto-shifting at work all the time. The NuVinci Harmony has two modes, manual shifting and auto, controlled by a button on the indicator. I found it best to leave it in auto, yet the twist shifter still comes into action. With that, you set the level (RPM) of pedal cadence to what feels right for you. Once you find the sweet spot, you rarely change it. From that point on it knows the correct gear ratio for your pedaling and the motor, for the perfect gear in every riding situation. Magic!

Sleek and ready to ride.

So I imagine by now you get the impression that I liked riding the Logan, very perceptive. To be truthful, I am more into the upright feel of the Jasper we were also riding that morning (yet without the Harmony). If e-Prodigy does decide to offer all their mid-drive E-bikes with the Harmony up-grade (and I have to think they will), then my favorite bike from them would be the Jasper. Yet, many people are totally into the sport bike vibe this Logan has, and you can be guaranteed I liked it too. They also have a E-bike for the not so tall (as me) crowd called the Banff, and story is one of their new dealers will have one in town next week. Keep an eye on my You-Tube channel for an up-coming video of that one.

During my time with the crew, not only did we ride, ride, ride—we talked, talked, talked. They were very welcoming to my insights about all things E-bike, including some minor mods I thought would compliment these two bikes well. I was very impressed with their company goals, commitment to quality and customer service, and individual attitudes. From what I experienced from Tony and Maria, and their company’s E-bikes, this is one firm with a great future ahead of them. The future of E-bikes is huge, and it seems e-Prodigy stands to be a major player.

This bike even has a thermometer—magic, Turbo Bob.

“You can’t buy happiness, but you can buy a bicycle and that’s pretty close.”—Anon.

e-Prodigy on the web and Facebook.

Here are a couple of the videos I shot—and one of their booth at the last Interbike.

Here are a few previous posts I did concerning the NuVinci Harmony.

Posted in E-bike test reviews | Leave a comment

Blaze Laserlight—Something Special for Your Nighttime Bike Ride

Blaze Laserlight—Something Special for Your Nighttime Bike Ride.

The Blaze Laserlight shoots this on the ground 20 feet in front of you.

When it comes to riding at night, people on bikes are looking for the perfect way to be seen. There are many different types of bike lights, yet this one stands out in the night. Announcing your coming presence is a green laser outline of a bicycle leading the way with each stroke of the pedals. Some of the rear laser lights seem to be more of a gimmick than a safety feature, but the Blaze Laserlight really turns that tide. It is also just cool as can be.

This light is rock solid in its construction and materials. Fully waterproof, it is designed to be rustproof too. Powered by a long-lasting lithium battery, the run time between charges should out-last most rides. It offers several modes and some nice safety stuff tied to its electronics. NYCeWheels sent it to me because they know how much I like to review and experience (and report on) the latest in bike light technology.

This is one cleanly made bike light. You can see the switches and the two spots the light comes from in this shot.

My first experience with laser bike lights yielded much fun and also drew a lot of attention to our bikes (laser safety zone taillights). We would leave them on when parked so many could check them out. I always get a big laugh seeing so many people look to the sky (I guess thinking that aliens from outer space were their origin) after first noticing the lights on the ground. One night a young child bent lower and lower in an attempt to look right into the light and that stuck a chord with me. I was able to stop him, but it did bring a new respect to these powerful, focused laser beams.

Blaze says their light is eye-safe and has been certified to not cause any damage. That is good to hear, but still I think some caution should be exercised. They have added other features in this respect. One is that the laser light can only be turned on when the light is locked into its handlebar mounting bracket (so you can’t point it in random directions). Two is that it can only be turned on after the main headlamp is activated. Three (and not as much) is a switch-able full lockout of the power (more to keep the light from coming on when in your pocket or bike bag).

In addition to a solid mounting, the bracket also helps control the light for safety.

So anyway, enjoy what this Blaze Laserlight has to offer, but stay aware of the possible issues. What it offers is a 300 lumen headlamp (also with low and flashing modes) and the laser bicycle outline (that also can flash or stay on steady). USB charging with a magnetic connection to the light (more on this later) and a super strong handlebar mount that should fit most any bike. A quality lithium battery and only the best materials finish the bill of features.

When mounting it to your bike, you are instructed to have the laser bike outline hit the ground about 5-6 meters (just less than 20 ft.) ahead of you. At that point, secure it tight (with the Allen screw and wrench included with your light). This not only sets the green laser bike at a perfect spot, but sets your headlight beam position in a decent spot too. I found having it a bit farther away from the bike suited me fine though, (maybe 25 ft). The laser bike outline is close to 2 feet wide at this setting. It is large and bright enough for everyone around you to see it well when the sun is down.

This is the view you see from the front as the bike approaches you.

In addition to the safety part while riding, I have been having a ton of fun with this Blaze Laserlight. During the ride it moves from side to side while you steer your bike, which helps catch the eyes of others. When you are behind other riders, the bike outline shines on their bike and legs with a cool effect. As you approach and prepare to pass them, the bike shines right in front of them, and believe me they know you are behind them, although at first they get kind of tripped out.

At one meeting of the San Diego County Bicycle Coalition, I kept shining it on the chest of our Executive Director, Andy, during his talk. He never saw it, but kept wondering what all the fuss was a about. Everyone got a kick out it and the muted laughs were easy to read (for everyone, but not Andy). Sorry about that Andy. Of course I am planning plenty more of those high jinks in the future with this light. And like that night, I will be careful not to shine it in anyone’s eyes.

Even the charging system is totally high-tech.

While riding I have also been on the lookout for pets and kids (in strollers too) to do my best to keep the beam from passing over their face. The beam itself makes the outline of a bike on the ground, yet you can see a very concentrated fine line beam in the center. If it is misty or dusty, that fine line leaves a cool, totally visible laserlight beam through the night air. I thought that part was fun to watch while riding. I think by now you realize the real reason for this light is to allow motorists and fellow people on bikes to see you coming before you actually get there. So with all the fun aside, its purpose is to get you seen to prevent anything bad during a night ride.

Riding your bike with a Blaze Laserlight looks a lot like this (well, exactly like this).

I use the flashing headlamp during the day too, in hopes of catching the notice of anyone who might miss seeing me. I feel this is so important to prevent left turners in front of you, to stop people coming from driveways and intersections on the right, and to make sure no doors get opened in your path. That bright flashing light during the day can make all the difference to get you on your way in one piece. No matter what kind of light you have, use them day and night for full effectiveness.

A bit more on the charging and switches is in order. The USB charge cord not only magnetically hooks to the light, those spots are lights that tell you your charging progress—and charge level when the cord is disconnected and the light is turned on. The switches work several ways depending on if the light is mounted to your bike or not. When not mounted, the laser light is inop, as is the flashing headlamp and the highest level of the headlamp. BTW, to get the laser to work at that meeting, I took the mounting bracket off the bike and hooked it to the headlamp (not really recommended).

Get your Blaze on, Turbo Bob.

“When man invented the bicycle he reached the peak of his attainments.”—Elizabeth West.

Blaze on the web and Facebook.

NYCeWheels on the web and Facebook

Here are a couple videos I shot with the Blaze Laserlight

Posted in Bike accessories | Leave a comment

Mode Madness—Bike, Love, Art

Mode Madness—Bike, Love, Art, by Turbo Bob.

—–Writer’s note—I wanted you to know before you move into reading this article, its origin. When I received the IF Mode from NYCeWheels, it was planned for a complete set of articles to be published on their pages, titled “Mode Madness”. That series never came to be (so don’t bother looking for it—although I do have dozens of other articles you can find on their blog pages). This post was so much fun to do, I thought I would share it with you anyway. Look for the links at the bottom for my full review of this folding bike (with videos) and the one I did on the Pacific IF Move too.—–

The Pacific IF Mode.

These are three things that everyone needs in their life’s. I am finding in my own way that all three can come through one device. And that one item is the Pacific IF Mode folding bike. Yes, I know that sounds kind of crazy, but as this series of articles rolls on maybe it will all make more sense. I’m doing my best to understand it all and possibly writing about it will help me come to terms with my feelings.

Oh boy, I’m already getting all gushy, but a bike like this can bring out the lover in anyone (and make you come across as a real sensitive person too). The long list of reasons a Mode can bring a tough guy to his knees is the backbone of this post and of those to come. I’ll do my best to keep it technical, but I do hope you can excuse me with as each bout of inner feelings tug at my words.

Even for non-bike folks (if there is such a distinction), just a glimpse of the IF Mode draws your attention. I know this from the first time I laid eyes on its image here on the NYCeWheels website. The 2D view was enough to start the longing. Now that I have the 3D vision, I can touch, feel and ride this dream come true. And a dream it is, as I have been spending many hours wishing this day would come. Anytime night or day now, I can throw a leg over and ride this piece of art on two wheels. I can see close-up the carved lines and cool modern features it displays for the world to appreciate.

It is hard to say which part is the best. Those 3 spoke rims are something to behold. The thought that brought its unique folding ability bends my mind. The enclosed chain and drivetrain are a supporting leg for the bike and one that also gets my vote for artistic excellence. The hidden 2-speed Schlumpf transmission is a technical wonder to be sure. The shade of paint and the contrasts add to the art that is Mode. Disc brakes too, cool feature and function that rounds out this package of sci-fi future riding.
Well, I think by now you have fully realized the love factor, maybe the art factor and for sure the fact this is a bicycle.

As I ride the local streets on the IF Mode I see no other bike like it. People on other bikes, walking and driving stop me often to find out more and get a closer look. Not that I need it, but I am never lonely riding this bike. The Mode might as well be a neon sign that says “Check me out’. I never expected that part, as all I really wanted to do was to get some one-on-one time with this awesome machine. If you want to ride the future and be part of the noticed few, then this bike is the way to go. If you want to pass un-noticed, then I suggest this isn’t the folding bike for you.

We all know that bikes are basically simple machines that have been around for over 150 years. In all that time they have been designed for form and function in so many ways. Yet to my knowledge this bike is un-like any before it. From an appearance and action stand-point, it seems so new and different, something that is hard to fathom. What brought this bike into the minds of the makers is a question to ponder. Are they just that cool and smart? Maybe a little green man from outer space inserted this bike into their minds. Whoa, did I just say that?

As I try to come back down to earth, I will mention that the Pacific IF Mode and I have fully bonded. No, not as lovers (that would be too weird), but as close riding pals. It is happy to carry me to and fro at my pace with no complaints. It doesn’t mind if I caress its body with my eyes for extended periods of time. And the contortionist factor is fun too, I just grab a hold and my will becomes its compactness. Then I wheel it around to tuck it away for the next adventure.

If you dare, follow this whole series on why I love the bike art that is Mode. Turbo Bob.

“The bicycle is a curious vehicle. Its passenger is its engine.”—John Howard.

My review of the IF Mode

My review of the IF Move

Posted in Folding Bike test reviews, Opinion | Leave a comment

Faraday Porteur E-bike—Welcomed Refinement

Faraday Porteur E-bike—Welcomed Refinement.

The mid-sized Faraday Porteur in green.

Here is a report from the newest Faraday convert. I’ll be the first to admit as I followed the birth of this E-bike, I was concerned they spent too much time on its style and not enough on its rideability. As it hit the Kickstarter phase I remember seeing a suggested price that seemed once again all about aiming for the Rolex crowd. As I waited past the first production run (started in January 2104) for a bike to test, my doubts continued to fester.

Nice appointments and attention to detail surround the Faraday.

Little by little, independent and customer reports filtered through the net with levels of satisfaction that raised my personal expectations. News of large and small refinements confirmed that maybe the folks behind the Faraday were serious about bikes, not just eye candy. Turns out that this E-bike has every feature of a Rolex (looks, performance, reliability and user friendliness) except a buy-in price straight from the pages of the Neiman Marcus catalog.

Occasional contacts with the friendly folks at Faraday showed their interest in getting a bike to San Diego for me. With no local dealer, the months seemed to roll. A brief sighting of a Faraday and its rider during one of our E-bike club rides reminded me to keep up the pressure. Then, just recently I met an owner who allowed me a fast blast and video opportunity. Days later, just before my last E-bike seminar, I received word that Adams Avenue Bikes was taking on a strong local retail stance. After a great showing at my event, Steven from the shop offered me a several day one-on-one with a fresh floor model demo bike.

Belt drive, 8-speeds and disc brakes help to make this bike ride great.

It didn’t take long to see the attention to detail on every square inch from stem to stern. As my admiration peaked, it was time to ride. So as it turns out, that same commitment to its appearance was offered to the bike part in a way seldom seen in a mass production E-bike. If my words don’t relay my positive experience well, just be assured it was one of total wonderment of design success. This is just not in the ride, feel and control system, but the way the bike and rider melt into one entity.

A little about the bike’s pieces are due at this point. I keep wanting to see the Gates CenterTrack belt drive on more bikes, and we see it here. Being tired of neighborhood only lighting systems speced as an up-grade, the Porteur’s included pair (front and rear) are better than most aftermarket units on bike shop shelves. My old-school need for steel bikes is rewarded with both the fork and frame. As I prefer an upright regular bike for my E-bike ride, the Faraday delivers that too.

350 watts of power make for a great balance of power and over-all weight.

As much as the E-bike world is embracing hydraulic operated brakes nowadays, I think Faraday has found the same as me, they are too touchy and too risky for E-bike riders. You will find these disc brakes to work just as well or better, yet taking the right amount of hand power to prevent a panic stop tumble. The thumb and finger shifted 8-speed rear-geared hub matches the bike’s electric-assist speed range to a tee, one more thing I am disappointed with so often.

All these things add up to a great E-bike, but it is the control system for the motor that really proves the E-bike knowledge of the designers. Torque-sensed systems (something I call intelligent control) make for the best rider experience. It is especially appreciated by people who ride a lot, yet most all riders will love it. The bike also knows the fact that you are pedaling (cadence control), and mixes those two inputs to decide how much the motor should assist you. A seamless and never jumpy motor assist are the result here, a great feel.

The three position assist control is right at hand. The black and white rectangle just above the lever is your power remaining indicator.

Practically touching your left thumb is a 3 position lever to allow you to choose your assist sensitivity. As each ride continues, that switch gets a workout. Being such a light bike, you will find that lever in the ‘no assist’ notch quite often. As your mind senses the need, a quick click brings into the ’mid?’ stetting and the boost hits without a loss in momentum. When the hill looms, bump it into ’high’ and the power maxes out to match your feet’s pressure on the pedals. You need to ride this bike to see just how smooth and smart the power assist comes to your ride.

To turn the tables for a minute, the fact is that the Faraday doesn’t fit the same mold as most E-bikes on the market today. With no hand throttle, you must pedal to initiate the motor-assist, something I call a ‘true pedelec‘. Many buyers will balk at this feature (or lack of one). I fully understand that. I have found that a 350 watt motor is all the juice an E-bike needs for all but the most serious climbs, yet 500 is the norm almost across the board. This bike also has a smaller capacity battery then those same bikes.

Whenever the bike is powered up, so are the front and rear lights. No up-grades are needed in this department.

With the lithium battery enclosed in the frame’s down tube, it maximizes the stealth factor and lowers the bike‘s center of gravity (the front to rear balance is near optimal too). Because of the designed-in power efficiency, the smaller capacity battery still offers some decent range and power. It is also a factor in the 39 lbs total weight that gives the Faraday a decided edge in agility, once again not found often in the E-bike world. Lots of aluminum on-board works well with the steel frame, another combo rarely seen with E-bikes.

Riding this bike is a joy, the kind of joy that will be savored by most, but not fully embraced by others. Upon returning the bike to Stephen at Adams Avenue Bikes, we had a long discussion on why he chose it as the only E-bike on his sales roster. He understands bikes, and understands his customers. The shop welcomes the recreational rider, yet caters to the bike savvy folks who have helped to keep the doors open for many years. This is a bike rider’s bike, something we both agreed on. The quality and factory support helped seal the deal.

This was one fun day with a cool bike.

Some great accessories for the Porteur include a front, frame mounted, color matched rack (BTW, the bike comes in two color choices and three frame sizes). That rack includes the gear to mount the headlamp onto the front of it, once again the nicest looking pieces. Too, a rear rack is on the books. Want leather goodies? Just ask. The bamboo fenders are factory, same as is the inverted V kickstand. New to the roster is the S model (coming in August) with a little downgrading in specs and price. I say, get it all, you deserve it.

At the risk of sounding corny, the Faraday Porteur proves that you can have your Rolex and eat it too, Turbo Bob.

“Think of bicycles as rideable art that can just about save the world.”—Grant Petersen.

Learn more about Faraday Bikes on their website and Facebook pages

Adams Avenue Bikes is my local Faraday dealer

Here are a couple videos I posted on the Faraday Porteur

Posted in E-bike test reviews | 2 Comments

Pedego Boomerang Plus—Easy Stepping E-bike

Pedego Boomerang Plus—Easy Stepping E-bike.

Comfort and fun ready to ride.

I am often heard to say “If it doesn’t have fenders, a chain guard and a kickstand, it can’t be much of a bike.” The term ’comfort, step-through bike’ comes to my lips to counter claims that I sometimes ride a ‘girl’s’ bike. With all the low-framed bikes I have ridden (and own), this one really pushes those word to the limit. When I first saw the Pedego Boomerang in its secret prototype stage, I knew it was an E-bike that would appeal to many. Seems I was right, as it has been selling like crazy since the first production model hit our shores.

I have offered up a couple of my favorite quotes, yet when I tell you I believe that Pedego worked with Biria Bicycles to produce the Boomerang, best not to quote me on that. I am sure that is what I heard way back though. I would think you can imagine on your own why this new E-bike is being received so well. Pedego has always worked hard to welcome baby boomers and senior citizens to the world of E-bikes, and this bike is more proof of that. Be sure that this bike is for folks of all ages and genders, as comfort is a universal language.

The business end? More like the beginning of fun.

As far as the mechanical and electrics go, this bike uses many of the tried and trued pieces that have brought Pedego big success. The rear hub motor is powerful and quiet, utilizing internal gears of a unique material that gives them long life and smooth operation. They are now using these motors on most their bikes, bringing the rear disc brake to them too. Only the best lithium ion Samsung cells fill the battery case, with several options in voltage and capacity.

Your color options are limited (red and black) with the Pedego Boomerang, which seems surprising when you consider their Comfort Cruiser color range is a virtual rainbow. Let’s get the option thing covered, as there are several. They have the Boomerang and the Boomerang Plus. The standard model is a throttle only bike, including a rear light (built into the battery), but no front. The 4 battery choices are—36 volt in either 10 Ah or 15 Ah, and 48 volt in those same 2 capacities. Some ok white wall tires are on the base model, or you can upgrade to the awesome Schwalbe Fat Franks in one of 4 colors.

Plenty of info here, control too. The USB port is on the bottom just out of sight.

The Plus is even better equipped. It has the 48 volt system, yet once again you get the option of the 15 Ah extended range battery over the stock 10 Ah one. Fat Franks are on-board, with those same 4 colors to be picked by you. The real plus here is the pedelec feature that includes the USB equipped control / display panel. The pedelec part means that the power-assist can come on automatically each time you pedal (and turn off when you stop). It has 5 levels of power selectable, and the hand throttle will work anytime without re-toggling the control panel’s push buttons. Add the decent front headlamp (that runs off the motor’s battery) to round out the package.

So, all that and no fenders? Well fear not, they too are available in any color you want. The chain guard is a full encirclement unit and the kickstand is the strongest one you will see on any bike. I was pleased to find this bike so fully equipped, all I added were the front and rear Pedego bags I got my hands on at the beginning of the year. Also a extra rear light that blinks, and a very bright headlamp when riding at night. The factory light is fine for low-speed neighborhood rides, but not for the open road.

Low, sleek and strong—the Boomerang’s frame.

The aluminum frame appears to be ultra beefy with plenty of re-enforcement spanning the curved sections. The bars are a good fit for this bike, a bit more swept back and narrow than the ones Pedego uses on their cruisers. The saddle is plenty comfy, yet if you crave the long rides, you will crave a sleeker perch. I noticed the suspension seat post is a much nicer piece than used on past Pedego E-bikes, and it works much better. Enough of all the numbers and such, let’s ride.

It has taken some time to get used to enjoying the advantage of the easy mounting of the bike, and every now and then I still sling my leg from around, over the back. The seating position is very upright and much to my personal liking. The soft handgrips sometimes seem too slippery when hitting the rough stuff at speed, and I might consider some different ones if this bike were mine. Those top-end balloon tires and the sprung seat tend to take the edge off any bumpiness, and are much preferred to maintenance needy front or rear suspensions. If you seek a smoother ride the tires can be set as low as 35 lbs, with the max of 70 really firming things up. I found about 60 to fit my riding style the best.

Twist, shift, and go.

I could spend several paragraphs on the power system’s control and how I utilize it. Pedego’s first foray into pedelec controlled bikes were programmed pretty good, but with the minor changes they’ve made, now I am really happy with the way they work. The controls are right at hand without reaching or pulling a hand from the bars. Choosing between assist levels can easily happen without even taking your eyes from the road. A full burst (or less) of power can had any time for starting out, or easing through tight traffic situations, without changing your set assist level on the control panel.

With just the right amount of braking power, these same brakes are on the back wheel too.

You will find 7 gears, yet in almost all my riding, I normally use just a couple. A mid-gear is fine for starting and lower riding speeds (because the motor takes up the slack), and gearing up when riding faster is easy and preferred. I only used the lower gears (1-3) when pushing up some of the steeper grades. Not having to depend on all the gears is one of the big benefits of having a hub motored E-bike. When riding with no power it is much like a standard heavy 7-speed beach cruiser. Fully doable, but a little tough. Another great E-bike feature is that you are able to choose the amount of exercise you get, most of the time it is the motor doing 50% of the work and you doing the rest.

If you are concerned about running out of battery power, then opt for the extended range battery. Chances are you won’t need it, but the net is full of stories of people doing 50 mile + rides and still having half a battery charge left. If you are the type who expects not to pedal too much, having the larger capacity battery can be a plus. It seems since this battery has become available, most Pedegos sold are asked to be equipped with it. It isn’t that much more, so why not splurge on that option?

With the Pedego front and rear bags on-board, I am ready to roll.

I tried hard to find fault with the Pedego Boomerang Plus. I have fully failed in this respect. The one thought I have in this direction is that if you plan on doing stunts and curb jumping, them maybe one of their Interceptor models might be better suited for you. I wouldn’t expect to see any issues with this E-bike in even some pretty severe riding conditions, yet all out mania on the Boomerang would be good to avoid.

You can’t go wrong with a Pedego—and you can quote me on that, Turbo Bob.

“After your first day of cycling, one dream is inevitable.”—H.G. Wells.

On the web and Facebook you will find Pedego and a slew of their dealers

Here are a couple walkaround videos of the Boomerang Plus I posted.



Posted in E-bike test reviews | 3 Comments