Hidden Power E-bike Conversion—Light-weight Motivation

Hidden Power E-bike Conversion—Light-weight Motivation.

The whole Hidden Power kit comes in a fairly small and light box.

Just over a month before the holidays I got this kit to test, ride and review. The Hidden Power kit has some great benefits and more than a few drawbacks too. I wanted to get this report out sooner, but I have been kind of aggressively following other interests and trying to keep warm and dry at the same time. Plenty of bike riding has been taking place and I will work to get back to my weekly posts on everything bike related. Thanks for staying connected while I was a bit off the grid.

This kit has 5 variations, 4 for different folding bikes, and the one I chose, the standard kit. I expected it to fit on one of my hybrids, yet the distance from the seat tube to the tire was too great for the drive wheel to reach the tire. You may have already noticed two things, one is that this is a friction drive kit where the drive wheel of the kit turns the tire at the tread. Also, to use it, the bike must be rear fenderless or have the fender modified. So some time was used to see if it would fit any of my other or vintage bikes, no luck there.

This is my new bike for doing more E-bike conversion tests. The Hidden Power kit is not all that noticeable.

My new quest was to borrow or buy a suitable candidate bike, with the need considered of fitting the next E-bike conversion I already had in waiting. I was lucky to find a young couple with their first new baby that decided to sell their mostly unused bikes on Craigslist. I always worry about getting a bike this way, not wanting to feed the stolen bike market. So I safely got a great bike at a super deal and the test proceeded. The install was a breeze, yet a few small adjustments were needed. That was the swing of the unit to contact the tire correctly and when needed. I got it close, yet still felt I missed the narrow sweet spot.

One thing that bothered me was on the box is the mention of the fact that the Hidden Power conversion kit won the Eurobike Gold Award in 2010. I am curious if the team has been working on upgrades and just how old the kit they sent me was. It all seemed new and unused in the past, so I am going on that assumption and what I could see and feel. I did have two issues with the way it worked (coming up), yet on the whole it got me where I was going with each ride.

This is the motor and controller mounted and ready to ride.

Two nice things are that it only weights your bike down by about 5 lbs., so if it does have problems, it won’t slow you down much. Plus, the drive wheel retracts from the tire when not in use, so no extra drag either. It pretty much takes very little space on your bike and when idle affects your ride very little. Which was good because several times I turned the throttle I got no assist. It usually would work with the next (or one after that) throttle attempt. If you stop the bike with the assist applied it will sense the overload and turn itself off. I feel like the lack of it coming on sometimes was linked to this safety feature

The other problem I had was being able to charge the battery, which uncovered one more deal too. I got the kit with the battery fully charged so riding quite a bit was no problem. When I went to recharge it, no luck there. It uses the same basic charger set-up as most E-bikes. I tried hooking it up many times, yet the lights on the charger would cycle through the colors and the voltage output fluctuated, but wouldn’t charge the battery. I decided to reach out to the supplier to see what they thought—or to get another battery and charger to complete my testing.

You can see the whole kit (minus the throttle) from this angle.

This was when I realized that customer service was slow or close to non-existence (at least in my part of the big world). Weeks later they contacted me to say that maybe they had supplied the wrong battery and for me to send some pictures. It has been over a month with again no response. I solved my charging problem myself so the test could resume. I used jumpers to charge the battery from the output wires instead of the normal charging inlet jack. That worked, so good deal there. Being a 14 volt, 20 Ah battery, I had no other charger to use, plus a very strong rule with E-bikes is to use only the charger supplied by the bike of conversion kit maker.

Before I talk about the ride, some more on the kit. It came with a  PAS unit for the pedals to activate the motor automatically when pedaling. With a short look I decided it wasn’t going to all line-up on this bike, so I decided to use the handlebar throttle only. This is a small unit that works like an old-school volume knob for a radio. Thing is it didn’t have different speeds, it works as an on-off switch only. This wasn’t really an issue as the motor is not that powerful. It took some time to get to full speed (about 18 mph I found).

Love it or hate it—this is the throttle unit.

Also, the throttle unit tie-strapped to the handgrip where it is a bit of in the way, so it was kind of uncomfortable with the ride and using the throttle. Not the best design, yet I became used to the action very quickly, so I decided it was ok. Like I said before the install was quick, with very few wires and things to deal with. One thing I thought needed an upgrade was the fact that the battery wires need to be disconnected when not in use. Most would add a main power switch for this purpose, not sure why the Hidden Power kit doesn’t have one.

Riding was easy with enough assist for all but the medium and steep hills. I was surprised at the quiet noise level when it was powered up. It did make a bit of a clatter when it swung into engagement with the tire, yet not that bad. The drive wheel is very smooth aluminum, so that is why the motor was not a big noise maker, although when it’s wet outside I think some major slippage could occur. The last one like this I tested the wheel was sandpaper covered, which caused a lot of noise and tire wear. I am not sure which approach is really best. The deal is that friction drive is kind of outdated, yet basically works ok on low power E-bike kits.

Here is the Hidden Power kit viewed from the other side of the bike.

One thing I wasn’t able to check as good as I liked was the heat factor at the motor and drive. The last one I tested with this kind of arrangement made some excessive heat. The Hidden Power conversion uses less voltage and less power so the heat generated is probably acceptable. It is easy to check with the modern heat guns, so if you get one of these kits, keep an eye on that. Over 200 degrees F is not good.

So on the whole it worked ok—not too fast or powerful. Yet with a 5 lbs, conversion that is to be expected. Customer service is questionable. This is something I rarely have problems with, as most the folks that supply me demo units are normally very interested in the progress of the testing. I do hope they reply when I ask them for a pre-paid return shipping label. It came from a USA source, yet is made in Korea. Hard to say if I recommend this conversion, but it was fun, easy and light. It is always your choice on what works best for you.

Power your ride, Turbo Bob.

“Bicycle means simplicity and simplicity means happiness”—Mehmet Murat ildan.

Check out the videos I did for a better look and more info.


Posted in Bike accessories, E-bike test reviews | Leave a comment

Lumos Lighted Bicycle Helmet—A New Step to Bike Happiness

Lumos Lighted Bicycle Helmet—A New Step to Bike Happiness.

As I unpacked the Lumos Helmet, this is what I found.

Another cool bike safety accessory has come to us through the crowdfunding world. This time it is the Lumos Helmet, adorned with bright LED lights and more. It meets all the modern requirements for helmets, but has some interesting features you may be looking for. It has the sleek road bike look that talks speed and even comes in 3 different colors. More sizes are in the works, yet for now just one adult size is in the catalog.

So beyond the fact that it is a bicycle helmet there is much more to see. It has 50 super bright LED lights that can blink or stay on steady. They are nicely molded into the helmet for a smooth contour and even though you can’t submerge it in water (although you probably could) it is weatherproof enough for most any conditions you will find during your ride. The lithium battery and LED lights should last for many years, so this is one bike product that will stand the test of time.

You can use the main handlebar unit, or the one with buttons near each handgrip.

Other than just blinking lights (actually 3 modes—solid on—slow blink—fast blink), it has turn signals and a braking light you can actuate. The turn signals are run with a small handlebar mounted remote switch device. Two different choices are included with the helmet, one is a dual button that has both left and right buttons together. The other has short wires so you can have one button by each handgrip. The individual buttons setup still uses the all in one unit, and that is the one that blinks when the turn signal are on. This may seem confusing so check the video I shared below.

When the turn signals are on, half of the front lights (normally white) start blinking in yellow. And the side rear lights (normally off) blink in yellow too. In addition to that, there is a light just above your eyes that blinks too, so maybe you will notice they are on, prompting you to turn them back off when your turn is completed. There is a beep when the signals are turned on or off, yet it is quiet while the turn lights are blinking. That same beep can be heard when the main lights are turned on and off.

Turn lights a blinking—easy to see by everyone near by.

In the back of the helmet is the main power switch. Next to it is an Apple like charge receptacle. The remote turn switch for the bars has the same port. The helmet even comes with two charge cords (USB) so charging each is quick and easy. Lumos claims about 2 hours to charge (less if the battery isn’t fully flat) and run times of about 3 hours on solid and 6 on blinking mode. This is pretty much what I found in use, so their numbers match well with the real life experience. For most commuters, this relates to charging it once or twice a week.

The Lumos has a brake light mode, yet this skid lid comes with that feature disabled. They are still working the details, and when perfected if can be uploaded to the unit in the field. It is easy to enable the mode, should work fairly well, but will affect the run times heavily. As for now, I have left mine in the off mode until a time it works with nary a hitch.

Inside it has the basic foam inserts and band tightening knob.

Being a one-size fits all helmet for now, you may be a bit too big or small for it. It has the foam inserts that can be changed for thicker ones, yet no extras were in the box. It also has the big knob in the back strapping to help adjust it to your head. For me, the fit is just fine and comfortable. They do claim on their site that soon they will be offering different sizes, so if you are concerned that a standard adult size isn’t for you, just hold on and your wishes should be filled soon. I found it just a tad on the heavy side (pretty close to one pound). For most this will be fine, yet the extreme roadies and people who ride with their backs parallel to the ground, it might add some neck strain.

All in all, I like the Lumos helmet. Truth for me is I rarely wear one, so the testing put me a bit out of my normal box. And as long as I am putting my personal thoughts forward, the turn signal thing doesn’t get me all that excited. The chance of folks around you seeing and interpreting the blinking turn signal light seem on the basically slim side to me. When I was a kid they had gimmicky t/s lights for the back of bikes (in fact they still sell them). Cool I guess, yet not my thing. My arms, body and eyes seem to do what I need to get the people around me attention’s for turns and the such.

With a sleek look, the Lumos Helmet has much to offer in comfort and safety.

What I do really like are the super bright blinking lights in general. Anything you can do to catch the attention of the people that can do you harm is very important. I am all for lots of blinking lights, day or night on everyone’s bikes, so more bright ones on your brain bucket are gold. These lights are very bright. They might not be too noticeable on the sunniest of days, yet in most conditions they will be standing out strong.

Now remember, Jose Jimenez (Bill Dana) hopes you won’t call this a crash helmet, something I hope too. Yet it is nice to know that your bike protection gear serves more than one purpose. It should do a lot to keep you on two wheels, yet if the worse happens, it will be there to back you up you too. 80 lumens of light high above the traffic should make you easy to see anytime you mount up on your bike. And that should make riding much more pleasurable.

Go Lumos and go safe, Turbo Bob.

“A few years ago, I bought a old red bicycle with the words Free Spirit written across the side—which is exactly what I felt when I rode it down the street in a tie-dyed dress.”—Drew Barrymore.

You can find Lumos on their website or Facebook page.


Here are a couple videos I shot with the Lumos Helmet.

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Buffalo Electric Bike by Freway—Singletrack Sweetheart

Buffalo Electric Bike by Freway—Singletrack Sweetheart.

Looking sharp and riding good—the Freway Buffalo.

It’s been close to a year since I reviewed the Freway VR-01, and even at that time there was talk of this upgraded offering. It was a long wait, yet well worth the months that passed. Electric mountain bikes aren’t number one on my list of favorites (maybe yours though), but I did have some big fun on this Buffalo. With a distance glance they might seem much the same, yet let’s see what makes this bike better and nicer than the VR-01.

I guess the biggest factor here is more power. With a 36 volt 350 watt motor, it climbs and rides with much better authority. This is a great feature as more grunt and speed was one of the things I desired in their other model. It also has more battery capacity so longer rides are in the works at any given time. Sliding the lithium battery into the curvature of the frame makes for a sleeker look too. They also added a USB output that many will just love to have.

The battery is tucked nicely onto the aluminum frame.

Although the control system stays much the same, the control buttons and display are completely different. With no hand throttle to add power, all your assist comes when your pedaling triggers the motor into action. Three levels of power assist (and an off setting) allow you enough choices for most any kind of ride. I am a big fan of having a throttle, yet the lack of one makes this a class 1 E-bike with less restrictions on riding locations (in California at least). Plus, many like a true pedelec as they give a more authentic bike riding experience for the people that expect it that way.

The display is a mini unit on the left side of the bars with two buttons that control all the features. This might seem like a downgrade, yet for the bike’s purpose I think it works well. With the rough and tumble life of a mountain bike, the display is well protected. Plus not having that big display front and center, it leaves more room on the bars for lights and other accessories. The bike comes with a nice lighting system (front and rear) that runs off the motor battery, but when you are really pushing it, you will need some serious accessory lighting at night.

350 watts, disc brakes, and a 1 X 8 drivetrain are part of the Buffalo’s features,

The Buffalo moves to a 1 X 8 drivetrain as opposed to the VR-01’s 3 X 7. I like this change (8 gears instead of 27) and having a single front chainring makes big sense to me. For the serious climbers the missing extra low gears might be an issue, but the motor has more pull, so it felt like a even trade off to me. The shifting is quick and simple with a well placed thumb shifter. There is very little delay with the application of motor power, so all the dirt banging around I did felt great.

Before we talk more about this bike, I want to cover the company some. They have been around a couple years and seem to have two bikes in their line-up at the moment. I saw a catalog of future bikes and they have some beauties coming out soon. I understand their main US facility is in the Los Angeles area, although they might have more than one. This Buffalo should be shipping any day now (30 days and it seems it will be a Kickstarter?). They have a couple retail locations, but for the time being most all transactions with them will be online. I do hope to see more places where Freway E-bikes can be test ridden and purchased, as choosing a bike in person is a desirable way to move forward.

Headed for Kickstarter very soon. I enjoyed my time on the Buffalo.

I am lucky to be fairly close to their offices, so getting a chance to ride and test the Buffalo was a breeze. I made sure to put it through it’s paces quite a bit during this week so I can relay the results here for you. I enjoyed the VR-01, yet this bike just has so much more to get you down the road. It is still a generally inexpensive E-bike in the scheme of things, so expecting too much wouldn’t be wise, yet it did everything I asked of it every time I mounted up for a brisk and fun experience. The fit and finish is impressive too.

Hydraulic disc brakes are becoming the norm nowadays and this Buffalo is no different. They work strong and were easy to modulate on the low traction surfaces I rode. I continually am pushing towards 2 finger levers for these types of brakes, the Buffalo has the smaller ones, yet more like 3 finger. If you pull too hard on the levers of hydraulic brakes you risk an incident, so the shorter levers are key to bike safety. The ones on this bike are on my approval list. Up front is a ok working front suspension fork, yet like the ones on most E-bikes, it doesn’t stand out as exceptional in the real rough stuff.

Built-in front and rear lighting are always nice to see on an E-bike.

Even though the Freway Buffalo is a mountain E-bike, that doesn’t mean you can’t ride it anywhere and anytime. The Kenda tires are just a touch or two more aggressive than street tires, yet not the all out backwoods type on the real racers. The rims, gears, frame and brakes all seem beefy enough to do dual duty, so when I had it on the trails I felt confidence that I was going to have some solid riding with no twisted body or bike parts. I didn’t ride the battery to the end of the charge even once, yet I could tell it has a long range you would expect from a 11 Ah battery on a 350 watt bike.

Freway has put together a nice package here. Looks wise I have no complaints, and once in the saddle I got the same feeling. Unlike most mountain E-bikes, it has a big kickstand that will help it keep looking good for a long time, and help it from getting all beat up when you are parked (I see people fling their bikes to the ground all the time—not good for any part of the bike). The lights work nice and the rear one even blinks (my preference, although most I’ve tested don’t). The power was more than enough for all but those giant San Francisco type hills. For street riding I would swap out the saddle (normal 1st up-grade), yet for the most part this Buffalo has what you need to ride.

Singletrack or street, I kept smiling as long as the wheels kept turning, Turbo Bob.

“Bicycling is the nearest approximation I know to the flight of birds.”—Louis J. Helle.

You can find Freway on Facebook and their website.


I shot these two videos during my time with the Buffalo.

Here is a link to the review I did on the Freway VR-01




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Maker Batteries: Build Your Own Lithium-ion Battery Packs—A Kickstarter

Maker Batteries: Build Your Own Lithium-ion Battery Packs—A Kickstarter.

This shows you what is included in a make it yourself battery pack.

These are exciting times for lithium batteries. They are light, powerful and efficient. They too can be pricey, so finding a way to have the packs meet you exact needs and saving some money doing it sounds good to me. You might know Micah through his fantastic book I reviewed (and wrote the forward too). Titled “The Ultimate Do It Yourself E-Bike Guide”, it is the go to book for people building their own electric bicycle (see the link below). I would think it is already in you personal library.

These packs featured in his Kickstarter are designed for E-bikes, R/C hobbies, home energy systems, yet you can build and use them for so many purposes. The do require DIY skill and knowledge (tools too), but they include full instructions to help with your success as you move forward to the future of energy storage. His Kickstarter page is well written and illustrated, to make sure you can understand your commitment and finished product.

These are just some of the highlights of the kits.

In fact, the page is so informative I won’t spend too much time here trying to explain it all. Through the years I have built many battery packs for my hobby and work interests. They were all with simpler batteries that have a better safety record. Just soldering was the way to go for them, but modern lithium batteries require a specialty welder for the actual connections to the cells. This is the key feature of these packs. The larger part (packs) can be configured in so many ways, yet the individual cell packs are pre-welded.

Just like kits through the years (Heathkit—Dyno—model airplane and cars—Ikea?), the satisfaction and thrill of having just what you want is big. Knowing you did yourself is bigger. Saving money is that much cooler too. They might not work for all, but work great for so many. Some want ready made (often not exactly what you want or the price you want to pay) goods. Even still, there are hoards of people that want so much more. That is what Micah is offering in the name of lithium batteries.

You will need some tools.

Last up is the price savings. The numbers push to about a 50% saving on average, even more in some situations. Many E-bikes use batteries that are enclosed in plastic or aluminum housings. In most cases these Kickstarter packs can be put inside those housings without too much extra work. Most DIY E-bike conversions use all types of packs and all those can be replicated with the Maker Batteries.

You might notice this Kickstarter is winding down quickly. I personally would be unhappy to see this great product slip away if it doesn’t get fully funded. Just in the E-bike world there are thousands who could use this product—right now and in the near future. Don’t let it slip away. Remember, These batteries don’t build themselves or come fully assembled, but if you have the need and the skills, it could be the perfect way to go.

Power up your future, Turbo Bob.

“Riding a bicycle is about getting back to basics. It’s good for the waistline and it’s good for the wallet, is what I’m saying”.   Phil Keogham.

Here is the link to this great Kickstarter. This seems to be just the video, yet on the Kickstarter page the info is very complete. You can find that on the Kickstarter page if this link isn’t enough.

Here is a link to my review on Micah Toll’s book.



Posted in Bike accessories, E-bike general interest, Opinion | 2 Comments

NiteRider Lumina OLED 950 Boost (and Swift 350)—Morphed to Perfection

NiteRider Lumina OLED 950 Boost (and Swift 350)—Morphed to Perfection.

This new light from NiteRider has it all.

When my wife and I first started bike commuting 10 years ago, we decided to let NiteRider guide our way during the dark hours. Sure, I had owned bike headlamps before that, yet they were all pretty much a joke as far as actually seeing the road. That pair of MiNewt Mini lights were incredible and really made our riding safe. They were smart, convenient and at the time, I thought played at the pinnacle of their game.

Four years ago we upgraded to a pair of the NiteRider Lumina lights (a 500 and a 650). Wow, they were so much better, in so many ways. We really didn’t take advantage of the extra brightness as much, but reveled at the better design and working features. They incorporate many of the same changes that make the Boost and Swift better, yet not all of them. Once again I figured these were the best and there wasn’t anyway to top their design and usefulness. Wrong again.

Now with this Lumina OLED 950 Boost, I am seeing that NiteRider has upped their game to a point I am most impressed with. I will do my best to point out the changes, why I like them, and how they affect my riding. I also got the Swift 350 (which for some might be a way better choice), and the Lumina 950 Boost too. When it comes to riding at night, these lights are great—and as we use blinking front lights in the daytime, they really do the job there too.

Our original MiNewt Mini is on the left–and the modern new Lumina Boost 950 is on the right.

By far, the most obvious change from those MiNewt Minis is the all-in-one housing and light. Those old lights had a separate light and battery unit. That wasn’t a big deal, yet I think we can all appreciate the ease of dealing with just one piece, not two. As we only used those at night (they didn’t blink), they came off the bike most of the time and we kept them in a nice carry bag that my wife made out of some scrap material. So, two items to install, not too hard as the battery was held by a Velcro strap, and the light used a big special O-ring.

As far as mounting goes, the newer Lumina lights were better, with just one unit to mount, but they way they hooked to the bars was different. They used a knurly knobby, (a knurled knob), to tighten the unit to the bars. It works well and fits all sizes of bars, yet the many turns the knob takes to do the job took a bit of time. The new OLED and Boost use a single pull stretchy strap that gets it all done in a jiff. It too should fit all sizes of bars. At first glance I thought it may not hold the light to the bars well, but have since found they work great in that regard, The Swift is similar, yet just a bit different.

With such a strong and smart light, bike riding at night is made much easier.

One of the better changes I like with the newer Lumina, and now the OLED, Boost and Swift is the way they charge and how you can tell when they are charged. The MiNewt Mini had no indicator. You charged for 4 ½ hours and then had light for 3 hours. The only indicator was when the charge was running low the light would get dimmer. They came with their own plug-in (to the wall) charger, yet no real way to determine when it was done charging. The newer Luminas upped that with a illuminated power button that changed colors when it was fully charged (and a USB cable instead of a transformer for charging).

So that added peace of mind for battery charging. Plus that same light would let you know when there was 20% power left during use. The new OLED, Boost and Swift go one step further with intellicharge. It can determine the output of the charge source and charge twice as quickly when that charge source can deliver. On last thing about the OLED (and there is a bunch more there), the OLED has a display that tells you all you need to know about your charging and power left at all times.

The compact and bright Swift 350 is also totally affordable.

Of course all three of these new lights are way bright with long run times. In the attached videos I covered the lumens and run times, and you can also look on the NiteRider site for that same info. I think our original MiNewt Minis were 350 lumens, which really is bright enough for most riding. When we moved on to the Luminas, we normally would just use the lowest (or one up) setting, as high was always more than we need. The OLED and Boost will punch out 950, really bright. They will only do it for less than an hour and you don’t need that much light, yet they will do it.

I do like a front light that will blink. In the daytime I think that is a big key to getting the attention of oncoming vehicles and ones that might turn your way (opening doors too) . The Lumina, the OLED, the Boost and the Swift all do it. In fact the OLED has different blink modes, including one that pumps out an SOS signal, cool. Another thing they do is offer a lock-out mode. These lights get pretty hot in the higher settings, so NiteRider is very big on the lights not coming on when they are stowed. So please, take advantage of that mode whenever the lights are not mounted to your bike.

The display on the NiteRider Lumina OLED Boost 950 is filled with great information.

What makes the OLED stand out even more is the LCD readout screen that is filled with important information. As far as I can tell, both the Lumina 950 Boost lights are the same, with the exception that the OLED has the display. The info on the screen is very helpful to understanding charge and run times. It also shows you the mode you are using. The OLED is controlled with more than just the one button, something I think helped.

Like many things nowadays, the NiteRider uses instructions that are illustration oriented for every language there is. This can be a bit confusing, yet a quick call to them will clear up any of that and get you full access to all the modes and ways the lights can make your rides better. And those instructions are needed to be able to make these lights work with all the modern changes they have been through. Our original NiteRider MiNewt Minis were simple. One button on—one button off. These do that, yet do so much more.

So my point here is (I guess), that with changes come good things. Those original lights did so much for us. They worked well (and are still working after all this time). They were easy to use. They lit the road nicely for a safe and smart ride. They took away the potential stress of night riding and equipment that might fail when needed. As the years went by NiteRider has worked hard to offer the same quality, yet with much better results. I for one (and my wife for two), have been on the receiving end of their persistent push for the best.

The Swift 350 has turned out to be the perfect light for my wife’s commuter bike

One last thing. The Swift 350 has been perfect for my wife’s commuter bike. It blinks for the day rides, and is a very bright light if she has to ride when it’s dark. My favorite part (and maybe hers) is that because it is so inexpensive, she can just leave it on the bike when parked. Its black housing blends in well with her black handlebar bag so it is pretty stealthy. It gets charged once a week. It is compact and does exactly what we want it for. That is the definition of perfection.

I love the peaceful feeling I get riding at night. Let NiteRider help, Turbo Bob.

“Be at one with the universe. If you can’t do that, at least be at one with your bike.”—Lennard Zinn.

You can find NiteRider at their website or Facebook page.

Here are some videos I posted on the 3 lights I just tested.



Posted in Bike accessories | 2 Comments

Index of Articles—March 2016 to September 2016

Index of Articles—March 2016 to September 2016.

March 2016


2.   Moto Reflex Pedals—Comfort King.

3.   Ride Scoozy 350—An E-bike That Makes Sense.

4.  San Diego Electric Bike Expo—The Experience & the Trends.

April 2016

1.   Electric Bikes in Northern California—What I Found.

2.   Index of Articles—September 2015 to March 2016.

3.   Flux Trail E-bike—Living the Dream.

May 2016

1.   Add-e Electric Bike Conversion Kit—Lightweight Power.

2.   Ariel Rider N-Class Premium 500—Old Meets New.

3.   Introduction to Electric Bicycles—Spring 2016 Edition—May 24, 2016.

4.   LighTake—Bike Goodies for a Song.

5.   ULTIMATE COMMUTER E-BIKE BUILD—Part # 8—Wrap-up and Costs.

June 2016

1.   Velo Orange Model 8 Saddle—My New Favorite.

2.   Be Part of a Guinness World Record E-bike Group Ride Attempt.

3.   Spira Electric Enclosed Motorcycle—Spira4U.

4.   Surface 604 Boar E350—Fat-Tire Filly.

July 2016

1.   Chatham E-bike by Fifield—American Gem.

2.   My Bicycle Trailer—Reworked for Smart Traveling.

August 2016

1.    Flaunt Vicko Electric Bike—Making the Grade.

2.   Electric Bike World Record Ride—Ravi on his Stromer.

September 2016

1.   KTM Macina Cross 10 CX4 E-bike—Souped-up Scrambler.





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KTM Macina Cross 10 CX4 E-bike—Souped-up Scrambler

KTM Macina Cross 10 CX4 E-bike—Souped-up Scrambler.

This baby has what you need to ride—and nothing you don’t need to slow you down.

As I threw my leg over this sleek E-bike for the first time, it seemed to be just another electric-assist mountain bike. Although there is nothing wrong with that, I am more of a street and bike trail rider, so big time climbing isn’t a need for me. Before I made it to the first stop sign, I  was already finding this KTM (with a deep heritage in gas-powered motocross racing bikes) was more than a one-purpose only machine. This brought on a wider smile with memories of days past.

As a kid, some of my favorite motorcycles were the scramblers. Not really road bikes, not really dirt bikes, they were a great compromise that could take on the trails and the highways with equal ease. They weren’t the best for either, yet they were great fun, and let you own one bike that could take you most anywhere. That is how I feel about the Macina Cross 10 CX4 (doesn’t really roll off the tongue eh?) from KTM. I loved the scramblers I had, and I am getting that kind of closeness to this KTM too.

400 watts of smooth Bosch power. It even has a great skid guard to keep you going in the rough stuff.

Being a true pedelec, if is the kind of E-bike that brings you and the bike closer together. With no throttle, all of your assist comes during pedaling. It has 5 levels of assist (including off), so finding the right amount of motor help is easy for any riding condition. The levels are not just how much power the motor will make when pedaling, but also how sensitive the torque-sensed controls are. Torque-sensing means the bike can tell how hard you are working the pedals, and let the motor help to match. For years I’ve been calling this intelligent control, and this Bosch power plant system has it figured out well.

More on that. The Bosch mid-drive motor sends its power through the chain and drive gears. There are benefits and drawbacks to a mid-drive, yet one of the biggest pluses for a bike like this is having the extra weight of the battery and motor mid-mounted and low in the frame for better bike handling, something that is easy to feel when you start pushing the Macina Cross 10. Also, because the electric power is sent through the 10 gears, it allows for better use of the torque and power the motor makes (which is plenty BTW).

The 1 X 10 drivetrain is plenty strong.

The KTM is limited to 20 mph (some of the Bosch aren’t) and has no throttle, so it is a class 1 E-bike here in California. That means no limit on where and how you can ride this lightweight E-bike (here at least). It builds speed fast as you work the gears, and cruises easy using a minimal amount of power from the 36 volt frame mounted battery. It has aa assist interrupt feature during shifting, yet there were times the gears still mashed, not sure why that was.

Like I said earlier, this bike is way comfortable on the street. The 700c Schwalbe tires have a great dual-purpose tread pattern. It is light and agile, so some commuting or fun riding is definitely in its repertoire. The KTM is pretty stripped down though. Looking for a bell, fenders, rack or a  kickstand? You won’t find them, but they could easily be added. There is kind of a chain guard on the tiny front sprocket, but none of that other good stuff you look for on a street bicycle. That small front sprocket turns faster than you would think due to internal gearing, so the gear range on the Cross 10 CX4 makes sense and feels good at any speed.

With the motor and battery mounted low and in the center of the bike, you are assured some great handling.

The lack of a kickstand bugged me a lot, so I was always looking for a curb to prop the pedals on with every stop. And, the bike comes with no pedals either. Like many high-end bikes, instead of just popping something on there, they leave up to you to get the right ones that fit your riding style. Even though there are really no extras, what this bike is about is fully covered, something you get with every ride. It is like an expensive pair of skis, ready to go where you want with no questions asked.

There are a few things about the KTM that might slow you down. One is the lack of retailers. There are 3 shops close to me that carry KTM bikes. None of them have any in stock, they are special order only. That means no test ride, just a sight unseen wish for the bike you want. And then again, none of those shops will sell you a KTM E-bike, just the non-electric ones. If you go on the KTM website, it is pretty sparse. It is a Austria made bike and their site doesn’t translate to English well. I think from my research, there are 3 E-bikes available in the US—and maybe 40 in Europe. Like I said, it is hard to tell from the sites I checked out. Judging by the talks I had with the KTM rep, they are bound to get all their stuff and retailers sorted out better so you can have a great KTM experience.

2 finger levers on the Shimano hydraulic disc brakes let you stop with confidence.

Even though getting one could be tough, I do feel once you have it, all will be fine. This bike is very high quality, the 3 dealers I spoke to seemed to be very well versed on the KTM bikes, and the Bosch power system is heavily supported here in the states. Name brand parts and pieces make up the KTM Macina, so plenty of issue-free riding sees to be a given. Strong disc brakes, solid shifting, an ok front fork and firm chassis are all part of the equation. This is a complete package.

This is a bike with a strong racing background in its rooster tail. When you ride it you can feel the race-bread features, not because it is uncomfortable and abrupt, but just the opposite. Because it is smooth and responsive. Each control and movement brings you closer to the bike. Everything about it feels natural and fun happens without pre-thought. I sure enjoyed my time on it, even if it isn’t the street bike that I crave. I do crave a scrambler though, and that is what we have here.

Bosch has done a great job with the controls and display.

Even though getting a test ride might be tough, I managed to get this one, so don’t give up. With any luck your local KTM bicycle dealer can hook you up. If this type of E-bikes peaks your interest, then it will be worth the effort to find one to try.

Go KTM, Turbo Bob.

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

KTM website


They are on Facebook too.

Check out the videos I posted on this E-bike.

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