Sherpa—A Utility Cargo E-bike from Motiv Electric Bikes

Sherpa—A Utility Cargo E-bike from Motiv Electric Bikes.

 

I had the coax the Sherpa to stop just a minute for this photo, it is always raring to go.

Motiv Electric Bikes has earned a respected place in the electric bike world by following a smart business plan. They started with a pair of quality boosted beach cruisers (in standard and low-frame). The time needed to perfect those bikes was invested before moving onto other models. Once that was accomplished they did the same with the Shadow. With many established retail locations keeping things rolling, they were able to introduce two new models this year. I have already reviewed the fat-tired Stout.

 
I first rode one of the prototype Sherpa E-bikes last year at a E-bike demo day at Myron’s Extreme Machines in Fullerton. The design was solid, yet they worked the final details hard before putting it into production. As this year began, their new Sherpa cargo E-bikes hit the showroom floors ready to perform and please. It handles both these tasks well, and so much more.

 

There is a lot to see in this image. Take the time to soak in in.

Component and power-system wise, this cargo E-bike is very similar to their other E-bikes. This makes sense in so many ways, allowing them to fine tune the different bikes to a high level. It also makes for a great customer experience in the short and long run. The 500 watt geared rear hub motor is of the modern brushless design. You can choose between the 36 volt or 48 volt model. The one I rode for two weeks was the 48 volt machine.

 
Of course I’ve ridden the Motiv Electric Bikes in both voltage levels. The extra voltage gives you a bit better acceleration and hill climbing ability. Both ride fine and will handle most any riding situation you can throw at them. Still, for the little more it takes to get the 48 volt Sherpa, you will benefit well when you start loading the rack and basket with all your heavy gear. Need more carry capacity? Add a bike trailer, the Sherpa can handle that too.

 

Information central is front and center on the Sherpa from Motiv Electric Bikes.

On the bars is the display that feeds you the info, and it works in conjunction with the button panel near your left hand. Being a dual control E-bike, you can chose between 5 levels of automatic assist, and use the throttle anytime for a larger and instantaneous boost. Each of those five levels are nicely spaced in the speed ranges. 1 goes about 8 mph, and 5 about 20. The other 3 fill in the gaps between those, allowing you to do most of your riding without having to hold the throttle continuously.

 
Because the motor is geared, it will climb well, have minimal drag when not being used, and make just the slightest amount of noise when powered up. The battery is mid-mounted in the chassis, helping to balance out the handling. Another plus here is that the front basket is frame mounted so it won’t affect your steering when loaded to capacity. I found the Sherpa fun to ride and even enjoyed some basic hot-rodding, using all that power it offers.

 

The Sherpa also comes in a nice blue color if that is your preference.

The tires have a fairly aggressive tread, but gripped well, and rolled smoothly on the pavement. Like most decent E-bikes nowadays, disc brakes are mounted front and rear. Don’t be drawn in by all those with hydraulic offerings, as quality mechanical disc brakes like these work great, are simple to maintain and keep the bottom line more affordable. When this bike is loaded with all you carry, these brakes will still punch your speed to zero quick.

 
The weight is kept in check with aluminum pieces from front to rear, including the rigid frame work. The frame has nice lines, adding looks to the convenience you expect from a electric-assist bike. The first Sherpa I rode was in a sharp shade of blue, this one in black. If I had my choice I’d go with the blue, yet matte black bikes are selling in record numbers I’m told. Also popular in today’s world are custom paint jobs for that one-of-a-kind look. Maybe that is your desire.

 

6 speeds—plenty of power—and stopping anchors are all there for the taking with the Sherpa.

Just like the brakes, you could have more, but 6 speeds work fine on E-bikes. The Sherpa has the extra low first gear for the steep climbs, and all the variety of ratios you will ever need. How do I know this? Because I’ve ridden tons of E-bikes with everywhere from 1 gear to 30. 30 gears is about 24 more than most any E-bike rider will ever need. That makes for less shifting, less cost, and less maintenance and complexity. The gears are spaced fine and handled the speed ranges of every ride I took.

 
So here you are, sitting tall on your new Sherpa. The upright position matches well with the close to cruiser style handlebars. The slightly wider (than so many E-bikes) saddle is cushioned with both reasonable padding and a suspension seat post. The comfort level is matched with the power the motor adds as you push off for your next journey. All your gear is along for the ride—all is well with the world. Are you feeling it?

 

Load in on and strap it down—front and rear.

The big front basket is removable with the twist of some allen bolts, if you want a sleeker look and feel. That was good because when it was on my bike rack with another bike, I did have to pull it off for clearance when hauling the Sherpa to rides on the other side of town. During the time I had it, it got ridden by me, my wife, and several others. It was hard to hide the smiles generated with each turn of the pedals. The smooth ride, the good looks and the easy power rush make for an E-bike that is difficult not to like.

 

You could Photoshop me out—and you in. Or you could just get one of your own.

As E-bikes continue to gain in popularity and sales, the good ones are the ones you will spot around town. I know in my town I see plenty of Motiv Electric Bikes riding the streets and bike paths. We rode them in Denver on an E-bike tour, and I’ve seen them in other cities during our travels. They get around, just like the people that ride them. I am convinced they have a good thing going.

 
Load down your Sherpa and the mountain will come to you, Turbo Bob.

 
“It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them.”—Ernest Hemingway.

Motiv Electric Bikes can be found on the web and Facebook.

http://www.motivelectricbikes.com/

https://www.facebook.com/MotivElectricBikes?ref=br_tf

Check out my video of the Sherpa

Posted in E-bike test reviews | Leave a comment

EcoReco Pneumatic Front Tire Prototype and a Year Worth of EcoReco Insights

EcoReco Pneumatic Front Tire Prototype and a Year Worth of EcoReco Insights.

 

Fresh and ready to install, this pneumatic prototype front wheel makes a noticeable difference.

EcoReco sent me this prototype pneumatic front tire to try out. I did, and this post will spend some time on its pluses and minus. I also thought this would be a good time to give you the (over a ) year rundown on the EcoReco electric scooters. I got the M3 17 months ago, and the M5 (full suspension model) 6 months ago. To say I have a lot of info on them would be easy. As soon as this post goes live, the 2 scooters are going back in the box to be returned to the company. You can be sure they will have me test any new products they introduce.

 
These are very useful as last mile transportation. They are also a lot of fun. My first post on the M3 asked the question—”Tool or Toy?” The answer is both. I have used them both as transportation, carefree fun machines and as a quick alternative to walking. Neither one has ever let me down and well over a couple hundred people have been able to try them out. These are rock solid ways to get around and the proof was there with each ride. I am now truly an EcoReco fan.

 

The M5 was made better with the smoother front tire.

When I was first approached to test review this electric scooter I was hovering on my interest levels. Bikes are my go to machine here on my bike blog. Yet, offering much of what an electric bike does, I dove in with a smile. It has been a fun journey and reporting on them has brought a lot of attention for both E-bikes and E-scooters. That is my passion and EcoReco has helped fuel it. I will add links at the bottom of this post to my original M3 and M5 articles, reading those will fill in the blanks I don’t cover here.

 
The kind of rough ride of the M3 has been mentioned by many. On a smooth surface you can really experience the quiet and flow of this electric two-wheeler. Yet as things get grated, the vibes transmitted to the rider and machine are quite noticeable. The front suspension is mostly just the springs with a minor friction damping from the sliding wheel mount blocks. The solid flat-free tires do little to soak-up the bumps and ruts.

 

These scoots got ridden all over and by hundreds of people. This shows my wife and I enjoying them at our last CicloSDias (car free streets).

Enter the M5, much the same but with the addition of a elastomer (?) supported lever action rear suspension. The extra movement at the rear does much for the rider in terms of comfort on rutted surfaces. I posted a video with both scooters to try and show the difference, and I did the same with this new pneumatic front wheel (once again, links to them are listed below). Like the M5 made things nicer, the pneumatic front tire does too.

 
This beefy little front tire goes on the scooter (M3 or M5) (I tried it on both) quickly with one axle bolt removal and re-installation. I had to add my own washer / spacer on each side of the ball bearings, yet when it becomes available I am sure they will be included. It was evident from the first ride the way having some air in the front tire made a difference worth talking about. Pumped up to the listed spec of 36 lbs., it was firm yet just spongy enough to roll easy and smooth out the ride. With the solid tires not getting great grip on wet surfaces, I would expect the pneumatic one to be much better in that respect.

 

This is the new tire on the M3 and ready to ride. Keep an eye on EcoReco to see when these new wheels and tires will be available.

I would imagine EcoReco has the mindset of producing a scooter with these tires front and rear. The rear will be a little tougher (especially as a retrofit like this) because the rear has the motor and brake built into the wheel hub. I can’t say if this front tire, or the complete pneumatic supported scooter will make it into production, so keep an eye on the company to see. They have told me they have several new products on their drawing boards.

 
The main drawbacks I see here is the chance of a flat and forgetting to add air every month or so (which can cause flats and poor performance). Part of what I like about both scooters is the lack of needed maintenance and worries (about things like flats). Everybody has different needs and desires, so you might be on one side of this or the other. It is nice to have a choice.

 

In this shot you can see the front strut bolts slightly bent back. It was easy to fix. Keep a look out on your scooter for this problem.

OK, on to my experiences with these EcoReco scooters. I do lots of earth fairs and electric vehicle events (including my own twice-a-year E-bike seminar) so tons of people have ridden these 2 scooters. Not once have they failed to run and perform. Of course I have ridden them both many, many times too. I especially like the safe throttle that only activates the motor when some forward speed is attained (just a little push off is all it takes).

 
I first turned a wrench on the M3 when they sent me the anti-rattle front suspension up-grade (all EcoRecos have this factory for a while now, but if you don‘t they will make sure you can get it). It was fairly easy to install. This basically consists of 2 plastic sleeve inserts for the front axle carrier blocks. They allow a tighter fit where they slide on the strut bolts, but still allow for free movement. It tightened up the front end and quieted the scooter down considerably.

 

Changing out the strut bolts was easy. It was a little harder to install the anti-rattle up-date.

Then not an issue to mention until they told me of this front pneumatic wheel. I had the 2 scoots at a friend’s birthday party (they all loved them by the way, everyone seems to) and I noticed the M5 had 2 front strut bolts that were slightly bent back. It was still safe and steered fine, but I had them send some replacements along with the pneumatic front wheel. They were easy to install and solved that problem.

 
I attributed this to the maybe 1 inch curb rises I have hit countless times. I would slow (some) and shift my weight back, but still hit them pretty hard. I noticed the new pneumatic wheel is much gentler when hitting these rises, so this prototype tire should help in that respect too. With all the extra abuse the M3 has had (time ridden too) it never had this happen.

 
They early on sent me some buttons for the handlebar adjustor they said a few people had broken on their scooters. Mine never did. I have also asked them to up-date their charger. It works great, but when you plug it into the scooter (and always plug the scooter first and then into the wall socket) ( and the reverse sequence when the charge is complete) you hear a spark. This means the charger isn’t diode protected. It isn’t really a big deal, but that spark could cause issues on an unlucky day, it never has for me though. To my knowledge the charger hasn’t been changed. The M5 I got 6 months ago works the same way.

 

The M5 with the pneumatic front tire was the smoothest ride of them all.

So, months of riding fun and convenience has been the result of this extended test. I need to thank EcoReco for the ability to do this test and report, and can’t wait to see what they roll out next. The 2 electric scoots are headed back to the factory and I am moving onto the next bike review. Still the memory of the good times with the EcoReco scooters won’t fade soon. To cap it up, the M5 full-suspension model with the pneumatic tire is the quietest and smoothest ride of all the combinations I tried.

 
You too can scoot, Turbo Bob.

 
“I left my youth behind me. It peddled the bicycle while I rode on the handlebars.”—Jarod Kintz.

You can find EcoReco on the web and Facebook

http://ecorecoscooter.com/

https://www.facebook.com/EcoRecoScooter

Here are links to my M3 article and the one about the M5

https://turbobobbicycleblog.wordpress.com/2013/12/19/ecoreco-m3-electric-scooter-tool-or-toy/

https://turbobobbicycleblog.wordpress.com/2014/12/22/ecoreco-m5-smooth-sailing/

I posted many videos with these electric scooters.   These are the two ride comparison ones.    You can find all the others on my You-Tube channel too.

Posted in E-bike general interest, E-bike test reviews | Leave a comment

How to Buy the Best Electric Bike, by Average Joe Cyclist—A Book Review

How to Buy the Best Electric Bike, by Average Joe Cyclist—A Book Review.

 
10994473_10152741933987339_568043398015610005_nFor several years it has been a passion for me to educate people about electric bikes. Just getting out the word that they exist is big, yet there is so much more. Average Joe Cyclist (Joe Goodwill) and I seem to be on similar paths and it couldn’t be more evident as his new book now becomes available. For anyone with the desire for these bikes, or just becoming aware of them, they will soak-up every page. If that is you, then putting this book on your reading list would be wise.

 
Like any informational book, he starts out by explaining the basics of his subject, in this case, electric-assist bicycles. As the book continues, the simple information becomes more detailed, but never beyond the easy grasp of the reader. Keep in mind Joe’s words are not meant to un-leash every nut and bolt (volt and amp too), yet to be a very comprehensive guide to E-bikes, their reasons for being, and your possible interaction with one.

 
Joe’s experience with the bikes is a personal one, that is easy to see. He also has done his research with many bikes and riders to back up each claim and fact. His writing style is fun and easy going, yet you will be convinced from each paragraph that his knowledge on E-bikes qualifies him to author this guide. Writing about bikes is no new experience for Joe (and his wife), this you will already know if you follow him on the web and Facebook.

 
As the chapters morph away from the bike themselves, he dives into the many reasons they are a great asset to most every person on earth. The reasons are nearly endless, yet he manages to expand on 14 of them. If he had attended one of my particular E-bike seminars last year (that because of rain kept it inside only), the interactive discussion we had could have given him enough more reasons to fill another whole book.

 
Health, environment, attitude, money, weight loss and so many other reasons to ride an E-bike are covered in his book with great examples. Physical and mental recovery help is also much of what an electric bike offers for those who desire to follow his lead. I could go on (and I often do), but it isn’t my goal here to copy and paste his book, just convince you to read it for yourself. I also fully believe you should get a copy for each person in your life that you care for. When you read the book you will know why.

 
Moving back to the riding of E-bikes, Average Joe Cyclist explains about how you and your bike can stay running smooth, have what you need to be comfortable, and the rules of the road for E-bikes. Riding safety and the accessories that will help, get a full billing too. This includes lighting systems and other things that should be part of your E-bike package.
Then he digs deep to talk more about the bikes and their features. The book is named “How to Buy the Best Electric Bike”, so you have to figure this subject will get many pages.

 

Even though an E-bike is just a regular bicycle (more or less), there is so much to understand before you make your first shopping trip at the local E-bike dealer. Average Joe covers the bases here well and you will thank him later by avoiding some of the buying mistakes he has made. Knowledge is power, and he can help you exercise yours.

 
From here the book contains some blah-blah moments (totally kidding). What I mean is he educates you further with important E-bikes issues you may not of considered. Several riveting chapters on E-bike insight are followed with some book ending E-bike reviews. His personal up-close relations with E-bikes are also evident in this part of the book. I did get a kick out of the fact that not all the bikes reviewed are electric. I assume he did it because these are bikes he likes and can easily be converted to electric-assist like his own beloved Devinci.

 
I know Joe is a wise man because he saw fit to see if I would mind him including some of my electric bike reviews as part of his labor of love. Of course I was ecstatic to learn he thought they were worth adding, and I gave him full permission to do so. He even went as far as to say “Turbo Bob, one of the greatest online bike reviewers. I highly recommend his blog”, and adds a link to my site in several places. Is this guy wise or what?

 
After that fantastic ego blast, I guess it is time for the critique part. It took a bit to realize that because he and I live in such different places (Joe in Canada and me in Sunny San Diego), some of the info seemed kind of dated. It turns out that isn’t the case, just that the bikes and accessories that are popular there are different from my area. Bike are bikes (E-bikes are E-bikes?) and no matter where you live that part is a given common.

 
And of course as you read any article or book you think that you could have used a better word or description. This happened a few times, but I was glad to get his feelings that I could add to my own. After all, isn’t that what life is all about? If you live in your own little bubble 24/7, you will never reach your full potential. I fully applaud Average Joe Cyclist for reaching out to my mind for expansion purposes. Even though this book will not tell you every single E-bike fact, it is sure to get you in the saddle of one to see if it is the right choice for you.

 
One thing I am lucky to have when it comes to E-bike reviews is a great variety of brands and models in my area. I also do my best to visit other cities and states to be able to broaden the scope of my reviews. Joe didn’t get that variety as well covered in his book, yet reviewed some bikes that I am unfamiliar with. Once again the fact that his world and mine aren’t on the same plain comes though in a good way.

 
My wife has prodded me many times to write a book such as Joe’s. It is a large undertaking that Joe has completed well. As I turned the last page I wanted more, a sign of a good writer and a good subject. I have to thank Joe for doing it, including me in his book, and taking off the pressure on me of having to take on the monumental task of writing a E-bike buyers guide.

 
Way to go Joe Goodwill, I hope you sell a million copies, Turbo Bob.

 
“Bikes have wheels.”—Noam Chomsky.

You can order your book(s) here, or follow Joe’s bike exploits by using these links

https://averagejoecyclist.com/

https://www.facebook.com/averagejoe.cyclist

These are direct links to the Amazon ordering site. One for the color version and the other for black and white.

Posted in E-bike general interest, My blogs on other sites, Opinion | 1 Comment

Stromer ST2—First Impressions

Stromer ST2—First Impressions.

 

Before the session started, I got some great shots of the new Stromer ST2

I was lucky to be included in a dealer orientation and training on the Stromer ST2 at their San Diego headquarters last Friday. To say I have the full run-down on this soon to released high-end E-bike might be a stretch, but not a big one. Before the action started I had my own excitement riding one of the new bikes for a while to get the feel for it. What a great day it was, and my thanks go out big to the crew at Stromer and all the dealers that attended.

 
I guess I should start with the two main things I learned on this day. One, the new ST2 is an incredible bike, with a smoothness that seems unrivaled. The performance, sophistication and ability to interact with the bike are setting a benchmark that others will try to follow. The other thing I realized (early on) is that although the buy-in is steep, what you are getting for that outlay extends way beyond the nuts and bolts of the bike itself. The company has set in place a behind the scenes network that is mind-boggling.

 

David, a very knowledgeable engineer from Stromer, handled most of the tech training.

The ST1 Stromer that so many are familiar with has many happy followers. This new bike at first glance seems much the same, but as you go deeper the similarities fade quickly. Built from the ground up as an E-bike, Stromer has many years of experience to mold this new offering. They added what they call a SYNO Drive motor, which could be simply explained as a high-frequency system, but is so much more. The end result is 20% more torque and a smoother power output.

 
Many of the bike pieces are better too. The rear axle / motor mounting is pure European technological coolness. Plus your options are limited as it comes with the city kit (fenders and lights) standard. As far as the bike goes it would be hard to imagine one much nicer. As far as the electronics go, you will be amazed at all this Stromer ST2 can do. I can tell you a little, but there isn’t enough space here to cover it all.

 

All the local dealers, and some from out of town, were there to soak-up the ST2 info.

The electronics, where to start? They moved the controller out of the motor and into the frame below the battery. This is to balance the bike better and handle the heat of the increased power and torque. They have what is close to the largest, most powerful battery in the industry. A 48 volt 17 Ah lithium battery with an advanced BMS is now what you get. It will pump out a minimum range of over 40 miles and max to 90 or 100. That’s a lot of riding on one charge.

 

The OMNI unit—way more than just some info on a screen.

The whole system works through the OMNI display unit (and it does so much more). Mounted in the top tube, it is nicely protected and includes the antenna that connects the bike wirelessly to the GSM network. This early cell phone network has a large coverage, but is geared better for the data than the audio of phones. You approve your email and cell phone connection, and also choose a PIN number to allow the bike to interact with your smart phone, and the dealers and company’s large computer system.

 
On their end they can monitor much that your bike does, including the location. The anti-theft and theft-recovery abilities (available to you, your dealer and the company) are reassuring and they even log all your maintenance and repair records. This part of the bike is thought out well, and even though the transfer of information might seem intrusive at first, you will find it is essential.

 

Some of the training was hands-on. Here David overlooks as Ike (from San Diego Fly Rides) and Ron (from BeCYCLE) learn about the motor / rear wheel installation. Michael, an E-bike electrical engineer looks on too. After the session was over I got some great one-on-one E-bike insight from him.

The amount of menus you (and they) can access and change might be considered over-kill, yet each one has a purpose. Your cell phone and your bike become as one through the included app. Understanding all the bike can do might be tough at first (you will get the full run-down when you pick-up your bike, plus a help line will be available at all times). As the miles roll, the functions that effect your ride will start to become second nature.

 
Once you turn the bike on, all you really need to know to ride are the three levels of assist. Level one and three are just how they sound—minimum and maximum. Yet in level two, that is where you can custom program the bike’s power and response to your pedaling. The Stromer ST2 is a true pedelec (no hand throttle) and is torque-sensed controlled. This makes for one of the best E-bike riding experiences, and one of the most interactive. With some fancy button pushing you can activate a throttle, but is only good to about 13 mph.

 

Although the front carbon fiber fork looks similar to that from the ST1, it is all new too.

Talking about fancy button pushing, the display is a touch unit. Much of that can be controlled with the handlebar buttons too, giving you the option of how you and the bike work together. Expect a learning curve though, as the ST2 has so much going on, you need to pay attention to your instructor when the action begins. Still, the menus and controls are pretty intuitive, so don’t get too concerned in this department.

 

These are the handlebar controls. They work in full sync with the touch screen OMNI display unit.

The list of what the new Stromer can do is not even nicked with my information above. Spend some time on the Stromer website for more info. Or better yet, attend their US launch day this March 21st . They will have a west coast and east coast one simultaneously. That is also the day US delivery will start. Even though the amount of pre-orders is large, from what I saw at their headquarters, you can get in on the action without waiting past that date.

 
The ST2 is already out in the European quarter, so they have worked though the teething period already. I would think you have seen on-line much about the happy riders and some of what you can expect from your first test ride. On that note, I have been promised at least a week with the Stromer ST2 once they are launched here, so I will feed you more insight soon. Keep an eye out for me on the bike and I will be sure to let you try it out.

 

The new Stromer ST2 will be an E-bike that many seek to copy, but I doubt any will be able to.

I do have to say I have my own doubts about the need for this level of electronics and computers on-board an E-bike. What I do know is as long as it is all up and running, this ST2 rides fantastic. What an impressive, powerful and smooth bike it is. There are many set to find this out for themselves, will you be one of them?

 
Thanks for reading, see you on the ST2 soon, Turbo Bob.

 
“Cyclers see considerable more of this beautiful world than any other class of citizen. A good bicycle, well applied, will cure most ills this flesh is heir to.”—Dr. K. K. Doty.

You can find Stromer on the web and Facebook

http://www.stromerbike.com/en/us

https://www.facebook.com/mystromer

Check out all the videos I shot that day of the bike and the training

Posted in E-bike general interest, E-bike test reviews | 1 Comment

Virtue Gondoliere +—A Cargo Bike with a Difference

Virtue Gondoliere +—A Cargo Bike with a Difference.

 

Looking sharp and riding nice, I expect to see plenty of these Virtue Gondoliere + E-cargo bikes around town.

Stretched out, equipped with electric-assist and ready to roll, this cargo bike will turn heads everywhere you ride it. Yet its real purpose is to handle a load with ease and comfort. With the basket in the middle of the chassis, the Virtue Gondoliere + makes easy work of a tough job. Cargo bikes are gaining bigger interest everyday, and bikes like this are much of the reason.

 
In a classy Atlantis green, the wood basket and tan trim blend together nicely. This steel framed bike has the strength to take you past the cool appearance and to the world of using your bike for most every transportation need. Shopping and errands will become much easier, fun and less expensive too. Packing a kid or two where you can keep an eye on them will help make a family outing comfortable and pleasant. And for you pet owners, the same applies.

 

Easier to ride than you might think, in this shot you can see the dual steering links. These allow a slop-free solid feel.

At first look you may think this Gondoliere + might be a little hard to handle. Although the learning curve could take a few blocks, for me it was instantaneous. It rides easily and smooth, even at low speeds. The E-assist adds to the quick balancing right from the first turn of the pedals. I found it easy to ride, and got into its interesting look and feel without a second thought. I think most any bike rider will take to it as quickly as I did.

 
The seven-speed derailleur system is a basic one, but works and shifts well. Like many bikes it has the ultra low 1st gear for good hill climbing. The entire drive train has light-weight modern components that should give good rider confidence and a long life. The brakes are more than sufficient, with a strong V-brake up front and roller brake out back. Roller brakes aren’t known for ultra braking, but work better than some under extreme conditions (water and dirty environments). So the brakes and drivetrain are up to snuff for this cargo bike.

 

The two different size wheels work well together on this E-cargo bike. Full fenders and a wide kickstand come standard.

Comfort is covered with a well padded saddle and ergo grips in a matching finish. It seemed to me this bike can handle riders of most any size and weight. The upright seating position fit me nicely, and most likely you too. It is kind of a heavy bike, but will carry quite a load. The carry capacity discussed at the shop is more than listed on their website, but I think you can load the Gondoliere + down with most anything that fits in the wooden cargo box.

 
The power system added is a light one, and maybe not as powerful as some might need. The front drive 250 watt brushless hub motor is paired to a 36 volt 8.8 Ah lithium battery. It is a true pedelec, meaning it only powers up while pedaling and there is no hand throttle. This helps to increase the range between recharges, yet won’t allow you to use the motor assist at all times. I found it to have good speed and acceptable power, but if you have some really steep hills to pound while fully loaded, it won’t fill the bill.

 

Up front is the 250 watt brushless motor and a strong set of V brakes.

I think for most people, they will like the assist system on this E-cargo bike, but while riding I envisioned some options. One would be to get the un-powered version (just called the Gondoliere) and add the E-bike conversion kit of your choice. There are many to chose from, allowing you much better climbing ability, a longer range, and a hand throttle if wanted. So taking the base model and making it a better and more powerful E-cargo bike could make real sense.

 
A little more about the electric system on the Gondoliere + should mention the display and controls. This is an all-in-one unit with the readout and the control buttons. It gives a lot of information about its settings and operation. Many E-bikes have a set of buttons for choosing your level of assist close at hand, but on the Virtue they are a little bit of a reach. The photos on their website show it mounted closer to the handgrip. This would be the better way to go and is probably they way they come from your local bike shop.

 

The seven-speed drive train works well and is covered with a chain guard.

For quite a while 250 watt E-bikes were more common. As Americans crave ’more power’, 500 watts (and more) seem to be on most of the bikes. The extra juice can be handy on the heavier climbs, but uses the battery power so much quicker. Of course large motors and batteries weigh the bike down more, so finding the right balance of power, cost and weight is something most E-bike companies work hard on. Like I said above, the installed system on this Virtue Gondoliere + will make most people happy.

 

The display and control panel is a good choice. My test bike had it mounted in a spot that isn’t optimal. I expect the bike you will try will have it near the handgrips.

The wood carry box is supplemented with a rear rack. The rack is mostly there to hold the battery, but looked strong enough for more cargo. The front box is very large, and even has a small seat. There are two strapping systems in the box that could be used for the kids, but to call them safety belts seems wrong. Using the box for people or the cargo will require a little fore thought on the rider’s part to make sure it (they) are safe and won’t shift when riding.

 

A breeze to ride and tons of fun, his handy bike could make a big difference in your life.

If you follow the bike world, you have heard what a following cargo bikes have. They continue to gain great popularity for many reasons. Those reasons practically write themselves. Staying healthy, keeping our environment healthy, saving money, getting outdoors and having fun are just a few of the many things that drive this trend. People want to ride bikes, but have to move their kids, pets and stuff, so cargo bikes fill those needs. It all makes so much sense.

 
Make you own trend on the Virtue Gondoliere +, Turbo Bob.

 
“Toleration is the greatest gift of the mind; it requires the same effort of the brain that it takes to balance oneself on a bicycle.”—Helen Keller.

You can find Virtue Bike on the web and Facebook.

http://virtuebike.com/

https://www.facebook.com/VirtueBike

Two videos I posted on the Virtue Gondoliere +

Posted in E-bike test reviews | 5 Comments

Tern Cargo Rack—A Great Up-grade for Our Folding Bikes

Tern Cargo Rack—A Great Up-grade for Our Folding Bikes.

 

All beefed-up and ready to haul the load.

There was a lot of excitement in the Tern camp last Interbike. Much had to do with some new bike models, yet this cargo rack generated a lot of the buzz. The more I saw and learned about it, the more there was to like. Although I have been fairly pleased with the optional base racks on our Tern Link P9 folding bikes, I could see these new ones in our immediate future. Now that they are on, I thought I would clue you into their benefits.

 
A bike rack isn’t a complicated thing, but the time and thought that went into these speaks differently. Each aspect has been worked out in detail so they could be as useful as possible. Designed to fit Tern 20” and 24” folding bikes, I am sure they can adapted to many other models. They are rock solid and very adjustable. Without a doubt they solved the two issues I was concerned with.

 

Tern Cargo Racks have helped to make our folding bikes more versatile.

Our racks serve as much as a vehicle for our BikeSmart pannier bags than any other use. The forward mounting meant heels hitting the front of the bags in most situations. Also, without rear support risers, the rear part of the bags would contact the fender and sometimes the tire when heavily loaded. Now with these new Tern Cargo Racks, that is a thing of the past.

 
From the beginning, here is why these are so much better than their previous offering. Number one is the ease and compact nature of the rack for initial shipping. Because the racks are broken down into three pieces, they lay flat in the shipping carton. I am sure warehouse and bike shop storage space is improved too. They are easy to assemble before installation with all the hardware included.

 
Next up is the extra strength for carrying heavy items. 22 lbs. was my old limit on our rear racks, now 55 lbs. is possible. That is well over twice as much due to the ’Double Truss’ design. I always knew the bikes could handle the weight, but the racks were the weak link for the big loads. 55 lbs. is a lot and I don’t know that I will ever use this feature, but if I do, it will be done with a smile.

 

With plenty of room for adjustment, these racks can fit most any bike or load.

Height adjustment is now possible. If you are riding with extra deep panniers, then the rack can be set much higher to give them ground clearance. The panniers can also mount to the upper or lower rails to add to their versatility. The side mount links have several holes so you can choose your settings. I was going to set mine on the lowest setting for our Link P9 bikes, but went up 2 holes to make room to clear the magnet holder (that keeps the wheels together when folded).

 
Like many racks on the market now, the upper rack is designed to mount different bags without the use of separate adaptors. These Tern Cargo Racks are compatible with the KLICKFix series of bags. If you have tried direct mounting bags before you know how handy that can be. Easy on and off with a solid snap makes quick work of parking, locking and taking your bag with you.

 

The large rear strut will keep our pannier bags from rubbing on the tire when fully loaded.

I already mentioned the great flexibly of the adjustable mounting rails. The strong front rails are extra long and the smart design lend then to many frame styles and heights. It was easy to get them on the bike and set all the rails correctly. Leveling the rack before securing the mounting bolts was easy too. I was ready to go before I figured I would be.

 
I liked the built-in hold-down straps on our old racks, but these are that much better. They are more robust and have more mounting places to secure the load. The ends have double hooks and they will do the job with most any package, no matter how unusual the shape is. Plus the straps stay attached to the rack so they are at the ready when you are.

 
There is a large mounting bracket for the rear reflector. In addition to that, it is designed for the wired rear taillights that come on some of the Tern models. On those models there are wires from the bike to the light, but fear not, they won’t be dangling in the breeze. There is a spot for internal routing to keep the wire out of sight and away from snagging objects on the road.

 
If there is one drawback it is the increased weight of these racks. My scale showed our originals at 1 lbs. and the new one at 2 lbs. That is a lot in extra bike heft under normal circumstances, but nothing if you have them loaded down to the max capacity. Just by looking at them you can tell they are super heavy duty with the ability to do their job well.

 
As I was mounting the racks to our 2 Terns, I was a little concerned they might interfere with the fold, but was sure they had been designed as perfectly in this respect as all the others. Once the last bolt was tightened and the racks were set to level, I folded the bike with the confidence this wouldn’t be a problem. To my delight, I was right, the racks gave plenty of room for the bike to fold normally with no clearance issues.

 

Ready to hit the road.

We have a multi-day bike trip coming soon so I will be able to put them through their paces. Without a doubt, having our bags more rearward to keep our feet from hitting them will be a big plus. When we are on rides like this, our bags seem to be extra full, so having the rack keeping the bags from rubbing the wheels will be great. I am convinced I will be as happy with these new Tern Cargo Racks as you will.

 
With their accessories, as with their folding bikes, Tern has just what we need, Turbo Bob.

 
“Good bikes are not cheap—cheap bikes are not good”—Bike quote from ?

Tern on the web and Facebook

http://www.ternbicycles.com/

https://www.facebook.com/ternbicycles

Here are two videos I shot. One before the install and one after.

Posted in Bike accessories, My Bikes | 6 Comments

The Custom Cruiser Craze

The Custom Cruiser Craze.

 

These are just a few examples of custom cruisers

Since day one of bicycles the owners and riders have strived to add that personal touch to make their bikes speak their language. Things have not changed in the respect, but have blossomed in all directions. Every style of bicycle is included in this, yet the cruiser bikes really stand-out with their customized features. We aren’t just talking a bell or special paint job, but complete ground-up builds that are art forms anyone can appreciate.

 

The attention to detail and those fat tires are key signs you are checking out a custom cruiser.

Here in San Diego we often ride with the EBF (Electra Bike Forum) Group. Although Electra Bikes are the norm, any bike, stock or custom is accepted. They (the rides) are more about the people and the events, with bikes just being part of the equation. You may know that Electra offers some of the coolest bikes, major variations far apart from their standard beach cruisers. That is just the tip of the iceberg for many in this group.

 

Flat rear tire and all, this is my Electra custom that inspired this post.

In conjunction with the EBF we have joined in on many rides with the local (and out-of-town) custom bike clubs. Their bikes, clothes and ways might remind you of the rough, tough Harley riders, yet the smiles, comradery and fun are modern day examples of good old-fashioned cool bicycle people. We always have fun on these rides, go to great places and meet interesting bike riders from all types of backgrounds.

 

Most of the rides and get-togethers make for a large group of riders and bikes.

I started this post to show and talk about the Electra cruiser I got last year at the local Velodrome Bike Swap Meet. It is customized a little and rides great. I saw it sitting there early in the day at what seemed like a reasonable price, although the back tire was flat. It has a fatty 24” rear 3-speed wheel and tire from an Electra Straight 8. With a wide rim that has a black and white checkerboard sticker, it gives this bike a drag racer kind of look. The front tire is a custom too with a wider profile to add to the effect.

 

This is my Schwinn that looks custom but is mostly stock.

As the day was ending I went back over and offered the owner half what he was asking. Not wanting to take it back home, he accepted my rock-bottom price. I figured I’d have some fun with it and make a few back selling it when I’m done with it. A little clean-up, a new tube and a few goodies of my own have made it a blast to ride. So far selling it doesn’t seem in the cards.

 

We have a pair of matching everyday beach cruisers that have been on many of the EBF rides. I got the first one free from a neighbor that was moving out-of-town. Seeing the benefit of having a bike for the beach that I wasn’t concerned about getting sand all up into the workings, I got one just like it second hand so we could ride them together at the local beaches and sandy boardwalks. They were ok, but I wanted to really clean them up and freshly grease all the bearings.

 

Who wouldn’t want to ride this custom bike?

So a full tear-down, polish and re-lube finally happened last year. They have become the recipients of many of the special bike lights I test. With well over 20 individual wheel, frame and other lights, we rode them on a bunch of December night rides that turned many heads with their blinking and bright lights. They are sporting some other changes and accessories, so I guess they could be considered customs.

My other “custom” cruiser is a fully stock blue and white Schwinn Cruiser Deluxe from the 90’s. It has a springer fork, tanks on the frame, and some added pieces too. I have posted (including videos) on it before. It is a heavy single speed coaster brake model, but is cool to ride. It too has been part of the rides with the real custom guys and gals’ rides.

 

We lit-up the December nights on our beach cruisers.

These real customs I am talking about make my bikes look like they are nothing special. The time and creative put towards some of these bikes is astronomical. I will add a couple videos at the bottom (there are many more on my Y-Tube Channel). Plus a few photos will be part of this article too. The variety of custom styles is mind bending. Each person has their own ideas of the look, colors and pieces to make them stand-out.

 

They are not really choppers, or low-riders, or stretch bikes, although many might call them by those terms. At a Christmas Parade we did a couple months ago, 6 different clubs brought over 80 bikes for the event. Some use custom frames and parts bought from specialty manufactures, others built their bikes from the ground-up. Each individual part on the bikes is a piece of art by itself. Some appear to be hard to ride, yet they all seem to be happy riding them.

EBF rides are family and pet friendly. And the picnics are awesome.

I first rode one of these stretch bikes about 20 years ago. It was a Dyno Roadster. It was one of the first I had seen and Dyno Bikes were making a big splash with them. It rode pretty nicely and got checked out and pointed at quite a bit. I see ones like it on the rides every now and then.

 

One of the things you might notice on many of these bikes are the wide rims and big fat tires. The large selection available seems to be part of what is helping to push the custom bike crowd forward with even cooler bikes.

Expressing yourself is the name of the game.

Anyway, I have kind of rambled on here. On-line and on Facebook there are many sites that cater to the custom bike builders and riders. I suggest you do some searching if you are interested. You can buy one ready to go, or you can build it yourself. Jimmy Peek, the EBF founder, is one of the many making these bikes from scratch. I will include a shot or two of his work here. Plus I have plans on doing a full write-up on his garage shop and bikes. Believe me though, he isn’t the only one making and riding these cool bikes. And so you know, these custom bike folks are very approachable and nice, so if you see one, don’t hesitate to ask them about their bike. One more thing, this is a world-wide phenomena, not just a So Cal thing.

 
Whatever you call it, let’s ride, Turbo Bob.

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

 
The EBF (Electra Bike Forum) on the web and Facebook

On a pair of bikes made with his own hands and tools, Jimmy (the EBF founder) and his wife Kelly, cruise the beach boardwalk.

http://electrabikeforums.forumchitchat.com/

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Electra-Bike-Forums/158675020858378

A couple videos I took of the custom bike clubs—there are many more on my channel

 

Posted in General bike stories, My Bikes, Opinion | 1 Comment