Optibike—Now an E-bike for Every Rider.
The end of last year marked my chance to finally ride some of the offerings from Optibike. After our time at Interbike, Barbara and I flew into Denver to visit family and catch some of the local splendor. We had already planned to check out bits of the bike scene there, but meeting Jim Turner at Interbike added one more stop to our already busy agenda. He strongly urged me to stop by his factory in Boulder. CO, saying we wouldn’t be disappointed. Turns out he was right.
Optibike has been making top-end mid-drive E-bikes since 2006. Compared by many to finely crafted Italian sports cars, the price point has always been an issue for many potential customers. Seeing that just one of the components (the Rohloff rear hub) lists for about 5-7 times your average big-box commuter bike and the rest of the E-bike is just as nicely equipped, it is no wonder they can set you back (way) more than an average E-bike. Many don’t care, they just want the best experience E-bikes’ can offer.
Money aside (for now) the main reason I hadn’t ridden an Optibike before is they mostly distribute from their factory, with no local place for me to try one. They will be working more on that, but for now it seems much of their efforts have been put towards new models, the SIMBB and just now, the Pioneer Allroad. Now with these cool new products, the line-up of E-bikes on their sales floor have expanded to an everyman (and woman) level.
Upon arriving at the Optibike factory last September, we were greeted buy some of the easy-going crew, a great showroom display of bikes, cut-aways of their drive systems and other interesting E-bike info. Before long we were knee-deep in the array of factory goings on and brand new products they have been laboring hard to get to production. Spending time with the founder Jim, we learned so much about him, the company and the bikes. It is a great story with some even greater results.
Jim has written an E-bike book that I will be reviewing soon. I’ve already read it (you can too, for free) and will be posting more about that as time goes by. His two-wheel knowledge and interests go way back, making E-bikes almost second nature to his life style since his youth. All this comes to you by way of some of the most innovative E-bikes you can throw a leg over. You can grab his book with a simple download from the Optibike website. I particularly like the section on the history of the E-bike.
After some time behind the scenes, we mounted up on a couple of their flagship models. I was on a R11 and Barbara left the shop on a R8 with the optional dual battery on-board. These are full-suspension E-bikes with massive hill-climbing power. Big brakes, mid-drive and more comes standard. The monocoque aluminum frame houses the battery and electrics, and are made it the US. Custom paint jobs and more are on the option list.
Jim guided us to some fun spots to ride including off-road trails. With 28 mph on tap, these throttle only E-bikes could handle any surface and just plain got up and went. We rode for quite a ways, but didn’t do anything like the 100 mile range the R8 was capable of taking us. They have a switch so you can choose between eco mode and full power. With the easy shifting Rohloff hub handling the power output, we did everything from low-speed sight-seeing to some all out power blasts.
If you are familiar with how a mid-drive works on an E-bike, you can imagine the versatility and pull you will enjoy on any given ride. These bikes offer the ultimate E-bike experience and that was no surprise. The combined worth of the R11 and R8 (with the extra range second battery) could easily buy you a nice used sailing yacht (then again I would rather go riding). With every turn of the pedals and throttle, it was obvious that they are well worth it. Next up was the SIMBB, something a little closer to my own personal level of ($) interest.
Although it was still in the final prototype stage during my ride, the SIMBB is now available for pre-ordering. This could well change the future of the E-bike for many reasons. It will be on many types of bikes, but for now it is a 29er mountain bike. The SIMBB lends itself to any style of bike, being a self-contained mid-drive motor / gearbox. With the controller, batteries and motor in one easy to mount package, it has great potential.
With iCloud included, any problems that might pop-up can be remotely diagnosed. If there is a warranty or servicing need that can’t be locally handled, the entire drive system can be easily removed and shipped to the factory for service. With so many people lacking local E-bike shops and service facilities, this is huge. Shipping an entire E-bike is risky, inconvenient and pricey. Optibike has designed the SIMBB to be trouble-free, yet we all know that any electro-mechanical device might need some TLC or better at some point in its life. E-bike game-changer? I think so.
Riding the SIMBB was great. It had bunches of power and was even a little quieter than the R11 and R8 we rode earlier in the day. It was a thrill to see the internal guts of this bike and the other bikes in the Optibike line-up. It was even a bigger thrill to ride and learn about them. One bike we didn’t see that day, but just came into the market is the brand-new Pioneer Allroad. Also mid-drive, it lowers the outlay over their other bikes, but retains the quality (this I am convinced of after touring the factory and riding their other bikes, yet can’t say from first-hand experience).
The Pioneer Allroad uses dual-control (pedelec and throttle), comes with a light-weight lithium battery and weighs under 50 lbs. From the specs and photos I think they will do well with it. Jim told me that they have been working on ways to get their bikes in showrooms across the nation, so there is even a better chance you can try out this or one of their other bikes without traveling to Colorado like I did.
Then again, I had a great time there and was glad we stopped by to see the Optibike folks, many thanks, Turbo Bob.
“I feel that I am entitled to my share of lightheartedness and there is nothing wrong with enjoying one’s self simply, like a boy.“—Leo Tolstoy In response to criticism for learning to ride a bicycle at age 67.
Optibike on the web and Facebook. Here is where you can get a copy of Jim’s book—the “Electric Bike Book”.
Here is a link to the press release for the new Optibike Pioneer Allroad
I shot several videos of these E-bikes and their factory . Have a look.