Another Normal Day:
My wife and I thought we would visit the USM Bicycle swap on to check out some cool bikes. In the back of my mind I was really hoping to see a belt driven single speed fixed gear but quickly after arriving I all my expectations were surpassed.
We arrived a few minutes early and walked right in. The place looked a bit empty for what was rumored to be the biggest bike event of the year. We started browsing at some cool utility bikes and then I looked up and spotted them… two rows back were three A2B electric bikes.
I had only done a little bit of reading in the Metro in my years of electric moped, car, scooter, and bicycle obsession because they were way out of my price range of $0 to cheap. I quickly ran over to see them but wasn’t very excited at first because I knew they were pricey. Then I flipped the tag, these three formerly $3,099 bikes were for sale for $800 each. Still no small price tag for a bike but this was no ordinary bike, this was a bike to replace many short trips made by car.
After some quick research I discovered they have a 45 km range and a top speed of 45 km/h depending on terrain and rider. Up to this point, I have been riding a mountain bike to work each day under my own steam and now in my hands is a bike that can get me to work faster and using sweat and electricity.
Just as a million questions entered my head about battery life, regenerative brakes, modifications, and over voting we were told that we must leave the auditorium so the event could begin. As it turns out, there was a line outside hundreds long that have been waiting to get in that we just skipped. Just like that, all the excitement was gone. These bikes were surely going to get scoped up and we would never know what an electric hub motor at 40 km/h would sound like.
Defeated we went outside and waited in line. Though it moved quickly, we were still in it for 15 minutes before entering the gym again. Once inside we moved quickly through the crowd, excusing ourselves and contorting my way like milk through iced coffee.
We made it to the rack and much to our surprise, two of the three A2B Metro bikes were still there and had our hands in them. What followed was a mad rush of adrenaline and quick conversations to the payment table. We had lots of looks, lots of questions, and a lot of “hey an electric bike!” comments. We knew our prize immediately.
Escape from Bike City:
We walked slowly up a hill to escape the crowd and no sooner did we escape were we on the bikes at full speed. We haven’t been the same since. We’ve had some positive and negative interest since we bought them a week ago. Locking and unlocking time usually attracts some attention as does riding. Thus far we have only been heckled once on the walking trail for riding them but they are permitted any where a bicycle is; road or trail. I think I was followed around. Parking lot once by some creeper looking to see which rack I park it at.
Attention All Volties:
Most people just want to know what it is and how much it cost, others you can tell are volt junkies and want to know the range and cost per mile. Those conversations are partly the reason why this post is being written; to act as a central space for all the snippets I have now memorized to ramble off at a moments notice when a stranger waves me down to talk. Now I can just give them this link. Maybe even put a QR code in my bike.
It feels great to see people interested in electricity again since we hit $100+ barrels of oil. After the oil futures bubble burst, people stopped caring about electric transportation. If you Google ‘electric cars’ you can find 100 sites posted in 2008 claiming major manufacturers would be selling electric cars by 2011 and here it is 2013 but all the promises have evaporated. Almost no claims have seen a sales floor and not at any competitive or affordable pricing (if you know of any, please post in comments).
Update: 1 Week Later:
So this is a bit of a lie since the whole post was written after one week but nevertheless. The bikes are great. I weigh about 115 kg and ride the bike everyday to work. There are a few hills with a 5-6% grade and one with about 1 km of 8% grade. Despite this, the bike climbs them at 15 km/h with no pedaling. On flat ground, the bike is at full speed in about 10 seconds. Thus far, I’ve been getting a steady 30-35km range and only once have I drained the entire battery. That one time though was climbing up to congress street in Portland Maine at a 9% grade. Needless to say, I learned my lesson after huffing a 35 kg bike up a steep hill.
A2B metro was originally made by UltraMotor is product line now owned by Hero Eco, a company based in India. There were rumors they were to build an 800watt moped version called the Excel with no pedals but it seems to have vanished before production. The speed on this version is restricted and it would be great to buy the back wheel of the Excel. In fact it would be great to purchase any additional parts online but there is no reliable sources. This bike is arguably one of the more successful I’ve seen and they couldn’t make a long run if it. My other only gripes is that the batteries are $600+ for the internal battery housed in the down tube and $700+ for the optional range extension battery that mounds to the rear storage bar. Kind of a bummer but it is what it is. The battery gauge varies 30% between hill climbing and decent. There is no solid indication if you’re regenerating or if the battery is recovering after a deep drain. When the battery died on that hill climb, I pedaled for a few minutes, turned the bike back on and was surprised to see I had 35% charge left. This is not hard to work around, you just need to keep track of your distance and subtract 2 km for every 1 km of steep hill climbing. The chargers are a bit of a pain to lug around, it would be nice if it were integrated and had a retractable cord. Lastly, the head and tail lights are a bit small and dim.
The frame is solid and sleek not like some cheaper kits you can buy. It feels like a tank and is worth the weight. The gauge is nicely illuminated. The tires are small but wide and sturdy. My wife feels comfortable riding it which is the ultimate test. The motor is absolutely silent. I’ve had an electric scooter and heard others, there is no audible noise from this motor, even when you prop up the bike and spin the throttle. When you’re on this bike, you feel like you’re on a moped, albeit a slower one. The kick stand is great and sturdy for this heavy bike but it does drastically reduce clearance over curbs. That is all for now, hope you enjoyed!