The bike frame is well built, and has a ladies’ cruiser style geometry, and uses a monstrous oversized downtube. The frame is quite burly and stout, which is a good thing, since with the accompanying battery pack and motor, the bike weighs a hefty 57.5 lbs. The battery pack sits cradled down in the middle pocket of the frame, providing a low center of gravity and good balance, which enhances maneuverability, and in addition it gives easier egress when tossing a leg over the top tube (or is that a bottom tube?). The bike has a decent ride for such a heavy monster, and when taking it off the beaten path, the fork and suspended seatpost take the edge off things. The suspension seatpost felt a bit odd at first, especially in direct comparison to a normal shock setup, but I eventually got used to it.
The bike is pretty fun to ride, after you get used to the upright position and its accompanying steering (which feels pretty quick), and the entire packages behemoth weight. The Command Console allows you to set the amount of assistance that the motor will provide, or you can set it to be in a resistive mode so that you are regenerating the battery and/or getting some massive exercise. It has four levels in either direction (assistive or resistive), all dependent on the usage or punishment you require. There is also a red Throttle button, which takes over everything completely (if one is so inclined), meaning you can almost stop pedaling, and the bike flies along like a scooter. Using the throttle or full motor power gives a maximum speed of approximately 20mph, which is a federally mandated limit. That red button is a darn hoot, and highly functional, and it was my favorite feature on the bike. Even with the additional assistance, on extremely steep grades you will have to mash the pedals hard to keep things going. The bike is surprisingly quiet, and the motor provides a very seamless feel, and gives a nice smooth ride.
I used the bike often on my commute’s into work, which during the winter meant dealing with darkness. While the dynamo lights are functional, and quite nice on some rides, they just didn’t have enough spunk for my taste (or is that spark?), so I supplemented things with a helmet and handlebar/seatpost light setup. It gave additional light to make it easier to see and be seen. I would have preferred an integrated light system that operates off the battery instead (of course what if it goes dead?), as it would be more functional, and not drain much power, and would save the slight drag of energy that the dynamo extracts. The rear rack was quite handy, and I frequently would attach a small bag or package when I would go down to the store or work. The path that I take to my office has a combination of paved roads, sidewalks and a short section of an unmaintained gravel trail. I got to test the suspension (front and seatpost) quite well when I was flying down hill through this stuff, and although the tires weren’t the best for deeper gravel, they did a decent job, and I could hold a line with the bike. The low center of gravity and heavy weight did make the bike surprisingly stable at speed through the gnar that I occasionally tossed it into. The fenders were highly functional in the rain and snow, so debris and junk didn’t fly up at me, and it was especially nice when wearing normal clothes (non bike), and it lessened the need to wear rain and/or exotic foul weather gear.
I took it on some longer jaunts from my house up to Monument on the Santa Fe trail (gravel path), for a round trip of 25 miles or so. I really enjoyed all the benefits of the system, as I could use the pedal assist on the climbs and long flats, and adjusts the level depending on the effort needed to maintain the same speed. On the return portion, I used the generative mode on the downhills to power up the battery.
What I really like about this bike, was that I could ride into work or back home in my normal clothes, and not feel like I sweated to death. It was especially welcome on the way home, where most of my climbing occurs, and I frequently used the throttle to assist on the uber steep hills, and one of the assistance levels for some help on other portions of the ride. I get my major exercise elsewhere, so it was a nice tool to get into work, with the added benefit of not perspiring in my everyday clothes. If you wanted, you could vary the resistance, and make it more difficult, and the higher generation levels will certainly give you a good workout, and in addition it charges back to the battery, as does braking on a steep downhill. Regardless of whether you use an assistive or resistive setting, the bike is just darn fun to ride, and the low center of gravity, nice balance and comfortable seating position, and great part selection, make it a joy to use. My Wife rode it around, and was surprised how it felt. The assist mode makes it feel like the bike sort of flies out from underneath you while pedaling, and especially when increasing the assistance level to the maximum, Mach 4!
I took it to a local trail system (Fox Run) with my kids, and my daughter rode her bike, and I hooked up the WeeHoo i-Go recumbent kid trailer, and loaded up my son and hauled him around. I really appreciated the assistance and the throttle button, since some of the hills had loose deep gravel, and were wickedly steep. Without the help, I wouldn’t have been able to get up some of the hills, due to the weight of the bike, trailer and child, and of course the lack of pedaling input from my Son. My daughter got mad when I kicked in the After Burners with the throttle button, and I left her far behind, but it was a hoot to do that, but it does suck up and drain the battery quickly. I got used to Mr. Big Red Throttle, and he was a close and personal friend. The bike does pretty well on mellow singletrack, but when tossed into anything remotely rugged or ugly, it shows some weakness, though the bike wasn’t designed for this functionality (I did test it).
Recharging the battery was very easy, just plug the charger’s power cord into the wall socket, and the other end goes into the battery’s charger port. If needed at work or home, you can detach the battery, and bring it inside to charge. The battery has a pretty decent life, and I rarely drained it (short commute), although pressing the throttle with my happy finger can suck it dry pretty quickly. For the average usage, the charging time is sort of insignificant, and with the approximate 56 mile range, it might not need to be done after every ride.