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Commuting on the SmartMotion eUrban Electric Bike

June 20, 2015

It’s been a while since I last had a fang on an e-bike. A couple of summers ago I blasted around the Shore astride a day-glow orange cruiser and it shattered some preconceptions, electric bikes are a lot of fun!

In the intervening years worldwide e-bike sales have soared. In Europe, North America and Asia they can’t get enough of them, it was time to have another look…

Early morning on East Coast Rd.

A (very) early morning on East Coast Rd.

The guys at Bute Bikes in Browns Bay loaned me a candy apple red SmartMotion eUrban to put through it’s paces. But this wasn’t a summer-fling, a sunny-day smooch-fest, this was a solid week of commuting, and a cold wet week it turned out to be.

So I didn’t ascend mountains and take pretty pictures like last time. I was battling wet roads, drizzle and fog riding to work, a true test for any bike.

The eUrban is no head-turner, like a 90’s mountainbike it’s all straight lines and all business. But it’s a smart looking machine all the same and felt very solid and well put-together.

I chose the eUrban with it’s traditional “diamond” frame (highish top-tube), but Chris at Bute Bikes tells me it’s outsold by it’s sibling the eCity. They share most components but with the eCity’s “step-through” frame you don’t have to swing a leg over the seat when hopping on and off – something to think about.

eUrban_Cockpit_LTR

Loved the little trigger-operated bell integrated in the left hand brake lever.

I don’t know if this is the “standard” way of doing things, but on the SmartMotions (and Pedegos for that matter) there are two ways to squeeze your juice.

First-up, using buttons on the LCD control panel you can select 5-levels of “assist”. You pedal as normal and (providing you keep pedalling) the motor helps out as little or as much as required. On level-1 you will hardly notice the motor, it effectively cancels-out the extra weight you are carrying with batteries and what-not. Click up to level-3 or 4 and you’re zipping along at road-bike speeds but in a very relaxed manner. Maxed-out at level-5 you won’t get the same mileage from the battery but you will be riding faster than you have ever ridden before. On the flat you are turning the pedals but hardly applying any torque. Tackle a hill and you change down a gear or two but the effort is still moderate, no breaking a sweat, even in your work clothes.

eUrban_Headlight_LTR

Built-in headlight wasn’t super-bright, but perfect for zipping around town.

The second way to apply power is to twist the throttle. Similar to a motorbike the more you twist the faster you go, it’s very addictive!

In practice you will use a combination of the two. The throttle is fantastic pulling away from a standstill. When the lights turn green you give it a big handful and are sailing along at 30kph in no time, no matter what level of assist you have selected. Feeling a little taxed on a big climb? – Twist the throttle to push you over the top, easy peasy!

SmartMotion_eUrban_LTR

All bikes should have a side-stand like this one. Rock solid!

I found the eUrban very comfortable. The bars are nice and high resulting in a straight back and a wonderful view of the road ahead. Meaty tyres, telescopic front forks and a suspension seat-post isolate you from road vibration and smooth-out pot-holes.

I live at sea-level and my commute starts with a 2km climb no matter what direction I choose. On my own bike I ride in a t-shirt and shorts year-round otherwise I get too hot grinding uphill and begin to sweat. On the SmartMotion I was adding items of clothing day-by-day because I was feeling the cold. By the end of the week I was wearing a thermal base-layer under my shirt, a lined raincoat and gloves!

eUrban_Lock_LTR

European-style wheel lock was very handy for quick-stops.

I loved commuting on the eUrban, it was so well-configured for that role. It rained every day and the full-length mudguards did a great job keeping road-spray at bay. Dry feet, dry back, dry bum and dangly-bits – if you’re riding in everyday clothes mudguards are a no-brainer.

The rear rack supports the battery (locked with a key), has a sprung-loaded carrier up top and rails each side to support panniers. I used my backpack, but if the eUrban was a permanent member of the family I’d commute with my panniers, they fitted like a glove.

The lights are integrated in the bike so you never leave them at home or have to replace batteries. I work shifts and am riding in the dark literally every day. Using a car or motorbike you take having lights onboard for granted, it’s a very welcome feature on a bike.

eUrban_Battery_LTR

Rear light, charging socket, battery-level indicator and USB charger on the rear.

With electricity on-tap at all times USB ports are provided on the handlebars and battery for charging devices. How cool is that, you can juice-up your phone or iPod on-the-go.

SmartMotion e-bikes are designed in New Zealand and use the same eDrive system they developed for NZ Post. The industrial-grade components are tough, easily serviceable and feature top-notch waterproofing. Okay, I stole that paragraph from the marketing department, but you get the gist – proven technology, designed by Kiwis, for Kiwis.

The lithium-polymer battery is warrantied for 2 years and should last 3-5 years before performance drops and it requires replacement. These high-tech Korean batteries don’t come cheap, but compared to buying petrol or using public transport it’s economical transport.

So I’ve blathered on about performance and features but there’s three words that sum-up my week of commuting on the eUrban – Fun, Fast and Easy. Those are pretty nice words to describe a commute, how does your’s stack-up?

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. August 15, 2015 11:31 pm

    It’s been a while since I last had a fang on an e-bike. A couple of summers ago I blasted around the Shore astride a day-glow orange cruiser … belectrici.wordpress.com

  2. September 5, 2016 10:44 am

    Reblogged this on NZ Electric Bike Review and commented:
    Thanks Bike Friendly North Shore for this review…

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