Here I am again with another battery powered bicycle trying to get to school for that fabled 12p per day.
I bumped into A.S. Bikes a couple weeks ago at the caravan and motorhome show, yes that's the type of thing that I do for fun... Anyway I had a long talk with one of the salesman/engineers that we running the thing. I told him about my experience with Batribike (I hadn't returned it at this point) and implied that I might be in the market for another one very soon.
So I called Friday to make a Wednesday, 1 hour, appointment, (as is their request) to see the bikes. Their showroom is only an hour or so away from me. I thought the appointment was a bit of a hassle at the time because they had very limited times available but in the end was glad to have done it that way.
The staff are very good, during my hour session I was given a complete run down of the bike including a training session on everything down to adjusting the derailleur cable. Booking the appointments lets them do all this for each customer on an individual basis.
I've got the ElectroBike Plus which is basically their MK3 model with bigger wheels and wheel related things. I picked up the bike myself on Wednesday Oct, 10th.
It's a folding bike, which is great for me and I wish I'd given it more consideration the first time around. The bike folds down to something that you could sling over your shoulder and take on the bus, A.S. even sell a shoulder bag for this very purpose. It's great because it means if I ever get stuck somewhere and need to be retrieved via a combustion powered vehicle, it's not a problem, the bike will just fold up and go in the boot.
It's a dutch style bike which I've never riden before. The position of the handle bars to the front wheel is taking some getting used to but the seating position is much more comfortable. My shoulders and back don't ache at all after having ridden for over an hour.
On full assist the bikes is supposed to get up to 30 miles, this may very well be an under-rating. I've ridden the bike to Stafford and back (24 miles) using the throttle assist almost the whole way and still have over half power.
It's got a 250W motor powered by a 36V lithuim battery. This is a pretty common spec I've found among the higher ranges. The bike weighs 24.75 kilos with battery, which surprisingly just a fraction lighter than the BatriBike. It's got 6 gears on a twist grip, meaning no buttons, you twist to change up and down. The power controls are a great deal more simplistic that many of these bikes, you've got a twisting handle throttle and a 3 position switch... that's it.
Further specs can be found on the website, those are just the ones I thought I'd mention.
The bike rides nicely, it's smooth and light. I mentioned that the steering is taking some getting used too. I can get all the way to Stafford and back having hardly broken a sweat if I want to and in good time as well.
The simple set up of the power assist works very well. The bike has three settings, Off, Economy and Assist. On the Economy setting the bike only gives assistance when you twist the throttle. The idea is that you pedal along until you want a little help and then twist. The assist mode I'm struggling with a little bit, only in that I can't actually feel it working. When the bike is set to assist mode the motor is going all the time, it's calculating how fast you're pedaling (not how hard) and then helping you along. I can get this to work when the bike it stationary and I can hear the motor engaging when I'm riding but I genuinely can't feel any assistance, I should note that in assist mode it's supposed to only assist up to 15ish mph so it may just be because I tend to drive around in the highest gear and am typically moving 12 mph+ everywhere I dunno...
Good looking, comfortable ride.
Fold-able which means cheaper insurance and more portability.
The amount of information you get when you purchase one of these, on things such as use, care, setup and maintenance is really nice.
Clearance. It's proving quite difficult keeping the pedals in a position where they won't scrape on the ground when I take a sharp bend at any speed... I'm really having a hard time with this because every time the pedals hit the ground I lose my balance, I've nearly come off twice.
I think I preferred the torque sensors on the Batribike, measure how hard your pedaling rather than how fast just seems more logical.
A.S. Bikes are only open 1 day a week. This is for a very practical reason though. A.S. Bikes are actually A.S. Toys, they run two businesses at once and simply have to balance their workload. When I arrived for my appointment I was greeted by about 100 or so puppets hanging around one side of the showroom, the other side had all of their display bikes neatly lined up.
Let me explain this review. I've recently purchased a Batribike Granite. I, like lots of people these days, have been looking for a way to save money on fuel. My situation is that my school is 12 miles away, so driving my car there and back 4 plus times a week was looking a little expensive. So my alternatives were; get a motorbike, get a scooter, get a bike, take the bus or walk. I looked into each of these options once by one and they were either just to expensive or not practical.
Eventually, I can't remember how, but I got to looking at power assisted bicycles. My wife and I spent weeks looking over electric bikes, any that we could find, I needed something that could consistently travel 25 miles or more on one charge. Very few bikes could do this. We came across a competition to win a Batribike so we looked them up. Their bikes promised nearly twice the performance that even more expensive bikes did. Was is too good to be true?
The thing that we couldn't find was objective reviews of the bikes, especially Batribike as they seem to be fairly new. Occasionally we came across reviews but they were either poorly spelled 3 sentence summaries or sponsored by the manufacturer. So I wrote this in the interest of helping another person in this situation make up their mind.
The bike arrived needing some assembly, there aren't any instructions so if you're not familiar with bike maintenance I'd suggest that you take it to a shop for assembly. Most bike shops will be happy to help you assemble it for a small fee. Once built my first impression was "Wow, that's a big bike". My wife said the same thing but looking at it stood next to other bikes, it's no bigger. So if size is a problem for you, don't worry, the rugged frame makes it appear bigger than it is.
It's an attractive looking bike, I like the silver finish, I like the thick frame. Even the rack over the back wheel is sturdy and good looking, much better than those wire hanger contraptions you get on lots of bikes. The battery sits under the rack, with a pannier you'd never even notice it. The motor controls are on the left handle and a 7 gear changer is on the right, nothing is cheap looking or poorly placed. All the wires have plenty of slack where needed and are otherwise held neatly to the frame.
The bike comes with front and back LED lights and a bell and a big comfy saddle. The battery is Lithium Polymer that's supposed to have a life of 1000 cycles, it powers a 250W motor. 26" Wheels, and an 18" frame.
I'm not going to lie to you, it's a heavy bike despite the aluminum alloy frame, 24 kilo's (53 lbs) with the battery. My wife's mountain bike comes in at 15 kilos. Most of the additional weight is over the back wheel where both the battery and motor are. The bike isn't heavy enough to be any sort of problem, it's easy enough to life and maneuver, but it did concern me a little when I attached it to the bike rack on the back of my car, the whole thing tilted to one side. With a few adjustments I was able to correct it but I'm doing to have to rethink my bike rack solution should my wife get one of these as well. The center stand is a nice touch but I don't think a standard kickstand would be up to the job.
The first trip that I took was the 12 mile trek to school. This is by no means an easy trek, in fact I couldn't manage it on a normal bicycle, I tried once, after 40 minutes I hadn't even made it half way so I gave up. I admit that I'm not in the best of shape but 24 miles is a long way even on a bike. I wanted to be able to ride to school without having to train for a triathlon first.
On the Batribike I was there and back in 105 minutes.
Throughout the journey I just a mixture of power assistance level, I tried to favor level 1 and 2 but spent a fair amount of time on level 3 and 4 as well as I grew tired. When I got back the power remaining was somewhere between 1/2 and 3/4, which means that I could have made the trip possibly 2 more times. So it seems that the promise of 40 miles minimum pedal assisted might not be to good to be true after all.
The bike rides nicely, it's stable and comfortable. There are shock absorbers on the front fork and seat. I've never been a big fan of suspensions systems on bicycles but it really seemed to help smooth out the ride. The gear Shimano gear system is very responsive and easy to use, teamed up with the power assist it makes for a very consistent ride. The motor hums but isn't very loud, except when coasting down a large hill it sounds like you're dive bombing, don't get me wrong you'd be nuts to think you could fool the guys in the Tour De France but after little while you stop noticing it.
The power assist on this bike has 4 stages, the first to are the ones I tend to use, they just help you to get up to and maintain speed despite any inclines you might come across. I've broken the 4 settings in to 2, on levels 1 and 2 the bike assists you, 3 and 4 you assist the bike. I found level 1 is great for just general riding where level 2 is better for hills. Level 3 is more for maintaining higher speeds, it doesn't seem to work very well in a stop/start scenario. As soon as you put any real pressure on the pedals the motor stops assisting. Think of it like gears on a car, you can stop start in 1st and 2nd but not 3rd. Level 4 is more for the throttle, it will work with the pedaling but it doesn't give you much more than level 3, it is a tad more forgiving though. Level 4 will take you to a higher maintained speed than level 3.
The throttle is awesome, while on a bike ride my wife took great delight in throttling past me at every opportunity. On a flat surface the it will take you up to 15 mph in no time. The throttle works on all power settings, which is really handy when you're crossing dual carriageways or negotiating tight obstacles, but take your time getting used to using it. It takes a second to respond and even on level 1 it means business.
The regenerative braking is a new feature on the 2010 Granite and Diamond models. This is activated by pedaling backward, be prepared when you use it. It's designed to slow you down and that's exactly what it does. No matter how fast you're going it'll take you down to a crawl in roughly 2 seconds. It's a handy feature and no doubt it will become my primary brake.
Through no fault of their own I've had to contact Batribike a few times already. I had special delivery instructions and they were very understanding and accommodating so I can't complain. They returned messages promptly, left messages when they missed me and have got to great lengths to resolve the issues. They even sent out one of their technical guys to my house. They're based 3 hours away! It's prize winning customer service no doubt about it.
Batribike part 2.
Ok so I've had the bike a little over a week now. So far I've taken it out four times and broken it twice. The first problem, we're putting down to shipping damage, was the pedal spindle having worked it's way loose. They sent out a technician, to my house, and quickly sorted the problem out.
I took the bike out again yesterday for a leisurely 8 miles or so when a real problem struck. Whilst engaging the regenerative braking system something happened. The back wheel more or less locked up and what movement I can get out of it was accompanied by a grinding noise. I dragged the bike home, 3 miles or so, and called Batribike. They're going to replace the bike, but they're out of stock so I'll have to wait a couple weeks... Not sure what I think about that.
Batribike part 3.
The replacement bike arrived on Friday (20th of August). This is a little over a month after the other bike broke. I must admit that I was getting to the end of my tether on this one. I bought the bike to more or less replace my car over the summer and here the summer is now almost over. On the other hand Batribike did arrange delivery the moment the stock came in and they arranged another courier to pick up the old one.
I will say one thing that I noticed. This bike came with instructions... This is really funny to me because I mentioned before that the bike didn't come with instructions and I can see from my site analytics that someone from Beeston Nottingham (near Batribike's office location) has read my review. I don't know anyone in Nottingham. So is this an indication that Batribike have responded to my feedback? That being the case it would also be helpful if they included a 15mm spanner and a 5mm hex key as neither of these are hugely common in most amateur tool kits.
Now on to the bike.
The new bike rides completely differently to the old. It's much quieter, both the motor and the general rattling. It feels much lighter and smoother. The regenerative braking seems no where near as fierce as before, the mechanic did say that they were looking at lightening it up so I don't know if that's it or what. Even the motor responds differently, level 3 is much more patient and level 4 seems stronger when pedaling. So my conclusion is that the old bike had some real issues. I've taken the new bike out three times now, in total I've only ridden about 10 miles or so but so far I've beaten the average of the old bike.
So, I'm somewhat anxious about the coming weeks but I'm optimistic, not only in the bike but in Batribike as well. Earlier in the week, I'd just come home from a trip downtown when I was stopped by a passing bicyclist.
"How do you find the electric bike? I'm thinking about getting one myself."
I had to really think about what I was going to say.
We talked briefly about some of the issues I had and things I'd learned about electric bikes, including the costs involved, but I pretty quickly found myself spinning into a Batribike sales pitch. So I guees after all this, I'm still pro-Batribike.
Batribike part 4.
It occurred to me as I drove the two hour journey to Lincolnshire that I was driving roughly the same number of miles that I estimate I got out of the Batribike, 208.
Today I returned the Batribike for a full refund. Two or so weeks ago I had yet another problem, just as with the first bike the pedal spindle, crank, lower bracket, whatever you crazy kids are calling it now-a-days developed 'play' in it. This resulted in an irritating clicking while pedaling and will eventually result in the bearings burning out and the whole thing seizing up.
While I'm confident that Batribike would have been able to fix this for me I'm thinking long term, what happens if every two months I'm having to drive 208 miles to get this fixed?
I spent my childhood riding a bike, right up until I was 16. I always had mountain bikes because I has a 200+ paper route for 8 years and needed the bike to be able to haul 80lbs of news papers 7 days a week. I also needed a bike that I could ride in all terrains because I did a lot of off road biking too. Throughout the years I can remember going through at least 4 bikes, one of which I broke literally in two within a matter of hours. Needless to say I developed quite a bit of know how when it comes to bike repair. I've broken every thing that's breakable on a bike including having bent the frame on two separate occasions and often had to fix them on the go. I've genuinely never managed to break a spindle, nor have I ever heard of one breaking and I'm not even riding this bike anywhere near that hard, not even off-road. Batribike are puzzled as to how I've managed to do this twice, there's not really anything breakable down there, its just two bearings around a metal rod and it's rated for 130 kg (I only weigh 85) but alas...
So, as this is likely the last installment in this review simply due to the empty space in my front hall where the bike used to be, my final conclusion is this.
I still wholeheartedly recommend Batribike, I can account first hand for their performance (battery-wise) and the customer service I received was top notch in fact as far as service goes I can't praise them enough.
As far as the actual quality of the bike is concerned I'm going with this. These bikes are designed to be driven, not ridden. By this I mean, if you're looking for a bike to ride on a casual basis, such as while you're out camping or just a little gentle non-impact exercise then look no further than Batribike. I wouldn't suggest the Granite specifically due to it's shear size and weight but certainly any of the other lighter models. In my opinion this makes the mountain bike styling of the Granite a little redundant, I went for it because of the look, not really thinking of my back.
If you're looking for a commuter bike (like me), or a work horse then Batribike are probably not up to the job...