Day by day, mile by mile, a two-wheeled vet learns anew

e-motion-1One thing that separates Easy Motion bikes (10 models in all) from many other e-bikes is that, in addition to the pedals, they also have a twist throttle to assist in forward motion. Along with its 36-volt Samsung lithium-ion battery placed in the downtube, the Easy Motion Neo Cross (www.emotionbikesusa.com) is powered by a 350-watt planetary-gear-driven motor located in the rear hub. You can easily choose between four separate power modes—Eco, Standard, Sport and Boost—while riding via a handlebar-mounted LCD display. The throttle will only work in the Eco mode, and on flat ground at full throttle, the Neo cruised along gingerly at close to 20 mph (with a 145-pound rider). The $2699 Neo Cross is available in (medium and large) sizes and is outfitted with Tektro hydraulic disc brakes, a Micro-Shift/Shimano eight-speed drivetrain, and a SunTour suspension fork with lockout.

Within the palatial confines of the Hi-Torque Publications headquarters, there are cyclists of every shape and level of experience. Most come from a career of twisting throttles, while some know only the benefits of “turning circles.” To get the best range of opinion in evaluating our stable of e-bikes, we called upon a range of editors to try out the different bikes. One was Karel Kramer, a dyed-in-the-wool throttle twister with over three decades of experience testing every kind of motorcycle under the sun. Karel also has a penchant for recreational cycling, so for the week that he planned to stay home to work, we loaned him the Easy Motion Neo to see what his reaction would be to this latest melding of technology.

A LETTER FROM HOME

Hey, Zap,

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One of the best attributes of the Neo Cross was how effiecient it was to pedal without any battery power.

Thanks for the time with the Neo. Like you, I found that it is a remarkably efficient bicycle when the motor is switched off. I only have a mountain bike for comparison, but the E-Motion is far easier to ride on pavement without power assist. I also found the disc brakes to be better than those on my bike by orders of magnitude. For a heavy commuter bike, they are a very good choice.

For my first ride, I went to bike lanes above the 118 freeway. This is a nice area to ride, but too steep to be enjoyable for me on my mountain bike. With the E-Motion, I found that I didn’t have to spare any thought for headwinds or how steep the ride would be. The EM gives a nice push every time you shift up, and you spend the majority of the ride in the big ring. The assist is impressive, but I found it helps most up to about 13 or 14 mph. The assist tapers as the speed goes up, and there feels like very little advantage from 17 to 20 mph. Above 20 it feels like it almost fights you a little, and I ended up turning it off completely for descents. I’m guessing it regenerates, so that is what I was feeling. On the steepest and most miserable climb, the EM held steady at nearly 14 mph. I killed the assist and found that 4 mph was comfortable for me pedaling that climb. I did 10.5 miles, with 511 feet of climbing at an average speed of 15.1 miles per hour, and I had two bars of battery left. Later I added an additional 2.6 miles of flat neighborhood riding, and I still had battery.

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Stealth black and super quiet, the Zero is the ultimate neighborhood assault weapon.

The next day I set out to drain a full charge on Eco mode. I rode around the Chatsworth reservoir with some good headwinds but no big climbs. As night drew near and I headed home, I’d clocked just over 18 miles in distance, and there was one bar of charge left. I bet 20 miles is a number you could reliably count on. That last bar goes really fast.

I’m happy to say that the pedal assist was a huge mental comfort when riding in traffic, and I felt safer pulling from stoplights. At no time did I feel winded, but my legs still got a pretty good workout. In this “commuter mode,” I didn’t look for roads with good pavement, but rather just chose a destination. I got into some rough conditions, and the unsprung weight of the rear hub makes the ride choppy and a bit punishing. At one point, holding a steady 20 mph, I was congratulating the assist, but when I turned it off, I barely noticed the difference.

The next morning I set out to run a full charge dead with almost no pedaling. The hills were mild for the most part. It is more sluggish off the line without pedaling, but it runs a pretty easy 15 to 20 mph on semi-flat terrain. I turned into Northridge Mall, got an 18-mph run at a parking ramp, and tried to climb it on electric power alone. It barely eased over the top, and it dropped a full bar in battery level. I found another hill that I had to pedal to help get over the top. Surprisingly, when all the bars were gone, the EM still had power, but the gauge showed nothing for over a mile before I parked it. When you are in assist mode, the bike is reasonably comfortable. When you ride it without pedaling, the riding position is less comfortable. Running errands on the bike is great. I didn’t really notice that it took much longer to ride it to my wife’s school than to drive.

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The LCD display was both easy to read and use while riding.

I enjoyed the bike, but some of my serious cyclist buddies found it of little interest for themselves. However, they felt that the E-Motion would allow a casual rider to keep pace with a dedicated rider on a bicycle, and several were very interested in borrowing the bike for their wives to accompany them on rides.

I know that e-bikes have other hoops to jump through if they are faster than 20 mph, but for riding in traffic, having a bike capable of another 10 mph would help my feeling of safety. Also, the bike is already heavy, so I would want more suspension than the Neo offered. I think the Neo is perfect for a short commute where you can easily ride a decent distance without getting embarrassingly gamey, then you could pedal harder on the way home and walk through the door a sweaty mess. I’m sure the wife will love that! Thanks again for the ride. n

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