There are so many companies coming out with e-motorcycles now that it can be accurately described as an explosion. Not only are companies like Honda and Harley-Davidson coming out with electric bikes, but there’s a huge boutique movement with smaller manufacturers numbering in the hundreds. This is what it was like with ICE motorcycles in the early 1900s.
There are a few ways to make bikes now. One is to start from scratch, while another is to source the bike and/or the parts from abroad. Brian Skinner has chosen the latter.
Brian was a long-time figure in the mountain bike industry where he was responsible for introducing some ground-breaking new technology, starting with his Descender bike in 1984 that utilized some motocross-style suspension to provide 6 inches of rear-wheel travel. Ever more visionary of trends that would emerge years later, the bike used a bigger (26-inch) front wheel mated to a smaller (24-inch) rear wheel.
Skinner also spent time working with Shimano, where he was instrumental in developing Shimano’s Index Shifting, SPD pedals and their under-the-bar RapidFire shifters.
Owing to his earliest love of motorcycles, today he’s bringing something else revolutionary to the market in the form of an affordable commuter motorcycle called the City M8.
The bike itself looks very similar to a Honda Grom or similar mini-bike, but instead of an internal combustion engine in the frame and a gas tank up top, it has a battery compartment where the engine would be, a storage space where the gas tank goes and a motor built into the back wheel. Customers can select one of six colors.
“The lack of gearing makes the bike so wonderfully simple yet thrilling.”
Overall, this bike is close to stock from the original company that makes it. Inverted fork, frame and most parts are the same. But where Skinner’s expertise comes in is that he sees the shortcomings of their stock spec, so he does things like swapping the OEM tires for Kenda tires with much better performance. It’s the little details that make the overall bike far more fun, safe and livable.
The stock bike comes with secondary pegs and hand-holds by the rear of the seat for carrying a passenger. The handles can be swapped out for a rear rack to hold cargo.
Inside the tank, there’s storage for the front disc lock and a rain poncho (both provided). The poncho is for wet days, but we’d recommend you hang it on a clothesline for a week before use. The plastic they use has out-gassing so powerful that we had to leave the room the first time we took it out. It is, honestly, a nice feature, though. The bike has the weather sealing to keep it running just fine in rain, and the Kenda tires should provide ample grip if you insist on riding in the wet weather.
The entire rear wheel holds the 2000-watt brushless motor. There’s no drivetrain, per se, which makes the bike simpler, and there’s even less to wear out, like a chain or a belt. This is similar to the design of Fuell’s new Fluid bike.
The bike comes with some great security features. Interestingly, there’s a key-less remote, so you don’t have to insert the key to drive it. The key fob can unlock the bike, turn it on, turn it off, and turn on the security features.
In addition to the stock motor there’s an option to upgrade to a 5000-watt motor and a higher-capacity battery for $1200. We haven’t had a chance to try this yet. If this is your first bike, the stock setup is fine. If you’re an experienced rider, the extra power and speed will be worth the extra bucks.
WHO IT’S MADE FOR
This may be the ultimate beginner bike. Low stand-over height. No clutch, no gearing, and a very gentle acceleration. Beginners will get used to the brake setup, with the front brake on the right side of the bars and the rear brake on the left. Experienced riders will probably keep trying to actuate the rear brake with their right foot (common on motorcycles), but it’s not to be found. If you lose your mind for a minute and grab a handful of clutch, the worst you’ll do is lock the back wheel for a second. You will more likely come to your senses when you feel the resistance.
We started off in the forward gear (there’s a reverse!) and the 20-mph mode 1 setting. Five seconds in, we wanted more, so we went to mode 2. Your mileage may vary, and for a beginner, having these three modes is very valuable. The lack of gearing makes the bike so wonderfully simple yet thrilling.
Experienced riders went for level three all the time. Letting off the throttle going into a corner chops the power, and as you go into it, we had to accelerate earlier than we anticipated to preload the suspension for a little better grip when cornering.
The throttle and power delivery ramp up slowly. If you go full whiskey-throttle on this bike, you have no worries that it’ll get away from you. On a full charge, at full throttle in the top mode, it will ease its way up to 45 mph on flat ground (155-pound rider). Letting off the throttle cuts the motor’s power instantly, making braking easier. When we got into the lower end of the battery charge, nearing 20 percent, top speed dropped to under 20 mph to let us know it was time to bring the bike back in for a recharge.
There’s no regeneration available, Skinner says, which adds to the cost of the bike. We’d be interested, because on other e-motos, regen takes the place of braking for the most part when riding in the city. If you’ve never used it, however, you won’t miss it.
The fork is adequate for road riding, but it dives heavily on braking. Skinner says he’s looking into adjusting the fork from the factory so this is alleviated. It’s not bad, but it could certainly be better. Overall, it’s good on cornering and taking out the bumps.
Overall, the bike is really fun to ride. It’s not the rocket ship that an above-10k e-motorcycle offers, but it’s still a blast to run around town on.
We’ve not seen another electric motorcycle anywhere near this price. It may not have the performance of a Zero FX or even a Honda Grom, but it’s less than the price of a Grom and not even 1/3 of the cost of the most stripped FX. It’s a perfectly fun, entry-level bike for running around town, or a fun short-ride bike for any rider.
Because of the size and weight, it can fit a variety of different-size people, and add to that the fact that there’s no gearing, so it’s a perfect beginner bike. We’d think this would be a great bike for a motorcycle safety class and for taking the motorcycle test. Given the security features and the lack of maintenance or gas, it’s an absolute riot for commuting and errand running in the city. The fun-to-cost ratio is through the roof.
Motor: Brushless, 2000W
Charge time: 6-8 hours
Top speed: 19 mph (street mode), 30 mph (closed course use only)
Range: 15–40 miles (tested)
Drive: Rear hub motor
Brakes: Hydraulic disc
Controls: City M8
Fork: USD spring/oil, 120mm/4.72”
Rear shock: Coil-over spring, air/oil with compression/rebound setting, 120mm/4.72”
Tires: Kenda 120/70-12 tubeless
Weight: 200 lb.
Color choice: Red, blue, black, white, green, yellow
Sizes: One size
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