When we first heard that TV star Simon Cowell broke his back while riding an e-bike, we were shocked. No, he wasn’t caught out “sending it” off some big double jump. In an almost unfathomable account, early reports had him suffering the injury in his driveway. Driveway?!
Trying to at least find out what bike he was riding had us looking at photos of him riding a Haibike and an M1 Spitzing. Cowell, it appeared, was an e-bike enthusiast. But a broken back? In his driveway?
It was only after we called his publicist for more information when we were told that the bike he was riding was a Swind EB-01. That cleared it up. It wasn’t an electric bicycle as much as a motorcycle with pedals, sporting an insane 15,000-watt rear-hub motor. Supposedly, Cowell was switching gears and the bike wheelied and dropped him off the back, fracturing three vertebrae.
Simon found a copy of the issue of EBA where we tested the bike in print, and he showed it off on TMZ.com.
House of Lithium, based in Newport Beach, California, recently became the North American distributor for the British-made Swind, and they let us have the first bike for a review. We were simultaneously excited, and yes, a bit frightened.
Swindon Powertrain is a motorsports engineering company based in the UK. They decided to make their own hyper-powerful e-bike. It can be customized in terms of color when ordering. The aluminum frame has an integrated carbon shell that covers the big 1.75-Wh battery inside. The Rockshox Vivid Air RC2 air shock delivers 220mm of travel, and with an inverted DVM fork providing 200mm of travel.
The fact that the bike has pedals is almost laughable. Hitting the scales at a very non-e-bicycle weight of 105 pounds, even with the great internal gearing and shifting, it’s still not a fun bike to pedal. You’ll use the throttle with this bike. There are pedals on this bike solely to keep from having to classify it as a motorcycle.
Customers order it with any color they want on the aluminum parts of the bike, and there are some optional suspension upgrades that can be added at the time of ordering.
Much of this bike seems to borrow from downhill mountain bike technology. In fact, it reminded us of the first Zero motorcycle model, the Zero X, which was more of an overbuilt downhill bike with a big battery and motor. Except, the EB-01 has at least as much power but weighs almost one-third less.
The wheels are 24×3.0 inches, and you can order them as knobby or street-style. Ours showed up with street tires, which means it wouldn’t be a stellar off-road performer. We weren’t able to source knobby tires in this size for the review, but we’re guessing that it’d be a ton of fun off-road, especially when using the throttle control becomes more second nature.
As if the massive architecture of the bike wasn’t enough of an eye-catcher, the dual front hydraulic discs with 205mm rotors certainly was. Braking works really well, but you have to modulate the front carefully, or you can throw yourself over the bars.
With a whopping 15,000 watts of power on hand, this was easily the most powerful hub motor we’ve ever ridden. That’s a scary amount of juice, and it makes up a significant part of the weight of the bike. It’s a direct-drive hub, which means it has regenerative braking. Regen is actuated via a thumb lever on the left side of the bars. The cool thing is that it’s not simply on or off, but it can be increased or decreased with the thumb lever.
“We’re pretty sure he was switching modes on the fly, because that would put such a surge of power to the back wheel if you’re still on the throttle that it would no doubt throw you violently off the back of the bike.”
Regenerative braking can put some power back into the battery, but it won’t be an appreciable amount. It’s much more useful to slow you down without using the brakes (or using less braking).
Given all the massive cavity inside the frame, the battery is a mere 1.75 kWh. We haven’t seen what the battery looks like, but the controller is also inside, along with a very loud fan that forces air past the controller and through the battery to keep it all cool. The display sits atop the frame, behind the stem and power-system key.
WHO IT’S MADE FOR
Priced at over $20,000, this is obviously a plaything for the wealthy. It’s specifically for someone affluent enough to be able to afford the high price (along with good health insurance), but also with the ability to tame such a beast, as anyone with a quick wrist will find themselves unable to control the power.
You’ll have to research your own area as to whether or not it is legal to ride near you, whether that’s private roadsor trails. In general this bike, even at its lowest setting, isn’t legal for U.S. public roads.
Turning the bike on is intimidating, as the loud cooling fan starts up immediately. There are three power modes. Mode 1 limits the rear hub to 1000W. Still not legal in most places (the limit in the U.S. for public roads is 750W), but it’s very controllable. It’s really a good way to get a feel for it.
Mode 2 bumps the rear hub to 6000W. Not only is this a massive jump, the motor has so much torque in this mode that the front wheel really wants to come off the ground with the slightest bit of throttle. As much time as we’ve spent on electric motorcycles, this was still very hard to control.
Mode 3 gives you all 15,000W. Interestingly, and maybe this is a function of the sheer fear of the massive power, but it had less tendency to wheelie off the start. It could reach nearly 60 mph very quickly.
As we said earlier, when we first talked to Simon Cowell’s publicist, she said he looped the bike when he was switching gears. We’re pretty sure he was switching modes on the fly, because that would put such a surge of power to the back wheel if you’re still on the throttle that it would no doubt throw you violently off the back of the bike.
We let two of the editors of sister publication Motocross Action loose on the bike for test rides, and they both wore full motocross helmets, and both came back with huge grins. Another test rider simply called it “frightening.”
The suspension was good on any terrain, we never bottomed it out, and the ride really was plush. We’d love to try this more off-road with knobby tires. It’s a shame that it’s only designed for 3-inch tires, because 4 inches offers more options for tires and overall grip. The fork could be reconfigured for this, but the rear swingarm would also need to be wider, and the chain alignment would be off to do that.
Two things became clear as we spent more time riding the bike. The Fabric seat isn’t comfortable for long rides. It would be better with a more moto-style seat, or perhaps fitted better and/or more padded. Also, the bars are uncomfortable. They’re really wide, and though they have a slight rise, there’s virtually no sweep to them. Swapping bars and the saddle are pretty common on bicycles anyway, though there’s a lot of work to swap the bars with all the different controls attached. The bars are definitely worth the effort, as it will add not only more comfort but more control.
The battery life depends a lot on how heavy you are on the throttle. Heavy acceleration and high, continuous speed will run through the battery pretty fast, definitely affecting range. With a bike like this, you may not be in Mode 1 all the time (because where’s the fun in that?), and once you get more used to it, it’s pretty fun to go fast.
The price is mind-numbingly high. Not that the bike isn’t worth it, but we’d love to see a lower-powered version, with perhaps a 6000–8000W rear-hub motor instead. That would chop a tremendous amount of weight and cost. We reviewed the Stealth B52 in the June 2020 issue, a similar bike but with a 6200W motor and a 2-kWh battery,
and it was more controllable and half the price.
Someone owning this bike would definitely have some bragging rights, especially if they can control the power. We’d love to see control via an app to change the power curves, but Swind seems uninterested in doing that. As it stands, let’s just say that the Swind is truly an extreme electric vehicle.
Frame: Aluminum/carbon fiber
Fork: Inverted DH air fork, 200mm travel
Rear shock: Rockshox Vivid Air DH, 220mm travel
Motor: 15-kW rear hub motor, direct drive
Battery: 1.75kWh lithium-ion power pack with intra-cell forced air cooling
Charge time: 2-3 hours
Top speed: 60 mph (electronically limited)
Range: 15–35 miles
Brakes: Tektro Auriga E-twin, front twin disc, 205mm, rear single disc, 205mm
Rims: DH, 24×3.0”
Hubs: Halo SAS
Tires: Halo 24×3.0”
Weight: 105 pounds
Color choice: Custom
Sizes: One size