Bike Test: Izip E3 Dash

Luckily, for anyone in the market for an e-bike today, a new trend has swept through the industry—e‑bikes that look like, well, a bicycle. The Izip E3 Dash is one such bike. The design is clean and purposeful.
Upon exiting a building after a taco run, a fellow budget Mexican food aficionado wanted to know if the contraption on the downtube was a toolbox. That led to inevitable questions about the Dash. We suspect that you have questions as well. What is this bike really for? How does it work? Why did they call it a Dash? Those are good questions, and the same ones we asked.

THE MOTOR

Currie Technologies has a great deal of experience designing e-bikes and programming controllers, and it truly shows on the Dash. Currie builds bikes with what it calls “torque” or “speed” settings. The key mechanical difference between the two is the hub motor. A speed bike has a direct-drive hub. The entire hub is the motor, and one revolution of the motor equals one rotation of the wheel. A torque setting calls for a geared hub. The alloy case may look the same externally, but inside the case is a smaller motor that drives planetary gears to multiply the torque of the motor.
A direct-drive hub is simple with less parts to wear out, usually virtually silent and is generally cheaper to make. A quality geared hub motor may only have a tiny gear whine, but it will be audible. We love quiet, and most riders feel the power is all the more impressive when the drive is silent. As far as the “E” part of the bike goes, the size of the rear hub and the lithium-ion 48-volt battery case are the main visual clues. The battery has a battery mount attached to lugs in the aluminum frame, and a key-latching system locks it in or, conversely, allows it to be removed for security, or to carry it inside for off-bike charging (there is a port for on-bike charging). A small computer and a remote switch mount to the handlebar.
A one-touch soft button on the battery case powers up the system, and you hold the same one to power down. The remote switch has a power button for the cycle computer, a mode switch that cycles through the assist modes, a switch to use the bike battery to power lights (not included), an info button, and a cruise-control button. The assist modes are T—twist throttle with no pedal assist—and three levels of assist modes cleverly labeled 1, 2 and 3. There is no up/down for the modes. One push jumps one mode, so if you want to go from 1 back to throttle mode, you cycle through modes 2 and 3 to get back to T. The same is true of the info button. The normal display is for speed, push for odometer, once more for the trip meter for the current ride and once again for the range remaining. The next push jumps back to speedo. Our Dash was preproduction 2014, so everything read in kilometers, but production models will display miles.

The control panel screen is easy to see in bright sun, and it gives all the vital information. A switch next to the left grip is easy to use on the fly if you want to switch modes.

BIKE STUFF

Currie designs its own frames, and you see that with the Curry emblem machined into the heavy aluminum dropouts built to handle the weight and strain of the rear-drive hub motor. One item that is rare in the industry is a QR (quick-release) rear axle for the weighty hub motor. Most brands rely on solid thru-axles to secure things. The QR is vital for easy roadside flat repairs. Until we rode some converted production bicycles, we didn’t realize how impressive the solid-feeling Izip aluminum frame is. With the obvious and even welds, there is no confusing the frame with carbon fiber.
The SR Suntour NCX fork has fender lugs, and whether we were sport riding for pure fun or pounding around town shopping and running errands, we appreciated the break the fork gives the wrists. Ditto for the CST 700 x 45c tires, since they are vitally supple over rough pavement compared to full road tires and wheels. The wheels roll well, and if they drag too much for you, engage the assist.

LIFE IN THE BIKE LANE

We’re always up for fun, so our first ride was on a favorite 24-mile road loop best suited for lightweight drop-bar bikes and fit riders. The area has plenty of moderate grades, but our loop flirts heavily with the surrounding mountains, so there is a lot of climbing. It is unlikely that the Dash would have climbed any of the grades on E-power alone, and testing that theory would have swilled battery charge like a wino at an open bar. Clearly, if you want to complete an extensive ride on most e-bikes, you better plan on doing much of the work. We felt that 24 miles with a great deal of climbing and wind was going to be push the battery to the limit.
With a fit rider aboard, it is rare to need to push the assist mode past 1. In fact, as we found out later on some milder bike-lane rides, mode 1 is almost a little too much assist for the flats, and we easily maintained 25 mph even on steady but mild climbs. The difference in the modes is claimed to be 20 percent, but on a flat, you won’t feel that much of a jump. Start climbing, though, and you feel a distinct jump in assist as the modes rise in number. The Dash pedals easily at 23 to 28 mph in the three assist modes. You aren’t getting any real help above 20, but the Dash pedals easily and rolls well, so the ride is fun. In throttle mode, the bike fights you hard over 20 mph, and only truly fit riders can push much more speed out of it. Below 20 mph, throttle (power on demand, or POD mode) delivers absolute max power, so it works great for demanding climbs or brutal wind. Twisting the throttle in assist modes at sub-20-mph speeds will add additional boost.
At 22.5 miles into one ride, the battery let us know that we’d relied too heavily on assist, and suddenly we were pedaling a very heavy bicycle with a small amount of hub drag uphill against the wind. Talk about learning to appreciate assist. If we were disciplined enough to kill the assist on flats and descents, we could get a lot more mileage out of a charge. However, we did have a ball, so we weren’t too disappointed in our work-at-the-end plan.

The rear-mount kickstand and rack and fender mounts give away that this bike can handle both utility and trekking needs.

THE VERDICT

As part of Currie’s mid-line bikes, the $2600 Dash would rate right up there with the best street-legal e-bikes around. The handling is lively without being nervous, and remarkably steady and trustworthy at the speeds the bike routinely travels at. Frame sizes are limited to small (43cm) or medium (48cm), so we’d advise NBA retirees to look elsewhere, but sport riders, commuters or plain old enthusiasts will be well-served by the Dash. The silent drive works great, with a genuine assist surge that is unmistakable—like a muscular, invisible friend you don’t have to keep a secret.

SPECS

Price: $2600
Motor: Alloy shell 500W DC brushless hub motor
Motor specs: 40 Nm peak torque, 18 Nm-rated torque
Battery: EV-rated Li-ion type 36V, 11.4Ah, 410Wh, rechargeable
Battery life: 500 cycles
Charge time: 6–8 hours
Controller: Currie Electro-Drive, 36-volt, with power gauge function
Top speed: 20 mph
Range: 20–30 miles with normal pedaling
Drive: Shimano Deore rear derailleur, Microshift TS70 trigger, 9-Speed drivetrain
Brakes: Shimano M375 mechanical disc brakes
Wheels: 700c Alex alloy rims with stainless steel spokes, QR axles
Controls: Power and PAS/TAG switches mounted on the handlebar, twist throttle, battery gauge
Fork: SR Suntour NCX fork
Frame: Aluminum 6061, fender, rack and bottle mounts
Weight: 57 lb. (medium)
Sizes: M (43cm), L (48cm)
Contact: www.currietech.com