Perhaps the best-designed folding bike ever
The Gocycle looks amazing just standing still.
Richard Thorpe was an automotive engineer for 25 years. Not just on any car or any car company. He was a design engineer for McLaren’s Formula 1 program, which produced some of the most high-tech and fastest vehicles on the planet.
In 2002 Thorpe left his dream job to start Karbon Kinetics Limited and pursue his dream of building the perfect electric bicycle. He went from designing cars that go over 200 miles an hour to an electric bike that goes a tenth of that speed. It took him seven years of research and development to produce the first Gocycle, which came out in April 2009. By 2011 they had sold out of the G1 and announced the updated G2 specifications. The same year we first saw the Gocycle at the Eurobike show in Germany, they entered the North American market in 2014, premiering at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show of all places.
The G3 is actually two-wheel drive. Your pedal power goes to the rear wheel, while the hub motor in the front drives the front wheel. It works flawlessly.
In 2015 the G2 won the prestigious Red Dot Award for product design. Now, entering 2017, the British company is moving forward with the third generation of the Gocycle.
“The bike is so stable and comfortable that we found ourselves riding it everywhere all the time.”
THE LOOK OF FORMULA 1
If you’re like us, when you first see the Gocycle G3, you’re likely to be stunned by its detailed design. The G3 is simply like nothing else on the market. Very modern and high-tech, it looks like something from a science fiction movie. Thorpe’s experience and sensibilities are heavily at play in this bike.
Everything about this bike is futuristic, especially the daytime running light that’s internally located in the handlebar. It’s an LED light fixture that Gocycle calls a “light pipe,” which is made up of two powerful LEDs at each end that blast through a chamber that directs them forward as one light. It’s great as a light to ride with at night but also during the day, because everyone can see you if you have it on high beam.
The DRL (daytime running light) harkens back to Thorpe’s automotive background since all cars in Europe were mandated to have daytime running lights as of 2011. The Gocycle’s DRL was added for this reason. It’s not annoyingly bright, but enough to catch drivers’ attention—and everyone else you ride by. People would talk to us while riding or stopped, because everyone wants to know about this bike. It commands attention and admiring stares, and it’s one heck of a conversation-starter everywhere we ride it.
THE GO-FAST-ONE DETAILS
No matter where you look, every detail on the G3 looks great. The proprietary motor is in the front hub, as is the front disc brake. It’s all enclosed in a shell that protects it when you have the wheel off and it’s sitting on the ground for assembly/disassembly. A similar shell protects the enclosed drivetrain, which helps keep it clean, as well as the inside of your car or living room while transporting or storing it. If the chain ever does need service, they recommend taking it in to your dealer.
If there was one feature of the bike that really brought to mind the fast-paved world of Formula 1 racing, without a doubt it would be the quick-release Pitstop wheels that go on and off easily from one side using three handy levers.
The original bike, the G1, looked similar but had exposed cables. Those cables are now gone; there aren’t even any exposed brake cables for the powerful hydraulic disc brakes. The only vestige of the previous exposed cables is one part of the frame that is still molded to have the brake cable. The frame and wheels are made of injection-molded magnesium. Can you say light? This is one of the lightest bikes we’ve tested at about 35 pounds. That same material makes it very strong and stiff. That’s a good thing, because one thing that plagues most folding bikes is all of the flex and play in the frame, components and especially the hinge.
This bike doesn’t have a traditional hinge in the middle of the frame, either. It is a monocoque frame, and the chain drivetrain to the rear axle is the part that folds.
Since the wheels are held on from one side, changing a tire doesn’t require removing the wheel. The tires are Gocycle-branded, slick for little rolling resistance and have retro-reflective stripes on the sidewalls for better visibility at night.
Assembly or disassembly is incredibly easy and quick. It may be slightly more involved than some folding bikes in that the wheels come off, but that makes it fold down to a tiny package that fits an optional docking base that has casters on the bottom and a cover that zips on with handles to easily pull it along. It can easily fit a small space in a closet or garage, or the back seat of your car without getting anything dirty. We were told that the engineers at Gocycle have bike-build contests, and they boast that the fastest time to assemble one is under 30 seconds.
The kickstand is two-pronged and sits the bike upright with the back wheel off the ground. It’s two spring-loaded pieces that you’ll want to put up with your feet. We made the mistake of using our hands once. The springs have enough force to really pinch and hurt your hand; we’d almost say there’s a danger of breaking a finger in there if you try to do it by hand.
Charging the battery takes a fairly long 7 hours, and we discovered just how hard it is to plug into the port. We don’t like to feel like we’re forcing anything, so it took a while to figure out just how hard to press the charge cable into the port. There’s zero chance of water getting into it when it’s plugged in.
One of the other technologies built into the bike is the connected app. From your smartphone, you can change modes, tweak power curves and even track the bike if it is stolen.
Changing power curves is the fun part. You can set the power to go to 25 mph, which means you’ll need to know if you can legally do this in your state. The power lovers that we are, we immediately put the bike in full power mode all the time. It is a blast to ride this way, but it does take a toll on the range of the battery. We found this out the hard way, as it went from 3 out of 10 bars down to just one flashing in short order, so we had to ride home unpowered.
The display on the bars shows the battery percentage left with 10 LEDs (less as you use power). The center is a vertical array of three red LED lights to show your current gear, surrounded by one or three blue LEDs if you have the DRL on (one is low, three is high beam). When you are resting, the center red LEDs search back and forth across the top, reminiscent of the front of KITT from Knight Rider. It takes a little bit of time to figure out what the lights mean, but it’s much cleaner than having a large display on the top of the bike.
“Hands down, the Gocycle G3 is not only the most thoroughly designed folding electric bike we’ve ever ridden,
but simply the best we’ve ever ridden.”
Folding bikes are often the sort of thing you buy to ride to and from work or the train station. They’re not usually fun in a recreational sense. On most bikes with 20-inch wheels, the handling can be twitchy and unstable. The G3 was anything but. The bike is so stable and comfortable that we found ourselves riding it everywhere all the time.
The three-speed transmission for the pedaling drivetrain is more than adequate. Having the power on-hand to let you handle a large gear change means that you don’t need as many gears. We didn’t spin out at 25 mph in top gear, and take-off from a standing start was easy. The bike automatically downshifts as you slow down, so if you forget, it’s already handled. It’s a nice feature that even control freaks get used to.
Rolling down the street is more than smooth. This foldable bike is quick and fun. The Gocycle-branded tires are slick, and they glide down the pavement like ice skates on freshly Zamboni’d ice. They are a little slippery on sand-dusted pavement by the beach, but everywhere else they held solidly. The bike feels planted.
The strut that locks in the Clean Drive also provides 2.5mm (that’s an inch for us Yanks) of travel, enough to take the small bumps out of the road. It’s a really nice feature when coupled with the ample padding on the saddle and provided for a very plush ride. A little bit of flex overall adds to the smooth ride. Far less flex than any other folding bike we’ve ridden, it’s remarkably more rigid than those, but there is just enough.
Magnesium wheels weigh next to nothing, and the front hub is where the 500-watt motor is housed.
There’s more noise than you’d expect from such a well-engineered bike. That’s perhaps our only real complaint about this bike. It has a 500-watt motor and does offer a lot of torque in a package that you actually can’t see. People riding bike paths with us automatically asked if it was electric when riding next to us because of this. People who saw it sitting still were more surprised when we told them it was electric.
There are a few different modes. On Demand means you have no pedal assist, just input from the throttle on the left side. Eco is as you’d expect—a little bit of powered assist. City gives a little more power, and the custom setting lets you set a power curve, which can max out at 600 watts peak.
The app offers tracking of battery percentage, average speed, calories burned, trip distance in miles, total miles on the bike, average power in watts (your own pedal power and what the bike provides) and even an equivalent in miles per gallon. Gocycle will offer a handlebar mount for phones soon, possibly by the time you read this.
The chain-drive system for the rear of the bike is fully enclosed to protect the chain from the elements and you from the chain and related dirt and grime.
They do offer a front pannier as an accessory. It’s brilliantly designed, holds about what a backpack would and clips on easily in a couple of seconds with no additional hardware or tools. It’ll carry your papers to work, your veggies from the farmers’ market, etc.
They’ve apparently sold a lot of these to boat and RV owners, and we can see why. Each bike takes up a tiny amount of room when stored inside and is a total blast to ride when you get to your destination.
Hands down, the Gocycle G3 is not only the most thoroughly designed folding electric bike we’ve ever ridden, but simply the best we’ve ever ridden. From the transport pod to the lighting and wheel-removal design, we have yet to see an overall package as well thought out. In many ways, you can take the word “folding” out of that sentence. It’s not made for off-road use but for street use. It’s a great bike with incredible power, great user controls and it rides as well as it looks. If you’re looking for a folding bike for work, travel or just fun, it’s well worth a look. Take a test ride and see if you don’t agree.
MSRP: $4499 (as tested, with docking platform)
Fork: 6061 T6 aluminum
Wheels: Magnesium, 20-inch
Tires: Gocycle Performance tire, 20×1.75″
Motor: Gocycle proprietary 500 watts
Battery: Li-ion 22V, 13.5 Ah
Controls: Gocycle proprietary
Charge time: 4 hours
Top speed: 20 mph*
Range: 40 miles, depending on riding style, load and terrain
Drive: Patented Cleandrive and Shimano Nexus 3-speed
Brakes: Hydraulic disc
Weight: 35.9 lb.
Sizes: Universal Vgonomic
Color choices: White, Electric Blue and Matte Black