Bike Review: Lithium Cycles Super 73 Scout S1
A thoroughly modern mini bike
Lithium Cycles started in 2016 with a Kickstarter campaign that raised over $400,000 in funding. Started by a band of fun-loving industrial engineers with a penchant for the retro, it caught the imagination of investors and the nostalgic alike. They now build all the bikes in-house at their warehouse in Tustin, California, including design, bending the tubing and welding the frames; in short, everything but the paint. All their motors are sourced from outside the U.S., and the Super 73 Scout S1 is the latest model to join the family.
With a look that resembles a classic mini bike from the 1960s, the Scout S1, of course, is more modern version and uses an electric motor instead of an internal combustion engine. The motor is in the rear wheel, it’s a geared hub motor and the faux gas tank actually houses the battery where you would normally expect a gas tank on a mini bike to be.
The big front headlight enhances the look, but instead of a big, wiggly incandescent bulb, it’s a bright, attractive LED. The S1 comes stock with a short saddle, but there’s an option for one that extends all the way to the back of the rack.
“When your inner 10-year-old comes out, sometimes you have to try it anyways.”
Though the frame and fork are made in-house, much of the rest of the hardware, like headset and bottom bracket, are fairly standard bike parts. At 135mm wide with a solid axle, the front hub is definitely made for fat bikes. It’s all pretty beefy with an overall build quality that can be likened to a tank. At about 70 pounds, it’s not something you’re likely going to lift up much, but it has a torquey 500-watt motor that scoots it around easily. Any time you put a hub motor on a small wheel, you get a lot of torque, and the 20-inch wheels on this bike prove that.
You have your choice of flat black or white, though custom colors can be arranged. Their stock olive (think old military vehicles) looks really good, and we saw one custom paint job for a customer in bright pink. Custom colors add to the price, of course. The bike comes standard with knobby tires, but you can swap them for slick tires, and if you’re over 6 feet tall, they recommend upgrading to the extra-long seat.
The Scout S1 comes with a nice toolkit to assemble the bike if you have it shipped to you, including an adjustable crescent wrench, a pedal wrench, several sizes of hex wrenches, and a 4mm Torx wrench to install and tighten brake rotor bolts. If you don’t want to assemble it, and you’re able to pick it up in Tustin, California, they will assemble it fully for you for $75.
The 14.5-Ah battery takes about three hours to fully charge and promises plenty of range. This bike may not be your choice for a touring bike, but it definitely is all about style and some performance. The 30-plus-mile range should be more than enough for most people’s commutes.
WHO IT’S MADE FOR
The Scout S1 is aimed directly at those who want a very stylish electric bike and don’t mind getting plenty of attention. Those of a certain age will remember mini bikes that were in ads in a lot of magazines, which some of us had and some of us wished we had them. They usually were powered by a lawnmower engine. This one is pure electric—no pull cord to start it! Unlike those old mini bikes, this one is designed primarily for flat, paved roads. A sleek, chic commuter. There seems to be equal interest in this bike from both the older and younger/hipster generations.
Getting on this bike is very easy. It’s fairly low and has a large, padded seat. The display, controller and motor look like they’re from Bafang, but it’s sourced through Lectric Cycles and branded as Lithium. The throttle and controller with display are really sturdy, and you can position it for easy reach on the right side.
Virtually everywhere we rode this bike, it turned heads. People old enough to remember the famous Taco mini bikes of yesteryear would nod knowingly and smile. Younger people just thought it was cool. It is definitely a conversation starter.
Since the bike has a cadence sensor, any pedal input starts up the power instantly. You can use the throttle instead if you prefer. The wide pedals can be a little awkward at first, so the throttle becomes the go-to. Power-assist levels didn’t seem to have a big difference between them, so the throttle is actually a more accurate way of controlling speed. The brakes have cutoff switches, and with the wide contact patch of the tires, quick stops are pretty easy.
As with any fat-tire bike, tire pressure is crucial. The suggested range is 20–30 psi with a 35-psi max. Good suggestion. The higher the pressure, the less rolling resistance. That also has to be tempered with how hard a ride you want in that the only suspension in the bike is in the tires and a tiny bit in the padded seat. Lower pressure equals a more cushy ride and better grip depending on the surface.
The tires have tubes, and those tubes aren’t easy to source if you get a flat. Bike shops are unlikely places to find a tube to fit a 20×4-inch tire. You may have to go to a motorcycle shop to find one. We had to patch one of the tubes at one point for want of a readily available replacement.
The bike isn’t designed for much off-road use, but that didn’t stop one of our test riders from seeing what it was capable of. He took it on a trail we use for mountain bike tests, and after a steep, 20-minute climb, the hub motor overheated. He let it sit for five minutes, and it had already cooled enough to start again and keep going. It’s not what the company recommends, but when your inner 10-year-old comes out, sometimes you have to try it anyways.
This particular test rider is 6 feet tall and right on the cusp of fitting the standard seat setup. Another rider was about 5-foot-5, and he fit with no problem. In fact, we’d wager that someone 5 feet tall would fit it as well. The powerful motor carries you everywhere with ease. It is rated for up to 275 pounds of rider/cargo, so two lightweight adults could possibly ride at the same time, but that’s not recommended. With the stock, shorter seat, we had plenty of room to strap on cargo, like cameras, etc.
The original Super 73 bike from Lithium retailed for $3000. This bike, we think, is better, more refined and costs only $1800. It’s looks, and its fun factor makes this a very attractive bike with a lot of utilitarian possibilities. Though it may not be for everyone, we don’t want to send our review unit back!
SPECS LITHIUM CYCLES SUPER 73 SCOUT S1
Motor: 500W geared hub motor
Battery: Panasonic, 48V 696Wh/14.5Ah Li-ion
Charge time: 3 hours
Top speed: 20 mph
Range: 30–50 miles
Drive: 1-speed, 36-16t
Brakes: Tektro E-350 hydraulic disc brakes
Controls: Super 73 500W
Tires: Knobby, 20×4.0”
Weight: 70 lb.
Color Choices: Flat black or white
Sizes: One size
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