BIKE TEST: POWER IN MOTION CF-1.5
New company steeped in experience
Carey Hopkins started working with electric bicycles in 2009. He was working in the bicycle fabrication and design industry when Polaris tapped him to design their e-bikes, working as the head technical engineer and senior product manager. He is extremely knowledgeable about electric bikes and their systems.
Polaris recently decided to get out of the electric bike business. Being proud of what he’d done with the Polaris bikes, he spun them off into a new venture, Power In Motion. The new company produces most of the parts for the bike themselves, and they’ve garnered the interest of law-enforcement agencies, with quite a few now equipped with a fleet of their bikes.
There are currently three main bikes in the Power In Motion line—the ST-1 commuter bike, the EX-1 fat bike and the CF-1.5, their small comfort bike. All three have really beefy mountain bike looks with a step-through frame that has a massive 4-inch downtube, which also houses the battery. A Zoom mountain bike stem and straight bars add to the look. The CF-1.5 bike is designed for comfort, not flying down singletracks.
“Weighing in at 68 pounds, the bike is pretty heavy. It looks like it should be with the size of the downtube, but also the large direct-drive hub motor sits on an oversized 15mm axle.”
PARTS ARE PARTS
The hand-stitched leather ergonomic grips are very comfortable and match the plush, tan-leather Velo saddle. The profusion of cables are routed externally—not the cleanest look, with the exception being the one controller cable routed to the inside of the downtube.
Front and rear fenders are included. While most included fenders are attached to bosses on the frame, there are no bosses to connect to on this bike. The workaround is to attach them with rubber clamps. If you put these under close scrutiny, they don’t look great. They’re a complete afterthought, but in practice, it’s a different story. They couldn’t be more solid, quiet or perform better.
Weighing in at 68 pounds, the bike is pretty heavy. It looks like it should be with the size of the downtube, but also the large direct-drive hub motor sits on an oversized 15mm axle. You could support a truck with this thing, it’s that beefy. Owing to the big tubing, the heavy motor and the cables everywhere, the bike has a certain industrial look to it. But, it’s not so beefy that it’s perfectly rigid. It’s a comfort bike, so a little flex damps the bumps on the ride.
The battery seems like the one part of the system that is not only the best-considered part on this bike, but it is also the heart of the design. It locks into the top of the downtube. It doesn’t just slide and click in. You first have to attach a flexible connector to the battery. This system was chosen because it won’t wear out the same way a slide-in connector would. It can flex a little with the bike and not cause that wear, nor can a bump cause a temporary disconnection.
The batteries inside the pack are prismatic cells, aka pouch cells, which are flatter, lighter and more efficient than the industry standard and cylindrical 18650 battery counterparts. There is a lot of innovation going on with these batteries right now.
The battery-management system on this bike is really sophisticated. It manages each cell in the battery and balances the load precisely for a smoother response. The hardware involved makes for a very heavy battery and large enough to sport a very high capacity. It doesn’t, though. In fact, it has under 300 Wh, which makes it legal to ship onto a plane.
The Power In Motion CF-1.5 is so beefy-feeling that you almost feel like you’re on a motorcycle. Every time you look down, you feel like you see a fuel tank. A SRAM X5 eight-speed rear derailleur makes for positive shifts. The front sprocket is large enough to not run out of gears on flat roads and has a nice chain guard built in. The 26-inch Kenda Comfort tires provide excellent grip on all surfaces, even wet roads. The built-in reflective stripe on the side is great for visibility at night.
Taking off from a stop, you feel the power kick in immediately. The system adds power when it thinks you need it, and sometimes it feels like it keeps adding too much. The cadence sensor is so sensitive that it won’t cut off when you coast if you’re still moving the crank, even a little. And, it can take a second for the power to cut when your feet are perfectly still. This can be disconcerting, especially when you’re approaching a stop sign or traffic light.
There’s loads of torque with the direct-drive motor, which offers three positive levels of assist and two negative levels. Strangely, -2 is regenerative but -1 is not. The -1 setting is the lowest assist level. Regen was actually useful on steep hills. We used level 1 mostly, but level 2 offered more versatility and speed. Power noticeably kicked in with less than a quarter-turn of the crank. There’s some motor noise when the bike first takes off, but that quiets down a bit once you get moving.
WHEN IT RAINS, IT POURS
One day we were caught in a full-on Florida-style downpour while riding the bike, and happily the bike didn’t flinch. Those aftermarket fenders never wavered. There was no stream of water up our back from the tire, but we were soaked through in the front.
The weather sealing on this bike is solid. We tested it in an unintentional deluge, and it lived to ride again. It got us back safe and quickly. We mentioned this to Hopkins, who says he has fully submerged the bikes to test their water resistance. Even after being fully submerged, the bike remained operable. That’s a very good thing to know in a comfort bike that may be ridden in rainy conditions.
Overall, test rides on this bike were enjoyable. The saddle and grips, our main contact points on the bike, were very comfortable on any length ride. It provided ample power and quick take-off on streets with one stop sign after another.
Range was another thing. In just about five miles on one of the first rides we had used 40 percent of the battery. There is a higher-capacity (500 Wh) battery available, and we’re sure we’d want one if this was our daily rider. The reason they offer this smaller battery is for shipping, weight and cost. For consumers, the extra $100 is nothing. For police fleets, the cost is a factor, as is need. Hopkins says most police officers ride in level +1 or -1, which allows them just a little assist and eight hours of riding on one charge, plus -1 is perfect for riding in crowds at events.
In the future, there may be a 750 Wh battery. Hopkins says there’s space available, and with advances in prismatic batteries, it is possible to add that capacity to the current form factor.
It has rugged looks and could be a great on-road bike that may occasionally find its way onto some gravel. This is a lot of bike for $2300. The battery setup is well engineered, there’s plenty of power, and it loves hills. It’s heavy and lacks good range with the OEM battery. Unless you plan on shipping the bike all over, we recommend spending an extra $100 and getting the 500 Wh battery. It does feel rock solid when riding. It climbs hills well; our riders really liked that. It has “comfort” right in the name and delivers on that promise.
Motor: 750W (1200W peak) Power In Motion
Battery: Li-ion 44V 265–500 Wh
Charge time: 4 hours
Top speed: 20 mph
Range: Up to 25 miles, depending on riding style, load and terrain
Drive: SRAM X5
Brakes: Magura MT4E hydraulic disc
Controls: Power In Motion
Fork: SR Suntour XCR suspension with lockout, 15mm thru-axle
Weight: 68 lb.
Color choices: Blue