Bike Review: Samson Beach Cruiser

Great cruiser looks at a low price

With a brand tag line of “Pedal less, see more,” Steve Hurst’s intention of starting a bike company was to provide quality-made beach cruisers at under $1400. Oh, yeah, and the name of the company, Samson, is a portmanteau of his sons’ names, Sam and Jackson.

THE BIKE

This is a classic beach cruiser—sort of. With the sweeping frame lines, the chainstay continues to arc around past the seat tube and connects to the downtube, resembling a beach cruiser—sort of. The downtube itself is square instead of round, helping hide half of the battery that’s seated inside, giving it a unique look.

It has swept-back handlebars that have that look and beach cruiser feel. They do, however, enable you to gracefully turn the front wheel of the bike, which is fitted with massive 26×4.0-inch fat tires.

Where it differs from the classic beach cruiser goes a little beyond the square downtube and fat tires, though. It has an eight-speed rear cassette and quick releases on the seatpost clamp and wheels. And instead of the classic cruiser coaster brake, the Samson has modern disc brakes. Owing to the brakes with cutoff switches, motor controller and display, there’s also a Medusa-like gaggle of wires that you won’t find on a traditional beach cruiser.

At this low price point, there are some, shall we say, old-school-type components that surely help keep that price low. Things like the gooseneck-style stem, nothing-fancy grips and overly padded DDK Comfort seat. Then again, you can contrast those with a drivetrain from Shimano, disc brakes from Tektro and a KMC chain.

This traditional beach cruiser version is also available in a low step-through version. It’s virtually the same, other than the frame and color of the frame/fork kit. The bike comes with a toolkit, which is a nice bonus and useful if you buy the bike direct.

THE MOTOR

The rear hub motor is a Bafang brushless 750W-watt motor. It’s known for reliability, quietness and brute strength. We like these, but they can be battery-hungry, and even with the big 17-watt-hour battery, the range isn’t always what you’d hope to find in an electric bike. The claimed range is 20–35 miles, assuming it’s a 180-pound rider on flat terrain. If you rode this only along the beach, that might be attainable.

The handlebar-mounted Bafang controller is tiny, neat and tidy. The display is also a Bafang unit, mounted vertically above the stem, and it is branded Samson. It has a full color screen and shows a tremendous amount of information, including current speed, battery level, how many watts the motor is using and more. It comes with a ridiculous nine different levels of assist. Holy confused consumers, Samson! This is way too much.

Samson has actually done some of the programming themselves. Hurst told us that the nine levels can be set to fewer choices, like three or five, per consumer preference when the bike is ordered. That may be a good selling point, since many consumers neither want, or need, too many bells and whistles.

WHO IT’S MADE FOR

This bike is for someone who is looking for a beach cruiser with fat tires, something that stands out and wants an inexpensive e-bike. It’s not just for the beach, because it does well on hills too. It’s no long-distance bike, and if you have to carry it up and down stairs, you’d better be built like Arnold Schwarzenegger in his heyday, because it ain’t light!

THE RIDE

When you get on the power, the Samson really feels substantial. The 4.0 tires are really beefy. They’re not knobby, and they have a light tread pattern.

The overly padded saddle is at first pretty stiff and pointy. It’s not the wide, concave saddle you expect; instead, it’s rather convex. We can say it’s not the most comfortable seat we’ve ridden on, especially for any distance.

The system comes to life on the screen, bright and very easy to read even on the sunniest of days. They’ve done well here.

Where most beach cruisers have coaster brakes and simplicity, this one has a Medusa-like wiring setup

Shifting is smooth and sure with the Shimano Altus rear derailleur and trigger shifter. On flat ground and hills we never ran out of gears. They selected a good range here. We hit one steep hill by the office, and it was almost effortless. The motor has true hill-flattening power. It was easy to find a good gear and fly up the hill.

When riding, the readout of how many watts used is kind of fun. From around level 4 to level 9 it will hit up to 900 watts peak output, and since you’re using a cadence sensor, you can barely pedal to get this much power. That’s a mixed blessing. It’s really fun, but it comes with a price in terms of battery range.

The Samson-branded Bafang display shows tons of great information and is very easy to read, even in the brightest daylight.

The bike comes with an 11.6-amp-hour battery. At 48 volts, that’s about 550 watt-hour. That’s one of the smaller ones you can get from Bafang. They make a 17-amp-hour battery, but it’s larger and more expensive. We experienced much less than a 20-mile range, even with a 160-pound rider. Granted, it wasn’t all on flat ground, but it was only a few hills. We left with 100 percent showing on the screen, and within minutes it was down to 80 percent, and then a few minutes later it was at 60.

The Origin8 Supercell 26×4.0-inch tires roll well across anything, and they grip pavement well. Lower the pressure and they grip even better while providing a better ride.

Were we using it on the lower power settings? No, of course not! We were testing all the power levels and riding it like it was our own. We even used the throttle a few times, but pedaling was always more fun.

The motor will run on for a second or two after you stop pedaling, but because it comes equipped with Tektro mechanical disc brakes with brake cutoff switches, a light squeeze on a brake lever will actuate the switch and instantly cut the motor. You’ll even see an indicator on the display screen that looks like an exclamation point in a circle surrounded by a pair of parentheses that show when the cutoff switches are actuated. The brakes themselves perform well, halting the bike rapidly. Those big tires and large-diameter brake discs help with that.

The bike is made for mostly on-road riding, but since it’s a fat bike, we thought we’d try it on some unpaved roads. At full tire pressure the tires can be a little slippery over soft stuff, but letting out some of the pressure made a world of difference. The grip went up and the energy from the bumps was soaked up, so it didn’t travel up through the aluminum frame and into us. Fat tires are great for this, especially on an e-bike. You can drop the pressure to around 5–6 psi and ride on the sand, eschewing the roads altogether! Just make sure you know where there’s a gas station or place with a compressor, unless you want the triceps workout of a lifetime to refill these tires back up to pavement-ready pressures.

After a while of riding, there were wrist-related complaints. We’re not sure anyone rides a beach cruiser for long distances anyway. Maybe it’s just too many years of riding straighter bars? But straight bars would negate from the beach cruiser look, and we can say that this is more fun to ride than any traditional beach cruiser we’ve ever ridden.

THE VERDICT

This is a beautiful bike for an incredibly low price. Even if you ignore the price, the fit and finish are superb and the ride quality is good. We found the battery life a little disappointing, but considering the size and weight of this bike, it is a lot to push along. If you’re looking for beach cruiser good looks, good performance for short rides and a great price, this bike is worth a look. It should be available by the time this issue reaches you.

The tiny Bafang control panel is ergonomically excellent and out of the way.

SPECS SAMSON BEACH CRUISER

Price: $1799

Motor: Bafang 750W Brushless rear hub motor

Battery: 48V/11.6 Ah/550 Wh

Charge time: Approximately 6 hours

Top speed: 20 mph

Range: 14–20 miles (tested)

Drive: Shimano Altus RD-M310

Brakes: Tektro mechanical disc with motor cutoff

Controls: Bafang

Fork: Aluminum

Frame: Aluminum

Tires: Kenda Juggernaut 26×4.0”

Weight: 58 lbs.

Color choices: Blue

Sizes: One size

www.samsonebikes.com


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