FIRST RIDE: SERIAL 1’S FIRST ELECTRIC MOUNTAIN BIKE
Harley-Davidson's electric bicycle line lets us ride their new electric mountain bike
Serial 1, the e-bike brand spinoff of Harley-Davidson, brought out their latest e-bike, and this time it’s an off-roader. We got to ride it in Bentonville, Arkansas, “The Mountain Biking Capital of the World“. The reason to launch here? It’s a mountain bike!
The SWITCH/MTN is a hardtail electric mountain bike with an SR Suntour Zeron35 Boost Air fully adjustable suspension fork. It’s not just a Rush/CTY frame with an added suspension fork and knobby tires. The geometry has been optimized for mountain biking, to make it steer and handle like a great mountain bike should. It’s made from hydro formed aluminum with internal gusseting designed by the engineers to make it stronger and stiffer. Even the fork isn’t an off-the-rack Zeron35, it’s ported to Serial 1’s desired spec. It performs extremely well at handling big hits but also excellent small bump compliance, keeping us on the trail with jumps, rocky sections and anything else.
Of course, the bike comes with integrated lighting, starting with the LED head tube badge that doubles as a daytime running light, as well as tail lights near the rear dropouts that can be seen from the rear and sides, and they have built-in accelerometers, so they light up when you’re slowing down. They won’t actuate from the brake levers, but actually when you slow down to let riders behind you know you’re decelerating. We think this is really smart!
Last but not least is the extremely bright headlight that can turned on or off from the display remote. They found a perfect beam pattern that is compatible with the specifications of every country they’re sold in.
The drivetrain is a SRAM SX Eagle 1×12 that we found perfect on the trail, from steep climbs to flows descents, we never ran out of gears.
If you need to stop, the bike has TRP Slate T4 (e-specific) quad-piston calipers with 203mm rotors, front and rear. They’re also 2.3mm thick, thicker than most, for better heat dissipation on long descents. We found them very easy to modulate, and even on loose rocks and dirt, the rear could offer plenty of bite to rein in our speed without fear of sliding the front end when cornering.
Electric assist is provided by a Brose S-Mag mid-drive motor, easily powering the bike to 20 mph with 90Nm of torque. There are five modes, offering you 50% assistance up to 400% in the highest mode. We found that we almost never used the top mode, nor eco, because where’s the fun in that?
The stock battery is 530Wh, and with us climbing quite a bit for a dozen miles or so and usually being in level 3 or 4, we used about 40-50% of the battery. You can also get a 706Wh battery if you need more capacity. The batteries are uniquely designed to fit lower in the frame to drop the center of gravity, and they are interchangeable. The design is curved to achieve this.
The display is a Brose Display Remote, a very small remote mounted on the left side of the handlebar and using LEDs to indicate power mode chosen as well as battery level remaining in 20% increments (5 lights). It shows the battery most of the time, but shows the mode for a couple of seconds when you make a change.
Far more information can be had with their smartphone app, an app that was developed with Google, after Google approached Serial 1. There are only a handful of automotive companies now in strategic partnerships with Google, and the implications are huge.
It can track and record all kinds of parameters, from distance to human torque input, and you can record your rides for later analysis. It can also give you Google powered turn-by-turn directions and point you to bike-friendly routes.
They provided us a Quadlock mount and phone case for our phone, which offers the unique opportunity to not only wirelessly connect to the bike, but the Quadlock mount has wireless charging built in, via a USB-C port in the stem that can provide up to 10W fast charging from the battery (most wired wall chargers charge at 5W and take much longer to charge your phone).
The app is very useful in that it offers security features, including warning you if your bike moves when you’re not there. You can disable the motor if it’s stolen. You can also use the app for over-the-air updates. Now, there are other bikes with the technology to do diagnostics, tracking, and OTA updates, but not many that can disable the bike if stolen.
For those of you wondering how personal this information that’s collected is, it is anonymized and fully GDPR compliant. Serial 1 is looking to see how riders use their bikes to speak to how they might improve them on future models.
The bike itself has an internal battery, so if you take your battery out to charge it, the internal battery will allow the bike to monitor movement and other systems. Serial 1 says that battery can last 2 weeks to 2 months without the other battery being installed, and it charges from the removable battery.
WHO IT’S MADE FOR
The SWITCH/MTN is made for everyone from beginners to even expert riders.
“The vast majority of our world is unpaved,” said Aaron Frank, Brand Director at Serial 1. “Fire roads, Jeep trails, singletrack paths, terrain parks, ski hills, state forests—there are so many great destinations to explore on two wheels and SWITCH/MTN, with its powerful motor, large-capacity battery, fully adjustable front suspension, and wide-ratio 1×12 drivetrain, has the all the performance and capability to take you anywhere you want to go.”
Our first ride on this bike showed it as very capable and confidence-inspiring, with the low center of gravity and geometry making us comfortable on much more than fire roads in the incredible trails in Bentonville. There are about 160 miles of trails here, financed by the Walton family (Walmart’s humble beginnings are right here).
There are everything from simple fire roads and single tracks to jumps, rollers, wooden and stone obstacles and more. You can enjoy as much or as little on this bike as you’re comfortable with, or perhaps sometimes uncomfortable with if you’re pushing your personal limits.
The SWITCH/MTN handled everything we threw at it with aplomb, the carefully chosen Michelin E-Wild tires had fantastic grip on all of the trails and obstacles, including wooden bridges. With a hardtail, tire choice is important for a number of reasons, including it being part of the suspension. The 27.5×2.6″ tires have the volume to make the ride just a little more comfortable. The battery sitting so low definitely made the bike feel both planted and balanced.
A quality electric mountain bike will never be cheap. Serial 1 has a track record of making really good bikes and selling them at a reasonable price. The SWITCH/MTN lives up to that. It’s a really fun bike to ride, the Brose S-mag motor is very powerful and yet very natural in power delivery.
It’s only our first ride, but we were impressed with the overall ride quality, the confidence this inspired, and the fun we had on this bike. Beginners and more experienced riders alike can enjoy this bike, and depending on where you live, you can push limits with it.