Testing IZIP E3 Peak
This entire bike costs what some mid-drive assist units cost without the bicycle. The performance is muscular and civilized compared to any, but is most impressive at this price level. Our test unit was no virgin, and we put a great deal of time on it. It still felt like new at the end. An upgraded fork would be nice, and so would rear suspension, but that simply will not happen at this price point. Strong assist combined with stellar handling and a natural riding position at a reasonable price makes the Peak a winner.
Dedicated mid-drive e-bikes are the absolute latest in production models. When an e-bike is destined to spend its time on pavement, the advantages of a mid-drive are not so pronounced, but the Peak is a mountain bike with plenty of dirt in its future, and the benefits in handling off-road make the mid drive a huge deal for a bike that retails for $2999. In this case we were happy to find that the rest of the bike fully deserves an assist package this impressive. This is an e-bike tailor-made for climbing, so it is more than aptly named.
Most of the other e-bikes in the Currie Technologies IZIP line have hub motors of one sort or another, but the Peak has a Currie-spec, 350-watt, TransX, mid-drive, high-torque assist unit with proprietary software. The look is somewhat close, but this is not a Bosch drive. The idea is the same: mount the assist unit in the middle of the chassis and allow it to use the derailleur and cassette to essentially give the drive unit a nine-speed transmission. The brains of the outfit are all tucked in with the drive unit or in the battery case, so there is no external controller. The battery case attaches to the frame tube where a bottle cage would normally reside.
There is a soft-button on switch on the battery case, and you start the system and activate the display with an on button that is part of the handlebar-mounted control unit. The handlebar control allows you to toggle the assist level between one and four, turn on the display screen, and select information screens. All four levels of assist sense pedaling and add assist automatically. The Peak has a throttle, but unlike many machines with a throttle (where a no-assist setting allows the throttle to provide assist on demand), the Peak throttle works at any level of assist and elevates the support to the absolute maximum, but only up to 8 mph. It has no effect after that speed.
Level 1 of the assist is pretty mild. Basically, it makes up for the Peak being heavier than a pedal bicycle. At level 2 the assist is a little more energetic. It is a good setting for level terrain or even mild climbs. When you hit level 3, the assist is strong enough to be significant on level ground or on mild to strenuous climbs. Level 4 is when the boost gets serious. For straight climbs, the 350-watt motor offers outstanding support. When you shift gears in level 4 you can hear the power snatch at the drive chain. Since the Peak only has a single ring in front, the gear selections are limited, but there is nevertheless a nice range between high and low. Still, a lower first gear and the option of a larger front ring would be nice. We do like the simplicity of a single shifter, and the lack of a front derailleur surely helps with the attractive price point. Thanks to the high-torque design of the assist motor, the harder you load it, the stronger it feels. The steeper the hills, the more impressive the Peak is. We tended to ride the Peak in level 3 or 4 most of the time, but even so, the basic 8.7 amp-hour battery has excellent range at these higher levels of assist. At 13 miles off-road with nearly 2000 feet of climbing, the battery level had just dropped to one bar. Unless you are really abusing the assist, you should get at least 15 miles of hard trail riding in on a charge.
On flat dirt or on pavement, the Peak’s center drive doesn’t offer the eye-opening assist and instant acceleration of the IZIP Dash with its more pedestrian hub motor. But, heavy loads (those that stifle a hub motor) allow the Peak to shine.
As a mountain bike, the Peak has a relatively modest frame and cycle parts. The front half of the aluminum frame is pretty beefy with a thoroughly modern, tapered head tube seen on advanced machinery. Attached to the frame is a RockShox XC30 TK 100mm-travel fork set up for a 27.5-inch wheel. The wheels are fitted with disc rotors and Alex rims shod with CST tires. The gearing is a SRAM X7 1×9 drivetrain. The single front ring has guards on both sides, and we found them very helpful. That means we banged them on the trail hard enough to bend the guards. They straightened up easily without tools.
Tektro hydraulic disc brakes are common on e-bikes since they are easily wired into an e-bike system. The instant you touch the brakes, the electric assist is cut. The Tektros have a solid, firm lever feel with a strong but controllable initial bite. On long, steep descents you will need firm pressure on the levers, but control remains good, and there is plenty of power to stop this bike in its tracks.
LIFE ON THE TRAIL
Even though there are tons of extravagant suspension options in the mountain bike world, hardtail bikes are still a significant part of the market since they are lighter than equivalent suspension bikes, and they climb efficiently. In general, mid-drive bikes climb very well, and in fact, climbing is the most impressive part of the Peak’s assist performance. Shift it to the lowest gear, turn the assist to max and it climbs like crazy. For a straight climb, the assist is stronger than many more expensive machines. The lack of rear suspension helps since none of your pedal power is absorbed by rear-suspension action. The frame design and cockpit layout offer excellent drive traction with little tendency to wheelie. In fact, the feel of the bike impressed every rider. It just feels right. It pedals efficiently, the bar feels perfectly placed and the geometry is responsive without being nervous at speed.
The 27.5 wheels impart confidence in turns and while climbing. We tried the Peak with 3 different sets of tires—CST, Kenda and Schwalbe—and all worked well. The fork is soft, so it uses up the available travel easily, but noticeably eases the amount of trail getting through to the rider.
In all situations the Peak feels lighter than the 50 pounds it actually weighs. We were always ready to ride it, no matter how fancy the other machines on the ride were. We had one area that took some learning: the Peak has a delay built-in to keep the bike controllable. When you stop pedaling or brake, you lose assist, and it doesn’t come back instantly when you start to pedal. You learn to start your pedaling early when you have a sharp climb or tight switchback coming. It also helps to be in the correct gear and ready to pedal. The Peak has enough assist that it can make you a little lazy about shifting. But that doesn’t work. You must be in a gear that lets you pedal with good strength until the assist kicks back in. That is only a fraction of a second, but it feels like a long time if you are in a high gear when you should not be.
Motor: Center-drive, 350-watt, high torque
Battery: Lithium-ion, 48-volt, 8.7Ah, 417Wh
Battery life: 15–30 miles
Charge time: 6–8 hours
Controller: Currie Electro-Drive, 36-volt, with power gauge function
Top speed: 20 mph (rider weight, rider input and terrain contingent)
Range: 15–30 miles with normal pedaling
Drive: SRAM X7 trigger and X7 derailleur, Prowheel center-drive 38T crankset, SRAM 9-speed 11-34T cassette
Brakes: Tektro Auriga E-Sub hydraulic disc, 180/180mm rotors
Wheels: 27.5 Alex XD-LITE double-wall, QR axles
Controls: LCD multi-function display with power adjustment features and battery gauge, twist throttle
Fork: RockShox XC30 TK 27.5” 100mm travel
Frame: Aluminum 6061, fender, rack and bottle mounts
Weight: 50.2 pounds (large)
Sizes: M, 17”/43cm; L, 19”/48cm