Putting the “race” into the Easy Motion Neo Race
From their mainstream acceptance in Europe to their growing popularity in Southern California, the electric bike has certainly been making its presence known. Funny thing, though; as we’ve seen them in every conceivable size and style, the one class of e-bike that remained virtually untapped was one with dropped bars. As cyclists of the road-geek variety, we felt left out. When we mentioned this to the guys at Easy Motion, they told us that they had built their own version of one to use as a fast commuter bike. We knew right then that we had to have a ride on it.
Like all Easy Motion bikes, the Neo Race was designed to “look the part” as much as possible. That is, they are designed to mimic the appearance of a standard bike more than stand out as an electric bike. And other than the oversized downtube that is home to the battery and the side-pull brakes, to the average eye, our Neo Race project bike was not easily distinguishable as anything other than a standard road bike.
Two versions of the Neo Race are available: the $2999 version we tested and the Race Carbon that runs with a carbon frame, hydraulic disc brakes and up-spec’d drivetrain for $4499. Unfortunately, to make the transition to dropped bars and STI levers, the bike’s warranty gets voided, as you have to give up the engine cut-off switch, which kills the motor when either of the (stock) brake levers are compressed.
THE GROM TO THE RESCUE
Once the bike was delivered, it didn’t take long for us to realize that the best place to test it would be in the weekly Tuesday-night group ride. The only problem was that no one was volunteering. That is, until we got our young intern Spencer, aka “The Grom,” to volunteer for us. Here’s his report.
“When the idea got floated to ride the Neo Race in the notoriously tough Tuesday-night group ride, I rightly suspected almost immediately that I would be chosen to be the test dummy. And so as my Road Bike Action cohorts Michael and Neil kitted up and prepped their bikes, I followed along knowing full well that this group ride would be unlike any other.
“In fact, I wasn’t more than 100 feet from the office door when this reality hit me hard—as I was rolling out with the boys to the local Peet’s Coffee to pick up the ride, I hit a small bump in the street, and the battery bounced out of the frame and skidded alongside the road. Luckily, the battery was fine, and I realized that in my haste to get ready, I had not properly secured and locked the battery into place.
“As we waited for the ride to get started, more than a few riders rolled up and immediately asked about the bike. And after I explained, their next question was a bit more pointed: ‘You’re not really riding that with the group, are you?’ Moments later I was rolling out with them, and as we spent the first mile warming up, they realized that I hardly was putting any effort into pedaling. Pulling away from red lights was amusing, because as the bike accelerated, I never had to do any shifting, thanks to the power assist. And with just a few pedal strokes, I would be ahead of the group, a place I rarely ventured to on my own road bike!
THINGS TAKE A SERIOUS TURN
“When the group turned onto the Old Road, which is the main stretch of the ride, the tempo picked up, and everyone hit 25 mph almost immediately. Since this was about five miles an hour faster than what the electric motor was designed for, the bike’s 50-pound weight suddenly became a real burden. Although I was keeping up with the group, the motor and pedal assist did me no good. About a mile in, the stronger riders began to attack the field, and all I could do to stay with them was to keep pedaling. Now riding at an average of 29 mph, I struggled to hold a wheel and got gapped. After putting in a solid effort to pull the group, I dropped to the back of the group and fought to stay on.
“Eventually, we got to the section where the group prepares for the 1.9-mile, 4.3-percent-gradient climb (with 9.4-percent spikes) that ends the ride. As the group sprinted to the base of the climb and I was still in the rear of the pack, soon enough the stronger climbers began to separate off of the front, and just by placing a little more power on the pedals, the Neo Race took off. Sweet! On the steady grade of the climb, I could easily maintain 20 mph, the motor providing its full assist to my pedaling effort.
“The next thing I knew, I began flying by the main group and was rapidly closing in on the leaders. As we closed in to the top of the climb, I was riding circles around the fastest climbers in the area, and I raised my hands in the air as if I won the race. I may not have been making any friends, but I was certainly making a point—climbing was certainly made a breeze since you can steadily and effortlessly maintain a pace of 20 mph.
“Nearing the top of the climb, the incline flattens out, and RBA’s own Neil Shirley put an attack on the remaining three riders who could stay with him and soon dropped them all. Although I alone was able to stay hot on his tail, he continued to gain speed, and as he clocked in at around 25 mph, it became too much for me to handle. Even with the assist, my 50-pound bike and I were no match for him and his 15-pound carbon bike.
“Later in the week we found a new use for the Neo Race—it worked well for motor pacing and ended up giving two riders a good workout. Overall, I’d say the Easy Motion bike is an ideal ride for a commuter or someone who is interested in getting into riding. For a serious rider who frequently rides at speeds exceeding 22 mph, the e-bike is either the wrong bike or the perfect choice for a purposeful workout using a heavy training bike that also doubles as an excellent commuter bike.”