So the day has come, my Cyclotricity Stealth 250 passed the 10,000km mark (6214 miles). Ever since writing the review of the bike at 1000km I’ve been telling myself I would do an update at 10,000km, so here it is 🙂
I’ve already covered a lot of the technical aspects of this bike in the original review which you can find here. In this post I want to go over what it has been like to live with every day, and what my experiences have been like with the Stealth over the last 3 years.
Life with a Cyclotricity Stealth 250
Back in August 2012 my daily train commute across London was driving me to despair. I did have a bicycle, but it was completely unsuitable for a day to day commute. Being rather out of shape and a huge gadget fan I chose to get an electric bike so that I could get a little more exercise, escape the daily sweaty crush on the DLR and arrive at work fresh and unflustered.
I hunted around for an eBike that I liked, trawling every corner of the web and decided on the Cyclotricity Revolver… for about 2 days. My fancy was taken by it’s bigger brother and despite it being a blind buy as there were no reviews of the Cyclotricity Stealth to be found anywhere on the internet , I took a gamble and bought the Stealth 250 watt with a 20″ frame. After getting the bike I had this great notion in my mind that I could gently waft along the streets of London zipping effortlessly to and from work and then spend all of the money I had saved on TfL travel cards, buying pizza and fruity beverages instead. And actually that’s pretty much how it worked out. It was a sedate and pleasant experience. My commutes were a lot enjoyable and I got to see more of the city. After the first 1000km I finally got around to writing an in-depth review about my Stealth 250 so that other people who were thinking about buying one didn’t have to go in completely blind like I did.
I have several friends who regularly cycle around the city for pleasure and so one Friday evening I joined them on a large group bike ride known as Critical Mass. Which blew my mind… completely… Thousands of people from all over the city converge on the Southbank one evening every month and then set off together taking in all of the sights and sounds in London on a glorious evening ride with musical accompaniment provided by some large trailer based sound systems being towed behind bikes. This seemed to go on for hours and at the end of the evening it came as a complete shock to see that we have covered over 40 miles. I attended more and more of these events and relied less and less on the electric bike’s throttle as my fitness improved. My Stealth 250 has acted as gateway which allowed me to gently and gradually introduce myself to more serious cycling. Where once my Stealth was the only bike I owned, it now forms part of a motley crew including a carbon hybrid and road racing bike, neither of which are electric! I regularly ride distances of 50-100km in group events and am now the fittest I have ever been. With all of the friends I have made on these rides my social life is probably at it’s healthiest too.
Owning an electric bicycle has had a massive impact on my health and general lifestyle. As a gateway to a healthier and wealthier life it has worked out brilliantly. As a means of transport it has been superb, though on a day to day basis the Stealth has been the victim of it’s own success and has been replaced by a lightweight road bike for the daily commute. I ask myself sometimes could any of the other other electric bikes that I considered back in 2012 before choosing the Stealth have had such a dramatic effect on me? The answer is “almost certainly”… but that’s not really the point is it :p
The Big Issues
The Components – As mentioned in the 1000km review some of the component choices appeared to suffer a degree of penny pinching in places seemingly to keep the costs down. The mudguards were so cheap that they were flimsier than tissue paper and laughably ineffective, the original brake pads wore out very quickly before one of the brake calipers failed completely, the wheel reflectors kept flying off while the front and rear ones were dull and hard to see, and the bell rusted to the point of not working at all in barely a month flat. I can’t help but feel that if just an extra couple of pounds was spent selecting each of these components that my experience with the included accessories would have been a lot more positive. I replaced all of the aforementioned parts with ones from familiar brands and have not had any problems since. On the other hand, the saddle was incredibly comfortable and lasted well over 2 years of daily use before wear and tear got to the point where I had to replace it, the stock tyres were still going strong at 8000km and were only actually replaced for aesthetic reasons (more on that later). The wheels themselves have held up superbly taking a lot of abuse over the years without any problems, on the odd occasion where they get washed they still come out looking brand new, The chainrings, cranks, and pedals have performed very well and have only recently got to the point where they need replacing and the electric drive system has been flawless since day one with no design or quality issues to report.
The Dashboard – This isn’t something I had even considered when I first reviewed the Stealth but quickly came to terms with after moving home to a slightly less salubrious part of London. The dashboard is permanently mounted to the handlebars and isn’t removable, from a distance it looks a lot like a speedometer or cycle computer and can attract the interest of thieves. Twice while my Stealth was locked up in public places and in broad daylight, somebody has attempted to steal the dashboard. The first time they simply snapped the bracket off but upon realizing what it was, left it dangling by its cable meaning it was still functional, I managed to repair the snapped bracket and considered it a one off oddity. The second time though it was torn clean off the bike snapping the bracket again and physically ripping the cable out of the back. This left the Stealth with no electric function at all so I had to pedal it home and wait until a replacement dashboard could be delivered and fitted. Needless to say I do tend to consider where I leave the bike a bit more carefully now.
The Battery – I can’t really skirt around it, the battery has been the biggest concern ever since I first considered buying an electric bike. I was aware that battery technology isn’t very advanced and that over time the performance decreases to the point where they need replacing. For me this happened just shy of the 2 year mark. At first the ranges I could achieve were superb, beyond my wildest expectations even. Several months on when I made the 1000km review they were still very good and the battery made it up to a year old before there was any noticeable decrease in range. It was still perfectly capable of doing the daily commutes but started to run out more frequently on longer leisure rides and needed charging more frequently throughout the working week. As i increased my cycling proficiency and bought a dedicated commuter bike, the Stealth became purely a leisure bike and the limited range really started to become an issue around the 2 year mark. Once it got to the point that it could not complete a 20km round trip to work and back I decided to look into replacing the battery. Cyclotricity have new batteries available to buy on their website but I found an online retailer selling a similar bottle battery with the same power characteristics but a much higher capacity for a not unreasonable sum. This did mean I had to change the power cable from the controller box to the battery mount but with a fresh battery the range bordered on being absurd and I could go a full 2-3 weeks between charges for occasional use or manage rides of 70-80km without running out of power. I have since come to consider batteries for electric bike as being like “consumables”. They have a limited shelf life and need regularly replacing, while they are seemingly quite expensive they still provide better value than a travel card when replaced every 2 years.
Customer Service – One of the main draws to Cyclotricity for me was that they are UK based, this means that not only are customers fully protected by UK consumer laws but also that the company is able to provide effective and fast support in their native language. It was one of the key reasons I chose to go with the Stealth and even after 3 years with my bike being long out of warrantee they still provide top notch care and get my wholehearted recommendation. The service I have received from Cyclotricity has been nothing short of outstanding. When my dashboard was stolen I had a new one on order and delivered to me in less than 24 hours, when I enquired about battery pricing I received an answer within an hour, when I needed to figure out what type of headset bearings the stealth used I was given the exact part number I needed. They know their products inside out, they appear to care deeply about the people who use their products and can take pride in the level of support they provide. It has honestly been one of the best customer relationship experiences I have ever had with a British company.
The Birth of the BattleBike
With the road bike taking up duty as the daily commuter the Stealth was used instead for taking comfortable and relaxing rides, as well as being used for the Critical Mass and social group events. These events attract a huge number of amazing hand-made and customized bikes, so I set about making some changes to the stealth to help it stand out a little more. At first I switched out the surprisingly excellent stock tyres which came with the bike for some chunky Continental X-King 2.4 tyres instead, while these introduce a little bit of drag, they work with the suspension to increase the comfort of the ride and more importantly, look absolutely superb on the Stealth. Given that most of these group rides take place in the evenings some party lighting seemed like a good idea too so i fitted some coloured LED strips to the frame for extra effect. With a couple of small capsule speakers attached to the frame for a little music the Stealth had become a great party bike.
Sadly the “PartyBike” had quite a short life.
One evening on the way home from a social gathering, I hit a very large pothole in Southwark. I managed to stay upright and was unharmed but the Stealth’s front suspensions forks were not as lucky, they had noticeably bent causing the front wheel to jam solid and the suspension would no longer move when compressed. Being in something of a rush to get the bike back on the road I switched the damaged forks out for a spare set of stupidly heavy steel triple clamp suspension forks that I had kept hold of from an old mountain bike i had discarded long ago. These forks being bright red obviously looked terrible on the white and black stealth, there was no way I was going to be able show this off in public. The new forks provided such a comfortable ride however, that I decided I had to keep them on the Stealth and decided on a colour change instead. Why stop at the forks though?
A bit of research later and I found PlastiDip, a spray on rubber coating in a range of colours which is perfect for bicycles and automobiles. After a quick browse through the colour options I settled on “GunMetal Grey” and stripped the Stealth down to the naked frame.
With the frame completely bare I sanded out all of the stickers and rough patches then set about spraying the bike. PlastiDip takes 4-5 coats to provide the best finish and once dry forms a waterproof durable rubber skin over the bike. Given my relative inexperience with spray painting I was amazed at just how good the finish was.
As with the old PartyBike, the Battlebike in its new sinister stealth-fighter grey was going to have some lighting too, I painstakingly measured out the frame sections of the Stealth and created a fully RGB colour changing light strip which ran down the length and both sides of the bike creating some dramatic effects. Most of the rebuild was painless but soldering the lighting segments together was almost certainly the most time consuming and tedious part taking almost 2 solid days to finish. Once finished though I was happy with the result, very happy indeed!
The Stealth in new “BattleBike” guise was definitely a talking point at group rides and events. The new forks, larger battery, fatter tyres and rear rack managed to bring the total weight up to a staggering 31.4 KG meaning it wasn’t the most practical bike in the world but that hardly seemed important given the feeling it gave you when you rode it.
The most amazing thing about the BattleBike was how well the original Stealth DNA coped with all of the changes I made to it, all of the extra weight made very little impact on the top speed or range and considering none of the components were designed with this type of setup in mind they coped brilliantly with almost everything I threw at it. The only major trouble I faced with the battlebike was after a minor mishap caused one of the motor bearings to fail. Yet again Cyclotricity customer service came to my rescue and were able to help out not only in helping me to figure out which bearings I needed to buy, but also providing some tips on how to go about replacing them, for a highly modified bike almost 2 years out of warrantee I found that pretty incredible!
November 2016 Update…
The battle bike was sadly killed on November 2016, murdered by an inattentive bin collection team who hurled a full binbag at head height across a packed Cycle Superhighway and wiped me out during a morning rush hour commute. I hit the deck pretty hard and suffered three broken ribs and a dislocated finger, the bike came off worse than I did with bent suspension forks, a buckled rear wheel, snapped brake lever, snapped crank arm and a bent handlebar. The company involved have to their credit admitted full responsibility for the incident and provided compensation for the damage to the bike and covered my public transport travel costs while I was recovering.
This has left me without my much loved Stealth 250 for a while but I’ve been keeping my spirits up by commuting on the FatBike since then. A closer look at the damage to the 250 has been fairly encouraging. The frame is fine, the front drive wheel is fine, and the electronics are all in perfect working order. So… expect another rebuild of the Stealth 250 soon ! Cyclotricity have been very helpful too and have even hooked me up with a Stealth 1000watt to play with while my 250 is in intensive care, click here if you’d like to see my review of the Cyclotricity Stealth 1000 Watt.
While I hope that this review was pretty exhaustive, there may be things I have missed, please feel free to ask any questions using the comments section below, I aim to respond to every message