First of all I’d like to thank you for visiting my review. If you’ve stumbled across this page the chances are that you’ve been searching for information about electric bikes or perhaps have been looking for a review of this particular model. I’d like to stress that all observations made in this rather long and rambling review come from my own hands-on experiences with a Cyclotricity Stealth ebike which I have owned for just over 6 months and used daily for my commute and the odd fun ride. I have recently passed the 1000 km mark on this bike so felt it was a good place to draw on that experience and share my feelings. I am not a professional reviewer (that much is probably obvious) but I hope that my review here can help you to decide whether or not this is the bike for you.
The Back Story…
I’ve ridden bikes a lot over the last 10 years. I rode one every day to sixth form college, to my first place of work, to my first date, and everywhere else besides. Over the last few years though I had found myself increasingly using public transport for journeys where I really didn’t need to use it. As I got a little older and slightly less athletic there were mornings where I took one look at the heavy mountain bike and reached for the oyster card instead. There was nothing wrong with my bike, but for a shift worker the amount of effort it takes commuting by bike can be quite draining first thing in the morning and it’s even worse at the end of a long hard day. I caught myself looking at my old bike as something to only be used on warm sunny weekends and the DLR became my daily transport to work. It was costing quite a bit to travel this way but at least I wasn’t sweaty or exhausted when I got in to work… well at least not always.
One evening at home watching an episode of the Gadget Show on Channel Five, I saw a review of electric bikes and the notion of cycling using far less energy and turning up to work, fresh and perspiration free was quite appealing. The benefits of an electric bike seem plentiful, they don’t need M.O.Ts, you don’t need a license to ride them, you don’t have to insure them, you don’t have to pay for petrol, or duty on petrol, or tax on petrol, or fuel duty tax on petrol, or value added tax on petrol or val… well, you get the idea…… Recharging the battery on an electric bicycle costs pennies.
The Gadget Show had really stirred something in the back of my mind and I could see that it could make a lot of difference to my daily commute, and my wallet. Then they mentioned the prices, the small number of models available at the time of their review cost far more than an annual season ticket and then some… This wasn’t practical at all so I wrote off the notion of electric bikes for a couple of years. Then more recently the amazing Robert Llewellyn (of Red Dwarf, scrapheap challenge and Car Pool fame) reviewed some ebikes on his online video blog and although the prices hadn’t dropped by much the range of ebikes available had rocketed. With new battery technology offering increased ranges and smaller more efficient motors available, electric bikes have generated a lot more interest in recent years and the idea of ditching packed commuter trains was very appealing. At that point the decision was made and I started the research process. I trawled hundreds of reviews and product pages, looked at ebike forums including the invaluable pedelecs.co.uk noting which posts were about reviews, problems, failures and noting positive mentions of each brand and model. Days of research later and after several hundred gallons of coffee, I narrowed down three distinct levels of ebike you could buy.
£500 – £700
- Very large range of different bikes available
- Bulk imports from China with no warranties and no UK support
- Cheap components and parts requiring constant maintenance and replacements
- Low power motors and small capacity batteries
- Lackluster styling and poor practicality
- Poor workmanship on assembly
- many lack the frame numbers required to insure bikes in the UK
£800 – £1500
- British or European vendors with local support networks and buyer protections
- Versatile bikes covering virtually any riding style.
- Stylish attractive designs
- Quality workmanship
- Reliable high quality components
- Modern high capacity batteries
- Most powerful motors allowed by law
- Exceptional styling and design detailing
- Longer lasting warranties with better support
- Wasted value given legal power restrictions
- Very little real benefit over mid-range bikes
- More cost devoted to branding and marketing
- Much more desirable to thieves
Those three bands are just my opinion of course but after researching countless different bikes and reading countless reviews those are the overall impressions I got. I found it impossible to justify the costs of the high end brands given that they offer very few features or benefits over the mid range ones but also could not see myself going for one of the cheaper imports. The forum stories of component failures, terrible batteries, shoddy workmanship and mediocre performance were really offputting. Even moreso because I couldn’t find a single forum post mentioning a positive experience when trying to resolve problems with the manufacturers, all of the resolutions to the problems were resourced by the owners themselves out of their own pockets. This rather made my decision for me so I narrowed my focus to that mid-range group setting a final maximum budget of £1000. Following the sound advice of the pedelecs forum users, I narrowed my selection down further to UK manufacturers to avoid any of the previously mentioned pitfalls.
Choosing the right bike
There are a lot of ebike manufacturers operating in the UK nowadays. The mid-range is dominated by long established brands like Powabyke, Whoosh, Wisper and ezeebike. But there are many recent start-ups around offering a huge range of options for you. Trying to choose a style that I liked I started to notice something which most of the established brands seemed to have in common. The styling of many of their products was dated, in some cases incredibly so. I didn’t really have an opinion on how I wanted it to look before the search but when I spotted one manufacturer asking £1000 for something which looked like a poorly modified mobility scooter and weighing almost as much, I was adamant that I wanted something which was stylish, lightweight and could be shown off. I also liked the idea of electric bikes which do not wear their electric credentials too overtly. For me it had to look just like a normal bike. Nearly all of the manufacturers had at least one model on offer which fitted the bill but it was really the new startups who shone through in this particular style. The two models which really appealed to me were the Burisch Synergy GT250 and the Cyclotricity Revolver. I also spotted a bike with a much more classic style to it which I liked so decided to add the Whoosh Sirocco 2 into my shortlist.
A great way to test the kind of support you can expect from any company is to ask them a question before you buy. I had a couple of things I wanted to know about each of the bikes so put the questions to the manufacturers. Burisch and Cyclotricity have contact email addresses on their website whilst Whoosh has an online form for submitting queries. This helps you judge a few things about them, the speed of their response, their technical knowledge of the products and their willingness to help their customers. Both Cyclotricity and Burisch answered my questions about brake and gearing setups within a couple of hours. Whoosh had not replied after three days so I tried again, a week later I still hadn’t heard back so was forced to remove them from my shortlist. Burisch and Cyclotricity have very small product lines with only three bikes between them, this really allows them to focus on the quality of the individual products much better than companies with larger ranges. I honestly could not choose between them based on their product knowledge or customer support.
Picking between the bikes was equally tricky, they are both great looking machines with carefully selected mechanical and electrical components. The Burisch had a shorter published range with a less detailed power display but slightly higher gearing and a front disc brake. The revolver was better value with a bigger battery but lacked disc brakes or the higher gearing on the Burisch. I had noticed that Cyclotricity had an optional upgrade to the power display for a very nice looking and well featured LCD Dashboard. It was very hard to decide so I went back to emailing the manufacturers. namely to figure out if the Burisch could be ridden in throttle only mode and if it was possible to spec the Revolver with disc brakes.
The replies came back, the Burisch can be operated in throttle only mode but is restricted to a depressing 6kph (4mph). Cyclotricity advised that the Revolver can not accept disc brakes without substantial modification, given that I wanted to add the LCD dashboard the price difference between the revolver and their higher end Stealth model would be pretty small and perhaps I would consider the stealth instead. I had initially written off the stealth simply because I could not find a single online review about it. After some closer scrutiny I really liked what I saw. The Stealth is stylish, not overtly shouting about it’s electric credentials, comes with dual disc brakes and features the fancy LCD dashboard. I think I had a decision made… the lack of reviews was a little troubling so I decided I wanted to see one myself in person before I finally opened my wallet.
Cyclotricity aren’t based in London so I found a local dealer who stocked them and popped along to their store for a closer look. After a long and healthy oggling and lots of questions about it I actually bought it, there and then.
The Cyclotricity Stealth
Before we get into the bike itself I want to walk through the manufacturers specification and how it stacks up against my own experiences. I have listed the specifications section from the Cyclotricity website. For clarity’s sake the marketing blurb is in black, and my observations are in green.
- 250W brushless front hub motor (reaches maximum speed allowed by UK/EU regulation, i.e. 15.5mph)
- Motor works well, easily reaches the maximum speed limit.
- LCD dashboard showing power output, Speed, Time, Distance etc.
- They forgot to mention that it’s backlit! A very clear and easy to read display which includes the power assist controls.
- Thumb throttle
- It’s a throttle… for the thumb, very simple to use, fairly comfortable in extended rides.
- 3 power modes: (1)Throttle only, (2)pedals only or (3)Pedal Assistance System (PAS, a combination of motor and pedaling)
- All 3 work well, discussed in detail later in the review
- Fitted with mechanical alloy disc brakes. Electric brake levers cut the power when applied.
- The disc brakes are good quality and provide very nice stopping power in most weathers.
- 36V/9Ah Lithium-ion bottle shaped battery (20-35 miles range between charges depending on terrain, weight of cyclists, frequent use of PAS, frequency of stops/starts, air pressure in tyres etc.)
- Very practical battery, easily removable for charging. Provides several days between charges for my 8-12 km daily commute. lasts longest in PAS mode 1.
- Charger: UK plug charger with LED indicating level of charge (battery should be fully charged within 5 hours)
- The charger is rather large so not easy to carry it everywhere with you. Otherwise it works exactly as expected.
- Frame size: 17″ or 20″ Alloy 6061 frame
- Without the battery the frame is very light rivaling many ordinary mountain bikes.
- Suspension: ZOOM alloy
- Front suspension only, good at soaking up bumps and small potholes.
- Gears: 21 speed Shimano derailleur
- Uses a 14-28 tooth screw on freewheel, typical set up for mountain bikes, good quality parts used.
- Rims: 26″ Alloy double walled
- When checked the wheels were perfectly trued, also worth mentioning the supplied tyres are very suitable for road commuting conditions.
- Saddle: PVC leather
- Surprisingly Comfortable for a stock saddle, doesn’t tear or soak up rainwater.
- Total weight of e-Bike including battery: 19kg
- Mine when brand new weighed 21.1 Kg including all of the accessories. The weight without the battery was 18 Kg. It doesn’t feel any heavier then an ordinary mountain bike while riding.
And here’s the publicity image along with some photos of my brand new Stealth for comparison. As you can see asides from a very slight difference in the paintwork the delivered bike and fitted accessories look identical to the stock image on the Cyclotricity website. In the accessories case you’d wish that wasn’t the case, but more on that later…
So, What about the bike itself?
When I saw the bike in the shop I was pleasantly surprised. I knew from the pictures online that it was a good looking ebike, but I wasn’t expecting anywhere near the quality of finish that I saw. Asides from the battery there are no obvious clues at all that this is an electric bike. From a distance even that wouldn’t be obvious as it’s light grey coating blends harmlessly into the background. The motor is compact enough that it is almost completely hidden by the front brake disc and the cabling is very cleverly routed along the frame so as to make it virtually invisible. The LCD dashboard simply looks like an ordinary speedometer and the controller box sits so neatly behind the seatpost that you don’t notice it is even there. The frame itself is very well made with clean and smooth welds and flawless paintwork. I did notice that the colour blocks differ slightly from the website images, I assume that the design has been revised as the new locations of the black patches actually helps to further draw your eye away from the electric components. Both of the other Stealth bikes I have seen in person have the same paintwork as my own so it doesn’t look like it is a randomized design.
Ignoring the ebike credentials for a moment the Stealth is very nice to ride as an ordinary bicycle. Fresh from the shop I found the gears and brakes needed some very slight adjustment but after the usual “new-bike” tweaking to make everything just-so I found it to be just as easy and pleasant to ride as any conventional mountain bike. Without the battery attached it is of comparable weight to many mountain bikes and thanks to the clever frame design it is the same length as an ordinary bike giving you the same turning characteristics. The 160mm disc brakes needed some adjustment when I got the bike but once aligned and calibrated they prove to be effective and usable in all weather conditions. The gears also needed some marginal tweaking to get all of the changes to happen smoothly but this should be expected with all new bikes. Once sorted the gearing proved ideal for use in city and town conditions and although I’m not generally a fan of twist shifters these seem to work well without any issues. I did find that the rubber grips on the handlebars were very hard at first and uncomfortable to use for long journeys but with a little wear these have become much more bearable though I do tend to wear gloves when using the stealth. I found the pedals to be completely fine even in extended use and the saddle was a great surprise as it was very supportive and comfortable even in long duration bike rides.
Now for the gadgets! For those evenings after a long day in the office there really is nothing nicer than coasting all of the way home on the throttle. The Stealth can be used in a few different ways, all managed by the large LCD dashboard display. It’s worth mentioning that despite it not appearing in any of the Cyclotricity literature, the LCD also has a very bright backlight which makes it appear absolutely pin sharp and clear in all lighting conditions, just press and hold the ‘up’ button for a few seconds). First off, you have Pedal Assist which essentially uses a sensor to see how quickly you are turning the pedals and then adds some extra power with the electric motor. How much power it adds is up to you as there are 5 different levels to choose with the up and down buttons on the dashboard this couldn’t be easier. You can also use the thumb throttle instead which allows you to accelerate and hold your speed without the need to pedal at all, this can be done by putting the pedal assist to level 1 and then pushing down on the thumb throttle between the right hand gear shifter and the brake. I found that the unusual thumb position felt rather awkward and started to ache a lot after about an hour on the bike. Thankfully you can loosen the throttle assembly slightly with an allen key and then rotate it to a more comfortable position. Since doing that I’ve had no thumb ache at all. The two other modes available are the walker mode and unpowered. Walker allows you to walk alongside the bicycle at up to 4mph with the bike motor pulling itself along, I didn’t think I’d find any uses for this initially but it has come in handy when carrying home heavy shopping on the handlbars. To use this mode you have to keep the button held down however. Unpowered mode is very straightforwards to use, you simply set the power assist level to 0 and cycle the bike as you usually would. The motor will no longer come on when you pedal or push the throttle but the dashboard will still continue to show your speed and other time / distance information. For another way into un-powered mode of course you can simply turn it off with the main power switch… this gives you the advantage of not having to carry the weight of the battery around with you too though means your speed, distance and ride times are not recorded. I find that I spend around 99% of the time in throttle only mode with power assist set to level 1. Setting it higher can cause issues when you are moving at slow speeds as once you start turning the pedals the motor has a tendancy to pull away sharply which can be embarrassing if you aren’t paying attention.
It’s when you take a close look at the accessories then you start seeing a few cost-savings creeping in. The supplied mudguards were terrible, designed in such a way that during wet weather they channeled all of the water kicked up by your back wheel, directly into your shoes and spray from the front wheel was flicked straight into your face, no amount of adjustment would get them to work effectively and it’s clear from the material and the styling that these additional extras were very, very cheap. I replaced the mudguards on my bike almost immediately upon getting it and would suspect that other owners will want to do the same. In addition to this the reflectors and bell also had something of the “bargain bin” feel to them and have all been replaced with better ones as well. In replacing these parts and adding new lights one small flaw became apparent with the handlebars as well… Due to the large size of the LCD dashboard and the positioning of the thumb throttle there isn’t a lot of space left for cycle computers and front lights. Thankfully I found this was easy to get around.
My Own Mods and Add Ons
Given my own cycling style and the usual London commuter issues I’ve added a few things to my bike since I’ve owned it. Most of these are upgrades to the original accessories. The reflectors have been replaced with a 0.5 Watt high power rear light and a smaller, higher quality reflector up front. Both mudguards have been replaced and the bell removed in favour of an AirZound compressed air-horn. As you can see from the picture I had to use a handlebar extender to get around the space issue on the front handlebar but this solution allows me to fit two high powered front headlights as well as an HD video camera to help with any potential insurance claims. As an added bonus of moving the lights onto the bar extender there is now room for a scosche iPhone bike mount which allows me to use my phone’s built in GPS for route and distance tracking. There is also a high powered back light and a rear facing SD camera but they have all been conventionally mounted so I haven’t included a picture. I became aware quite quickly that my headlights lacked good side visibility so I have also added some LED bar stoppers and LED Bar Ends so make the bike really stand out from the sides.
I appreciate that my own gadget and “shiny thing” penchant isn’t shared by all so for your average owner I can’t see any additional expense being added beyond replacing the mudguards. All the other supplied components are perfectly serviceable and swapping them for higher quality parts is more down to your own personal preference and comfort. The tires are worth a mention as I am still after 6 months running on the original ones which came with the bike. They have been on the whole, excellent in day to day use and have not had any problems with the recent weather being ridden in the pouring rain, heavy snow and even in the dry.
Thanks to the fairly low weight and the low down position of the battery this feels exactly like a conventional bike when riding. The 160mm disc brakes have plenty of stopping power and have so far dealt well with anything the London commute has thrown at them. Buses veering across lanes without warning, pedestrians stepping out without looking, etc… They do suffer slightly in very cold weather where braking becomes a little softer but require only very slight adjustments to correct. The suspension is on the soft side but does well to soak up small bumps like potholes and drain covers, as I live on a cobbled street, the softness could just be down to the excessive wear and tear the road surface causes. The 21 gears area very much standard for town and mountain bikes with a 7 speed 14-28 rear cassette This allows you to comfortably get to around 20 mph with a normal cadence. I would have preferred some higher gearing personally to allow for higher speeds but am reminded that speed was never the main reason for buying a bike of this type. Unpowered I have managed to get it to 30mph once or twice but really can’t recommend doing that as the gear ratios make it very tiring and frankly when you are pedaling that fast, you look incredibly silly.
When using the bike as intended it really does shine however, the limited gears make sure that your own pedaling speeds are never much higher than the maximum provided by the motor, this allows you to provide as much (or as little) pedal assistance as you like in a very relaxed and comfortable way. With the motor at its top speed (15 mph) you can easily switch up to the highest gear and add an extra 5mph without needing to radically adjust the amount of effort you are putting in. The motor itself is surprisingly powerful considering the limitations imposed on it by EU law. I have been frequently impressed with the amount of torque it produces and it really flies away from the traffic lights when you assist from a standstill. It is particularly effective when accelerating from 10-15mph. Additional although many of the ebike manufacturers (cyclotricity included) state that these 250watt bafang motors are silent, they definitely aren’t. The motor makes a gentle whirring sound at top speed which is barely audible, during acceleration you can hear the motor spinning up and the pitch changes depending on speed. The noise it makes is hard to describe as it isn’t an intrusive sound at all, it’s vaguely similar to the sound tube trains make when leaving a station but obviously much, much, quieter. Rather than being a distraction I’m rather fond of the sound the motor makes, it is somehow an inexplicably satisfying noise.
As you would expect the acceleration ability drops very noticeably when the battery is below half charge, as the power levels run down the battery’s ability to provide the voltage the motor needs – is reduced. This means that you need to be a little more gentle with the throttle when your power is running low but a little care and attention as to how hard you accelerate can usually nurse the bike along for several extra miles. Another thing which can affect the battery’s ability to deliver enough juice is temperature. It becomes quite noticeably slower to accelerate and struggles to hit top speeds in the freezing cold. This is down to the way the chemistry within the battery physically stores and releases energy so there isn’t any workaround for it. Conversely on very warm days acceleration seems sharper and the range improves slightly. Something not mentioned in the literature is another affect the cold can have on these batteries, if they are allowed to freeze there is the potential for ice crystals to break apart the chemical bonds within the cells. As such the battery should not be left on the bike for extended periods when the temperatures are below freezing. This doesn’t really pose any problems as you only need to disconnect the power cable and detaches from the frame with the provided key… the removable battery is also a great benefit when you don’t have access to electricity where your bike is stored like a garage or a shed.
I have extensively tested the Stealth over the last six months and carefully recorded the ranges it has managed using different settings. To give a little background these tests were done over the same 65km route around London during light weekend traffic so feature a mixture of open roads, traffic lights and queues.The weather conditions did vary a little but for the most part these ranges should be representative of what people will get when starting from a completely full charge.
Pedal Assist Level 2: 60km / 37m (completed before battery drained)
Pedal Assist Level 5: 25km / 15m (completed before battery drained)
Throttle Only: 55km / 34m completed (before battery drained)
I was quite surprised at how well the throttle only mode managed to do considering that most of the ride I was at full throttle. My guess would be that the motor is using the most power when accelerating and is using fairly little when maintaining a constant speed. If I was a little gentler on the throttle it may even have bettered the PAS mode 1 range. Something I hope to test when/if the weather improves.
Owning the Stealth has not been a completely problem free experience however. There have been a couple of components which haven’t lasted as long as I would have expected them too and have needed to be replaced. Even though 1000 kilometers of riding places a lot of wear and tear on some of the parts, I wouldn’t have expected quite so many things to need replacing so soon and suspect if a slightly higher specification was used (particularly for the brakes) there wouldn’t have been quite so many issues. Both disc brakes have been replaced (one of them in its entirety) and the main controller needed to be swapped after just a couple of weeks as it stopped pairing with the dashboard.
All of these issues have been superbly dealt with under warrantee by Cyclotricity. The failed parts swapped quickly for brand new ones and clear instructions provided for their replacement. Cyclotricity’s support has also been great in helping me to select upgraded parts to replace the previously worn out ones such as adding a 180mm front disc brake and due to the previous issues also extended the warrantee an additional 12 months for my troubles.
Overall I am very pleased with the bike and the customer service from the manufacturer. When asked if i could recommend this bike to others I would have to say yes. It has fulfilled its role wonderfully and after some 1200 kilometers still feels great to ride to the office for a low effort and completely unstressed commute. It’s perhaps quite telling that I have not used my Oyster card once to commute to the office since getting the bike in September 2012…
Can I recommend it? Yes, Whole-Heartedly!
If you have any comments of questions please feel free to leave them in the comments section below. I’m more than happy to help answer any queries.