Categories
Bicycle Cycling London

The Cyclotricity Stealth 250 – 10,000km later

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 ūüôā

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, so expect a review of the Cyclotricity Stealth 1000 Watt soon as well.

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

Categories
Bicycle Cycling London Review Uncategorized

Cycloc Solo Review – Wall mount your Bike

A practical and space efficient way to securely store bicycles in your own home without eating valuable space?

As someone who has owned and ridden bikes in London for well over a decade I’m a whole-hearted subscriber to the “urban cycling” lifestyle. While this has a number of advantages it also comes with some pretty big pitfalls. Ranking highly is the issue of security. A sad fact of our times is that bicycles are seen by thieves as high value items which can be easily stolen and sold on quickly. I live in a modern apartment building which has a “secure cycle storage” room. What this actually boils down to is a rather small locked room with a few woefully inadequate bike stands along the walls to which all of the development residents have a copy of the rather generic key. The first time I saw this room there was a freshly cut cable lock in the corner of the room, not reassuring!

With this in mind I have always preferred to keep my bikes inside my flat away from prying eyes and light fingered miscreants. This does keep them secure and has the advantage that the electric bike has easy access to a power socket, but it does have one or two drawbacks too. The chief of which is that bikes may feel quite compact while you’re riding them but as soon as you get one indoors you quickly become aware that they take up quite a lot of room. Also there’s the British weather… it’s not unheard of for there to be rain in the UK from time to time and so wet and grubby bikes are definitely best kept away from your carpets.
I toyed with keeping them in a spare room or my bathroom when they were wet, and while this did work for a while the practicality was a big issue. Time passed by and while checking out some of the cycle2work options in April 2015 I spotted a product at Halfords which appeared to fit the bill perfectly. A wall mount!

I’ve seen wallmounts before but they have always looked like the kind of products which should be used in sheds or workshops, they are generally very industrial in appearance and largely unsuited to a contemporary living space. The idea of screw mounting a large galvanized steel hook to my walls was not appealing. Certainly not the kind of thing you would want inside your modern freshly decorated home. This new product was completely different from all of the other wall mounting solutions I had seen before.

 

The cycloc solo in its packaging has the appearance of a brightly coloured plastic bucket. It is made from a very strong polypropylene plastic with contoured cutouts to accommodate almost any frame profile with rubber pads to protect the frame from scratches. The solo sits far enough from the wall to allow bikes with handlebars up to 490mm (suitable for 99% of road bikes), but it also includes a spacer which can allow bars up to 600mm wide. Additionally you can use a D-Lock to secure the bike inside the holder.

Given available space in my flat I picked out a spot in my kitchen to fit the cycloc. It’s relatively out of the way and has the advantage of being above a vinyl floor so hanging a wet bike on it wouldn’t cause any problems. Unfortunately before fitting the cycloc solo I encountered 2 problems. Firstly I wanted to fit it right in the center of the wall directly above a mains powered carbon monoxide detector. A quick check with a cable detector showed that the mains and alarm cables run vertically straight up from the alarm and so drilling into the wall above it was not an option. The area right next to the alarm was clear though and had a wooden stud through it which is something cycloc recommends. The second problem was absolutely confounding… although the solo ships with some large looking bolts included, it turns out these are only used to attach the spacer for extended handlebars.

 

This £59.99 product ships WITHOUT any fitting hardware!

 

After re-reading the product literature I found a pack of 10x M8 fixings with cross-headed bolts included on Amazon for > ¬£4. Given that this product retails at ¬£59.99 I found the lack of included fittings completely incomprehensible. I had to wait about 3 days for my amazon delivery to arrive but once it did it was a very straightforwards process. The solo has a template card which you fix to the wall after checking the alignment with a spirit level you drill 3 holes and push the M8 fixings through, then you simply screw the bolts through the 3 holes into the M8 fixings until they are completely solid. To refine the level you can loosen the bolts slightly and adjust the solo by eye before tightening the bolts again. Once you’re happy with it you fit the center section to cover up the bolt holes, it has a cute bicycle logo embossed in it too… and that’s it.

Lifting a road bike into the solo is easy and the added holes for a D-Lock are very welcome although I don’t tend to lock mine given it’s already inside my locked flat. I have also found that the “bucket” allows for storage of smaller items like gloves and lights even with the bike mounted. I have tested it with bikes weighing 12kg, 14kg and 32kg (yes really) and with M8 fixings in a sturdy wall the solo handled all three without any problems… obviously this is 100% dependent on the wall that it is fixed to, but I mention it to demonstrate¬†that the plastic shell itself can take a substantial amount of weight.

Conclusion

The Cycloc Solo fills a useful niche for those people who need indoor bicycle storage but don’t want the industrial lackluster styling of current offerings to compromise their living spaces. The solo does it’s job very well, the colour range is limited at the moment but there are enough options that most people will be able to find something which works for them. The question I’m having a hard time answering is this one… Can I recommend it for ¬£59.99?

 

For the convenience of not having to use the laughable cycling storage in my development it’s certainly handy, but I wasn’t using the storage anyway, I was content to just live with the inconvenience of a slightly cluttered hallway. So while it certainly is a benefit having one fewer bike to navigate around when grabbing the morning coffee, the practicality isn’t the dealbreaker, after all a ¬£12 steel hook would do the same job. It’s the style that mostly sells this product for me, the Cycloc Solo looks slightly peculiar without a bike on it but it doesn’t intrude on the space physically or visually, with a bike on it though it looks superb. It has actually improved the appearance of the long blank wall in my kitchen and is quite a talking point when visitors see it. I have found that it also leads to me taking better care of my bike as having it prominently displayed almost like a piece of art makes you really want to keep it clean.

 

 

My recommendation is a yes, for £59.99 I would indeed say it is worth the cost over traditional wall mounts, but only just. If only Cycloc had included the actual fittings you need to install the Solo then it would be a resounding yes, it is a startling omission from what is otherwise a great piece of kit.

 

For more information about the Cycloc Solo you can check out their website.

Halfords are currently out of stock however PlanetX have a Cycloc range available.

Disclosure: I have no affiliation to Cycloc, Halfords or PlanetX. This review is based entirely on my own experiences with a Cycloc Solo (Orange) I purchased myself from Halfords, there is no monetization on this website and I receive no income from page hits, advertising or reviews.
Categories
Bicycle Cycling London Review

Cycloc Solo – Wall Mounted Bicycle Storage – Review

A practical and space efficient way to securely store bicycles in your own home without eating valuable space?

As someone who has owned and ridden bikes in London for well over a decade I’m a whole-hearted subscriber to the “urban cycling” lifestyle. While this has a number of advantages it also comes with some pretty big pitfalls. Ranking highly is the issue of security. A sad fact of our times is that bicycles are seen by thieves as high value items which can be easily stolen and sold on quickly. I live in a modern apartment building which has a “secure cycle storage” room. What this actually boils down to is a rather small locked room with a few woefully inadequate bike stands along the walls to which all of the development residents have a copy of the rather generic key. The first time I saw this room there was a freshly cut cable lock in the corner of the room, not reassuring!

With this in mind I have always preferred to keep my bikes inside my flat away from prying eyes and light fingered miscreants. This does keep them secure and has the advantage that the electric bike has easy access to a power socket, but it does have one or two drawbacks too. The chief of which is that bikes may feel quite compact while you’re riding them but as soon as you get one indoors you quickly become aware that they take up quite a lot of room. Also there’s the British weather… it’s not unheard of for there to be rain in the UK from time to time and so wet and grubby bikes are definitely best kept away from your carpets.

I toyehalfordswallmountsd with keeping them in a spare room or my bathroom when they were wet, and while this did work for a while the practicality was a big issue. Time passed by and while checking out some of the cycle2work options in April 2015 I spotted a product at Halfords which appeared to fit the bill perfectly. A wall mount!

 

I’ve seen wallmounts before but they have always looked like the kind of products which should be used in sheds or workshops, they are generally very industrial in appearance and largely unsuited to a contemporary living space. The idea of screw mounting a large galvanized steel hook to my walls was not appealing. Certainly not the kind of thing you would want inside your modern freshly decorated home. This new product was completely different from all of the other wall mounting solutions I had seen before.

 

Photo 17-07-2015 14 51 34The cycloc solo in its packaging has the appearance of a brightly coloured plastic bucket. It is made from a very strong polypropylene plastic with contoured cutouts to accommodate almost any frame profile with rubber pads to protect the frame from scratches. The solo sits far enough from the wall to allow bikes with handlebars up to 490mm (suitable for 99% of road bikes), but it also includes a spacer which can allow bars up to 600mm wide. Additionally you can use a D-Lock to secure the bike inside the holder.

Given available space in my flat I picked out a spot in my kitchen to fit the cycloc. It’s relatively out of the way and has the advantage of being above a vinyl floor so hanging a wet bike on it wouldn’t cause any problems. Unfortunately before fitting the cycloc solo I encountered 2 problems. Firstly I wanted to fit it right in the center of the wall directly above a mains powered carbon monoxide detector. A quick check with a cable detector showed that the mains and alarm cables run vertically straight up from the alarm and so drilling into the wall above it was not an option. The area right next to the alarm was clear though and had a wooden stud through it which is something cycloc recommends. The second problem was absolutely confounding… although the solo ships with some large looking bolts included, it turns out these are only used to attach the spacer for extended handlebars.

This £59.99 product ships WITHOUT any fitting hardware!

After re-reading the product literature I found a pack of 10x M8 fixings with cross-headed bolts included on Amazon for > ¬£4. Given that this product retails at ¬£59.99 I found the lack of included fittings completely incomprehensible. I had to wait about 3 days for my amazon delivery to arrive but once it did it was a very straightforwards process. The solo has a template card which you fix to the wall after checking the alignment with a spirit level you drill 3 holes and push the M8 fixings through, then you simply screw the bolts through the 3 holes into the M8 fixings until they are completely solid. To refine the level you can loosen the bolts slightly and adjust the solo by eye before tightening the bolts again. Once you’re happy with it you fit the center section to cover up the bolt holes, it has a cute bicycle logo embossed in it too… and that’s it.

Lifting a road bike into the solo is easy and the added holes for a D-Lock are very welcome although I don’t tend to lock mine given it’s already inside my locked flat. I have also found that the “bucket” allows for storage of smaller items like gloves and lights even with the bike mounted. I have tested it with bikes weighing 12kg, 14kg and 32kg (yes really) and with M8 fixings in a sturdy wall the solo handled all three without any problems… obviously this is 100% dependent on the wall that it is fixed to but I mention it to indicate that the plastic shell itself can certainly take a substantial amount of weight.

Conclusion

The Cycloc Solo fills a useful niche for those people who need indoor bicycle storage but don’t want the industrial lackluster styling of current offerings to compromise their living spaces. The solo does it’s job very well, the colour range is limited at the moment but there are enough options that most people will be able to find something which works for them. The question I’m having a hard time answering is this one… Can I recommend it for ¬£59.99?

Photo 18-07-2015 09 22 31

For the convenience of not having to use the laughable cycling storage in my development it’s certainly handy, but I wasn’t using the storage anyway, I was content to just live with the inconvenience of a slightly cluttered hallway. So while it certainly is a benefit having one fewer bike to navigate around when grabbing the morning coffee, the practicality isn’t the dealbreaker, after all a ¬£12 steel hook would do the same job. It’s the style that mostly sells this product for me, the Cycloc Solo looks slightly peculiar without a bike on it but it doesn’t intrude on the space physically or visually, with a bike on it though it looks superb. It has actually improved the appearance of the long blank wall in my kitchen and is quite a talking point when visitors see it. I have found that it also leads to me taking better care of my bike as having it prominently displayed almost like a piece of art makes you really want to keep it clean.

Photo 20-06-2015 22 21 33

My recommendation is a yes, for £59.99 I would indeed say it is worth the cost over traditional wall mounts, but only just. If only Cycloc had included the actual fittings you need to install the Solo then it would be a resounding yes, it is a startling omission from what is otherwise a great piece of kit.

 

For more information about the Cycloc Solo you can check out their website.

Halfords are currently out of stock however PlanetX have a Cycloc range available.

Disclosure: I have no affiliation to Cycloc, Halfords or PlanetX. This review is based entirely on my own experiences with a Cycloc Solo (Orange) I purchased myself from Halfords, there is no monetization on this website and I receive no income from page hits, advertising or reviews.
Categories
Bicycle Cycling Everything Review Uncategorized

The Cyclotricity Stealth electric bicycle – 1000km later…

Hi Everyone,

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…

DSC00185I’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 Р£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 Р£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

 £1500+

  • 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.

[quote]

Specifications:

  • 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‚Ä≥¬†or 20‚Ä≥ 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‚Ä≥ 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.

[/quote]

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…

stealth-250w-9ah  261FE9ED-8A93-4E46-847D-EF0A2FCA0BC9  7921262500_9c34926717_o

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.

8022968160_a236856348_oNow 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

8477807617_60e04aea92_hGiven 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.

 

Performance…

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.

runkeeper

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.

The Range…

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.

Photo 11-06-2015 14 28 21 Pedal Assist Mode 1: 65km / 40m (whole route completed in a single 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.

 

Gallery…

 

Tech Problems…

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.

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Cyclotricity Stealth – ebike review

Please note this review has been updated substantially from the original. The first review covered just 5 weeks of ownership. Please see the new and much more extensive review after 6 months and 1000 kilometers with the Cyclotricity stealth.

The Full Review – Cyclotricity Stealth eBike – 6 months and 1000km later

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