First Ride: Haibike Urban Plus

To begin, I will admit to having held onto a bias against e-bikes of any kind. While they intellectually make sense for commuters and cargo haulers, the last thing I want in my life is yet another thing that I have to remember to plug in. I can’t believe I have to charge my watch, my phone, my book library, etc. etc. I am literally running out of outlets in my 70-year-old house that didn’t have very many to begin with.

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At Interbike this year, e-bikes were huge (or, “uge”), meaning unavoidable. They occupied significant square footage at the indoor show and had their own, dedicated test track. With some time to kill on the first day, I decided to take the new Haibike Urban Plus for a spin. Note that this is just an initial look at the bike; I can’t comment on what it’s like to live with one.

First of all, I can actually get behind the aesthetics. It still looks like a bike. Somehow, this thing is one size fits all, and I was plenty comfortable even though I’m on the shorter side (5’4″).

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The bike is powered by a TranzX M25 GTS Drive Unit and will support you up to 28 mph. The Urban Plus also uses a COBI Smart Connect system that powers your cellphone to provide all kinds of ride and navigation data, weather information, music and much more. The downtube-integrated battery can be removed or you can just plug the whole bike in. It takes three hours to charge, after which you will get 40-80 miles of range depending on which of the four assist settings you use.

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Pulling out onto the test track, I hit the unobtrusive, intuitive and well-placed handlebar keypad button to cycle the bike through its four assist modes. The track was flat and I wasn’t carrying any cargo, but even in the lowest assist level, I felt as if I had an intensely strong tailwind. When you cycle through that first pedal stroke, it’s like someone gives your back a big push and keeps on pushing. In short, it feels pretty darn incredible.

In the highest setting (more power!) you actually have to be careful pushing off because the bike just leaps forward. The assist is serious at that level, and I can imagine making light work of even the most loaded commute on this thing.

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The all-aluminum Urban Plus weighs a whopping 56 pounds. When the electric assist isn’t turned on, you absolutely notice. Thankfully, the bike is well-balanced and still stable with the battery off, but I wouldn’t want to run out of charge and end up having to haul all that heft around. I’ve certainly done so on loaded bikepacking trips, but not in town wearing work clothing.

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The Urban Plus build includes Schwalbe Super Moto 2.4-inch tires, fenders, kickstand, rear rack, front and rear lights, an integrated anti-theft system and a Shimano 10-speed drivetrain with Deore brakes. Choose white or black for $3,600.

So, would I buy a pedal-assist urban bicycle? To be honest, yes, I would. I live in a small, compact town that is easily served by a human-powered bicycle and I really do need a car to travel elsewhere. But, I have lived in places where this bike would have served a car-free lifestyle perfectly. Electricity tethers are just facts of modern life, and I think I could probably find one more outlet in my house if I really needed to.

 

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