By Karen Brooks,
Currie Technologies has been building electric-assist bikes for longer than just about anybody in the States under the iZip brand, and it has made great strides in the last few years. I reviewed the iZip Via Rapido for Bicycle Times Issue #13, but the new crop of models better integrate the motor and battery with the bike, rather than combining an off-the-shelf bike with a bolt-on electric motor. Yet they still look and feel like bicycles, not modified scooters. (Just bicycles that allow you to go unnaturally fast.)
eFlow E3 Nitro
Currie introduced a new brand this year, eFlow, that they position as a “rider’s bike,” emphasizing high performance and good handling. I checked out the $4,000 eFlow E3 Nitro, a sleek Euro-looking machine.
Its lithium-ion battery pack is positioned inside the seat tube for optimum balance, and it can be removed easily for recharging.
The 500-watt motor switches between pedal assist mode, with three levels, or power-on-demand mode (also known as Twist-And-Go in other Currie models). Besides selecting power mode and level, the control display shows distance, time, and speed, and it is removable, so that it acts like a key—pretty darn cool.
The Tektro Auriga E-Sub hydraulic disc brakes not only cut power to the motor when applied, they activate a regenerative braking system to recharge the battery, just like with hybrid cars. The seatpost/battery clamp can be locked for security, and it also includes one whimsical touch you don’t often see in the techy world of e-bikes: a bottle opener on the end of the lever.
On the road, this was the smoothest and quietest e-bike I’ve tried; the motor was barely audible even at full throttle. It seemed almost too powerful for someone my weight, yet easily controlled. Yes, it is limited to 20mph, just like all other e-bikes sold in the States. The Europeans get all the cool stuff.
iZIP E3 Ultra and Metro
I saw these two last year at the indoor portion of the show, but they weren’t available for riding, due to a freak rainstorm in the desert.
The $2,600 Metro, with its front basket and rear rack, is particularly appealing—e-bikes are perfect for hauling cargo.
This bike also has a 500-watt motor that can be switched between pedal-assist and power-on-demand modes. The battery is located in the down tube, with a handy port on the side for charging.
Currie got it right in attaching the porteur-style basket to the head tube rather than the fork blades, so that it won’t flop to the side when loaded. Both basket and rack use classy and durable bamboo decks.
The Ultra goes for $2,800 and uses an advanced torque sensor to regulate when and how much the power kicks in, so that the transition is ultra-smooth. It shares the 500-watt motor and mode-switching capability of the Metro, but has 700c wheels for a faster ride. This would make a quick commuter or sporty long-distance bike.
Both bikes have improved balance with their batteries in the down tube, rather than on a rear rack, and felt snappy and confident. Again, a 500-watt motor felt like almost too much power for little ol’ me, but the extra power would be great for larger riders or bigger grocery hauls.