Making the transition to a car-free or car-light household can be daunting. I experienced something to this effect a few months ago when my family of four went from two cars to one. It’s not as if we went out of our way to drive each vehicle every day, but there were circumstances in which having two vehicles made sense. Between kids, errands, my husband or I traveling out of state and daily life, there seemed to be plenty of reasons to hang on to the second car, until we realized we didn’t actually drive it all that much. So, we sold it; but in so doing, opened ourselves up to the realization that the multitude of small around town tasks still needed to be done with or without the car.
Since bringing the e-Edgerunner home I’m more prone to inviting one or both the kids along on my routine, not worried whether or not I’ll be able to make it home with upwards of 100 pounds worth of children and groceries stowed on the back of the bike.
What I wanted was a car replacer; a bike that would give me the confidence to load up two kids, ride to the grocery store, library, music practice or anywhere else our daily adventures take us without feeling like I missed our old car.
The Xtracycle Edgerunner Electric Family Bike 27D is that bike. First released in 2012, the hub-motor, pedal-assist Edgerunner longtail was the tip of the iceberg for the California company’s venture into the e-bike world. Xtracycle’s view of marrying the two realms makes sense: “We see cargo and electric becoming inseparable in the coming years.” I agree; electric assist makes an otherwise heavy bike, that might otherwise break your spirit, more approachable.
Since bringing the e-Edgerunner home I’m more prone to inviting one or both the kids along on my routine, not worried whether or not I’ll be able to make it home with upwards of 100 pounds worth of children and groceries stowed on the back of the bike. Having the pedal assist makes my treks seem achievable. Don’t let the pedal assist deceive you though; it does take some muscle and pedal power, depending on bike loads and the terrain.
The e-Edgerunner has a PL-350 BionX system with a 350-watt rear hub motor. There are four modes for pedal assist: One being minimal assist and four being the most. I only used levels three and four, but I always had at least one kid or multiple heavy-ish items on the back. The motor has enough power to quickly accelerate, which is the big hurdle for most people, as starting from a dead stop with 50 pounds or more on the back of your bike is a challenge. Once you get going, getting the bike up to and maintaining 20 mph is pretty easy if you’re pedaling at a steady cadence. You can also take it easy and maintain a cruising speed of 12-15 mph with minimal effort. It takes about three hours to fully charge the battery and assist cuts out at a top speed of 20mph.
The e-Edgerunner dispatches hills with ease and while that’s not a problem for some, it’s certainly was a benefit I had to adjust to. Going downhill I had a few moments where I was doing 24 mph and didn’t realize it, a prime opportunity to use the Bionx PL-350’s regenerative braking!
What is regenerative braking? It works in one of two ways; either switched on via a the brake lever, or set as a “drag brake” with the motor control panel. When using the hydraulic disc brakes, the hub motor switches to generator mode collecting what would otherwise be wasted kinetic energy, generally dissipated through heat and uses that energy to help recharge the battery. In Generate mode the BionX hub runs in generator mode continually, which in turn creates energy that recharges the battery. This is helpful when going down steep hills as it acts as a secondary brake. You can also employ Generate mode to get more of a workout while recharging the battery. It’s great to have regenerative braking, especially if you plan to ride longer distances, given that run time for the motor is somewhere in the vicinity of two hours.
Editor’s note: This review originally appeared in Issue #31 of Bicycle Times. To make sure you never miss a bike review, order a subscription and you’ll be ready for the everyday cycling adventure.
There were certainly times when, fully loaded (80-100 pounds without riders), it took quite a bit to keep the bike in check when stationary. I don’t mean to sound like it was impossible to handle—it wasn’t—but it certainly took some effort. The low standover height afforded by the small rear wheel creates a low center of gravity and allows you to plant your feet firmly on the ground and grasp the bars, keeping the bike upright and ready to roll.
This version of the Edgerunner Family bike comes equipped with cargo bike bags, a Hooptie Bar, U-Tube foot supports and a kickback center stand. The cargo bike bags are great and can hold quite a bit. At full capacity I was able to pack in three days of groceries, for a four-person household and a 16-pound bag of dog food. While the openness of the cargo bags was great in the fair summer months, I could see wanting something a little more weather proof for rain and or snow. Xtracycle offers the X2 bags ($250) with a waterproof flap.
The U-Tube foot bar played double duty as both a platform for all my grocery getting and gave my kids somewhere to plant their feet that was out of the way of the drive train. The Hooptie Bar works as a parental reassurance. Knowing that my seven-year-old is still on the bike without feeling the need to check on him every few minutes was stress-free. Getting in and out of the thing proved challenging to the kids until they realized they weren’t going to break it by crawling all over it. We opted in for the Mini-Magic Carpets, which are bench pads, and cost an additional $20 each. It’s worth it for me to not hear my kids complain about their sit bones.
This bike is meant to replace your car and the price is going to reflect that. The Edgerunner 27D Family Bike (no assist) retails for $2,599. The electric assist BionX PL-350 kit is $2,100, making the total MSRP $4,699. Xtracycle offers a less expensive model, the 24D Electric Family Bike (which has a little less spit and polish: mechanical disc brakes, 24 speeds, less robust headset) for $4,099.
Weight and learning curve aside, I really enjoyed my time on the e-Edgerunner. It performed as advertised, and the peace of mind gained by the extra add-ons helped me focus on commandeering the ‘family truckster’ everywhere I wanted to go.
- Price: $4,699
- Weight: Heavy
- Sizes: S/M (tested), M/L