I’ve always liked to drive fast, but I’m very aware of the consequences. When I was a kid on the ski slopes, I spared myself down the mountain on my slopes and ate more than my share of snow between the lift lines. As an adult who has a more coherent understanding of mortality, I set limits to my madness. I want a motorcycle, but I’m ready to admit that I would kill myself on one.
I had some concerns before testing the Vintage Electric Roadster, an electric bike that scrapes the gray areas of legality with a top speed of nearly 40 mph. But after a couple of weeks of riding, I̵
The Vintage Electric Roadster is unlike any e-bike I’ve ever ridden. Where other mopeds or e-bikes inspired by motorcycles look more like a tank brother driving down Venice Beach, it feels very noble.
It’s also made to be driven more than a few miles. The leather-wrapped handlebars and the comfortable leather seat are cozy and form-fitting and force a classic, forward-leaning riding position. The rear-mounted shock absorbers at the front (which are designed to mimic the look of vintage motorcycles) are, unlike mountain bikes, relatively heavy to compress without speed. Instead, it has large donut hoops to accommodate the smaller bumps.
Then there is the weight. It’s heavy for an e-bike, but light as a feather for a motorcycle or moped. You can get on the pedals BMX style and toss this thing around the corners like you’re on a dirt bike. You can lift the rear wheel up slightly and burn out. You would never try that on a Vespa.
I also like the built-in lights which are bigger and bolder than other e-bikes and provide a cool focal point on the front. The attention to detail is exquisite too. There are two hand-sewn leather wraps on the front bumpers that are designed so that your handlebars never compromise the finish.
Spend a few hundred miles in the e-saddle and discover a hierarchy of stomach ache among “natural” cyclists. Pedal-driven spandex enthusiasts are the least averse to cargo e-bikes. You are tall and you often carry children or food. The onlookers look at you lovingly and think of the gasoline you save as your engine helps you climb a long, steady hill.
Superpowered electric bikes like this one sit on the other end of that spectrum. Even with the hidden key to “race mode” removed – a special stainless steel screw that releases the full 3,000 watts instead of the bike path-approved 750W – someone on their Bianchi is likely to yell at you.
You are not wrong to be crazy. This is not really a bike in the classic sense. While you can kick the Vintage Electric Roadster, you really never do. It’s an 86 pound bike with a single gear and thumb throttle. In two weeks I’ve spent more time turning the pedals backwards than forwards.
This is a Class 2 e-bike, which means you can only ride it on the bike path at less than 20 miles per hour. You must be driving if you exceed this speed (which it is more than capable of) and depending on which state you live in, you will need a motorcycle license. That means that you have to legally remove the racing mode button for trips around town.
Like most people who buy or want to buy this bike, I removed the racing key exactly once. I think it’s safer to keep it on bike lanes and stay within the legal limit of 20 mph because sometimes you need more power with a bike this heavy. (I only accelerated when no one was around.) In any case, it is unlikely that anyone would test the performance of your e-bike.
I quickly realized that it’s not really about driving the roadster around other people. The bike is best on secluded trails and in tree-lined suburbs where you can ride around silently while you do your bestTop gun Impression.
The engine is amazing. It pushes and pushes and pushes. Just when you’re rolling around in a curve and are convinced that it couldn’t possibly go any faster, it laughs in your face and gets you to 35 mph. And yet, it’s not as scary as zooming in to 60 in a Tesla, as the roadster uses a rear hub motor, so power doesn’t come right from scratch. Instead, it builds up at an increasing rate.
If you are afraid of unleashing the full power of the motorcycle engine, you can choose between five different power levels. Like the Race Key, you will likely never change it from the highest setting. Nobody buys a bike so quickly to ride it slowly.
Did I mention that the roadster is silent? Cheaper e-bikes make a sound that is similar to a golf cart. This? Virtually no noise at all. It feels like you are the lightning bolt with wheels instead of legs. When you stop, the rear hub regenerates some power and overall ensures a smoother stop. In an emergency, the huge front disc brake will stop you quickly.
Bundle of joy, mountain of money
I have to mention that the first unit the company sent me had problems with the rear wheel, apparently due to poor handling during shipping. The second unit worked perfectly. And I’m not exaggerating when I say the Vintage Electric Roadster is the most fun I’ve ever had on an electric bike. I drove all over Portland, Oregon and found new and exciting places to relax on beautiful summer days. It was magical.
But it is not free from problems. Securing the thing will lock the stand in the pedals. Plus, the battery isn’t removable, so you’ll need a garage with electricity (and a solid lock) to charge it unless you want to watch him like a hawk while juicing.
Speaking of charging, it takes around 4.5 hours to go from zero to 100 thanks to the quick charger that comes with it. And if you’re wondering about the range, you get a little less than 30 miles per charge driving it like crazy like me. The company claims a range of 75 mph, but that’s only if you drive it like Grandma.
The real problem here is price. The Roadster starts at $ 6,999 ($ 7,144 in race mode, which I would call a must-have). It’s a bespoke bike made from ultra-premium components, but completely out of reach for most people. You can get a very decent real motorcycle for that money, or you can spend a lot less on many other good electric bikes.
You’ll have more fun and look fancier on the roadster, but maybe 2020 isn’t the year you need to flaunt. Instead, take something more practical when you need an electric machine and help someone in need when you can. Right now it seems like those who can afford such an expensive bike should pay for it forward.