I’ve been meaning for some time to review my new electric bicycle, to aid anyone in the UK market. I purchased a Juicy Bike from Eco Republic in Buxton, with the intention of transitioning away from car ownership. I thought I’d bought an Original Sport, but mine has a rear rack and light; however, it doesn’t have the front light of the Sport 2011. I think I might have an experimental model!
The all-important pictures are here.
The first impressions post-purchase were very good, though I should point out I am not an experienced cyclist. Nevertheless, the oversize mountain-bike frame appears to be of a high quality alloy construction, is solidly welded, and has a brushed aluminium-style finish. The 6-speed derailleur gears are from Shimano, and the front suspension forks and disk brakes are all by Zoom. The brake levers are from Apse, the 250W motor is Suzhou Bafang, and the 36V/10Ah battery is (as far as I can tell) unbranded. The units are designed and built in China which, given standard expectations of the region, makes the good quality-to-cost ratio quite surprising.
Thankfully the shop was careful to keep the battery in good condition, and thus it came fully charged and ready to play with. When wheeling it onto the road, the first thing you notice is the weight, all 22kg of it – bear in mind that unpowered mountain bikes are usually in the 12-15kg band. This bike can be used without battery power, but it’s hard work. However, turn the ignition key in the battery, and if all is well, three charge status LEDs on the right-hand bar will glow. Then simply put the bike in first gear, and start riding: the bike responds with strong and exhilarating acceleration, and so is loads of fun over short distances. As the rider moves up the gears, the rate at which the crank is turned reduces, which in turn means less powered assistance. Riders are therefore able to garner extra assistance simply by dropping to lower gears, and those with a major aversion to exercise could easily stick to the first two gears and let the battery take around 75% of the strain.
The bike also offers extra assistance control in the form of a throttle, which is excellent when decisive action is required to combat heavy traffic. This has proved invaluable in particular while traversing roundabouts, and starting off at traffic lights; it’s therefore a pity that European law might put a stop to it. Needless to say, using the throttle to obtain above-average assistance is a heavy drain on the battery. With my riding style – which is admittedly fond of extra oomph – I found that around 20 miles of practical range was more realistic than the 30 quoted by the reseller. I’ve found the brake cutouts useful too – any residual powered assistance can be killed instantly by gently squeezing either brake lever, which provides a satisfying level of extra control.
On my first long journey, of 20 miles round-trip, I ran out of power towards the end. The battery management system in the battery unit did what it was supposed to do – switch the circuitry off – so as to prevent damage to the cells. Unfortunately this turned off the rear light during a night trip, suggesting that separately powered lights are perhaps the way to go. I’ve also adjusted my range expectations; I could buy the 14Ah battery, but the part-ex (not purchase) costs are high (presently half the bike cost again) and I’m certainly not keen to add another kilo of weight to an already heavy bike. I should point out also that the rear two-LED light has no flashing mode, and is not particularly bright; while it’s better than no light at all, I take the view that it is not worth supplying a cheap light if it would need to be replaced by serious users anyway. Better perhaps to spend the money on improving other components?
I wonder also whether the supplied tyres were somewhat low-cost; I’d completed only some 50 miles on the bike before I got a puncture in the back tube. To be fair, it looked like a pinch puncture, and so the inflation pressure may have been too low. But to be on the safe side, I’ve replaced the rear tyre – a Kenda – with a much more solid-looking (and universally recommended) Schwalbe Marathon Plus. Given that the price point of the bike is quite some distance from its (decent) rivals, I’d be inclined to suggest that better tyres should be specified as standard, even if the price is slightly increased as a result.
There are a number of irritations around the battery housing, though they are probably easily rectified. The ignition key in the battery also fits a frame lock to keep the battery from being stolen, but on mine the key sometimes requires several minutes of wiggling before the lock will open. It feels like the key perhaps has not been cut particularly well. That said, there may be no point locking the battery in, since the lock screws inexplicably are exposed even when the battery is in situ, making the lock somewhat redundant! And recently after some 100 miles of riding, it seems that the battery rest plate has shaken off its bolt nuts already, which might not have happened if anti-shake washers had been fitted.
There were some minor scratches on the bike as supplied, which in my excitement to get the bike home I didn’t initially notice. I might touch them up at some point, though I’m not averse to adding a few well-worn scratches myself. But it would be a nice touch to cover the bike in peelable plastic, so pre-sale nicks do not spoil its first appearance. The bike thoughtfully comes with a repair kit and a generic multi-tool; however, the tyre-levers were brittle and snapped on the first go, and the multi-tool didn’t have an 18mm tool suitable for removing the rear-wheel nuts.
Last week, I commuted to work for the first time, with a round-trip of 9.5 miles per day. I’d originally thought the motor would be negated by the heavy weight of the bike, and that a non-trivial journey of this kind would leave the rider hot and perspiring, and thus unsuited to office commuting. But I’m pleased to have been wrong: the journey was good exercise but not exhausting, even though there were some inclines to deal with. That said, having experienced the bike for a month or so, I am now planning to borrow a lightweight unpowered bike to see if not having a motor is offset by a dramatically reduced weight. This just might have something to do with having recently been overtaken by a racing bike, doing a respectable 30mph to my weedy 15…
So, is it recommended? In general, yes – over short distances it’s great fun, and it’s an exciting ride off-road too. It can cope with longer commuting distances too, once the rider gets to know the range limitations. There are some minor quality points that could be improved, but as with all early-adopter products, time must be given for them to mature. The staff at the sole outlet are friendly, and are genuinely enthusiastic about their products.