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Juicy Bike review
Categories: E-bikes

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.

12 Comments to “Juicy Bike review”

  1. […] Sport 2010 review Folks, Thought I'd pop together a review of my new bike. I mainly gave it the thumbs up, and have put together a niggles list that I am sure Bob and co […]

  2. John Mahoney says:

    Very helpful review, I am looking at buying on of their bikes, just wondered how yu are doing with it now as some time has past since youor review.
    Regards John

  3. Jon says:

    Hi John

    Still using it very regularly. Some months after I purchased it, I switched to working from home (and at a local office), and so no longer needed the car. Back in November (2010) I disposed of my car, since the Juicy has been so reliable.

    I did have a problem with the brakes, which turned out to be my inability to adjust them properly! Bob who owns the brand is quite active in the Pedelecs forum (see link above) and gave some excellent advice that sorted the problem.

    I also had the crank sensor break down – a wire split, probably from me going over a curb and impacting on the base of the computer. Bob kindly sent a replacement sensor in the post to me, free of charge – so the after-sales has been excellent. (Unfortunately the same problem has occured again, but it would be unfair to blame that on the bike – I tend to ride fast and hard, and any bike will develop problems under those conditions). I think it has stood up to the abuse I dish out to it very well indeed.

    The bike is also very good in the wet – I have been advised that front-wheel bikes ought to be avoided due to the ‘slipping away’ effect – but I guess opinions will vary on that.

    Note that with my throttle usage, the specified range of my Juicy (2010) is 30 miles, but I would be lucky to get 15, I reckon. However, my usual commute is ten miles round-trip, so it doesn’t affect me. There is a higher capacity battery, but you should be aware that it adds more weight to an already heavy bike – so only go for it if you need it.

    You should book in for a test-drive if you can get to Buxton – the outlet there will let you take the latest Juicy out for an hour if the weather’s good. You may wish to look at Wisper bikes as well, as they are aimed at the same market – though a bit more expensive.

    If you have any questions, do feel free to ask again here, or join the Pedelecs discussion group to get a variety of views.

  4. Nico J says:

    Hi Jon
    It’s more than an year on since your last comments. Are you still happy with the Juicy Bike? I’m thinking of buying on myself.

    • Jon says:

      Hi Nico

      Yes, still happy with it, in the main. I think I have come across one or two quality issues that are associated with its lower price, but I still think it represents good value. Bob at the store has often gone way above a normal customer service effort, and really appears to want to look after his customers.

      A couple of months ago I had a problem with the bottom bracket – the spindle had sheared, though I don’t know how! One local repair shop didn’t want to touch it, since the design of this component on the Juicy is several iterations behind the rest of the MTB industry. However I found another shop and they were able to replace it, with several hours of effort; since the bearings were of a more open design, water ingress had corroded the threads and made it very difficult to remove.

      I’m also having a bit of trouble with the disk brakes, but since they are eminently adjustable, this may be due to cable stretch. Not something the OEM can be blamed for, since they were replaced by a third party.

      The battery capacity has certainly reduced, but that is partly because I use the bike nearly every day, and also it is part of the cost of any electric bike ownership. Whilst the batteries on Juicy bikes are unbranded Chinese units, even fancy Panasonic batteries will wear down (and a new battery for me is £220 instead of around £350).

      Undoubtedly one may get better components with more expensive bikes, but it is worth remembering that any given issues are not necessarily fixed on a dearer model. Would these problems not be encountered on a Wisper or an Oxygen? The short answer is: it is difficult to tell without owning each for a year!

      I see from the Juicy website that they have a new design in the wings. That would be very interesting to look at, I am sure.

  5. […] of electric bike ownership has seen me clock up over 3,000 (mainly commuting) miles. As per my earlier review, I ride a Juicy Sport – the design for which has changed twice since my 2010 model. I’m […]

  6. Jeff Meek says:

    Hi Bob, my black plastic 36v 10a/h.3 pin kettle socket battery is on its last legs. Where can I purchase a new one or is a mod required to upgrade to new battery. Please help. Regards Jeff

  7. Jeff Meek says:

    I have ordered a new battery from the very helpful Juicy Bike team and awaiting delivery from China, approx Jan.2013. I am still getting 10-15 miles on existing black battery and will keep it as a spare. Well pleased with the “Sport”

    • Jon says:

      Glad you are enjoying your Sport. I had a mixed experience with mine, which wasn’t made easier by my being 70 miles from the Juicy base in Buxton. However I know Bob has improved the bike since I bought mine – the cheap and unreliable Zoom mechanical disk brakes are now Tektro ones, I think, so should be much better.

      I now ride an Ave XH-3, and can get a return train ticket to the seller for five quid. Two year guarantee as well, though it’s hardly fair to compare the two machines – the new one costs nearly twice as much!

  8. Pete says:

    I’ve just turned fifty and am a keen cyclist, I ride an Orange Five full suspension mountain bike and live in the Peak District and Jacobs Ladder to Edale is a regular ride for me (slowly though!).
    On saying that I’ve had a hip replacement in 2011 due to too many crashes on motocross and trials motorcycles in my younger years.
    So I thought I’d consider an electric bike for commuting to work to reduce fuel costs and losew some middle aged timber whilst keeping my titanium hip spinning:
    I’ve had a juicy Sport for two weeks now, bought from Eco Republic at their shop in New Mills, Derbyshire.
    I’ve used it to commute to work for a week now, it’s a 24 mile round trip from New Mills to Cheadle. There are a couple of short sharp hills but mostly flat with a couple of moderate gradients.
    I’ve not used the throttle much and vary the power setting using the medium setting on the way to work and maximum on the way back as the return journey is more uphill. The battery has been lasting the full round trip, and coming home I’ve had the lights on too.
    The only modifications I’ve carried out are fitting a set of riser bars and some ergonomic grips and a computer.
    I’m going to fit some SPD pedals as I’ve had them on my MTB for years and find flats far less positive.
    The lights are surprisingly good but I’ve added a front and rear strobe light to supplement them as I find car drivers react better to them than fixed lamps.
    For the money I think it’s an excellent bike and good fun too and find myself using it to nip to the local shop on instead of using the car. I just keep a decent lock in some panniers I’ve bought. (Got then cheap off Ebay, the zips have already broken and I now wish I’d got the ones from Juicy bike, nice looking but more expensive).
    I’ve not needed any after sales service yet but looking at the feedback from others and the excellent service provided when I bought the bike I don’t anticipate any problems whatsoever.
    Get one, they are great.

    • Jon says:

      Happy 50th Pete, for whenever it was! Thanks for your thoughts on the Juicy Sport.

      When I did a feedback session with Juicy, they said they were making some upgrades to some of the components to fix some reliability issues that were cropping up. I think the standard mechanical brakes were to be upgraded from Zoom (awful, in my experience) to well-regarded brand (I forget which; it is not mentioned on their product page).

      Also, the bottom bracket (non-standard length, loose-bearing type) was to be swapped for a standard cartridge. I should be interested to know if these vaunted changes actually happened?

      As I said to Jeff, I had some problems with mine – primarily the bottom bracket and the electrical subsystem. The motor bearings wore out, then a burnt out controller with the new motor, then another major electrical failure just prior to the bike being stolen. This poor run of luck was rather surprising, since the Suzhou Bafang system is generally regarded as pretty reliable.

      If you do need after-sales support from Eco-Republic, your being in the immediate area will make the process much smoother. Getting a bike back to base for any small supplier gets a bit expensive if several visits are required – Juicy are £40 per return delivery, and others are probably dearer still.

      Glad you are enjoying the bike, anyway!

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