For big city people, transportation is a sore subject. Walking can only get you so far so fast. Cycling requires a full workout when just trying to get from point A to point B. Worst of all, the underground subways are smelly and crowded. So most of us find ourselves in the latter category, sitting unhappily in crowded urine soaked subway cars playing with our Blackberries to pass the time until we can breathe easy again. In this series I plan to cover subway alternatives, gadgets and gizmos that may empower you to take control of your commute without looking like an alien.
e-Moto Traveler 2.0
Buy link: http://www.sears.com/shc/s/p_10153_12605_00697822000P?keyword=e-moto
Prior experience required: Just have to know how to ride a bike.
Sound-bite explanation: A computerized bicycle that monitors the difficulty of the rider’s pedaling and complements the biker’s strength with a push from an electric drive system when needed. In simple English, the Traveller 2.0 is a normal bicycle that requires the rider to pedal, but gives him/her a little push when the going gets tough (e.g. starting off or going uphill).
Review summary: A mid-range commuter and a hands down subway killer. I got to enjoy the outdoors without breaking a sweat. But best of all, I beat my subway time by about 10-15 minutes!
How it works: Like an illusionist, e-Moto magically hides a power assist system into a normal looking bicycle.
- The system is powered by a 26-volt, 9Ah Lithium Ion Battery Pack that is suspended under the seat. The Lithium Ion battery lightens the bike (it is about a third of the weight of the standard Sealed Lead Acid batteries). The battery also has its own indicator light built in to check the remaining power available (similar to the indicator on a Apple Macbook battery).
- The battery is connected to aVPAC (Variable Pedal Assist Controller) that is tucked behind the pedal gears. The VPAC monitors the amount of force that the rider puts in. If the VPAC detects that the rider is putting in too much force, then it sends the “go” signal to the motor.
- The 250-watt brushless motor is built into the hub of the front wheel. It is completely hidden. Brushless motors have less parts than brush motors, making them less likely to break.
- Lastly, there is a small control pad near the handlebars having a power and control button. When you first power up the default is set to low. On the low setting, the power assist is set to help the rider get to 10 mph. If you push the mode button you can toggle into a high mode, where the pedal assist system will help the rider get to 15mph. In both modes the rider is still pedaling, but he/she gets to decide how far pedaling is going to take him/her.
Range: The website promises a full range of 25 miles on a charge. e-Moto was nice enough to give us a test model for this review, so I tested some ranges myself. My first extended run went from my apartment in the middle of Manhattan down to the bottom of the island and back up the other side–a total of 16.5 miles. At the end of the run, the battery still had 2/5 power bars remaining on the power meter. I repeated similar distances with the same results. Next, I tried shorter ranges on a consistent basis. I took the bike to work for two weeks. My office is 3-4 miles away from my apartment. At first I charged the bike after every 4 mile trip (conservative estimate). But after some testing, I found that I only had to charge the bike every other day. I was able to ride to and from work twice–roughly 16 miles–without having to recharge. It seems that by breaking the distances down into smaller discreet trips, the battery wore down quicker than on an extended trip (25 miles down to 16). I assume that this result is attributable to switching the system on and off four times and power losses during the storage time between trips. Simply, I believe that you could probably get four 6 mile trips in (24 miles) or two 12 mile trips (24 miles) if you tried.
Quality: The e-Moto line of pedal assist bikes are made with an aluminum frame, so you don’t have to worry about getting crushed on the road. On my rides the feel was very sturdy, with the pieces fixed in place.
Weight: The e-Moto Traveller 2.0 weighs 43.2-pounds. In comparison, the typical boy’s mountain bike I had as a kid weighs 43 pounds.
Folding Mechanism: The Traveller 2.0 uses a Dahon folding mechanism. That means that to fold the bike I had to go through a two step process. First, I had to turn the safety knob and unclamp a clasp at the center of the frame. Once disengaged, I was able to swing the front portion of the bike to the back so the back and front wheels were aligned. Second, I had to unhook a lock mechanism under the handle bar. Once unhooked I was able to fold the handlebars down over the tire. In the end, the bike folds into one small package that fit nicely in the corner of my office and the corner in my tiny apartment.
Bike Bag: The problem with an expensive bike is that you don’t feel comfortable chaining it up outside. So if you are using this bike to get to a specific destination you are going to want to make sure you have somewhere to store it. e-Moto makes a bike bag accessory that is perfect for this type of situation. For the two week bike-to-work training period I folded the bike up and fit it into the e-Moto bike bag. The bag has two shorter carrying straps and one over the shoulder strap. While a good idea, the bag fails for three reasons. First, there is absolutely no use for the shorted carrying straps. I am an average height and strength. But, if I tried to carry this large and heavy bike bag with one hand like a duffel bag, then the bike would never get off the ground. Secondly, when using the shoulder strap, there is a lot of weight put on a single shoulder. One day I even noticed marks on my should a few hours later. Plus, when wearing the shoulder strap, the bike parts weigh against your leg as you walk–turning your leg into a bumper for big heavy bike parts to slam into. Thirdly, after the second week of carrying the bike up and down from my office in the bike bag, the bag started to come apart at its seems. All in all, while a good idea, the bike bag was largely a fail.
Stigma: When it comes to gadgets, how I look while using them is fairly important. I don’t want to look like a dork or too forward thinking. I simply want to fit in. That is why the pedal assist bicycle really earns it’s price tag. The e-Moto looks like a normal bike; the computer module is small and hidden behind the gears, the engine is hidden within the wheel hub, and the small battery pack sits underneath the seat. I looked like any other person riding a bicycle.
Subway Killer? This bike is designed for leisurely exertion, like a walk in the park. For a work commute, I think it is perfect. It allowed me to ride to work without sweating up my clothes. The light cardio on my scenic route was a nice way to start and end my day at the office. But better yet, I beat the subway by 10-15 minutes and the bus by about 25 minutes. All around the fastest and most exhilarating commute option.
Price: There is no questions that $1,799 is a lot of money for a bike. But if you are serious about a commuting alternative, the price isn’t very steep. In New York City, the subway costs about $2.50 each way. That is $5 a day in commuting costs. The average person works 5 days a week for 50 weeks. That would require $1,250 for a single year. On the other hand, you could use the bike for more than just getting to work, that you can use it for more than a single year, and that there will be resale value when you are done with it. Overall, if you are serious about an alternative, it is a solid investment.