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The Vintage Electric Roadster – In a class of its own!
Before getting involved in building electric bikes, I used to buy and sell vintage motorcycles. Since I discovered my love of e-bikes, I’ve always had a hankering to build an electric bike based around something from the 70’s. I first became aware of the Vintage Electric Roadster about three years ago, and last year, just by chance I was fortunate to have a ride on one. Here is my review based on the ride and my overall impression.
Vintage Electric were founded in 2013 by Andrew Davidge in Santa Clara, California and have gone on to be one of the most successful and unique electric bike brands out there.
I had wanted to have a go on one of their bikes ever since I first visited their website a few years back, but as I live in the UK and their market is primarily in the US, I never thought for a minute I’d ever get the chance to ride one.
Fortunately, a chance encounter in a remote part of Cornwall changed that. A friend and I were enjoying a sunny, autumnal ride ride on the moors near where I live, we decided to stop off for a quick pint in a nearby pub.
While I was sitting outside enjoying my drink, I noticed a guy go past on a Vintage Electric Roadster. Now bearing in mind this is in the UK, and I’ve never seen one on the road in this country before, so I was kind of hoping the guy would ride back past the pub a little bit later so I could have a closer look and a chat.
Luckily for me he did. He was also pleasantly surprised that I knew so much about the bike and brand, and to my delight said I could take it for a quick spin, which I gladly did, and I have to say that it was a lovely bike to ride.
It’s only when you see one of these in the flesh you can really appreciate the craftsmanship that goes into making it. From the billet aluminium battery housing through to the beautifully crafted frame and upside down forks. Everything about this bike just oozes quality.
This particular bike had the full race mode, and was powered by a powerful 1123 watt hour battery with a Crystalyte rear hub motor.
When I jumped on it, I only rode it for around 3 miles and what surprised me the most was how quiet and smooth the motor was. There was not real ‘kick in the pants’ acceleration, just this very smooth uptake of power that just kept on building.
The riding position was incredibly comfortable and it felt like the kind of bike you could ride for hours on end without any bother. The front forks and big tyres smoothed out the somewhat rough country road, and the bike just felt so planted it was an absolute joy to ride.
Another thing I liked about this bike was the pedal sensor. I used a mixture of pedalling and throttle, but when I pedalled the Thun bottom bracket torque sensor provided very smooth and seamless assist that worked a treat. When I pedalled hard the motor really surged, and as soon as I eased my pedalling force, the motor eased off with me.
Even though my ride was brief, it was a truly unforgettable experience. Read on for a more detailed look at the specification.
The Vintage Electric Roadster uses a high quality Crystalyte direct drive rear hub motor that produces 3000w of peak power (in race mode). Crystalyte motors were used of the famous Stealth Bomber e-bike of a few years back. The great thing about this motor is that it is whisper quiet. I’ve ridden lots of hub motors over the years, but nothing comes close to the smoothness of this.
Power is provided by a 48v 23.4Ah lithium battery pack that is housed (along with the controller) inside a neat billet aluminium case, that has a classy v-twin look complete with fins.
A Thun 116 bottom bracket torque sensor provides the rider with pedal assist when needed. The Roadster is the first electric bike I have ridden with one of these torque sensors and I was suitably impressed with the smooth, responsive nature of the e-assist.
The LCD display is mounted on the left hand side of the handlebar with the e-assist controls easy to operate using your thumb. The display features all the usual things you would expect on a display like battery range indicator, power mode and speed. There is also a thumb throttle by the right hand grip.
As far as battery range is concerned, the owner had said he could get over 75 miles out of a single charge if he didn’t use full power mode a lot and pedalled a bit. That’s a pretty decent range considering the power output of this bike.
All, in all, the electric components on the Roadster should be incredibly reliable. The guy who owned the bike told me he had covered over 2000 miles without any problems whatsoever.
Things have been kept nice and minimal on the Roadster, because there is so much power on tap, a traditional derailleur multi-gear system is not necessary. Important features like braking and suspension have been well catered for with powerful Promax Lucid hydraulic disc brakes front and rear and MRP upside down forks with 60mm of travel.
There is a 40t chainring up front and 16t rear sprocket, meaning that if you’re still pedalling at 20 mph your cadence would be 100 rpm. Thankfully the direct drive hub motor works independently, and the pedals are really just an afterthought to keep the classification of the bike within the law (in the US).
The tough 26 x 50mm wide wheels use oversized stainless steel spokes and are shod in 26 x 2.35″ Schwalbe Fat Frank tyres with kevlar guard to reduce the chances of punctures.
There’s also a few extras added into the mix, like a rear mudguard and a powerful front headlight. The comfortable saddle also has a neatly integrated tail light.
Who is the Vintage Electric Roadster aimed at?
This is a bit of a tricky one, because anything over 750 watts in the US is above the maximum power allowed by Federal law, and in the UK the power limit is a measly 250w. This is, after all a heavy bike and even if it was limited to 250 watts and 15.5mph it would kind of defeat the object.
There is the provision to register bikes like these in the UK and use them in the same way as mopeds, but it would be a very expensive (albeit great fun) alternative.
I think, if you live in California or any of the other States that have a more progressive and relaxed attitude to electric transport, then you won’t have any problems, but in the UK or EU you would need to either have it limited or get it legally registered.
Seeing one of these in the flesh and taking it for a spin was a real pleasure. And I thoroughly enjoyed the ride, but would I buy one?
From my own personal perspective, I’m biased towards e-road bikes and prefer an e-bike that provides an enhanced riding experience, while retaining the look and feel of a regular bike.
For me, the Vintage Electric Roadster is more of a cross between a e-bike and electric motorcycle. The pedals are only really there to satisfy Federal law in the States. Don’t get me wrong though, it really is a great bit of kit and the quality of engineering that has gone into this bike is superb – it really is in a class of its own.
It looks absolutely gorgeous and rides like a dream. It’s a credit to Vintage Electric and I feel privileged to have been fortunate to have had a ride on one.