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It’s fast. It’s quiet. It goes as good as it looks. And it’s not cheap. But the Vintage Electric Roadster ebike is one of those axiom-proving products that does indeed live up to the hype, proving once again that you do indeed sometimes get what you pay for.
In a year filled with electric bikes, the $6,995 Roadster was a treat, especially for this motorcycle rider. Yes, it’s technically an electric bicycle, and you can even pedal it with some efficacy, but the real magic comes when you roll on the power from the big electric motor in the hub, and effortlessly glide forward in almost complete silence. I put more than a few miles on this unique machine.
Tech and Design
Rarely have I come across an electric bike with this level of chops in terms of style and power. It’s usually one or the other, but the Roadster’s board-track racer design is as easy on the eyes as anything out there. Attention to detail is at the level you usually only see with custom-made gear, and Vintage really hasn’t missed a trick, with the curving, gas-tankish frame rails, leather seat and grips, and both satin and shine-finished metal bits. The paint is excellent as well, with a subtle sparkle under sunlight. Even the pedals, chain and sprockets glisten. A nicely framed backlit LCD panel on the left grip relays the vitals, including speed, charge level and output level.
The “V-Twin” lump bolted to the lower frame rails holds the massive 48-volt 1,123 watt-hour battery, which Vintage claims is good for 40 to 75 miles depending on how much juice the thumb throttle on the right handlebar is sending to the rear hub motor, which is rated for 750 watts of power in “normal” mode and a massive 3,000 watts in “race mode.” More on that in a bit. Hydraulic disc brakes front and rear capably slow the 86-pound machine, and the rear motor does send power back to the battery under braking. Up front, a large motorcycle-style LED headlight completes the look while a bright red multi-LED tail light rides just below the seat for safety’s sake. Overall, the Roadster looks uncluttered and purposeful, as well as elegant and fun.
I knew going into the deal what the Roadster really is: essentially a very stylish urban electric motorcycle. Other “high-powered” electric bicycles I’ve had in for review had pedal-powered drivetrains that were borderline ridiculous, simply along for the ride and the “ebike” designation or perhaps a DOT standards dodge (not a new idea). Yes, the Roadster has pedals and sprockets, but I assumed these would be perfunctory and borderline useless. I was pleasantly surprised to find the Roadster was actually quite comfortable to pedal with the power set to Off or to “zero,” and was even more capable when in assist mode. I actually pedaled it… quite a bit. It was fun, and the considerable weight of the bike is not readily apparent while pedaling in the flat. I didn’t pedal up any large hills without assist on, of course, but I don’t think that’s out of it’s purview with the reserve of power on hand. But it was enjoyable to just roll around the neighborhood with power set to 1 or 2 – or even zero.
Ratcheting up the assist and plugging in the “race mode” key I was given changes things, of course. At full gallop, the Roadster assumes a much more motorcycle-ish comport, but here as well, the experience was unique and surprising. Yes, given room to run, it goes as fast as advertised (36mph), and at those speeds the pedals are simply footrests. But at what is a very rapid clip on a bicycle, the Roadster is composed and notably quiet. As in, nearly silent. A slight whirrrr escapes the gearless hub motor as it works at full tilt, but otherwise, wind noise in your helmet is by far the loudest sound. At more legal speeds, say 20 to 25 mph, the ride is remarkably silent. Board-track style Schwalbe Fat Frank tires certainly help keep the noise down with their vintage linear tread pattern, but the bike itself is also free from creaks, derailleur clacks or other noises as its whisks down the road. Handling is fairly neutral and the front upside-down MRP triple-clamp fork nicely smooths out smaller road imperfections. The low, wide bars give a bit of a racer crouch to your posture, but it’s not overkill or uncomfortable. It’s a joy to ride at any speed.
Anyone ponying up seven large for a bicycle with one gear and a giant battery knows what they are getting into (except maybe Simon Cowell), so the velocity and capabilities of the Vintage Electric Roadster should come as no surprise. I’m beginning to see many ebike makers produce bikes that are “compliant” with several ebike power output standards via onboard electronic controls; how long the world’s bureaucracies put up with that approach remains to be seen, but hey, so far so good. Is the Vintage Electric Roadster an electric motorcycle? It can outrun some 49cc scooters in the flat, so it’s arguable. But anyone buying this instead of a scooter needs to understand that flaying a Roadster at full power all the time isn’t going to end well, it’s just not that kind of animal. This is a stylish city cruiser first, and a speed demon second.
Riders can use the Roadster to commute to work – if we ever start doing that again – and use it as an electric errand runner (I certainly did). Ride it in traffic? It lacks turn signals, mirrors, a brake light and a horn, so only the foolish will try that. But zip down a bike lane? It has the power, brakes and handling to safely go the distance in most cities, and at a good clip, obviously, so it can easily transition from traffic to bike boulevard if need be. How much the local gendarme and municipal authorities are going to pay attention to someone exceeding 20mph in a bike lane remains to be seen, and riders should always consider their safety and that of those around them when piloting such a powerful machine through urban infrastructure. The Vintage Electric Roadster is a fun, capable and exciting mount that I enjoyed riding, whether it was around the neighborhood on pedal power or down the bike lane on a major surface street to get to my day job. Expensive, yes. But the exceptional fit, finish and style quotient, combined with stout performance and range, make it unique in its class. It’s worth it.
Vintage Electric Roadster ebike: MSRP and as tested: $6,995
• Power, grace and style
• Nearly silent operation
• Long range
• Pedals that actually work
• Top level build quality, materials and finish
• LED headlight needs to be brighter
• LED tail light should include brake light function
• Needs a front fender option
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