Review: Orbea’s electrics. Revolution in the head(set)?

For me, this is an unlikely review. I like to feel my cycling; every hill, every bump, every element. I’m fairly certain that I’m not the demographic for an electric bike. But on a visit to Cyclopaedia I was offered the chance to take one for a spin, curiousity kicked in and soon I was whirring my way around side streets.

This particular model is from Basque company Orbea, an outfit with a forward thinking mindset and a reputation for quality machines. Aesthetically the Katu-E looks like the love child of a particularly bohemian shopper and a folder. Its, a modern take on the Butchers bike with an almighty basket on the front and the opportunity and further storage at the rear. All told, the keen urbanite can lug 40 kilos on this little frame, more than enough for most trips to the nearest Co-op. Power is provided initially your legs with assistance provided by a 400Wh Bosch electric motor offering 40-80km of range (depending on where and how the bike is ridden). 20” wheels, disc brakes, Shimano Nexus 8-speed hub and a kick-stand finish the package. This particular model was an attractive matt powder blue, but 8 colours are available and you can mix frame and fork colours to suit your taste,

Starting off, I have to confess that I wasn’t ready for the eerie sensation of a bike adding its own oomph. Three or four revolutions of the cranks and the motor kicked in smoothly and effortlessly. It was impressive and unexpectedly fun. Within a moment or two I was nipping down the road at around 12 mph with only the lightest of touches. It’s a strange sensation and probably the first time I’ve experienced a proper partnership between a person and machine (cycling cyborgs?). The rider genuinely feels enabled by  the technology. A visual display  – around the size of a smart phone – gives speed and range data, ensuring you know just how much juice is in the tank. The bike handled easily, looks pretty good – though this is a subjective area – and offers an awful lot of scope for an awful lot of people. Retailing between £1k and £2k subject to spec, these bikes are a significant investment, but compared to the cost of motoring, a drop in the ocean.

Would I buy one? Not for me. Not currently. But in the future, who knows? Perhaps. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend one however and would love to see some of my less mobile relatives – and therefore wedded to their cars – embrace the idea. Because this is where the appeal of electric truly lies; if you are an occasional cyclist, in need of a little assistance or a city mile-eater regularly running errands, this bike can do a tremendous job for you.  Last year I organised an evening of cycling discussion, with Carlton Reid as keynote speaker. Carlton suggests that the electric bike is an evolutionary stem in cycling. Electrics will break off from mainstream cycling in much the same way as motorbikes a century ago. After experiencing the Katu-E I know exactly what he means. It’s cycling, but different and expands the appeal. That can only be a good thing.

4 replies »

  1. I’m with you – a great substitute for cars, the more the merrier – I’d sooner be overtaken by one of these any day of the week – although it’s hard when your competitive instincts kick-in and you can’t help chasing an e-bike up a hill!

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