The production Sprint is broadly the same as the Forza prototype we tried back in June 2003, so won’t dwell too long on the detail. Beneath the skin there’s a new power controller with larger and better cooled something- or-others, and the charger has been slightly derated to reduce overheating in that department. The headlight has changed too – it’s bigger and altogether sexier- looking, but just as feeble in practice, although a better dynamo works wonders. And in place of the bargain-basement trip computer there’s now a decent Cateye or Sigma. Also standard is a chunky centre stand, a bell, and – nice touch this – a plastic track pump and cable lock.
The seat height was a bit limited on our prototype with saddle adjustment of only 86 – 96cm, but there’s now an optional taller seat pillar, giving a height of 91 – 101cm.This comes at no extra cost, provided it has been ordered with the bike. Rather confusingly, there’s also a bigger frame, to be sold as the ‘20-inch Sprint’, which does much the same as the tall pillar without the option of reselling the bike to a short person.
The Sprint weighs 29.2kg (lighter than all but the Lafree) and the light, rigid frame now comes in a swish dark grey rather than polished alloy, but the efficient motor, nickel-metal hydride battery and suspension remain unchanged.
…we averaged 15.7mph… the fastest we’ve ever seen…
On the negative side, the rear mudguard still rattles, the saddle is big, ugly and not conducive to effective pedalling (we’ve fitted a racing saddle to ours – a great improvement), and the battery gauge and power control systems are a bit odd, of which more below.
The ‘hall-effect’ brushless motor on the Sprint is strikingly efficient. Peak power consumption is only 500 watts, but most of those watts emerge as impressive pulling power, rather than heat. On the open road, with sustained gentle pedalling, the Sprint can easily hit 18mph, and cruise for mile after mile at 16mph, consuming rather less than 250 watts in the process. It has only three hub gears, but the ratios are perfect and the gear range is all you need with such a powerful motor.
Average speed is very impressive. On our hilly range-finding course, we averaged a blistering 16.1mph, making the Sprint easily the fastest electric bike we’ve seen, although at 27.9 miles, range was a little less than we achieved last year. Perhaps that isn’t surprising.
Ezee’s neat little fan-cooled charger gives a full charge in just over four hours, then reverts to a slow trickle charge. It’s worth remembering (and this applies to most chargers of this type) that the trickle charge is around ten times slower than the ‘late for work’ rate. In other words, if the charger cuts off after, say two hours (not uncommon), the battery will only be half full, but a further 25 hours at the slow rate should fill it right up.The only thing to watch is temperature – if the battery begins to get warm, disconnect it.
Thanks to the impressive range, and replacement batteries at a relatively modest £200, the Sprint costs only 6.4p per mile to run – the cheapest NiMH electric bike on the market.
Like most manufacturers, Ezee has become embroiled in the electric bike Euro-farce, sending German-style pedal-sensor machines (pedelecs) to mainland Europe, and hedging their bets with twistgrip throttle plus pedal-sensor for the UK.We’re confident this is legal here, but if the European Parliament says it isn’t, so what? As we understand it, there’s some perfectly good British legislation still on the books that says it is – we didn’t fight wars for this sort of nonsense, jack boots in Whitehall, Magna Carta, etc, etc.
…perfectly good British legislation…we didn’t fight wars for this sort of nonsense…
With some bikes, this pedal-assist / power-on-demand debate is of little relevance, but for the Ezee Sprint, it really matters, because these bikes have a powerful motor controlled in a rather crude way by the pedal sensor. If used in pedelec-mode, the bike won’t help you pull away (awkward on hills), then blasts off on full power after you’ve pedalled for a second or so. As long as you keep the pedals turning, there’s no way of cutting the motor (except by partially applying the brakes) and when you stop pedalling, the power keeps coming for a second or so. It’s less of a problem on long rides in open country, but inefficient, annoying and frankly dangerous, in busy town traffic. Still, that’s a problem for the Germans. UK bikes can be controlled independently with the twistgrip throttle, but the motor still whacks in as soon as you pedal.We’d recommend disconnecting the pedal movement sensor altogether – you may disagree, but don’t buy The one until you’re happy with the Sprint hub controls provided. motor – impressively
With twistgrip control alone, the efficient, but needs Sprint is transformed.You can ride without decent controls power (quite pleasant, if you can live with that dinner-plate saddle), or feed in just the number of watts you want when you want it.You can accelerate smartly out of steep side roads or on to busy roundabouts with full human power to the rear and full bike power to the front, or just troll along without pedalling if that takes your fancy. Freedom, control, safety and economy. ‘Up yours, Delors’, as The Sun might say.
At £850, the Sprint costs more than we’d hoped, but it’s streets ahead of most other bikes in the £800-£900 price bracket.Who in their right mind, for example, would choose a Neanderthal TGA Electrobike or an Easybike, over the Sprint? More serious competition comes from the top-of-the-range Powabyke Commuter at £845, but even here, the tables are just as one-sided – the Commuter has no front suspension, a heavy lead-acid battery, noisy old-tech motor, ten hour charge time, steel frame, no lights, no trip-computer, and so forth… For the same money, the Sprint is lighter, faster, more comfortable, better made and better equipped. In a desperate search for suitable metaphors, we’ll turn to the plains of Africa.The Powabyke is a bit of a hippopotamus – big, heavy, ugly as sin, but good for a few miles once you get it up to a canter.The Sprint is more like the wildebeest – a little classier, undoubtably better looking, and much faster, with impressive acceleration.
An easy choice? Well, not quite, because we’ve yet to mention the Lafree – arguably the gazelle of the electric bicycle world.The Lafree Comfort is £250 more expensive than the Sprint, but the basic model is only £50 more, and it has a track-record of quality, efficiency and reliability that will take some beating. For much the same money, would you choose the light, delicate base-model gazelle or chunkier top-end wildebeest? From what we’ve seen it comes down to sex, or rather, the sex of the purchaser.Women generally fall in love with the gazelle, can be persuaded to ride the wildebeest, but would rather crawl than get acquainted with a hippo. Men tend to vote the other way.
Superficially, the Ezee Rider is identical to the wildebeest (sorry, Sprint), with the same generous component package, but it costs only £690, and the technical spec is cruder and simpler.The neat NiMH battery has been replaced with an old-fashioned lead-acid pack, which is almost twice as large and weighs a back- breaking 13.8kg (slightly more than the Powabyke battery). Obviously an off- the-shelf purchase in China (it’s strangely familiar), the battery pack doesn’t align with the Ezee battery lock, but it’s hard to imagine someone trying to steal it anyway. An additional complication is that the larger battery necessitates a taller and more upright saddle stem, so shorter people may find the 91cm minimum too high.
In place of the Nexus hub gears, the Rider makes do with a 5-speed Shimano SIS derailleur bolted to a cheap and cheerful DC motor, and the rear Nexus roller brake is replaced with a conventional V-brake.This lot pushes the gross bicycle weight up to 37.5kg – 8.3kg more than the Sprint, but a few kilograms lighter than its main competitors.
Most bikes at this price have useless gearing, but the gear range on the Rider is 45″ to 89″, almost identical to the hub-geared Sprint.We’re told that new bikes will be fitted with the Shimano Megarange system, giving an even lower 37″ bottom gear.
With a fresh battery the Rider will bowl along at 18mph on the flat, the motor singing a cheerful rhythm with the pedal strokes in pedelec mode. It’s only really when you come to a hill that the lack of quality begins to show.The cheap derailleur has be used with care to avoid clicks and crunches, and below 10mph the motor’s effectiveness begins to wilt, despite battery-hammering power consumption of around 700 watts.
…you’ll know right away whether this blend of performance and efficiency is for you…
The 45″ bottom gear helps you do your bit, but that’s not the point surely? In practice, an electric bicycle of this kind (we’re including almost everything below £700) would struggle a bit in, say, Devon, or the Lake District, although it would make light work of nagging East Anglian headwinds, provided the hills were of the rolling kind. Shallow gradients are eaten up at impressive speed (often 14mph or more), but the bike will only just climb a 10% gradient on its own, and on steeper hills, the rider has to work increasingly hard.We cleared 14% with some fairly serious effort.
Range is much as you might expect from a large lead-acid battery and relatively inefficient motor. As on the Sprint, the fuel gauge has three LEDs – green meaning OK, occasional yellow means you’re climbing a steep hill (if you hadn’t noticed), continuous yellow means you’ve more or less had it, and red means the motor is about to conk out. In this case, the yellow light came on at 20 miles, with the motor cutting out at 25.6 miles – an average speed of 15.3mph.That’s seven miles less than we achieved with the original Forza last summer, but slightly faster.The range is better than it sounds, because the battery managed several more gentle miles after a rest.These figures are from a UK-spec bike with pedal sensor disconnected. Mileage would be at least 10% less with the sensor in place, although the dangerous aspects don’t apply to the same degree, because the Rider motor cuts in and out in a much ‘softer’ fashion than the Sprint. If you can’t, or don’t want to pedal, the Rider will maintain 15mph+ without pedal-assistance for about 18 miles, provided the country is of the undulating kind.
Fuel consumption is 19.4Wh/mile with charger and other losses included (and a good deal higher with the pedal-sensor system).That’s fairly typical, as is the running cost of 5.8p per mile. A 90% charge takes 71/2 hours, but typical of lead-acid batteries, a full charge takes quite a bit longer at a slower rate, to a total time of 10 to 12 hours.
The Rider is heavier and less efficient than the Sprint or Lafree, but at £690 it slots into a completely different price bracket. Up against such monsters as the Viking, the Oxygen Atala, or the 21-speed Powabyke it emerges unscathed, although the margin is less clear cut, especially against the Powabyke.The Sprint is lighter (but not by much), unarguably faster, and with similar range and running costs. It all comes down to accessories, and in this department the Rider wins without question, offering the same package as its more expensive brother.
These bikes remain relatively untried: our early sample has done something over 1,000 miles, marred by control unit and charger failure early on.These should now be sorted (but bear in mind our general warning about NiMH chargers).You’ll either love or hate the Ezee bikes and you’ll know right away whether this blend of performance and efficiency is for you. Idiosyncrasies aside, we still rate the Sprint second only to the Lafree, and in our book that makes it one of the best electric bikes around.
Ezee Sprint £850 . Weight Bicycle 23.5kg Battery 5.7kg Total 29.2kg (64lb) . Gears Nexus 3- spd hub . Ratios 46″ 62″ 85″ . Batteries NiMH . Capacity 324Wh . Max. Range27.9 miles Full charge 4hrs . Fuel Consumption Pedelec 14.4Wh/mile . Running costs 6.4p per mile
Ezee Rider £690 .Weight Bicycle 23.7kg Battery 13.8kg Total 37.5kg (83lb) . Gears Shimano SIS 5-spd . Ratios 45″ – 89″ . Batteries Lead-acid . Capacity 432Wh . Max. Range Pedelec 27 miles Motor-only 18 miles . Full charge 10-12 hours . Fuel Consumption Pedelec 19.5Wh/mile Motor-only 30Wh/mile . Running costs 5.8p per mile . Manufacturer Shanghai Ezee Kinetic Technology web www.ezeebike.com . UK distributor 50Cycles web www.50cycles.com mail firstname.lastname@example.org tel 020 7794 5508