Imagine an electric bicycle with scooter- quality lights. It also has direction indicators, a brake light, full instrumentation, mirrors, and even a radio! The lights work directly off the main battery supply, so there’s no need for a dynamo, while a U-lock and sprung forks are part of the deal too. It comes in a range of bright, cheerful colours and as icing on the cake, costs £70 less than the cheapest Giant Lafree.The Viking is all of these things, but does that make it worth buying? First impressions are certainly good – what with the indicators and massive headlight, plus that fully-equipped dashboard, the Viking looks like a serious commuter machine, not a bicycle with an electric motor tacked on.The first misgiving comes when you learn that drive is by a friction roller directly on the rear tyre.
Regular readers will know that A to B is no fan of friction drives, which either slip in the wet or wear the rear tyre rapidly, or both.The Viking claims to get around this with a twistgrip-device that varies the force with which the roller acts on the tyre – lots of force in wet, slippy conditions, not so much in the dry.This seems to work, and in fact there was no slippage powering up a steep hill on a wet day, and that on the ‘dry’ setting.What you can’t do is lift the roller clear of the tyre altogether, so despite the motor having a freewheel, there’s always some friction to pedal against.
But even though the friction drive works, it still places the heavy motor and twin lead-acid batteries high up, raising the bike’s centre of gravity. As any Giant or Yamaha pedelec owner will tell you, the best place for weight is as low as it can be. So anyone unused to the weight of electric bikes needs to take care when mounting up, especially as the Viking has a substantial crossbar to get your leg over – this is no stepthrough machine.
…save a little more and buy a Giant, or keep five hundred quid in the bank and ride a Thompson…
On the move, once you’ve sorted out the complication of juggling three twistgrip controls (throttle, friction roller and gears) the Viking goes pretty well, surging up steep hills like a Powabyke, though there is a two-second gap between twisting the throttle and power coming in. In the meantime, the instrument set keeps one entertained, with a speedometer, clock, battery condition and current meters. And the radio (complete with tiny speakers set into the mirrors has an autoseek function and actually works quite well (in Banbury, at any rate).
But behind its showroom appeal, the Viking is far from practical.The bicycles bits (Shimano SIS 6-speed derailleur, unbranded 40psi tyres and brakes) look and feel cheap, considering the bike costs almost £800. Luggage options are limited to a small rack on top of the battery box – again, high-mounted weight, not good news.The mountain-style front ‘mudguard’ allows water to spray right up to your chest and the indicators, which look so impressively large, house just a single LED apiece. Be warned: lights of this kind are not up to current European or British standards and should not be relied upon as turn indicators. Traffic is more likely to be alerted by the loud ‘beep’ that accompanies their flashing than that tiny LED.The multi-LED brake/rear light is very effective though.
The makers of the Viking (it’s from China, of course) claim an improbable 50-mile range, but the more honest (or, perhaps, heavier) dealer who lent us the bike said 15-20 miles would be more realistic, making full use of the power. He also pointed out that in six months, he hasn’t had to buy a single spare part, and he has sold plenty of bikes, so the Viking seems reliable at least.
But if you want our opinion (based admittedly on a short ride) then no, the Viking is not worth buying. Despite all the goodies, it feels like a pretty basic electric bike, and at £799, we’re not sure it’s worth £500 more than an entry-level machine. Save a little more and buy yourself a Giant, or keep five hundred quid in the bank and ride a Thompson…
Thanks to F2 Motorcycles tel 01295 712900 for loaning the test bike