Ultra Motors A2B Metro electric bike
Ultra Motors have been considerate with the design of the A2B and rather than just slapping a hub motor and battery into an existing regular bike frame, they've made something altogether more appealing.
With a chunky aluminium frame and the sort of front forks that would be more at home on a motocross bike, there is a heavy dose of motorbike looks about the A2B, from the disc brakes to the 20 x 3.0 Kenda Kraze tyres. When out riding the A2B heads will turn aplenty and rightly so: it's a good looking beast.
Beast is perhaps a little harsh as it's a beautifully comfortable ride. With front and rear suspension and plenty of travel, bumps are eased away as you cruise along suburban byways. You also get a big fat saddle to rest your posterior on, which is supremely comfortable too.
The Avid BB5 disc brakes are also incredibly effective because of those wide tyres, so you can come to some very sharp halts.
But the A2B is all about the power. Slung behind the saddle you'll find the battery and that is quite a beast: 36V of lithium-ion battery which weighs in a 6kg. The battery is detachable so you can take it into your house or office to charge, or charge it in location on the bike. To stop people stealing the battery it also lockable.
On the downtube there is a lock that turns the battery on and off. It has two positions and Ultra Motors told us that an additional battery could be installed in the downtube to extend the life further, although this option won't be available in all markets.
Like a scooter there is a twist "throttle" on the right-hand handle bar grip. Simply twist it towards you and the motor in the hub of the back wheel kicks in and starts propelling you along. It is also reasonably sensitive so you can ease the bike out of a junction slowly, or coast along keeping pace with slow-moving traffic.
It is reasonably fast to kick in, but unlike a motorbike you won't suddenly find the bike flipping out from underneath you, and within 2 minutes you'll have the feel of it. Of course, you can pedal and use the motor at the same time, although you don't have to pedal at any stage if you choose not too.
That's probably not a wise move however. There is a cutout feature so that you can't run the motor and hold the brakes on at the same time, so if you are sitting in the middle of the road waiting to make a turning across traffic – with the brakes on – you might not be able to speed away in a small gap, so we preferred to use pedal power in these situations. Pedalling also gives you a little more direct control when riding up kerbstones and the like.
There is a limiter on the motor that restricts you to about 25kph (15.5mph) on the roads. On the flat you quickly hit this speed where you then cruise along nicely. This is fairly sprightly for an average bicycle, but once you are there, you can pedal as well, so you'll find yourself in top gear adding a little extra. Without too much effort we were averaging about 28kph.
There is also a small thumb switch that changes over to "off road" mode that lifts this restriction to 32kph (20mph). We took the A2B Metro along the Thames towpath where this speed is a little excessive, but it seemed happy to belt along compacted earthy tracks.
Top speed? Well, we knew you would ask. On the flat using a combination of motor (in road mode) and pedals we hit 40kph at which point it started to feel like you were getting a decent workout too.
The pedal drive gives you a standard Shimano Alivio rear derailleur with a 14-34 Shimano 7-speed block. This is a reasonable range, however you will notice the weight of the bike once you start pedalling, especially when you get into those pesky hills.
The performance is actually very good. You probably expect it to dribble along at a miserable pace, but that isn't the case. It will also keep up a good tempo up hills, but obviously the steeper they get, and the heavier you are, the more you will slow down.
Range is estimated to be around 20 miles, but this depends on a great number of factors: terrain, wind, rider weight and how much you stop and start will all have an impact on the battery life. You do get a three-LED indicator of battery life on the handlebars however.
Charging the battery takes about 5 hours to full charge and the fan-cooled charger also features LED indicator so you know when it is good to go.
Ultra Motor also do a range of coordinating accessories and our test bike shown in the images was fitted with a pannier rack. The clip-on pannier was also rather snazzy, perfect for transporting your notebook to the office and back. Close fitting mudguards add a degree of practical protection from spray off the roads too.
It weighs in at 37kg overall, which makes this a heavy bike by any standards and perhaps the only real drawback here. When you do have to pedal it is hard work to keep up with someone on a normal, lighter, bike.
The weight means that if you have to carry it up steps, be it into your flat or house, then you will struggle, so unless you have easy access to where you want to store the bike, then think carefully.
Then there is the price. At £1949 you could get change from a carbon-fibre road bike at a quarter of the weight. But that's not really what this is about. If you wanted a road bike, you'd have bought one. The A2B Metro electric bike is a viable option for those that otherwise probably wouldn't look to two wheels to get to work.
But if you consider the cost of public transport in London within a 20 mile radius of the city centre, then it isn't that expensive (especially as half your charging will be at the expense of your employer…). But it is expensive compared to some other electric bikes which claim similar performance, but lack the exquisite design.
We've had a lot of fun testing the A2B Metro. Being road cyclists ourselves, it's easy to see how electric bikes of this type could encourage people off public transport and onto the road. It looks good, it rides well, and it is oh so much fun.