(Pocket-lint) - Electric bikes seem to have come of age. While Gocycle has been offering its variety of pedal-assisted power for the past decade, the growth in models - from both new brands and established cycling ones - helps cement this branch of cycling.
For Gocycle, offering a folding and technologically advanced electric bike is what the GX is all about. Introduced in 2019 with the first-gen model, the 2020 update version brings a few tweaks, adding some of the elements we saw in the 2019 GXi.
Glance at the first-gen GX (from 2019) and this newer model and you'll be hard pressed to see many differences. That's not a bad thing, because the Gocycle's folding design is already advanced, offering a quick-folding operation that only takes about 10 seconds to go from riding to having you bike ready for storage. "But Gocycle bikes have always been able to fold", you say. That's true, but with the GX, it's a much more immediate and practical folding solution.
While the look of the Gocycle GX is similar to Gocycle bikes all the way back to the original model, it's the big latch and hinge in the middle that makes it different. The enclosed Cleandrive drivechain is still distinctive - and practical, as it hides away the 'dirty bits' to avoid your clothes getting messed up - with that long seatpost and tall steerer for those handlebars, cutting an elegant profile on the road.
It's a compact design, with 20-inch wheels being far smaller than a typical adult bike, but a little bigger than Brompton's 13.7-inch wheels - that being the Gocycle GX's closest folding rival. There's a space-age about the Gocycle, and while the mechanisms for folding do disrupt the lines a little, the advantage over the fixed-frame version easily make a case for themselves.
Let's talk about folding
There hasn't been a huge change in the folding mechanism compared to the 2019 version of this bike. It's centred around a big hinge in the centre of the bike that can effectively fold the bike in half. It just takes a few seconds to lift the latch and then fold the front and back halves of the bike together.
For some, that might be all the folding required, as this means your bike could sit in a hallway cupboard for storage purposes, for example. But there are a couple of other areas that fold, should you need them.
There's the ability to release the steerer and handlebars, folding them down, to then remove the saddle and seat post - which will then sit in the centre of the folded bike and plug into the top of the frame to keep it all secure. Finally, you can fold the pedals flat too, so they don't stick out, making it just a little smaller and so it will lay flat in the boot of your car, for example.
Compared to the 2019 version, there's been some tidying up of the cables internally, so things look neater when the bike is folded. But there hasn't been any change to how it is secured when folded. There's nothing to lock it into the folded position - it's essentially held together by a rubber strap.
This strap really just keeps the halves from heading in the same direction, so when you pick the Gocycle up there are no parts flapping around. A slightly sturdier mechanism to secure the folded bike in one piece wouldn't go amiss. Plus the saddle and seat post runs the risk that we saw before: with repeated removal of the post, you could chip the paintwork around the tube when reinserting it if you're not careful.
With all that said, we still think the GX is a slick folding bike. You can't quite execute those folding wheel flips that you'll see experienced Brompton users pull off, but the Gocycle takes you from a substantial ride to a compact and managable package in no time at all. Using big easy latches helps, with little red indicators on the locking parts, so it's easy to see what you have to do. There's very little learning curve either - after a couple of attempts you'll have it figured out.
One of the great things is that you can leave the saddle in place and use that as a handle to wheel your bike along, which is ideal for when you arrive at the office and have to get to your desk. It means you can wheel the Gocycle half folded rather than carrying it.
Riding, range and connectivity
The design of the Gocycle really puts commuters first. This isn't a bike for touring or for getting fit - it's about getting you where you need to be, without having to worry about taking a change of clothes or going for a shower. The GX is equipped with an electric motor which will swing into action when you start pedaling, or can give you a boost at the press of a small handlebar-positioned button. For us, we mostly ignore the button in favour of just riding and having the bike take up some of the effort for us.
Sitting within the frame is the lithium-ion battery that will give you around 40 miles (65km) of range. That's pedal assistance, as you need to be riding the bike to get the motor to kick in - at which point the motor can assist you at speeds up to 20mph (32kmph), although the bike will be set to the legal limit for the country you're using it in (which for the UK is 15.5mph/25kmph).
There's also a three gear system, using a grip-shift control so you can move up or down to suit the conditions. We tended to stick to the upper two gears, but for some changing to the lowest gear will give an easier boost when pulling away from stops or when climbing hills. And hills are worth a mention, because one of the biggest benefits of an electric bike is that you can have all that assistance to really pull you up a hill, rather than having to work too hard. For us, it meant climbing a local hill without breaking a sweat or having to breathe hard - which is ideal when you're on your way to work.
The bike itself is nice to ride, with a decent upright position. The saddle offers plenty of adjustment for height, but the handlebars are very much fixed in their position. The handlebars are a little narrow and with small wheels you have a slightly twitchy and responsive ride, although that's great for moving the bike through traffic and other tight spots easily enough.
On the GX model there's a digital indicator on the handlebars that shows the charge, with the associated smartphone app able to act as a larger bike computer if you wish. Connecting to the bike via Bluetooth is easy, after which the app will allow you to update the firmware and check on the stats for battery level and your rides. The app will also let you change some settings, such as the level of pedal assitance, for example, to suit your preferences.
We've always found the Gocycle app to be a little raw though. It feels like it could do with a redesign to make it a little more user-friendly, but we suspect that many will fire it up when the bike is new and then only use it sparingly.
Overall, it's the riding that really makes this bike fun. While the GXi models offer automatic gear shifting to remove that line of thought, the Gocycle GX is a simple bike that's easy to ride and well designed for the urban environment. As always, having an encased drivetrain means there's no risk of getting your clothes oily and it means very little maintainance too.
With the number of electric bikes growing, the Gocycle GX has an advantage that's hard to ignore: it's designed commuters, with real practical benefits compared to an adapted conventional bike. Easy folding, respectible range, simplicity in use and the fact that it's easy to mount and won't get your clothing dirty, makes it ideal for someone riding to a meeting or going into the office.
While the Gocycle is fun, there remains some limitations to its appeal outside of casual commuting. It's not a fitness machine or a bike that you're likely to hop on at the weekend to go touring - which is where some of the more conventional designs might appeal more. At the same time, you'll be able to fold up a Gocycle GX and put it in the garage, or the cupboard under the stairs, or in your campervan to provide another option when you're off on holidays - so there are pros and cons.
As a way to get outside more and stay active - without always needing a change of clothes or a shower - the Gocycle has bags of appeal. If you want to avoid public transport or ditch that car commute, then the Gocycle GX makes a lot of sense.
When it comes to folding bikes, you can't escape Brompton's appeal. The Electric model puts a motor in the front hub of the bike with a frame-mounted battery to give you a boost on the roads. The advantage it has is that you can remove the battery and just use it as a traditional Brommie if you want, while still taking advantage of that compact, folding, format.