(Pocket-lint) - We first saw the Gocycle at the London Cycle Show and we've been living with one to see how the electric bike copes with the rigours of London commuting. Cycling has been gaining popularity for commuters in London as people look for an alternative to busy and expensive public transport. There is something special about the freedoms offered by cycling to work, not only is it good exercise, but you can set your own pace, have a little bit of your own space and you get to vary your route.
The downside, of course, is arriving in a sweaty heap, puffed-out because you caned it through 10 miles of suburbs before hitting the city proper. This is where electric bikes come in handy: they take some of the effort out of cycling. Arguably it doesn't constitute the same degree of exercise as a normal bike and there is quite a difference in the price you'll pay for a Gocycle over your average commuter hybrid bicycle. It's here where the trade-off lies, judging whether the expense is worth the practicalities offered.
The Gocycle is attractive, crafted from a "magnesium moulded" monocoque design, with looks reminiscent of Chris Boardman's Lotus time trial bike. The Pitstop wheels too are formed from this moulding technique so they are lightweight and feature a unique three-level locking mechanism so they can literally be removed in seconds, without having to worry about releasing brakes or disengaging the chain.
The wheels are 20-inches and come wearing slick (as in smooth) Vredestein 20-1.75 tyres. Gocycle recommends a pressure of 30psi for the front and 50psi for the back, which gives a nice solid ride. These tyres are suited for roads, but without any grip they are less suitable off road, especially on loose surfaces when cornering.
The Gocycle combines two drive systems, a front hub-mounted 250W motor and a "Cleandrive" three-speed hub gearbox. Cleandrive is exactly as it sounds with everything contained within the frame arm connecting the back wheel. That means, according to Gocycle, that it is maintenance free, but more practically that you won't catch your suit trousers in the chain or get oil on your linen slacks.
The ergonomic saddle sits atop a two-piece telescopic seat post, offering easy adjustment or stowage. The saddle is comfortable enough, although it sits on standard rail clamps so could easily be replaced if you wanted. We like the quick release on the saddle for adjustment, but it does mean that you'll have to secure or remove the saddle when you leave your bike, as it's very easy to steal. The locking mechanism works by compressing the rubber ring inside, and whilst we didn't find it slipping down, there was some movement when twisting in the saddle, for example when turning to look behind before moving off from the kerb.
On to the riding itself, the three-speed gearbox means you have the gears to pedal away easily, with your top gear giving you flat speeds of around 20mph if you pedal hard. This is a reasonable range, but won't match that of something like the Ultra Motors A2B Metro, with a seven-speed rear mech.
The motor will only work when the bike is moving, so you have to start pedalling before the motor will spin up and take the strain off your legs. The power is applied using the red button on the left-hand side of the handlebars and it is a simple press for power system. Once you are moving you can press the button and the motor will take over, so you can stop pedalling.
For the fastest acceleration, using the motor and skipping up through the gears is the best approach, but on average we found it slower to accelerate than we typically would on a road bike. That said, it's much less effort building-up speed as the motor can do all the hard work. You can then pedal to keep moving and on the flat, inertia being what it is, we found ourselves a lot of the time not using the motor any more.
For those that are put off cycling by those slight inclines or the effect of the wind after a hard day in the office, the Gocycle is an appealing choice. It will take up the slack when you can't really be bothered.
The motor is speed limited to 24kph (15mph) although our quick GPS measurement came out slightly faster than this running on the motor alone. Using the pedals too we happily cruised along at 28kph (18mph). If you pedal too fast you overrun the motor which no longer adds any power, so we found we topped out just over 32kph (20mph) where we were sprinting, legs flying too fast for any serious cycling.
The battery lives within the frame and is charged via a port on the back. A full charge from the large charger takes 3.5 hours. This will give you a range of somewhere between 10 and 20 miles depending on conditions: your weight, wind, terrain and how much stopping and starting you do will all have an impact on battery life. Unfortunately there is no indicator on the bike of how much power you have left.
The charger is rather large and heavy, not the sort of thing you want to ride around with, so if your return commute is going to take you over the range of the bike, you might want to consider keeping a charger at work too, although they are not cheap at £69.95.
The Gocycle features disc brakes on both the front and rear wheels and there is suspension on both wheels as well. The Gocycle can be folded, but this isn't in the same way that a Brompton or Dahon would; the folding is intended for stowage in its case, rather than when hopping on the train.
The riding experience of the Gocycle is very good. It is fun, it feels for the most part like a normal bike, although we found the lack of gearing was a bit of a pain when riding without the motor. The advantage of having an internal hub for the gears is that you can change gear without having to move the chain (as you would on a derailleur system). This means you can arrive at a set of traffic lights in third gear, come to a halt, and then change down ready to pull away. The motor isn't too noisy but is loud enough to turn heads as you rocket past on the road.
The brakes are good and we like the fact that you can use the brakes to temper your speed whilst still using the motor, so you use them to slow you around a roundabout, then ease off and the motor powers you out of it. It makes for great cornering once you get used to using the motor and brakes in tandem.
You'll have to watch out when turning left though. If you indicate with your arm - which you should on busy roads - you have to release the power button, so you can't stay on the power whilst braking and checking the route is clear. Without adding an extra button on the right-hand side, we can't see there is a solution to this.
Whilst out testing the bike it attracted a great deal of interest from onlookers and from other cyclists. The attractive design certainly makes it distinct. Fortunately there was an attached lock on our review sample, although we'd want more substantial locks to secure the wheels and saddle too.
The downside of the Gocycle is of course the weight at 16.2kg with battery and mudguards. Whilst this isn't nearly as heavy as some alternatives (the Ultra Motors A2B Metro was 37kg), it is heavier than most road bikes, which is something you'll notice when you hit a hill with no juice in your battery.
We're really impressed with the design, but there are a few questionable points to it. The mudguards that we had fitted to our review model were just too lightweight. In strong wind they flapped around noisily and when riding on bumpy roads and tow-paths. They might stop your Tweed suit getting sprayed, but we’d be tempted to whip them off.
There is also a plastic cover at the top of the handlebar stem which covers the bolts that hold the whole thing together. This is the thinnest plastic imaginable and really takes the shine off what is a £1500 bike. The shame is that as you are riding along, you can always see it. A minor point.
The Gocycle is certainly a fun ride, with premium looks that will draw envious looks from those around you. The performance is good too, with a range that will suit most commuters. It is a little heavy, so if you have to haul it up stairs into a flat, you'll certainly feel that in your shoulders.
We can see that the Gocycle would be popular with those who pay out regularly for commuter travel and want to take a different approach. The Gocycle will let you easily take to the roads without all the effort that comes with a conventional bicycle, but you will have to pay for it.
Ultimately, we've loved riding the Gocycle, but we'd prefer to stick to our venerable road bike which is cheaper, lighter and helps keep some of the fat off.