GOCYCLE GX E-BIKE REVIEW: FAST, FUN, AND FOLDABLE

 Compromises” is a claim that many companies make but few deliver on. It’s also the slogan for GoCycle, a British maker of premium folding electric bicycles.

Folding bikes are meant for the first and last mile of multimodal urban commutes. You ride them to the station, fold them up to carry onto a crowded rush-hour train, and then cycle the last leg to the office. But what if a folding bike could do more? What if a folding bike was comfortable enough to ride sweat-free over long distances, but still flexible enough to take on a train when it rains? That’s where the fast-folding GoCycle GX e-bike comes in.

GoCycle isn’t a company you’re likely to already be familiar with. When you think folding bikes, you’re most likely imagining Brompton. But unlike Brompton, which only introduced its first e-bike this year, GoCycle’s been building electric foldables for ten years already. That decade of experience really shows in the GoCycle GX, a smartly-designed and stylish e-bike that really delivers… with only a few compromises.

 first GoCycle electric bike, the G1, was launched in 2009 by Richard Thorpe, a former design engineer for McLaren cars. The company now offers three variationson the same electric theme: the basic GoCycle S, the fast-folding GX, and the full-featured GoCycle G3. I’ve been testing the GoCycle GX which starts at $3,299 / €3,199 / £2,899, putting it in direct competition with the Brompton Electric. That puts it into the premium category of mass-market e-bikes built for commuters.

I wasn’t a fan of the GoCycle GX design the first time I saw it in photos. But I also prefer the shape of a classic Karmann Ghia to a new Lamborghini. My opinion changed, however, after taking the 20 minutes it took to unbox and assemble my review bike shipped direct from the company. Those chunky, hub-mounted magnesium wheels attached to the bike via a single-sided fork and rear swingarm are engineering marvels, while the sleek aluminum frame neatly hides the chain and most of the cabling. It’s an exceptionally svelte and sophisticated looking ride, even when fitted with the optional mudguards (which are required kit for commuters).

My only complaint is the attention-seeking GoCycle logo that’s more suitable to a bike-sharing fleet than a vehicle that costs three grand to own. But that’s me, I don’t want to be anyone’s billboard. Few others seem to mind though: I received more compliments on the appearance of the GoCycle GX than any other bike I’ve ridden around Amsterdam — high praise, from the capital of bicycling.

The GX benefits from an intuitive folding mechanism, especially when compared to the fiddly Brompton Electric. I had the steps memorized after a single view of the instructional video, and mastered after just a few folds. Lifting two reassuringly chunky quick-release latches allows the bike to fold in thirds. Then, a rather inelegant rubber band must be awkwardly stretched into place to hold the collapsed components together (I prefer the magnetic latch of the GM Ariv). Once secured, the bike is now in trolly mode, allowing you to easily push it by the saddle into an elevator, down the office corridor, or onto a train. I’m able to regularly fold the bike in about 10 to 15 seconds.

Things do get a bit awkward if you want to fully collapse the GX into the smallest package possible. First, the seat post has to be removed and maneuvered into a gap in the rubber band. Then a small cap below the rear reflector has to be unfolded and slid into the saddle tube to secure the seat post. With the kickstand up and pedals folded down, you’re now ready to hoist the bike into the trunk of a car, or slide it under your desk. It takes me between 20 to 30 additional seconds to collapse the bike completely.

The compact GoCycle GX is relatively heavy at 17.8kg (39.2 pound), weighing only slightly less than a full-sized VanMoof Electrified S2. Nevertheless, the weight is nicely balanced (bunny hops are a go!) with the diminutive 250/500W GoCycle motor fitted to the front-hub and the 300Wh removable battery slotted inside the length of the downtube. The high handlebar contributes to a mostly upright riding position. The wide squishy grips, fat 20-inch tires, and rear suspension combine to provide a stable ride that really soaks up the vibration. It rides like a full-sized bike, without any of the twitchiness felt on the Brompton Electric. The end result is an exceptionally comfortable and enjoyable ride that makes the GoCycle GX suitable to even the longest of commutes. My testing included a daily round-trip commute of 30 km / 18.6 miles while wearing a backpack loaded with a laptop, water, and accessories. For those who prefer to move the load to the bike, GoCycle offers a front pannier that can be attached and removed quickly.

Of course, no bike design is without compromises, regardless of the GoCycle slogan. Choices have to be made regarding performance, size, weight, and cost. In the case of the GX, the most notable tradeoff is in how power is supplied to the pedals from a standstill. GoCycle opted for a very small front-hub motor that relies on your legs for that initial burst of acceleration. “The human leg is one of the most efficient things for low-speed torque,” explained GoCycle’s Thorpe to me over the phone. (GoCycle doesn’t list the torque output for its motor, and refuses to provide a number upon request.) That means the motor never kicks in until you’re already moving at a walking pace, or about one or two full revolutions of the pedals depending upon how hard you’re riding. And no, the throttle button won’t save you as it remains inactive until after you’re moving. Shifting into first gear made this an easy lift for my legs, but I still prefer the instantaneous pedal-assist provided by Cowboy’s new e-bike or the zero-to-fast boost provided by the throttle button on the VanMoof Electrified X2.

The GoCycle app comes with a few preset rider profiles with an option to override those with custom settings. My bike shipped with the EU firmware that disables the throttle button and limits the bike to 250W and 25 km/h (16 mph). I overrode those by swiping away an EULA to install the US firmware. My testing then occurred in this mode exclusively, giving me access to 500W of power and a max speed of 32 km/h (20 mph).

I rode in a customized mode based on the City+ profile. It provided max power as quickly as possible but with the speed capped at 29 km/h — any faster and my legs had trouble keeping up, even in third gear. Once the motor kicked in, power was smoothly delivered with each stroke thanks to the GoCycle’s torque sensor. The throttle gave a nice little boost when needed on hills or when I just wanted to tool around without having to pedal. Unfortunately, it still didn’t provide any assistance from a standstill like the throttle on VanMoof’s X2, for example. Riding in this mode while pedaling and occasionally using the throttle depleted the battery after about 40-45 km on average, or about 25-28 miles.

Side-by-side with the Brompton Electric.

Other observations:

  • If you’re sharing the GX between family members then you’ll need an allen wrench to regularly adjust the seat height. Fortunately, GoCycle includes one in a special slot beneath the saddle.
  • The LED battery display on the handlebar is very basic but it’s readable in direct sunlight.
  • The charger is small enough that you can take it with you on your commute to charge at home or in the office.
  • The GocycleConnect App transforms into a Bluetooth-connected dashboard when the phone is mounted to the handlebar in landscape mode. It tries to do too much, in my opinion, but provides plenty of feedback and possibilities for customization if that’s your thing. After initial setup I never used the app again since there’s a dedicated power button which you can use to turn the bike on and off.
  • Removing the battery requires unhinging the frame latch and tugging the battery out “robustly,” per the directions. It can then be brought inside to charge with the same charger that ships with the bicycle. It can also be charged while mounted to the bike, of course, via a weather-protected port on the frame, while the bike is either folded or unfolded.
  • The position of the bell takes some time getting used to. It’s basic, but emits a loud and pleasant ding.
  • The Velo Sport saddle was fine, not the best, not the worst.
  • The phone holder is also very basic, but works fine for phones of any size.
  • Motor sound is average: not too loud, but not silent either. People nearby will know you’re riding an e-bike as you zip around them.
  • The motor starts cutting out as soon as you hit 10 percent remaining, providing an assist every 100 meters or so but only for a few seconds at a time. I learned to treat 10 percent (one LED showing on the handlebar) as battery empty.
  • GoCycle offers two options for running lights that are powered by the bike’s battery: a Busch & Mueller Avy E Kit ($159.99 / €130.00 / £109.99) and a Supernova V1260 Kit($299.99 / €264.98 / £229.98).
  •  GoCycle GX is an excellent folding electric bicycle that oozes sophistication and thoughtful modern design. Were compromises made? Yes, but the resulting product shows some intelligent decision making in the name of flexibility, convenience, and comfort. The GX is suitable for long distances or for knocking out the first and last mile of a multimodal commute.

    Yes, the GX is expensive, especially after you layer on the options, some of which are required for regular commuters. But, as with most things, you get what you pay for. Some urban commuters will be able to justify the $3,299 / €3,199 / £2,899 base price by replacing costly commutes made by car, or by saving on surcharges when taking public transportation (folding bikes are usually free, unlike full-sized bikes). Others will justify the expense through the health benefits and reduced impact on the environment.

    If size and weight are your primary buying criteria then have a look at the similarly priced Brompton Electric. The Brompton Electric is a very good folding e-bike, whereas the GoCycle GX is one of the very best e-bikes you can buy, folding or not.

[“source=theverge”]