It’s now two weeks since I got my bike, so I feel comfortable at giving it a first review.
I’ve ridden it on the Vélo Francette greenway, the Véloscénie and various other voies vertes around here, and on country lanes around my home – the kind of riding that I’ll typically be doing on it, and my journeys have graduated from around 10km a day to around 26km a day.
First impressions, therefore: it’s built like a tank. Despite the rather gracile styling (I think the unfortunately-named Organ is very attractive for an e-bike, especially an entry-level model), it’s nice and sturdy, with massive great welds at all the joins.
The pedals and saddle with which it came have been replaced with higher-end models, and my new bike grips are on order too. I find the handlebar grips supplied a tad painful because of the ridges, even though I’m wearing gloves, so they have to go.
The bell is also pathetic, so I’m on the lookout for a much ding-ier model, and although it came with a built-in Axa lock (ta very much), we’d already bought heavier ones, so Steve installed mine as a replacement. The plastic mudguards are flimsy but do the trick.
But there are great things about this bike. For instance, I LOVE the huge 28in wheels, which feel like a ‘proper’ District Nurse-style bike. I love the hefty rack, which I use every time we go out, with my RCP double panniers, and which on its own has a handy sprung clip that will take your jacket if you overheat.
The bars on the rack are pretty thick and also shaped at the ends, so not all slip-style panniers will fit, but mine are the ‘sacoche’ style that just hang either side and are held still with velcro straps. Nevertheless, the rack is so wide that I have to push them into position and strap tightly to stop them sticking out at the sides.
The back sweep of the handlebars is just fine for me. It’s possible that Steve will require a yet more upright stance, in which case he may switch to swept-back handlebars from Dutch Bike Bits, but I’m happy with things as they are at present.
The Shimano SL-TX50 gear shift is a doddle to use, with a nice positive click, and the computer that runs the assist is almost as easy, though I do need to look at it to change the assist level. It also runs the lights, but I just put those on before setting off and and don’t turn them off till I get back.
The kickstand is unbelievably useful, even though it is one side only. Riding on the road is pretty much a long, smooth continuous journey, but on the voies vertes we constantly have to stop and it’s really useful to be able to dismount and leave the bike in order to fix the Doggyhut or hold one of the mutts still.
On the flat or the descent, you don’t need the assist. On the long, gentle downhill sections of the voies vertes, I have found myself turning it off more and more – the bike is nicely balanced and heavy, and will pretty much ride by itself. Coming uphill is another issue, and it’s at this point that you feel the 22.7kg (with battery) weight.
For general riding, assist level 1 is plenty. I tend to ride in 5th gear if the road is level, 4th or 3rd if there’s a slight incline, and 3rd or 2nd if there’s a hill. Only on very steep hills do I switch to 1st gear, or – if I’m out on the road and want to get uphill and out of traffic quickly – I switch to assist level 2 and 4th gear. I have not, in our gentle, rolling countryside, ever had to use assist level 3 yet, and have only used level 2 a couple of times. Nor have I used 6th or 7th gear.
Having the assist makes deciding to go cycling a doddle. I sometimes set off feeling a bit tired, but once I’ve warmed up I feel like I’m flying. Having the assist means you can let the bike do more of the work if you’re feeling a bit lazy or a bit stiff or a bit past it – or if you’re feeling like a workout, you can do that too. In this way, it works as a positive catalyst to get you cycling even when you don’t much feel like it.
One issue I’ve noticed is that you can be taken by surprise when the assist kicks in and this is particularly important when turning right at a junction (we live in France and drive on the right). I usually turn off the assist here, as the extra ‘help’ it gives when you start pedalling can push you into the opposing traffic lane if you don’t watch what you’re doing.
A similar thing can occur on tight corners, especially – as is often the case round here – there is a lot of loose chip or gravel on the road, when the bike feels too fast to control. Corners need to be taken wide and soft, not short and sharp, and with as little assist as you can bear.
We keep the battery for the bike in the house, partly because it’s half the total cost of the bike, but also to keep it warm and dry. We repurposed a piece of furniture as a shoe and helmet cabinet and set up a charging station inside it, so it’s straight out with the battery and straight into the charger. However, it takes three hands to remove the battery – one to turn the key and hold it, and another two to detach it, so I always need the DH’s help. This would be a definite issue if I was on my own.
Putting the battery into the bike is easier and I can manage it myself (it automatically locks, too, so can’t be removed without the key), but I have given up trying to close the little flappy rubber cover that keeps the port clean, as the tiny flange on the underside can’t be pushed home unless you have the strength of Samson. Instead, I close it as best I can and then hold it tight shut with a piece of parcel tape.
So far, the average ride has reduced my battery setting from 4 to 3 – pretty good, as obviously, you’re not using the battery all the time – for instance when coasting downhill.
The Jos Spanninga rear light and reflector are built into the battery and are a nice design, with a wide, thin light that also wraps slightly to the sides, and a very large reflector. The front Axa Pico light is small and neat, but a tad underpowered at 30 lumens, so again we’ve supplemented that. Both wheels have orange reflectors, as is now required by law in France.
Overall, I couldn’t be more pleased with my bike for the money it cost, and it is giving me a sense of freedom and escape that is intoxicating. Doubtless, there are e-bikes that are more elegant, more lightweight and a lot more expensive, but this one, for me, is a godsend.