Metro A2B e-bike, why, why, why?


I am disdainful of electric bikes. Perhaps not a surprising attitude for a roadie.

Mostly this is because I don’t understand why they exist. OK, not quite. I can see there is a market for those who want to ride a bike but, for some unfortunate medical or age related reason lack the physical capacity to do so. They can help some people lead a more fulfilled 2-wheeled life; riding to the shops or for leisure with family and friends. Otherwise they are strictly for the indolent. The former is probably a niche market, sadly the later probably isn’t it.

An issue with e-bikes is their speed, or rather, their lack of it. In the UK, Electrically Assisted Pedal Cycles, to give them their full legal name, when using the power assist are restricted to 15mph  (CTC have a good summary article on what is allowed for e-bikes). You can go faster, but you must do so under your own steam. But, if you can go faster why would you want to carry around the dead weight of a battery and motor? A regular cyclists on a good bike (I have in mind a practical hybrid, rather than a cheap, heavy full suspension mountain bike, complete with squeaky chain) should be able to approach speeds of 15mph. When you factor in the stop start nature of urban riding I would expect average speeds between a normal bike and an e-bike to pretty similar.

You don’t buy an e-bike for speed. If speed is your need, surely you would buy a moped or learn to ride harder?

Fitness is a common reason for riding a bike. Cycling gives you an excellent cardio-vascular workout and, if you take it seriously, will shift excess lard fast. Electric motors do not exercise your body or help you to lose weight.

I suppose there is an environmental argument. E-bikes are emission free and probably more fuel efficient than a car. They help reduce congestion too. But these arguments also apply to proper bikes. Furthermore, proper bikes don’t require plugging in to a power socket with their emissions transferred to a power station. Neither do proper bikes have gigantic Lithium-ion batteries, bringing with them the associated environmental costs of mining, refining and disposal (I did briefly research this, but it is a topic deserving of more attention, a blog for a future date). If you want a mode of transport to assuage your environmental guilt, ride a bike, not an e-bike.

Finally, e-bikes look ridiculous. However, I hadn’t realised just how ridiculous they can look until I saw this parked at the train station:

Metro A2B electric bike

It is a Metro A2B E-bike and it has an astonishing specification. Specifically full-suspension and 3″ wide tyres. Why, really, why? 3″ tyres; is it designed for trekking across powdery snow plains and sandy deserts? And with full-suspension! You do not need full-suspension for urban riding. Full-suspension is for downhilling, freeriding, hard technical mountain biking, not tarmac. Besides, the anatomies riding such bikes will have sufficient cushioning to negate the marginal comfort benefits of full-suspension and 3″ tyres.

It takes 4-5 hours to charge up and has a range of 40 miles. I can enjoy a bowl of pasta in 15 minutes and, with on the go refuels, have a range of at least 120 miles. I expect my engine to outlast many an e-bike battery-motor combo.

It’s assisted speed limit is 15mph. On the right bike and given a bit of time and effort, speeds in the range 12-16mph are easily achievable. Regular riding builds strength, speed and confidence.

It has a moped style stand.

It retails for £2,499.99. You can buy a good hybrid or tourer and keep a lot of change for that much money. Protected by a cheap Oxford chain, the owner must be confident in their vehicles total undesirability.

So come on e-bike owners, if laziness and lardiness is your excuse, it’s time to harden-up, dump the battery packs and use your legs like the owner of this:

It is not difficult to engage your muscles and turn a pedal…. Or is this what you are waiting for fatty?

Toyota iReal

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About velorichard

Riding a bike around Cambridgeshire looking for some hills
This entry was posted in Cycling, electric bikes and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Metro A2B e-bike, why, why, why?

  1. Excellent ranting, Richard!

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  2. Frank Burns says:

    …………..I would ask, what has inspired this rant in the first place? Do you find them aesthetically offensive? Is there no room on our roads for such machines? Do you personally feel threatened by them? Are you simply criticising people for paying silly money?
    Those of us who are deeply into cycling as a sport, may be a little entrenched in our thinking, indeed, even a little blinkered. I would argue that, if an e-powered bike helps someone continue with their 2 wheeled transport (instead of climbing into a car), then ‘Bravo!!’

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    • velorichard says:

      I do find them rather ugly, but the inspiration was seeing the A2B at the station. My immediate reaction was why does an electric bike, that is probably going to do nothing more adventurous than a speed bump, need full suspension and 3″ wide tyres. It neatly summed up just how pointless I think they are.

      I don’t yet see what their niche is. For short journeys, say <5 miles, ride a bike; it will be cheaper, less hassle and better for you. Yes they make sense for that distance, but to choose an electric bike over a pedal cycle is, I think, laziness. We should be doing more to encourage people of cars and start cycling and walking in urban and suburban environments. If this can be done it would be huge step forward in combating the obesity problem our society faces. But, that won't work if people swap their cars for electric powered chairs.

      For longer journeys,I don't think they make sense. Their range is very limited – 40 miles in this case, so you'll be charging up every other day. Plus their speed and cost. For the same money you could buy and equip a moped, which I would argue is a more practical vehicle for the distance. A moped and and e-bike do the same thing – get you from A to B, a bike does this too, but also keeps you fit.

      So no I don't feel threatened by them, I can't help but view them as a mobility scooter made to look like a bike. I can see they are useful for some people, however, if some one is physically able to ride a bike but chooses an e-bike, well I think you know where I stand!. You're right though, my opinion as a sporting cyclists is probably a little blinkered!

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      • Frank Burns says:

        Expediency has seldom governed the design of new machines and kit, even in the world of ‘real’ cycling. You just have to look at the plethora of marketing that tries to convince you that your cycling experience will be vastly improved if you just buy this new bit of kit, or that new bike. In the world of retailing, a ‘niche’ is always created and filled by a product that people will simply buy (for whatever reason). From its outset, the advent of the mountain bike and its future development is an excellent example of niches being progressively created by fashion (not expediency).
        On the issue of e-bikes, when you meet an 80 year old, who has been a cycle tourist all her life, and she speaks glowingly about the electric motor her husband has attached to her old touring bike, you begin to see these things in a different perspective.

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  3. velorichard says:

    I saw the owner of this bike today, although not to talk too. He looked to be 40ish and with no obvious medical condition. However, judging by his waistline he did look like he could benefit riding a proper bike.

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  4. ebikefan says:

    I say to each their own. I respect your opinion and agree the A2B Metro isn’t for everyone. For me, it’s an ideal vehicle my personal uses/purposes/situation. Not all biking has to be for exercise. There are practical reasons for ebiking like going to work without getting sweaty and tired, etc. I commute to and from work through hilly San Francisco on an A2B Metro. It goes 20 mph in the North American version (speed is purposely limited to 20 mph by the manufacturer to make the bikes fit within local laws so that no motorcycle license, registration or insurace is needed to operate them and they can legally travel in bike lanes and bike paths (anywhere bikes can go), something mopeds and motorcyles can’t). You can pedal if you wish on an ebike and the motor can assist or not. It gives you more options. I can get to work and ride to the office without sweating if I chose to use the throttle and then sweat and exercise on the way home by pedaling more. It’s the best of both worlds in my opinion. It has gotten me out of my gas car, has the benefits of a small motorcycle and ease of maintenence and option to pedal like a bicycle. I find myself riding longer and find more enjoyment in riding an ebike in a hilly city so I am actually exercising for longer periods of time on an ebike than I would on my traditional bike. I go for 2-3 hour rides through a hilly city and congested urban environment. It gives me confidence to keep up with traffic. I simply get tired out on the many steep hills I have in my city so an ebike has helped me enjoy riding again. I also carry cosiderable equipment for work so the motor helps me haul payload. I think it’s a great commuting tool and I can roll it into the office to recharge because I don’t need to worry about oil. It’s like a low maintence motorcycle that I can also pedal and exercise when I want to. Cheers!

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    • velorichard says:

      It’s good to hear from an owner and have their opinion. Since writing this post I’ve had discussions with people on both sides and I must admit I am starting to come around to the idea of electric bikes.

      In the UK e-bikes are limited to 15mph, so probably no quicker than an averagely fit person on a well maintained bike can ride. However, I can see an extra 5mph can make a difference – it brings you closer to being a conventional moped, and with no licence, insurance or tax to pay on top, I can see they start to become attractive. So perhaps in the UK they are just too legally slow for the expense compared to a normal bike to make them attractive.

      Hills are a good point. My part of the world is very flat, so assistance up hills isn’t an issue. However, I fully appreciate even a moderate hill can be a challenge for many and enough to deter potential new cyclists, so if a bit of electric assistance encourages people to ride rather than drive, so much the better. I’ve seen Bullitt too, so I’ve an idea what San Francisco hills are like!

      For commuting, I’m lucky as my employer offers shower and locker facilities, so getting hot and sweaty isn’t a problem, but I know it is something which puts people cycling to work. As a practical urban commuting vehicle, again I can see they are attractive, especially if you’re lucky enough to be in a warm climate.

      Writing this I’m beginning to think I should write a new post to update my opinions on e-bikes!

      Anyway thanks for your comments and keep on enjoying riding and exploring,

      cheers,
      Richard

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  5. ebikefan says:

    A site I enjoy is electricbikereport.com There are many new innovations and designs coming to this segment of the market. Recent Eurobike and Interbike trade shows had a marked increase in electric bike offerings compared to previous years. I would love to see more people get out of gas cars on their commutes. The author here made an interesting case saying they offer some of the advantages of a car with the advantages of a bicycle. http://electricbikereport.com/the-electric-bike-conveniences-of-a-car-with-the-advantages-of-a-bicycle/

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  6. NeilP says:

    I can see all your points, and why you say them.
    But all people have them for different reasons .
    I sold my Trek Madonne 5.7 in favour of a home made e-bike , though it may do a bit more than the UK 15 mph limit.

    With do driving licence, not wanting a car or motorbike, and no facilities at work for shower and change in to uniform, I was cycling the 10 miles to work , getting hot and sweaty as I’d always go flat out, then having to sit in aircraft cockpit all day next to co pilot.
    I did try getting changed and having ‘wet wipe’ wash and change, but got a bollocking from superiors for that.
    So for me, an e-bike meant getting to work fresh, and non sweaty
    A totally different means of cheap transport, to my mind no more ‘cheating’ than taking a car or motorcycle.

    On the point regarding pollution/emissions etc, I have read articles stating that overall emissions-wise, less global pollution would be caused per mile by an all electric ‘Twist & Go ‘ ( not Pedal Assist) bike than using pure human pedal power alone. The basis of this resesrch was that the amount of fossil fuels used for food to be grown , then for transport, package, transport to store, store to home, home to plate and finally to the cyclists muscles , was far far greater and had far more ‘system losses’ than even the worst fossil fuel. I can’t argue for or against this as I personally do not know
    Your comments about the looks and design of the A2B Metro are perfectly true when they are crippled by the UK e-bike laws that are stifling this alternative means of transport. In unregulated mode they would be capable of certainly 20-25 mph if not more if tweaked. Not quite moped speeds but great town urban transport for those without the space, money or inclination for a car or moped and associated licencing and costs.
    If the UK had a more forward looking approach to e-bikes, like EU or USA, lots more cars would be off the road and people would be on e-bikes.

    I have a shed with at the moment about 9 scrap old UK road legal e-bikes. People buy them for help up hills etc, but find out, what you so correctly point out, they are heavy and they can generally cycle a normal bike faster. With the extra weight, the max power of 250 watt is not enough to give them decent help when they need it. If you have a power meter on your road bike, you’d now be saying, 250 watt is plenty to easily do a measely 15mph up a hill, but I know on an e-bike it is not. Maybe it is down to how and where the power is measured, but if I fit a watt meter in line with the battery and limit a normally unlimited e-bike to 15mph, I can easily see battery pack draw of 1200-1500w (unassisted) going 15mph up a reasonable hill.

    I now do have a driving licence, but have just sold two of my cars, keeping an old £200 Suzuki, using the e-bike as everyday transport where a standard pedal power bike would just be too much of a pain, like carrying 30 lbs of weekly shopping, a bale of hay on a trailer etc.

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    • velorichard says:

      Hi Neil, thanks for you comments and sorry to read you’ve sold the Trek!

      My attitude to ebikes has softened since I wrote this post and I can see cases where they can be of real benefit. Commuting being a case in point – more ebikes would definitely be preferable to more cars in the rush hour, but I would still rather see more bikes.

      There seems to be a growing body of evidence that active travel can boost employee productivity and health, so given the knock-on benefit to the employer, where possible they should be looking to provide facilities like showers. I accept though that this isn’t always practical and wet wipes aren’t a great workaround (I’ve been there too)! I just don’t think ebikes are quite there as an attractive mass solution to get folk out of cars.

      Yes they can be cheap, but only if you’ve got the wherewithal to build one yourself. I think the metro retails at around £1150, still cheaper than a car, but it won’t keep you dry. I agree that the legislation capping their speed doesn’t help their adoption. Capped at 15mph they are a compromise between a bike and a moped trading sweat for less speed. But I guess if you removed that cap are they really any different from an electric moped. Would that then bring push for licencing, so removing a key benefit? And given mopeds are not that common on British roads is there really pent up demand for them? What could make ebikes succeed where mopeds haven’t? At my train station I guess bikes out number mopeds at keast 15 to 1. Perhaps it is all in the marketing…

      Interesting about the power outputs, I hadn’t realised that!

      On food and energy I’m more sceptical. Yes if you’re cycling Tour de France distances every day may be, but for most commute rides you’re only going to be covering a few miles. Even with a 10mile round trip you would be pushing it to burn more than a few hundred extra calories, an extra portion chips, so unless your tastes are particularly exotic I’m afraid I don’t buy it. Plus the heart and lungs are more readily biodegradable than a battery pack 😉

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  7. David M says:

    Don’t forget those of us with mobility issues. An E-bike gives the opportunity to get some exercise in and then when the pain/tiredness etc. kick in, go over to throttle.

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  8. Rufus says:

    Utter ignorance and snobbery!

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