When I first got word of the IF Reach DC folding electric bike, I was pretty skeptical. We have a lot of great folding bikes in our shop, as well as a lot of great electric bikes. Try to put them together, though, and it usually results in a bulky, awkward shape that tends to be top-heavy. Sure, we've successfully converted Dahon folding bikes using the BionX electric kit, but even the lightest conversion is around 50 lbs. It just doesn't seem practical to take a lightweight folding bike and add an electric motor.
Of course, the Reach DC electric bike was highly touted by Bert as being one of the best electric folding bikes he's ever ridden. At 42 lbs, it is by far the lightest electric bike in our store, and the Lithium-ion battery runs for over 20 miles using its pedal-assist mode. Its folded shape is actually pretty convenient, and the wheels are held together with powerful magnets. Even before riding it, I could see that the design of this unique electric folding bike is far superior to the competition.
So I had to ride it. Living in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, my commute to work is approximately 7-8 miles. I usually ride a non-electric bike, so I decided to risk riding this thing home and back without taking the charger. That's about 15 miles round trip, using the motor the entire way. Would I make it?
The first thing I noticed was how efficient the motor felt. Built into the bottom bracket gear box, the motor worked together with all 8 gears to produce a seamless pedal assistance. It was one of the smoothest bikes I've ridden. With torque sensors built in, I noticed a proportionate amount of assistance based on the pedal power I applied. The harder I pedaled, the more I felt the motor kick in.
The range of gears was amazing. I found myself in 6th and 7th gear most of the time, as the top gear was pretty tough to pedal unless I was going across a flat stretch. I shifted down to 5th or 4th for bridges, but in a flat city like New York, there was no need to go below 4th. Just for kicks I went down to 1st gear, and found this pretty much useless. I guess this means the IF Reach can handle some steep hills, though.
Unless you've ridden a bike in New York City, you don't know the kind of abuse it has to take on a daily basis. I fear for my bike's life every time I ride between 67th and 68th street on Second Avenue (hint, hint NYC DOT), and that's just one block! Of course, on 20" wheels, I didn't think Pacific Cycles IF Reach DC had the kind of strength to make the commute without at least some issues.
Well, I was proven wrong, and was actually impressed as I cruised back into Brooklyn. The bike was solid, and it felt like it could handle that sort of riding on a daily basis. I wheeled it into my apartment, folded it up in ten seconds and popped it into the closet. It took up 1/3 of the space of a regular full-size bike.
So here was the test. The next morning I would span the same distance and apply full assistance the entire way. Would I make it back? As I zipped back on my morning commute, I plugged the battery in at the shop to find that I still had 2/5 bars left. Impressive!
In addition to the range and the smoothness, the IF Reach DC still encourages pedaling. It was fun to actually ride a bike with half the effort that is usually exerted. I didn't sweat too much, and I wasn't exhausted afterward. Even with a 250 Watt motor, this thing flew through the city streets. I'm kind of a speed demon, so I like a bike that can keep up with traffic. The If Reach was more than capable of that, and it responded well to my stop-and-go riding.
If you're on the fence about an electric bike, you may want to give the IF Reach a try. It's like nothing I've ridden before. The integration is amazing, and it truly is one step ahead of the game. Check out Bert's video on our IF Reach page to get a good feel for the bike's performance. Or, if you're in the area, swing by our shop for a free test ride!