We tend to review cars here at AOL Cars (funny that) but when Smart approached us and offered a loan of its hip new Smart e-bike, we couldn't resist a chance to pedal to work without having to break a sweat, or worse, don Lycra. Here's how we got on...
What is it?
A new style of electrically-assisted bicycle that allow cyclists to cover greater distances at greater speeds with minimal effort. The EU ruled that 'throttle-only' electric bicycles that require no effort from the rider illegal in 2004 so electric bicycle manufacturers had to go back to the drawing board and come up with funky new assisted designs. Smart, which in turn is owned by Mercedes-Benz came up with this - a rather cool aluminium framed machine that uses a compact lithium-ion battery and a rear wheel hub motor to offer an extra bit of push for lazy bods like me.
What tech does it use?
It looks and feels much like a traditional bicycle but one attempt at lifting the rear wheel reveals that is a great deal heavier. That's because the rear hub houses an electric motor that runs off a rechargeable lithium-ion battery. A carbon fibre, 118-teeth belt links the pedals to the rear wheels and 3-speed SRAM gearing allows riders to select the perfect level of resistance. Also on board is a trip computer with speed readout, built-in front and rear lights as well as powerful Magura disc brakes.
Many modern bicycle manufacturers offer an electrically assisted version but very few are as stylistically or technologically impressive as the Smart. Giant make a Twist Lite pedal bike for just shy of £1000, while E-go and Claud Butler offer a small foldable number that fuses an electric motor with the practicality of a Brompton. The Cube Reaction Hybrid nicely blends electric assistance with a tough mountain bike frame. It will set you back £1800, though.
What's it like to ride?
A bit strange at first but once the initial wariness of a power-assisted bicycle subsides, it actually makes for an extremely easy and comfortable ride. The electric motor is only really felt when accelerating away from traffic lights or tackling a steep hill, it kicks in and offers a bit of extra push that means pedalling inputs can be kept to a minimum yet progress remains swift. I'll have to admit that a sudden surge of electrically-assisted oomph is slightly daunting when tackling a wet corner and the added weight of the bike (it weighs a whopping 26.1kg) renders any 'sportier' riding useless.
The AOL Cars verdict
Smart has created an aesthetically pleasing bicycle that takes all of the strain out of a morning commute but it costs £2,495* and has to be the only pedal-powered machine in which the rider actually gets fatter the more they use it. Fun for a week or so but we might wait until the cost of producing lithium-ion batteries decreases before we trade in our Raleigh Chopper.
* Smart got in touch to say it offers a finance plan that means that over 3 years it costs less than the price of a zone 1-4 travel card per month.