Author Topic: The Bronx


The Bronx
« on: September 28, 2008 »
Or da Bronx, in da vernacular. It's an electric bike.

click for another angle

We bought this in January '08 for my wife to commute to the train station. There is one honest hill along the way, maybe two, depending how bad the day has been. She wasn't enjoying this experience on her regular bike, so we went shopping.

And immediately found what we were looking for. (Insert my incredulity in that paragraph break.) Our criteria included the following:

  • Not too heavy or unwieldy. These things can be real beasts. We didn't want to have to hire a crane for the train when wandering further afield.
  • Not too ugly. Most only their mother could love.
  • Simple. Too much instrumentation is a turnoff.
  • Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. Or at least take enough of the load off to make the expense worthwhile.
  • Realistically rideable in the event of system malfunction, and pushable up hills which prove too much for it.

Edwardes in London had the goods, at £750. I'd never seen a Bronx before, and although it is unmistakeably electric - just look at the colour - I almost couldn't take it seriously. That little battery nestling in the handlebars was going to winch her up Bitch Hill?

She took it for a spin and decided it would do nicely, thank you. The basket, which we hadn't even considered, was an unexpected bonus. Later I found panniers cheap enough that we wouldn't gnash our teeth if they were stolen; sewed them on, actually. Perhaps potential thieves admire my needlework too much.

The bicycle part of this marriage seems of reasonable build quality. At least nothing has fallen off yet. There is a bell as supplied on all new bikes these days, which is used to summon me.

To engage the motor in the front hub you flip a switch, which also turns on the light(s), and start pedaling. It kicks in almost immediately. This is power assist, not a free ride, though there is an option for those who would prefer to magically coast everywhere.

It's difficult to say how steep a hill is too steep, as none of our local specimens are marked for the record. Surely it can't handle a 1-in-3, but she has gone up some decent ones which would have otherwise been a pipe dream. We notice that the motor doesn't like this too much, as it starts making abnormal though not terribly alarming noises.

Handling isn't too badly affected by the unconventional battery placement. This isn't built for slaloms anyway. The basket is supported by a bracket which routes neatly around one of the lights (the other light is in the battery; the switch turns one or both on).

It wasn't supplied with a rear light. My wife often rides with a longer coat, making a saddle post mounted light impractical, so I had to bodge one on the rack. Fortunately it seems to be holding up well.

The only issue seems to be battery life. This is an "Envirofriendly® C-coated LiFePO4". You're supposed to be able to get about 20 miles on a charge. Of course this depends on all kinds of factors, including how often you drag race the local youths, but we have been disappointed to get about half that only seven months after purchase. I don't think we ever made it up to 20 even when new. Part of this may be down to how many joy rides it had been taken on before it was adopted. We've seen replacement batteries on the net for around £200.

It recharges in a couple of hours. You get an indication of how much juice remains by how many LEDs are lit.

The best thing about this bicycle is its mood enhancing capabilities. It's a lot of fun to ride, and even though you know what's going to happen it still comes as a pleasant shock every time you feel that helpful boost.


up the junction
« Reply #1 on: December 21, 2008 »
Shortly after posting the above, the hub motor stopped working. It would just whirr in an irritated way that it wasn't going anywhere. You couldn't even pedal it with the switch turned on; something to remember if you're riding at night (we were when it happened) and depending on the front light.

The entire wheel was replaced under warranty, with excellent service from Edwardes.

Apparently it had gotten very dirty; either the motor or a switching junction near the bottom bracket, it isn't clear to me which, as the Bronx distributor seemed to be indicating one thing and the salesman the other. I was so happy to have it working again so quickly I didn't listen critically enough. The motor seems pretty well sealed, as do the wires in the junction.

I called back and they told me it was the junction.

on edit:
It turns out the problem with the battery was down to having gotten the wrong charger in the first place, something the bike shop folks had a hard time believing, but accepted. Apparently this also wasn't good for the motor. It reminds me of the time I bought an electric drill and opened the box to find it dirty and used. Try explaining that to a sales clerk.

We still don't think it's getting quite the mileage it should - apparently the cells were replaced, so it should have been like new - but oddly enough it seems to be improving with use, even as the days are getting colder.

I also installed much tougher tyres [Schwalbe Marathon Plus, 37-590], after two punctures thanks to hedge cutting. This operation is a little more complicated than with my other bikes because of the motor on the front wheel and the rear hub brake and gears.


Bronx update
« Reply #2 on: June 23, 2009 »
Unhappy with battery performance - it was consistently showing half empty after only 4 miles, no serious hills (Bitch Hill isn't on her regular route) - we returned it directly to the distributor. One complication was that the bike had also been knocked over, apparently damaging a cell, though the decline had predated the fall.

They replaced it, even touching up the bruise with paint. Unfortunately the replacement was a dud ("It must have been made on a Monday"). They then replaced that, and it's working OK.

PS. Maybe everybody should stop making things on Mondays.


old reviews
« Reply #3 on: June 24, 2009 »


The Bronx: an epitaph
« Reply #4 on: September 22, 2009 »

still has a pulse.

not so much. The motor has broken again. Clearly this bike is not built to last. We give up.