More Performance And Style At The Same (Still High) Price

On the streets of West Los Angeles, electric bicycles now join fleets of Teslas, Priuses, and Polestars as the efficient, green transportation method of choice. The expanding market for affordable e-bikes that offer solid range only makes a potential purchase all the more enticing for anyone who commutes less than 20 miles, since e-bikes allow for all the traffic skipping lane splitting of a motorcycle with less in the way of regulation and insurance as barriers to entry. Plus, when compared to traditional bicycles, riding an e-bike to work or to the store results in sweaty clothes far less frequently.

Big names in the motorcycle and electric car industry clearly recognize the burgeoning trend, which explains why I recently received a Shelby-branded e-bike from Vintage Electric to test out. Of course, anything with a Shelby logo commands a bit of a price hike and the that e-bike arrived as no exception, just about maxing out the price tags of anything on the market. But Vintage Electric also offers a range of various models, most recently capped by the new 72 Volt lineup that somehow offers more power without sacrificing range, all in attractive beach cruiser bike frames that turn heads wherever they go.

Upgrading To 72 Volts

After I gave back the Shelby, Vintage Electric sent me a 72 Volt Roadster. Sure, some Shelby badges on classic metallic blue paint look great but the Roadster arguably arrives with more style thanks to a set of gold forks up front and brown leather for the wrapped handles and leather seat, all atop a black frame with silver details that match the Vintage Electric battery pack mounted in the main triangle’s negative space.

Similar to the Shelby, the Roadster’s price starts at a significant $6,995. But the newly enhanced performance potential offered without a big price bump truly boggles the mind. Somehow, the new 72 Volt system triples torque output, resulting in a peak of 4,000 watts from the rear hub-mounted motor and a top speed of 40 miles per hour (with the road-illegal maximum assist that Vintage Electric calls ‘Race Mode’ activated). The bike still weighs the same, though, at a hetfy 86 pounds all in.

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Adjustable Gold Shocks

Given the poundage that adding a battery pack and potent electric motor to a beach cruiser creates, those gold shocks up front handle serious work—adjustable pre-load and damping helps with 60 millimeters (2.32 inches) of travel, though a padded seat also makes a big difference given the hardtail rear. Where some competitors offer rear suspension, like the Super73-R Brooklyn that occupied my garage at the same time as the Roadster, Vintage Electric seems confident that thick bicycle tires and the front forks will create a comfortable enough ride and most of the time, the combo works well. Unlike the Super73, on the roughest roads or while going over speed bumps at full throttle, standing up on the Roadster’s pedals occasionally becomes necessary.

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More Power With Better Range?

The Roadster uses the same thumb throttle and gauge display as the Shelby. In the name of science, I decided to perform a controlled experiment with the Roadster and take a quick blast up the same local bicycling mecca, Mandeville Canyon, where I previously rode the Shelby. At almost exactly five miles long and almost exactly 1,000 vertical feet of elevation gained over the course of a slow, steady grade, Mandeville took the Shelby 11 minutes and nine seconds to complete at average speeds between 28 and 30 miles per hour. Keep in mind that’s hauling my 165 pounds up the hill, too—pretty impressive.

On the Roadster, I hit some traffic and a downed tree that resulted in a slower overall time of 11 minutes and 17 seconds. But in reality, this new 72 Volt drivetrain allowed me to race up the hill at full throttle reaching speeds more like 33 to 35 miles an hour.

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Disc Brakes Required

Coming down Mandeville, the disc brakes and adjustable shocks showed their worth, as well. The rear brake even allows for regeneration, though of course, I ran down the hill at full throttle trying to get up near that 40-mph top speed. If I went into a tuck (no supertuck, UCI rules apply on Mandeville), I hit 40 miles per hour with ease.

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Variable Charging Rates

In contrast to the Shelby, this Roadster arrived with a charger that allows for variable charging rates. We know that fast charging seriously degrades the potential service life of electric vehicle batteries, so owners of EVs and e-bikes alike should keep their chargers on the lowest setting, when possible. But Vintage Electric’s new charger allows for a quick boost, when necessary. During the full trip up Mandeville Canyon and home totaling just under 20 miles with just over 1,500 total feet of climbing, where the Shelby’s battery used around 60% charge, the Roadster only required around 40%. Somehow, Vintage Electric managed to create more power while actually getting more efficient—explain that, science!

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Vintage Electric Refinements

Other than the obvious performance enhancements, the Roadster also felt a bit more refined than the Shelby. Full throttle off the line still ramps up to maximum acceleration to avoid rear tire burnouts, but Vintage Electric also smoothed out the modulation between thumb throttle, pedal assist, and no assist. I still wish the front and rear gearing offered better ratios than 39T and 16T, respectively, so that starting to pedal at higher speeds produced less excessive spinning. And the exposed wiring connections beneath the cranks, though cleaned up a bit on the Roadster, still made me a little nervous riding over puddles and wet spots on the road.

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Riding The Roadster

Having just earned my motorcycle license and with a few rides under my belt, I definitely believe the Roadster offers much of the same thrills despite the lower top speed. Priced even higher than most entry-level motorcycles, all of Vintage Electric’s e-bikes should also come with a key or locking system to prevent easy theft—though even with a key start for the assist function, pedaling away or just picking up the bike still probably looks easy to thieves, so I suppose I would still haul around a tough bike lock similar to my Abus chain.

I also wonder about the distinction between motorcycle safety gear and the technical requirements of California’s official Class 2 electric bicycles. Whether those rules will change as exceedingly powerful models like the 72 Volt Roadster become more common remains a serious question—wearing a helmet while riding an e-bike with so much performance potential should definitely be mandatory. To a certain extent, I even felt more comfortable flying through traffic while wearing the light body armor built into my Spidi Moto Jogger Tex Pants and Rock Leather Jacket in the photo above.

Tooling around with only pedal assist active sounds safer but anyone who climbs onto a 72 Volt Roadster will definitely feel the old need for speed. And apparently, for those customers who bought previous models, Vintage Electric even offers free upgrades to the new 72 Volt architecture—just the kind of customer service and consideration that helps to justify such a whopping price tag for one of the most impressive e-bikes available today.

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