It’s now possible to convert classic cars into EVs. And over the last few years, bicycles have also gained electric power, giving rise to the e-bike segment. They’ve become popular enough for motoring companies like Jeep and Triumph to offer them, too. Which makes sense, considering the first motorcycles were basically just bicycles with motors. Vintage Electric’s e-bikes capture that vintage style—but they offer more than just that.
What kinds of e-bikes does Vintage Electric offer?
California-based Vintage Electric offers two kinds of e-bikes: pedal-assist and throttle.
The Chromoly-steel-framed Café and Rally models fit into the former category. They both have 750W electric motors linked to removable 500-Wh batteries. Together with a Shimano Deore 10-speed drivetrain, they top out at 28 mph, making them Class 3 e-bikes, Autoblog reports. They don’t have regenerative braking, but they do have hydraulic disc brakes. And like the throttle models, they have a built-in taillight and headlight.
Like the rest of Vintage Electric’s e-bikes, the pedal-assist models have adjustable riding modes. In the Café and Rally, they change the level of pedaling assistance. Level 1 gives 60 miles of range on a charge; Level 5 drops that down to 20 miles. Recharging takes 2 hours.
The throttle models
Vintage Electric’s throttle e-bikes include the Roadster, Scrambler, Tracker, and the limited-edition Shelby. And yes, that last model is a collaboration with Shelby America, Forbes reports. These bikes fall into the Class 2 category, Wired reports, but only technically.
Class 2 e-bikes are limited to 20 mph, Bicycling reports, and Vintage Electric’s throttle models can do that speed. And, like the Café and Rally, they can provide pedal assistance. But if you remove the special key, the top speed jumps to 36 mph. On private property, that’s no problem, Business Insider reports. But if you try to go on public roads with the key removed, you may need a motorcycle or scooter license in some states.
That extra speed comes from the drivetrain. In Road Mode, the motor is limited to 750W. But in Race Mode, it can put out 3000W. They also have larger batteries than the pedal-assist models; the Tracker has a 720-Wh pack, while the Shelby, Scrambler, and Roadster have an 1123-Wh pack. Though unlike the pedal-assist models, they’re single-speed e-bikes.
They have a longer charging time (3 hours for the Shelby, 4.5 hours for the rest) but also longer ranges. Depending on the riding mode, the Tracker can go 25-50 miles on a charge, and the others can go 40-75 miles. And, unlike the pedal-assist e-bikes, Vintage Electrics’ throttle models have regenerative hydraulic disc brakes.
What are Vintage Electric’s e-bikes like to ride?
Vintage Electric’s e-bikes draw inspiration from the board track racers that whizzed around wooden tracks in the 1910s and 1920s. But, while their neo-retro looks are the biggest difference between them and other e-bikes, Men’s Journal reports, style isn’t the only thing they offer.
The Vintage Electric Café’s and Rally’s motors are some of the most powerful on the market, Autoblog reports. The Greyp G6, developed by the founder of supercar company Rimac, only has a 250W motor. The RadWagon 4 has a 750W motor, but it’s a cargo e-bike, and heavier than Vintage Electric’s pedal-assist models.
For bicycles, the Vintage Electric e-bikes aren’t light. The Café weighs 53 pounds, and even with aluminum frames, the throttle models hover around 80-90 pounds. But the motor is powerful enough to make climbing hills a breeze, even without going to the highest level of pedal assistance. The Café’s motor is torquey and powerful enough that the bike arguably doesn’t even need 10 speeds, Autoblog reports.
As for the throttle models, they’re arguably the closest thing to an electric motorcycle with pedals, Wired reports. They handle corners like dirt bikes, and can even do burnouts. The Vintage Electric throttle e-bikes’ extra weight comes in part from the front forks, which are more heavy-duty than the ones on the pedal-assist bikes. They make for more comfort and stability at the higher Race Mode speeds.
All the bikes, though, have a high level of build and material quality. The handgrips are made of leather, as is the saddle. And the Café model comes with real-wood trim. Plus, Vintage Electric offers optional luggage racks and waterproof saddlebags.
Unfortunately, the retro style and high speed don’t come cheap. The Vintage Electric Café starts at $3995, and the more off-road-focused Rally starts at $4995. The Tracker also starts at $4995, while the Scrambler and Roadster start at $6995. And if you want the 36-mph Race Mode, it’s an extra $149.
The Aventon Pace 350 and Propella 7-speed aren’t nearly as powerful or as fast. But they’re both lighter and cheaper than the Café. And priced in-between the Café and Rally is the Class 3 Specialized Turbo Vado SL, which is significantly lighter with a longer range.
However, none of these bikes have the Vintage Electric e-bikes’ looks. The throttle models are cheaper and easier to live with than the vintage motorcycles whose style they ape. Plus, if the ranges seem a little short to you, Vintage Electric also offers battery upgrades.
The best way to see if these bikes are right for you, though, is to throw your legs over one and ride.
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