High Class: Powerful electric assist transforms a classic cruiser

John Timmer

If your entire list of bike formats consists of road and mountain, you may have a hard time remembering what a cruiser is. Think of a long, heavy frame with handlebars that push back in a wide curve, allowing the rider to sit almost upright on a wide, comfortable seat. The fat tires make for a comfortable ride, mostly on a beach-side stretch of road in warm, sunny weather.

Based on its name and aesthetics, the Ride1Up Cafe Cruiser aims to evoke those bikes. It does a passable job with the thick tires, sweeping handlebars, and upright riding stance. But it also offers Class 3 e-bike pedal assist, which means it will continue to deliver power until the bike reaches 28 mph (45 km/h). This is what makes the trip definitely not a casual cruise.

bicycle

The Cafe Cruiser comes in both step-by-step and step-down tires; We tested the progressive version, which weighed about 30 kg (65 lbs). Its heavy rack is integrated into the frame, and the front fork has suspension to cushion some of the bumps. There are a couple of points where the bezel is thicker apparently for aesthetic reasons; Furthermore, the bike’s most unique feature is the fact that the battery falls from the bottom of the frame rather than being held in place from the top. This makes it somewhat difficult to put it back in place if you remove it, but it does allow space to put a water bottle holder on top of this tube.

Most of the components are pretty standard, like the solid disc brakes and thick, heavy tires that absorb bumps and rough pavement. It has a range of eight gears on the rear derailleur; Combined with five levels of assistance, these give you many options for fine-tuning your ride. Having tried both stationary and geared e-bikes, it’s hard to overstate how fun and enjoyable this experience was overall.

As for the help, its level is controlled by the up and down arrows on a standard controller. The display is also pretty standard, showing speed, miles traveled, power output, etc. The front and rear lights are integrated into the electronics and can be turned on and off from the console.

One odd feature is the throttle, which lets you activate the engine without pedaling. Technically, Class 3 e-bikes shouldn’t have a throttle; These are part of the Class 2 specification, which limits the top speed to 20 mph (32 km/h). In the Cafe Cruiser, the throttle is there and it cuts out at 20mph, but the pedal assist doesn’t cut out until 28mph. Maybe it’s class 2.5?

Anyway, the motor is a standard 750W unit that generates 60Nm of torque. It’s not enough to power her up every hill without slowing her down, but enough so she never stops.

The grips filled with faux leather grips and front suspension are an odd combination.

The grips filled with faux leather grips and front suspension are an odd combination.

John Timmer

The motor is driven by a cadence sensor, which simply records whether or not you’re pedaling, not whether you’re generating any power. As such, it’s possible to set a high level of assist and keep the pedals spinning gently, bringing the bike’s barrel along at high speed. Doing so will definitely burn the battery faster, which puts you on the low side of Ride1Up’s 50-80 km (30-50 miles) range; Keeping the assist low and pedaling harder will extend the battery for longer distances.

Aside from the frame, its most distinctive feature is probably the handlebars, which are fairly wide and arch farther back from the stem. With my height, I had to angle the rails up from the stem to get a comfortable cruising position. The ends of the bars are covered in faux leather grips that are wider at the ends where they meet the handlebars. I found this somewhat awkward, as your hands tend to slide towards the narrow end, smashing the brake levers a bit. Things were only worse when I had the gloves on on a cold day.

As with other bikes in this price range, the Cafe Cruiser was delivered with some assembly required: attach the front wheel, fender, and light, and add the handlebars and pedals. All required tools were included, and there was nothing complicated about the process.

Overall, in terms of assembly and components, the Cafe Cruiser was pretty typical of what you’d see in bikes in its price range. The real highlight is the cruiser design, which has some implications for the riding experience. That, and the fact that Ride1Up chose to make it a Class 3.

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