The electric folding bike combines everything I love about getting places on a bicycle with everything I hate about cars, like having to pay for gas and parking. It also marries everything I love about getting places in a car with everything I hate about bicycles, like having to exercise.
While relatively cheap and super liberating in spurts, the custom-made motorized Brompton folding bike I tried out ended up being a little less convenient than I imagined, chiefly because it almost got me run over by a New York City taxi on my way back to NYCeWheels, a local e-Bike maker.
I charged it for an entire workday, but my bike's battery died as I was going uphill in Midtown East -- just as I was cutting across 5 open lanes of traffic to make a left turn (sounds dangerous, I know, but it's a fairly common move in New York). The bike sputtered and clanked to a stop as the juice gave out and the chain snapped in the middle of the street, jerking me forward against the handlebars. Luckily, I was able to pedal my bike, dead battery and broken chain and all, to the sidewalk, and avoid my untimely end.
Otherwise, I really liked my time on the electric bike!
I was certainly impressed by how compact the folding bike could become when collapsed, even with the motor attached. In about 30 seconds it went from full-sized bicycle to a portable form roughly the size of the bicycle's back tire. Though it weighs in at a relatively light 35 pounds, the folded electric bike was a little heavier than I liked, especially when carrying it upstairs. On flat ground, however, it can be rolled like wheeled luggage or carried like a heavy suitcase.
That convenience, however, didn't outweigh the danger the bike's battery death put me in. Apparently the charger had accidentally been set for European standards instead of American, which made it incapable of taking a meaningful charge. The battery actually died on me twice during testing.
On a full (and proper) charge, however, the battery had no problem propelling me at top speed, without pedaling, for the full 10 miles between my apartment in Queens and the HuffPost office in downtown Manhattan. And on the plus side, the bike's chain breaking was much less exasperating and expensive to fix than a dead car battery.
Below, check out my full report on this top-of-the-line electric Brompton bike, including pricing, top speeds and how owning an electric bike is a little like a famous Mitch Hedberg joke: