Buell motorcycles are fast, beautiful and expensive. How does Erik Buell's e-bike compare?
If you are into micro-mobility, these are such exciting times. There is so much experimentation and so many new designs. E-bikes, in particular, are seeing an explosion of innovation.
As with almost every new tech, the high-end expensive products bought by the early adopter types pop up early, so they are often expensive. A good example is the FUELL Fluid, designed by Erik Buell and up on Indiegogo.
Most e-bikes come from bike manufacturers who add motors, but Buell is famous for big, fast and beautiful motorcycles and is going in the other direction. I worried that it would be a big, heavy, massively overpowered e-bike, or what they call a "speed pedelec" that's too fast for the bike lanes.
In fact, it is incredibly restrained. It's designed to comply with the rules in the EU and in North America, so it comes in three Pedelec (no throttle, you have to pedal to get the motor to start) versions, a 250 watt EU version that does 15 MPH; a Class 1, 500 watt North American version that does 20 MPH; and a Class 3 version that does 28 MPH. Pick the appropriate one for where you live and you can go anywhere in the bike lanes.
But there are no legal limits on range, so this bike packs it in with two removable batteries, a Kilowatt/hour of juice and 125 miles of range. You could ride all day on this, and you don't need hydrogen.
The Fuell has a mid-drive motor, which has a couple of advantages, the main one being that the motor drives before the gears, so when you want to take off fast you can drop to low gear and get more push out of the motor. They have chosen a low maintenance 8-speed geared hub and low maintenance belt drive. All of these are more expensive choices.
A couple of downsides for me are the riding position, which is like a mountain bike. I personally have never liked this, finding that I always get sore wrists, but it is great for banging through New York potholes; this e-bike will not only eat cars, it will ride right over them.
To be a really useful city bike, it also could use proper fenders and carriers, although that bracket under the seat hints that there are going to be available options. It is an odd mix of features, having the range you might want for touring, the seating position for banging around on the trails, interesting electronic security features but no place to put the heavy bike locks you will need for a $4,000 bike in New York City. It's also heavy at 69 pounds, not really suitable for a Brooklyn walkup apartment.
Watching Erik Buell in this video, it's clear that he is not a bike guy, explaining how gears and brakes work. But his team has designed a really interesting bike.
We are going to be seeing a lot of interesting new e-bikes in the next few years, at all price ranges. The Fuell Fluid is certainly a niche product, but I bet that it is a lot of fun to ride and there is a market for that too. And I want to know where they took these photos – such interesting modern brutalist concrete buildings.