The Affordable Lectric XP Lite 'E-Thing' Changed My Thinking

A ride on an affordable e-bike has changed my thinking.

Lectric Bike
The Lectric XP Lite in the wild.

Lloyd Alter

Treehugger often says we need three things for the e-bike revolution: good affordable bikes, safe places to ride, and secure places to park. So I was excited to be offered a test drive on a Lectric e-bike. I asked for the least expensive model and they sent me an XP Lite, which retails on their website for $799. It's in a more accessible price range. For reference, it's less than a quarter of what my Gazelle Medeo retails for.

The XP Lite lives up to the "Lite" in its name in many ways. It weighs just 46 pounds, including a 7-pound battery. It is light in its footprint, folding up easily into a small space. Compared to some bikes sold in the U.S., it has a light geared rear hub motor at 300 watts, although it peaks at 720 watts. The 48-volt, 7.8 amp-hour (.375 kilowatt hours) battery gives it a relatively lite range, up to 40 miles on Pedal Assist (PAS) level 1. It has excellent 160 mm mechanical disc brakes, integrated front and rear lights, and 2.6-inch tires on 20-inch wheels. It also has a gloriously huge display that tells you everything you want to know—far more than on my bike's Bosch display, where you have to toggle for different information.

Service Network
Service Network.

Lectric

A feature I like about the company is it has a really strong service network in the U.S. "Lectric has partnered with reputable bike shops nation-wide who are willing and able to assist you with service and repairs." This was always a worry of mine about buying bikes online, but Lectric has this one covered. 

Inside the Box

Lloyd Alter

When I received the bike, I was certain that it would be a disaster; the box had holes in it and was taped together. This was not the case. It is a very solid, well-built bike that took me by surprise. I have seen cheap e-bikes with sketchy parts, and there is nothing cheap about the build of this bike.

protection around connection
Note the box protecting the connection.

Lloyd Alter

There were really encouraging touches, like the steel cages protecting delicate components, like the connection of the power to the wheel and the chain ring.

The Glorious Display
The Glorious Display.

Lloyd Alter

The assembly of the bike was straightforward; it really was just packed and folded. Straighten it out, put in the seat and the handlebars, and you are pretty much good to go once you find the keyhole; it is the only thing not clearly identified in the brochure. 

The XP Lite is a Class II e-bike with a maximum speed of 20 mph and a throttle as well as pedal assist. When I first rode it, I found it a bit disconcerting; it did not feel like the kind of e-bikes I was used to. As the company history notes, Levi Conlow and Robby Deziel designed their bikes from the ground up to be an "authentic combination of affordability, foldability, and comfort." And it absolutely is affordable, a bit of a struggle to fold and unfold, and surprisingly comfortable to sit on. But there were things that I was not comfortable with. Whereas my Gazelle is basically a bicycle design where they added a motor, I found that the smaller knobby wheels and the lack of gears made the XP a not very good bicycle when pedaled without power.

Because it has only one gear, one has to find the right speed and Pedal Assist combination. I found that with PAS 1 and 2, I was pedaling hard and not getting anywhere, but PAS 3 at 14.1 mph was a comfortable position and more than fast enough for me in Toronto's bike lanes. If I pumped the PAS up any higher, then I was just spinning the pedals and not really contributing anything; the motor was doing all the work. At this point, the throttle became a more attractive proposition. It took a bit of getting used to; on my fancy Bosch drive, you do not feel the motor kick in; it just gives you a boost. On the Lectric, it takes a crank rotation or two, depending on how you set it, for the motor to kick in, and you do feel it. It is a different kind of ride on a different kind of bike.

I got into a lot of trouble recently when discussing how different this ride was, compared to my preconception of an e-bike, in an earlier post titled "America's E-Bike Revolution is in Trouble." I wrote at the time:

 "It is not really an e-bike; it is an e-thing. Because it is designed from the ground up to be electric-first, it has small wheels with fat soft tires, great for city streets and maneuverability. But with lots of rolling resistance, which makes it a terrible bicycle. It doesn't have multiple gears, so when you are riding at 15 mph, you have to spin those pedals fast. But hey, it is a Type 2 e-bike, it has a throttle, and you quickly learn how much easier it is just to sit there and not spin the pedals. And, pretty soon, you are just sitting there with your hands on the throttle, going 20 mph, and are no longer on a bike. You are on a scooter, and you are going too fast because it is too easy. It's a beautifully made e-thing at a great price, but it is not a bike—it is a different machine."

I have come, if not to regret those words, but to reconsider them. Not because there are over 350 comments saying, "Blah blah blah sounds like an angry old man" but because of the other comments that point out that we need innovation, we need e-bikes designed from the ground up. My favorite, edited for brevity:

"Long live the eThings! This is a wonderful period of exploration. e need more funky fat tire weird moped things. We need three-wheeled sit-downers, three-wheeled stand uppers, strange recumbents, all kinds of adaptive transport. There's no fundamental downside to having the eThing innovation blown wide open. So let's blow it open and see what comes out."

I then decided to take off my angry old man hat and put on my designer hat, and accept that an e-bike doesn't have to look like a Dutch bike from 1897 with a battery on the carrier. It doesn't have to be what I keep calling "a bike with a boost," but can be a machine designed from scratch around the principles of electric mobility.

Battery and open top tube
The bike's battery and open top tube.

Lloyd Alter

Then you realize how clever the design actually is. The top tube is a steel box beam designed with the battery in mind, with a big enough cross-section to make the hinge and the battery compartment accessible and easy to use. This makes more sense than trying to squeeze a battery into a traditional diamond frame.

hinge and battery
The bike's hinge does double duty as the battery cover and electrical connector.

Lloyd Alter

The hinge does double duty as the battery cover and electrical connector. This made it so easy to get the battery out; it is locked in place with the key. Remove the key and the battery slides right out in a second. One might question whether it makes sense to put the battery connections through the repetitive stress of folding and unfolding the bike, but I don't believe that this is a bike that will be folded that often. I found it difficult and awkward to do, and the bike is already pretty small.

Side view of bike
Big open U between seat and handlebars.

Lloyd Alter

I have also promoted step-through designs for safety, but they have to be beefed up to take the structural loads you get without a top tube. The Lectric, with its smaller wheels and low straight beam structure, is actually easier to get on and off than my Gazelle step-through design; instead of a small V at the bottom, the whole bike is low, like a big U. There is also lots of room for easy adjustment of the seat and handlebars.

Basically, if you throw out your preconceptions, the design makes total sense.

Handle with D-Lock
The handle with a D-lock.

Lloyd Alter

It's light enough to lift, and wonder of wonders, there is a convenient handle to do so that also acts as a spot for a D-lock.

ebike against wall

Lloyd Alter

If I go back to the first principles, what I hoped for with the Lectric XP Lite was that it would be a well-designed, well-built e-bike at an affordable price—it is exactly that. It's not perfect: I wish it had gears and a carrier, both of which would have increased the price and are available on the next model up. It has an elegant design. It is small, it is agile, and it does the job it was designed to do. If it is less of a traditional e-bike and more of an e-thing, then I now agree with my commenter: Long live the Lectric XP Lite E-Thing.