Saturday, October 17, 2020

The New Bike: Very Early Impressions

It arrived yesterday. I'm still under the weather, so it probably took longer than it otherwise would have to assemble, and since it was past dark before the battery got its initial charge, I waited until this morning to take it for a (short, about three miles) ride. so this is not going to be anything like a full review.

First impression (unboxing and assembly): The bike arrived in fine condition, with no visible shipping damage to the box, etc. Assembly was fairly easy -- it consisted of mounting the front wheel, handlebar set, and front fender, and adjusting the front brake (I still don't have that quite right, for some reason I always have problems with brake adjustments). I have not mounted the pretty little basket that fits on the front yet. I'm not sure I really need it. It's not big enough or solid enough to carry much of a load, nor would I want a gallon of milk or whatever on the front of the bike, screwing with steering and control. We'll see, though.

The only assembly problems I had that might have been the factory's fault rather than mine were that 1) the included wrench did not span the nuts for mounting the front wheel (I have my own multi-size wrench that features most needed sizes for bike stuff) and 2) one of the screws for holding the fender in place seemed to have been screwed down far too tight, so  that I had to use a socket to get it out. But nothing major. I always have a few little challenges with anything marked "some assembly required."

First impression of the bike as a thing: I'm used to a tall bike (700c wheel) and a large frame (57cm), so I expected this 26" bike to feel shorter, and it does. I didn't expect it to feel "small" because it's a "cargo" bike.

Shortly before it arrived, I was watching a video review I hadn't discovered before buying it, and it explained something that hadn't occurred to me. Normally when an American thinks of a "Chinese bicycle" it's a matter of the bike being manufactured in China but marketed/sold by an American company for American consumers.

That's not Nakto. Apparently this bike is a very popular commuter model in China itself, so the frame is built for an average rider height of about 3" shorter than in the US. And I'm almost 3" above average US male height. And it's theoretically a women's bike. So the frame is intended for a rider about 10-11" shorter than me. I haven't quite got the bike fitted to my size yet in terms of adjusting the seat and handlebars upward, but close. The bike is just going to feel kind of small to me until I get used to it.

First impression of the ride: Magnificent.

It rides smoothly when pedaling normally.  The bike frame is fairly heavy ("cargo," remember?) and has 1.75cm tires, so it does take a little more effort than, say, my Harper Critical 700c with its 25mm racing tires, but that's just to be expected.

In "pedal assist" mode, it seems to detect how aggressively I'm riding, and then pop up enough power to make the pedaling nearly, but not quite, effortless. More expensive e-bikes apparently have pedal assist modes that let you set the amount of assist it gives you, but this is not a more expensive e-bike. It works.

In full electric motor mode, with a turning throttle control on the right hand grip, it's still a smooth ride. The bike feels well under control even at top speed. That top speed is supposedly 20-25 miles per hour. I need to download a speedometer app for my phone. I doubt that it gets quite that fast with my fat ass holding it down, but it's certainly a nice clip.

And that's it. I don't have any comments on battery life yet because I've only been out for one short ride. The bike feels solid, but I won't know how solid it is until I've put a few hundred miles on it. I'll probably take it out for another spin today -- perhaps the 11-mile round trip to Archer and back -- and unless something goes horribly wrong I'll go ahead and buy a $20, 25-liter rear rack pannier bag so that I can fully utilize the "cargo" part of the description.

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