Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Riding the UrbanMover Sprite electric bicycle - product review

Apr 27 update - this is a bike that grows on you; update here. In short: I like it and do not want to give it up.

Earlier today I blogged about ordering, receiving and (manually?) pedalling this bike; now that I've used it in 'powered' mode, there's more to report.

In short: Sprites would be optimal for Lake Wildwood residents who don't want to stress their knees.

Visually, the bike is a stunner - for elegance, it's head and shoulders above the competition.

And without power (especially without the weight of the battery), the bike is usable, even for hills; if you were to run out of juice you could still make it home. Not quite as good as a mountain bike, but not bad.

But for me, unless I'm missing something, it's disappointing - it has a blind spot in the sweet spot, it seems to be designed for people who don't really want exercise.
In other words - it epitomizes the complaints of the people who're prejudiced against electric bicycles, who say "electric bikes make you lazy".

Clunky and tanklike though it may have been, my friend's E-Bike had a killer app, a 2-speed assist - low for "I just need a bit of help", high for "I need a lot". And most of the time, low was all you needed, and you could still get a workout by pedalling along.

In contrast, the Sprite is an Alpha Bicycle that's dying to show it's more powerful than you; there's no way to make it understand that you don't want much help. If the battery is 'on', anytime you pedal the power kicks in, full blast, dwarfing your efforts.

Alternatively there is a wrist (twist) throttle*, that's variable strength* and that overrides the pedal-activated power, so in theory you could (I think) pedal while using it to (lightly) power the bike. But maintaining such control seems like it'd be a PITA, and also the instruction manual cautions you that using the wrist throttle gives much poorer mileage.
(are they assuming you're not pedalling? I do not know.)

Also, the Sprite is a city bike - it feels like it'd be tempting fate to ride it over our potholes.
(but this is true to some degree for all electric bicycles, IMO.)

So the next question is, how to transfer the bike to its rightful owner without voiding the warranty, which says it applies only to the original owner?
(if the original owner has only owned the bike for a day, this doesn't seem entirely fair...)

Will report back.


Anonymous said...

Why didn't you look into the Segway human transporter? You can get a good price for them on eBay.


Anna said...


yeah, that'd be fun. No pedaling for sure, but fun.

Especially on our potholes...

Russ Steele said...

Saw one of those bikes tethered to a street sign in Mendocinio and wondered about the lenght of battery life.

Anonymous said...

O yee of little faith:

The Segway HT moves briskly along on both paved and rough terrain, taking ruts and potholes bumpily but with no loss of control, even for thebeginner.

Not only that, Al Gore is a big fan! "A twofer."


Anonymous said...

Here's the dets, Anna:
Segway Newsletter, issue #14

Segway attends Hollywood premiere of 'An Inconvenient Truth'

On May 16th the Segway PT made an appearance on the "Green Carpet" at the premiere of Al Gore's documentary, "An Inconvenient Truth" which addresses the serious threat of global warming. As Hollywood's glitterati made their way down the green carpet, they paused to sign the Segway PT, well known as an emissions-free, eco-friendly transportation alternative. As a continuation of Segway's partnership with Participant Productions (Syriana, North Country ), the company donated the autographed Segway PT to Participant's recent eBay auction to benefit the Alliance for Climate Protection, a non-profit cause Gore helped to create. The Segway PT was signed by 32 celebrities at the premiere, including Jessica Alba, Larry David, Sharon Stone, Garry Shandling, Rob Reiner and Al Gore, and was one of the most actively bid items in the auction.


pep said...

The Segway only looks good with the proper headgear.

Anna said...

"taking ruts and potholes bumpily but with no loss of control, even for the beginner."

Ha. They don't know our potholes. Or just how bad some of us "beginners" are, at that coordination stuff.

Plus do you really think these are anything other than the words of a PR flack? Skepticism, Jeff, skepticism... :-)

"You can get a good price for them on eBay."

You know what would be cool, would be to do a quantitative analysis of Ebay sale prices (of near-new items) vs. list price; I bet the delta would give you a _very_ good measure of the usability of a product.
(this wouldn't necessarily work for the Segway though, since it likely falls into the "luxury toy" category, for the initial purchasers.)

and pep, i don't think that headgear would protect me very well - rather worse even than my old (unadorned white styrofoam) helmet, of which a friend said "hey just shave your head and paint it white, it'll give you just as much protection".
Interesting though, that you've been researching it - do you find that it works for you? :-)

Anna said...

an update, re the bike's behavior during pedaling - got an email from the distributor who said that in the UK they sell a "torque sensor" option that varies the power applied depending on the power you're applying. So that might solve the "i still want exercise" problem, although not with this bike (would need to exchange it).

And Russ, re your
"wondered about the length of battery life"
they say max distance (over flat ground) per charge on the battery is 18 miles (pedaling, NiMH; lithium gives 30) or 10(not pedaling), and and (from this page) the NiMH battery's cycle life is 400-500 charges.

(and Russ i haven't addressed your answers yet, re global warming - trying to get some writing done today(which right now i am procrastinating on), so won't get to it today.)