Review: Currie EZip Trailz Electric Bike

By , July 14, 2010 10:41 am

I bought this one! This one! Mine!

As I mentioned last month, I bought an electric bike shortly after I got out of the hospital. Specifically, a Currie EZip Trailz. (I feel particularly clever because it’s currently $499 at Amazon, but I bought it for a brief period when it was $399.) I haven’t really discussed it much since then, though, so I figured it was time for an actual review.

First, a bit on how electric bikes work. They all have some sort of motor connected to a battery, allowing for extra oomph while biking. The motor is either strapped onto the fame (like my bike) or, for more expensive models, built into the hub of the wheel. The hub motors are better and quieter, but the external motors are cheaper. The battery then goes somewhere on the frame of the bike, in this case attaching to the rear rack. Again, on fancier bikes, the battery is more well-hidden. Depending on the style of the bike, you get power to the motor either automatically, by pedaling, or manually, by a handle-mounted throttle or trigger.

The Trailz is about as low-end of an electric bike as you can find. It’s a steel frame, so it’s super heavy, the battery is less expensive, so it’s heavy, and the motor is mounted rather than hub-based, so it’s heavy. With the battery, the bike weight about 90 pounds. Without, it’s closer to 75. I got the step-through model because, to be totally honest, it’s a bit more girlie. So sue me.

The bike has two modes of operation, which Currie calls “Pedal Assist” (PA) and “Twist and Go” (TAG). Pedal assist means that the motor will automatically kick in when you’re pedaling, to give you an extra bit of power. You can also twist the throttle to get even more power, but by default the motor will help you out a bit. In my experience, PA gets me to about 13 or 14 MPH without much work, which is pretty great. TAG means you don’t have to pedal at all, but I rarely use it because it makes me feel like a complete tool. It’s fun, particularly when showing off the bike to friends, but I like the experience of pedaling a bit.

Jet Afterburners

This is the emotional experience of riding the electric bike.

What I usually end up doing is using pedal assist to get me up as fast as it’ll go, then twist the throttle for maximum speed. I’m going to be a giant dork and say I feel like it gives me afterburners, which is just awesome. It’s particularly fun to pull up next to a (real) biker at a stoplight, and just waste them when the light turns green. Or bike lazily by someone who is clearly working much harder than I am, even though I’m going faster.

Using the pedal and the throttle, I’ve been averaging about 16 MPH, and can hit 20 MPH if I want to really work for it. For comparison, on my real bike, I usually averaged about 14 MPH and was working a hell of a lot harder for those 14 than I do now for the 16.

So what about downsides? Well, the big one has been weight. I intentionally chose an inexpensive entry-level electric bike, and I’m not regretting the purchase. However, next summer or the summer after, I may seriously consider selling this one and upgrading to something with a lighter frame and/or a better (and lighter!) battery. While biking with the motor, you don’t notice the weight. But if you try to bike without the motor, or need to carry the bike at all, the weight becomes kind of ridiculous. It’s like you have this easy, breezy time getting up to 16 MPH with the motor, but then hit a steep incline in difficulty. Not just because you’re trying to go faster, but because you’re suddenly trying to drag the 90 pounds of steel bike and heavy battery with you.

Likewise, the throttle is a little tight. By which I mean it takes too much effort to hold it in place to go – the spring returning it to the neutral position is strong enough that my hand will begin to tense up over the ~6.5 mile ride to work. Possibly a sign I should lay off the friggin’ throttle, but why would I want to do that?! 😉

I do like that the battery is removable, even though it’s friggin’ heavy. That means I can store the bike somewhere – in my garage at home or in the basement storage unit at my office – and still take the battery up to my apartment or my office to charge. The charger is about the size of a laptop power thinger, so is easy to stick in my bike bag and take to and from work. In playing with the bike along the lakefront, I’ve successfully biked 15+ miles on a single charge, but I’m paranoid enough about being stranded at work that I take the charger with anyway. I’m pretty confident the 12 mile round trip would be no problem for the battery, I’m just a cautious gal.

Throttle and battery level

Throttle and battery level

Speaking of the battery, the bike does have a red/yellow/green battery power indicator on the handlebar, which is nice. However, as anyone who has used something with a live battery status indicator can tell you, they aren’t very accurate. (Think about the battery gauge on your laptop.) If you’re cruising along using only a little battery, the indicator will be at green. If you then push the throttle and get a boost, the indicator may drop to yellow. If you go from a complete dead stop and use the throttle to get going (I’m lazy) it may even drop to red. I think I understand why – because it’s telling you the load it’s able to draw, and unlike gas tanks it’s hard to tell how much is “left” of a battery charge – but it’s still a little annoying. I think I’d rather have an analog needle gauge displaying the total charge, even though I know it’d jump around (like the digital lights do) as usage changed. But I’m a big geek who thinks about these things, so I don’t know if that’ll be a practical concern for most people.

So what do I think of my purchase? I (almost universally) love it. I have a few frustrations – namely the weight and the throttle – but nothing huge. I knew about the weight going in, and that’s purely an indication of how much I was willing to pay. But the ability to get to and from work on a bike, without having the full strain of biking, is awesome. And it fit what my original goals were: A) I’m able to raise my heart rate without arriving to work drenched in sweat, and B) Getting to work on the electric bike results in a comparable travel time to driving. On the way up to work, when there wasn’t much traffic, it takes me a bit longer to bike than to drive. But on the way home, during rush-hour, it’s probably just as fast – if not faster – to use the electric bike as it is to drive. I’m also more willing to stop and get groceries or whatnot on the way home, because carrying them is easier and less effort.

The only reason I’m rethinking the purchase is because of my situation with work. This may have not been the best financial decision as I look for another job, but it was definitely a great purchase. Feel free to ask any questions in the comments, but I’ll have to answer them later: I’m about to go bike to work.

8 Responses to “Review: Currie EZip Trailz Electric Bike”

  1. Ash says:

    I’m curious about how you lock your bike. You said you stop and by groceries so you must have a lock, right? Does your work let you bring it inside during the day? I don’t know what it is like in Chicago but my bike got stolen a few weeks ago when I left it, locked, for less than ten minutes in New York.

    • Rebecca says:

      I’m able to park it in my garage at home (even though my roommate uses it for her car) and in the basement storage unit at work. I also use a u-lock in the garage, since I know it’s not perfectly secure. Since most of what I’m doing is to and from work, that works well.

      If I’m biking around more generally, I’d choose whether or not to stop at all depending on where I am. Up in Evanston, or in my own neighborhood, I absolutely feel safe leaving it locked up for a little bit. (Probably not overnight.) But there are places in the city I definitely wouldn’t want to leave it out, even locked up.

  2. Molly says:

    I use a folding bike because I commute via bike and trains to work and back. If they ever make a lightweight folding model PA bike, I’m in. Oh, and if you want to look fashionable, be sure to check out Pro Campo bags at . I love mine!

  3. Travis says:

    I was thinking about buying one of these bikes, but am kind of afraid that if I bring it to work and it starts raining around mid-day, I might be stranded. Will it ruin the motor if it gets wet? Even if the rain stops, there will still be water on the road that can splash onto it, and thats kind of what I was worried about. Thanks. Great blog, by the way! 🙂

    • Rebecca says:

      The stuff I got with the bike said you shouldn’t get the motor wet, which does kind of suck. I think the in-hub motors (that are built into the wheel, rather than strapped onto the bike) are supposed to be more water-resistant, but they’re also more expensive. I’m fortunate enough to have a place to store my bike at work, so am OK taking the bus home if it starts to rain. But yeah, I’ve been pretty anal about not biking to work if there’s even a little chance it’ll rain.

  4. Jon says:

    I have an ezip trailz bike with the mounted motor. I live in the Pacific Northwest where we know rain real well. I have had my bike for over a year and a half and the water does not seem to bother the motor. However, I do take care to make sure the rear rack that houses the electrical wiring is covered.

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