Review of The Electric Bike Company’s Model R, a cruiser style ebike with rugged tires that can be used as a commuter bike or for light trails.
Key Bike Facts
- Up to 28mph top throttle speed
- Up to 120 mile battery range
- Up to 1250 watt peak power motor
- 10 year frame and motor warranty. 5 year battery warranty
- Price: Starting at $2199
- To purchase: Click here
I can think of few places on this planet, better suited for ebike recreation, than beautiful Santa Barbara, California. The weather is spectacular year round. It’s hilly (but not too hilly). It’s small by city standards with ample residential streets you can use to bypass busy thoroughfares and it sports a gorgeous coastline that rivals any in California. In fact, having lived in Santa Barbara in short stints over the years, I’ve encountered many Santa Barbarites who embraced the car-less lifestyle long before ebikes became a popular means of transportation. It’s the kind of place where you could easily get by with just a moped style scooter or a decent road bike, as many UCSB students can attest to.
There was a time when it was pretty common to see a 50cc Honda or Vespa cruising down State Street but now that electric bicycles have come down in price, you can purchase a brand new ebike for nearly the same price as a used scooter. A casual search on Craigslist led me to a handful of Vespas for under three grand in the Southern California area. No disrespect to the Vespa, it’s a fine vehicle if you want to live out your Audrey Hepburn fantasy or if want something cool and timeless that sits in your garage for most of the year, save for the occasional weekend jaunt to the wineshop. As far as an everyday vehicle, it doesn’t make a lot of sense when you can have an ebike for the same price (or less) that you never have to take to the gas station and doesn’t even require a drivers license (more money in DMV fees) to operate.
Which brings me to The Electric Bike Company, makers of the quintessential electric bicycle for the Santa Barbara lifestyle- the electric beach cruiser. The beach cruiser has a long and storied history in southern California, where you can trace its heyday to the 1970s when recycled cruiser style bikes could be found in garage sales for basically the price of a six pack. Models like the Schwinn Cruiser and the Murray “Monterrey” became synonymous with places like Newport and Venice Beach and helped solidify in the minds of cruiser enthusiasts the defining characteristics of this venerable bike style.
There’s a reason people love beach cruisers. They’re nearly indestructible. They’re easy to ride and easy to maintain. In a word they are unpretentious- just an affordable bike with a classic design that will never go out of style. They are the Van’s slip-on of bikes.
Why buy from EBC?
If you want to feel good about supporting American businesses and manufacturers then an EBC bike might be the best choice for you. Whereas most ebike companies with a similar price-point as EBC are heavily sourced from Chinese factories, The Electric Bike Company sources as many of their parts and components from US manufacturers as possible, including the tires, frame, wheels, fenders and other accessories. The batteries and motors are still manufactured overseas but you’d expect that to change down the line as the cost to manufacturer batteries decreases over time.
Another reason to feel great about buying an ebike from EBC is the impressive quality of the components that are standard on every model they sell, including the entry level models. Four piston motorcycle level hydraulic brakes for maximum stopping power with minimal effort from your fingers. These are big, heavy bikes and when you’re going downhill at 30mph the typical standard issue brakes you’d get with most ebike brands at this price would simply not cut it. Likewise, all models come with at least a 1000W (peak) motor capable of hill climbing with a load of 250 lbs. Throw in puncture resistant tires and wheels that are built completely in-house from scratch and you have a hard package to beat for under $2,500.
With a meticulous focus on comfort, quality, style and safety you won’t find many bikes that rival the Electric Bike Company’s fleet of electric vehicles when it comes to delivering a smooth ride and the kind of wow factor that will have strangers coming up to you asking where you got your bike. It happened to us twice on our ride for the record. However, with such an emphasis on safety and build quality you won’t find the Model R particularly nimble, but that’s not really the point. This bike weighs 56 pounds not counting the optional components like the basket, sport fenders and rear rack. You really feel all that weight as you lift the Model R away from your body to line up for your takeoff. I pictured my mom trying to pull this out of the driveway and having it fall on top of her (she’s tiny btw). Even me as an experienced bike rider with some decent core strength I found it a little uncomfortable pulling down the driveway and onto my friend’s busy street without kicking in the throttle. On a flat and quiet residential street that quick burst is not always needed but with the sheer heft of this bike, pedal assist and or a short throttle push may be more or less required to build enough pedaling momentum to keep some riders from tipping over. If you’re on a leisurely ride that starts in a cul-de-sac that’s not an issue but if you’re pulling into traffic from a stoplight, the throttle on this bike is your best friend.
EBC put a lot of thought into the design of this throttle btw. Rather than a twisting throttle switch they opt for a “push” throttle that can be softly pressed with your thumb without requiring much effort or thought. It’s those small details that make these bikes so great and you’ll be thankful for that attention to detail next time you have to accelerate across a busy city intersection. Fiddling around with an awkwardly placed throttle is the last thing you want to be thinking about in that situation.
Now let’s talk about how riding this bike feels. We already mentioned that there is a sluggishness to this bike when pedal assist is not engaged, not unlike a traditional beach cruiser, but with a 1250 watt motor to whip you around you’re probably not going to care. Besides, when have you ever ridden a traditional beach cruiser that was able to comfortably haul up to 380 pounds of load? On flat roads or anything with a slight incline, you’re going to want at least level 1 pedal assist to move the Model R around at a leisurely clip without too much firing of your quad muscles. Once you get a good head of steam, momentum starts to take over. That’s when you get cocky and start to crank up the pedal assist to level 2 and 3. Pretty soon you’re flying by pedestrians, and other bikes for that matter, at 25mph without even noticing.
If you get a chance to get your hands on this beauty and you happen to be in the Central Coast area of California, it’s a nice thrill to be virtually floating down the bike paths, gliding up and gliding down the gently rolling Santa Barbara hills with the breeze at your back. The motor is extremely snappy and seamlessly engages as you pedal. It is very easy to get this bike up to 28 or 30 mph, as I routinely did during my test-ride, but riders can take comfort in the fact that the stopping power of EBC’s hydraulic disc brakes provides peace of mind. I found them to be head and shoulders more effective than the typical brakes found on most ebikes in this price range. I would have loved to have tested them off-road in sustained downhill riding where I imagine the hyper efficiency of those brake levers provides a welcome relief to riders.
For our next review of the Model R we will be sure to put this beautiful baby through its paces on some rugged terrain. Until then please email or comment if you want more information.