Here in Ystad, Sweden, you can borrow an electric bicycle free of charge for two weeks from the library. I presume it’s an initiative from the local council to get people interested in buying and using environmentally friendly electric bikes as an alternative to taking the car. There’s probably some sponsorship from the cycle brands and retailers as well, but I don’t know the details.
I do feel a bit sorry for the poor librarians. They didn’t study or sign up to be in the bicycle rental business and there’s a lot of hassle for them with the paperwork and checking in and out the bikes when they’d probably prefer to be recommending the latest Astrid Lindgren children’s book.
Anyway, as a library member you just have to reserve a bike, and then wait for up to 6 months. So, it’s not like you can go and just hire one for the weekend.
Now it’s finally my turn and I’m a bit of a cycle nut myself so really curious and excited to try out this amazing contraption!
This particular bike is a Babboe Curve, named presumably after it’s sweeping lines and rounded cargo compartment. It is a fine looking machine I think, but it’s also designed for safety without any sharp edges.
This is the E Sverige Edition, so there is a version with and without electric power. I tried running mine without the motor and I think you’re going to need some pretty beefy thighs to ride one of these up-hill without assistance from an electric motor. In fact, on the web site they say recommeneded environment is Flat roads and Rolling roads.
Carrying capacity up front is 100kg, plus a maximum of 100kg saddle load of the driver, so potentially up to 200kg. The weight of the machine itself is 73kg, so fully loaded the all-up weight is about a 1/4 metric ton.
In case you’re wondering, there is some built-in stability system to prevent it from tipping over. Hopefully we won’t need to put that to the test.
The GWA electric motor is rated at 36V 250W which if my calculations are correct is 1/3 or a horsepower.
The lithium-ion battery is 450Wh 13,8Ah and the specs claim this gives an amazing 40 to 60km range (amusingly called the action radius). I’ll give you my real-world measurements later.
The maximum speed is 25km/h from the electric system, presumably there is no restriction if you area using pedal power and going downhill. You’re a braver man than I in that case.
The battery takes 4 hours from empty to full charge using the included 42V 2A charger.
Brakes are Tektro hydraulic discs on all three wheels and it has 7-speed Shimano Nexus gears.
26” tyre on the rear and 20” on the front, with extra thick reinforced rims and spokes.
The cargo compartment is made from German birch wood and the frame is steel.
According to the specifications there are gas filled steering dampers for comfort, although I’m not sure what this means and didn’t notice it when riding.
This brand of cargo bike is Dutch made and designed and they’ve been making them for 15 years. The price for one of these is 35000kr, or about $3500.
I really enjoyed my two weeks with this bicycle and covered about 100km on it. The engineering and quality really impressed me.
It’s comfortable to ride and a real cruiser, once you get accustomed to it and accept the fact that you don’t actually need to spend any effort on balancing! It’s a strange feeling in the beginning especially when riding on roads with some camber where you would normally lean to compensate.
The steering is cumbersome and quite slow and unresponsive. Turning circle and manoeuvring in tight spots it quite bad, and if you’re on a narrow cycle path and you see one of these coming in the opposite direction it’s pretty terrifying.
Jumping onto a normal bicycle after 1 hour on the cargo bike is the weirdest feeling, The normal bike feels incredibly agile and responsive!
The electric propulsion system is incredible. The assistance is superb and feels quite natural, the cycle just wooshes and zooms along as you pedal. I quickly figured out you could just pedal lightly without any effort, almost freewheel, and the bike would whiz forward on the electric motor. I could travel long distances without exerting any effort at all.
I found myself using stage 3 of the assistance most of the time. I tried level 8 of course but the cycle was a bit too eager to leap and rush forward, which was fun, but not something I needed.
The motor is really quiet, and what little noise it makes is rather acoustically pleasing. The loudest noise is from the constant creaking of the wooden cargo compartment which sounds quite pleasant.
The range was also excellent. We went for a ride with the family and travelled about 20km on country roads and lanes during a 4 hour ride. When I got back the battery level was 2 bars out of 5, so plenty left in the tank.
On a normal bike you would normally adjust your weight towards the front and back when going over bumps, potholes or curbs, which is obviously not possible on this machine. That means it crashes over any obstacle in quite an alarming manner. It would be very uncomfortable for the kids up front. If any bike needed suspension system, it’s this one.
You also have 3 wheels spaced apart to consider when navigating through bumpy terrain, and it’s hard to see the ground right in front of the central rear wheel, because of the cargo bay.
I forgot to test the lights but the pair of those should be pretty decent I think. The Scandinavian-style frame lock is convenient.
I did not succeed in borrowing any small children to review the passenger carrying capabilities. I didn’t even ask as it felt a bit awkward to ask strangers for their children.
So instead, let’s load it up with some musical instruments and go to a fictional gig at the swimming pool. And we’ll let cameraboy have a go, as thanks for all his hard work.
The bike did a great job of transporting the load, although I’d be reluctant to transport anything fragile and expensive, due to the aforementioned lack of suspension.
Finally, I want to end with a warning. Under no circumstances, should you ever stand up on the pedals and push hard. See the video to see what happened…
Thankfully both the rider, and more importantly the bicycle were unharmed.