Ampler Curt e-bike review: electric doesn’t have to mean big and ugly
Shopping for an electrical commuter bicycle is dear. The very best ones often begin round $2,500, however can rapidly method the value (and weight) of a small automotive. That’s some huge cash to entrust with a bicycle upstart like Ampler, an organization that hails from Tallinn, a capital metropolis of a rustic I as soon as needed to Google. Can an obscure firm began by three childhood buddies with its origins in crowdfunding actually make a bicycle worthy of all that money? That’s the query I got down to reply this summer season within the bicycle proving grounds of Holland. As that well-known track about New Amsterdam goes: if they’ll make it right here, they’ll make it wherever.
Ampler constructed its first prototype in 2014, and bought its first bikes in 2016. The corporate now employs 18 individuals, a quantity it plans to double within the subsequent eight months. The corporate has bought about 1,700 bikes in whole, with greater than half of these being bought since February when Ampler unveiled its newest fashions: the fast and light-weight Curt, the sturdy Stout, and humble Stellar. It’s the sporty Curt that I’ve been driving, an electrical pedal-assist bicycle that appears too svelte to be electrical.
The Ampler Curt begins at €2,490 (about $2,918 if Ampler ever begins promoting it within the US). Sure, that’s costly, however pedal-assist bikes can function replacements for vehicles or public transportation for a lot of city dwellers by drastically extending the radius of what’s usually contemplate bikeable. By comparability then, it’s a far cheaper technique of journey that additionally promotes a more healthy particular person and planet. My assessment Curt included a lot of non-compulsory parts like a silent belt drive that doesn’t want oil, mudguards, built-in lights, a rear service, a extra snug saddle and grips, and a motorcycle lock mounted onto the body simply above the pedals. These additions mired the stealthy clear look of the bottom mannequin a tad, however additionally they made it a way more sensible metropolis bike, whereas bringing the value nearer to €three,200 (about $three,750). And it nonetheless didn’t embody a kickstand or bell.
I obtained the Curt in early April, shipped straight from the Estonian manufacturing facility in a field so massive it eclipsed my kitchen desk and chairs. “Oh no,” I assumed after years of Ikea conditioning, “this meeting goes to suuuck.” Opening the bolstered cardboard field revealed a virtually totally assembled bike, to my aid, and a neat wood toolbox holding a smattering of hex keys, a wrench, and a chunk of yummy chocolate. All I needed to do was straighten and tighten the handlebars, connect the pedals, and alter the seat top. That was it. The Curt was unboxed and able to experience in slightly below 5 minutes, with its battery already charged to 84 p.c in accordance with the app I had downloaded the evening earlier than.
The significance of a pleasant unboxing expertise shouldn’t be misplaced on Ampler.
The very first thing I seen in regards to the Curt was its lithely profile. It’s beautiful to see in particular person. The second factor I seen was its weight, or lack thereof. Having assembled the Curt in my lounge, I needed to haul it up a handful of steps and onto the road. At 14kg (about 30 kilos) for the bottom mannequin, Curt is noticeably lighter than most e-bikes, and solely barely heavier than the tank-like metropolis bike I purchased from a thief for $25. The Electrified S2 from VanMoof, for instance, begins at 19kg (about 42 kilos), whereas the huge Stromer ST3 weighs 26kg (about 57 kilos). In human phrases, lifting the Curt is akin to selecting up a three-year-old, whereas the Stromer is the scale of a kid you haven’t any enterprise lifting within the first place, creep.
Ampler Curt at relaxation in Amsterdam.
On my first experience, I instantly detected an annoying rattle. A $three,750 bike with a carbon fiber belt drive shouldn’t rattle! Many Amsterdam streets are constructed of bricks, so if one thing’s unfastened, you’ll understand it. The supply of my rattle was a locking pin on the entrance brake. Tightening the pin by bending the locking clip with a pair of pliers made the bike silent. Too silent, I seen as I crept up on unsuspecting bikers and pedestrians. So I purchased a $5 bell as a warning system.
Whereas e-bikes ship with firmware that governs the authorized high velocity of the bike, it’s often a trivial job to override it. The max velocity and steady output allowed in Europe with out a license is 25 km/h (15.5 mph) and 250W, whereas the US maxes out at a extra beneficiant 32 km/h (20 mph) and 750W. One of many first issues I did on the Ampler Curt was override the velocity and energy settings after swatting away a legal responsibility disclaimer.
I’ve written about what I wish to name the “asshole issue” that impacts e-bike riders — myself included — in the identical means that BMWs have an effect on middle-aged wage males. With my energy maxed out, I used to be racing by way of highway visitors on a virtually silent bike able to delivering 348W of energy as much as a high velocity of 35km/h (22 mph). I used to be loopy with energy on such a light-weight bicycle, following slower bicyclists a lot too carefully, or startling them by passing unexpectedly simply as they started their left turns. I additionally rode a lot quicker than pedestrians, vehicles, and buses are accustomed to, creating actual hazard for myself and others.
I did study to mood my driving after a couple of shut calls, one thing Ampler facilitates with its two user-defined Help modes that management the facility delivered to the pedals. With the app, I configured the primary help mode to adjust to the plodding EU limits, after which maxed out all of the efficiency sliders on the second. You’ll be able to change between the modes through the app, or by the multi-function button on the left aspect of the bike. I then solely rode within the maxed-out mode when on the outskirts of the town. Nonetheless, after driving a Curt all summer season, it’s very clear to me why e-bike fatalities are on the rise.
The Ampler app is… not nice, and the corporate is aware of it. It’s buggy and bizarre and I keep away from it at any time when I can. Happily, that’s straightforward to do due to a multi-function button positioned on the left aspect of the bike. Press it as soon as to energy the bike on and make the motor prepared to help the subsequent pedal downstroke. Press and maintain (for a few second) to activate the entrance and tail lamps, with the latter neatly built-in into the seat publish. Urgent and holding it longer (about three seconds) causes the button to show orange telling you that you simply’ve switched between Help modes, blinking as soon as for mode one (authorized energy and velocity, in my case), or twice for mode two (configured for max energy and velocity). The app, then, not often must be utilized in day-to-day driving.
Ampler says you’ll be able to besides a median of 70 km (43.5 miles) after every cost of the Curt’s 336Wh battery, or 45km to 100km relying upon terrain and the chosen power-assist mode. These are correct estimates based mostly on my driving logs. I can exceed 70km if I cut back the facility — however that’s boring. In addition to, I often carried the bike inside every evening the place it was straightforward to high off the cost (the battery can’t be eliminated). I managed to experience slightly below 50km after my final cost, with the bike set to max energy about half the time. The battery totally recharges in about 2.5 hours, or prices to simply beneath 50 p.c after about an hour.
My take a look at Curt was the single-speed model. That lone gear made it a bit heavy to get began, particularly if stopped on an incline. The newest two-speed Electrified bikes from VanMoof get off the road a lot simpler, and provide a smoother energy supply curve. In addition they put a lift button on the handlebar for anytime acceleration — one thing the single-speed Curt would profit from. With the motor off, the Curt was simply as heavy to get began however not too dangerous as soon as in control. So don’t fear: in the event you do deplete the battery you’ll be able to all the time get dwelling by driving it as a typical bicycle. Ampler gives a 10-speed Curt configuration, though then you’ll be able to’t go for the belt drive.
Individuals had been universally shocked that Curt was an electrical bike. First, it seems like an everyday bike, albeit an attractive one, in my view. Lots of the electrical bikes seen in Amsterdam are utilized by individuals over 65 who would in any other case wrestle with a typical bicycle. These bikes are ugly, often with a big ugly battery pack bolted onto the body. Ampler integrates the battery into the body tubing, and the rear-hub motor is barely noticeable to the untrained eye. I’ve obtained numerous compliments on the bike, with every encounter going one thing like this:
”Thanks. It’s from a startup in Tallinn. That’s in Estonia.”
”I do know that.”
“Effectively, it’s electrical.”
“It’s? But it surely’s not ugly!”
”Right here, attempt to raise it.”
”Wow, it’s so light-weight!”
The dialog often ends with the particular person taking photographs of the bike and jotting down the identify as a catalyst for future motion. I even rode the Curt over to the VanMoof HQ the place each the co-founder and firm CTO fawned over it, impressed not solely with the experience, however on the tight integration of the off-the-shelf parts (VanMoof prides itself on utilizing parts it designs in-house). Excessive reward, certainly.
I by no means as soon as needed to have the bike serviced within the 5 months I’ve been driving it. On two events, nonetheless, when beginning to pedal from a full cease, I did really feel the motor lower out after which relax in inside a split-second. It was so quick that I assumed I had imagined it the primary time. To be clear, this occurred twice out of what should have been tens of hundreds of comparable actions. Ampler is investigating it, and thinks it is perhaps solvable with a software program replace.
Ampler notes that “all skilled bike outlets can perform the upkeep of our bikes” — a advantage of utilizing commonplace elements from Shimano and others. Ampler’s two-year guarantee covers all authentic elements, together with the facility panel, motor, controller, and battery, however provided that you reside within the EU, Norway, or Switzerland — nations the place Ampler at present sells its bikes. Points is perhaps solved by Ampler delivery elements and directions to the proprietor, which they’ll set up themselves, or have a neighborhood bike store do it. In any other case, a courier can be dispatched to choose up the bike to resolve extra complicated points. Both means, Ampler covers the prices for these two years. Service remains to be accessible exterior of the guarantee interval, however then the proprietor should cowl the delivery and labor prices.
My testing this summer season has confirmed to me that Ampler is the true deal, making wonderful, enjoyable, and fascinating electrical pedal-assist bicycles. I’m already dreading a return to my regular bike when the Curt goes again to Tallinn.
Ampler’s additionally maturing since I first wrote about them in 2016. The corporate simply opened its first flagship retail retailer in Berlin the place it sells and companies its bicycles, and gives test-ride alternatives in Amsterdam, Zürich, Munich, Düsseldorf, and Vienna. That ought to put Ampler squarely on the map for anybody contemplating an electrical commuter bike.
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