By JRtB, posted 10 April 2018
Contact on twitter @justridethebike
Another first on JRtB. It's time to get modern and take on an e-adventure. First on the list, the British made Byocycles Ibex.
What do we compare something to, if it’s the first time we’ve ridden anything like it? That was the question that stuck with us during the test of the Byocycle Ibex. To begin with, because it was like a heavy mountain bike, that’s what we compared it with, but it didn’t have any of the credentials of a decent hardtail, and certainly nothing like the Radon Swoop. Fire roads and quiet lanes would be the most ‘gnarly’ terrain for the bike.
We took it across a big swathe of common land, across grass paths, gravel paths and slightly bump routes. It was OK, but not outstanding. We re-calibrate our thinking; perhaps it is more like an ugly hybrid bike. So we took it along a variety of flat or rolling roads. It was OK, but not outstanding.
Then we took it up a hill. It is quite a long hill (for round here), and a hill we ride relatively frequently, although we don’t like it much. As obvious as it sounds, this is where the ‘e’ part really kicks in. It has a category all it’s own. It’s not a heavy mountain bike, or an ugly hybrid bike. It’s a ebike. The great part is it still feels like you’re riding a bike. There was some initial concerns about this, that actually you do still sweat, it is still riding, but in carrying on riding up the hill, the thoughts pass through your mind, that it isn’t a motorbike, and of course you have to still ride.
The Ibex has an LCD display showing the amount of effort the motor is putting in, which varies according to the effort you are making and the speed you are travelling. This means it does not produce a power output if you are cruising along quite happily. It shows a battery charge indicator. We didn’t get anywhere near running it out, and we had it for a week. Mind you, this was when the fourth/fifth snowfall was across the UK, which meant the Ibex didn’t see a lot of action then.
Ebikes are the one area where 26” wheels are still seeing active service. Across mountain biking, all new bikes are either 29” or 27.5” (OK, for those in the know there are 650b), so 26” have gone. But here they make some sense. This is a bike for commuting, gentle rural and semi-rural riding. It does not require, nor is it even an issue, to have the bigger wheel sizes.
It has a Suntour suspension fork, with about 60 cm of travel. We bottomed this out on the common land, so don’t push it too hard. It has cable disc brakes, which is to be expected at this range of bike. They worked fine.
Being limited to pedal-assist places ebikes (at least, in the UK) firmly in the bike-but-easier category. This is the big selling point. There is an environmental argument for motorbikes - certainly less congestion, and so less wasted fuel, a much greater awareness of road dangers, and much easier to park. But don’t imagine an ebike is along these lines. It isn’t a slow motorbike, it’s a bicycle.
A Proper Test Ride
We took the Byocycle Ibex to a charity we know well housed in a small industrial unit, and offered a trial ride to everyone in the office there (we’d brought spare helmets). Not only was there a unanimous ‘Oooo’, the moment the motor kicks in - a very definite point once you started pedalling - but everyone that rode it said ‘I’d consider getting one of the those’. We think this starts to debunk the oft-quoted myth that people don’t cycle because they feel unsafe. In fact, people feel that they don’t want to be sweaty, don’t want to feel embarrassed by finding things too difficult, don’t want to have to struggle over hills or climbs on their way to work. The Ibex seems to solve that.
They all found the Byocycle Ibex comfortable; the kind of bike they wanted. There was no great desire to ride off road, or a worry about the ‘mountain bike’-ness of the ride. It was a bike with an electric motor. It would happily meet their needs.
Byocycles are a UK company, based in Portsmouth. They make only Byocycles, and use Bosch motors to power them. They run a traditional dealer network, supplying their bikes through a national network of independent dealers. Some ebike only, some not. Its encouraging to see bike manufacturers that are still willing to support the local bike trade, and who respect and recognise the skills in customer service some Local Bike Shops bring to the experience of buying a bike. And perhaps more importantly, getting it serviced and repaired.
Don't forget about the Price Tag
Where the Ibex, and Byocycles in general, win out, is on price. The Ibex is £1099.99. , the higher spec Ibex+ (more gears, better brakes) comes in at just over £1,500. Shockingly poor value for a 26” hardtail Mountain Bike, but either way, both offer amazingly good value for an ebike of any persuasion. The Ibex is not a do-anything, go-anywhere mountain bike, with a motor. For that you need to quadruple your budget. What you do get for your £1000 is a bike that will get you to work in comfort. It will allow you to go and play in the countryside, or around town, to go and collect the shopping, and to get you up some climbs you would never have dreamed of riding up. It has the potential to add a different dimension to holidays and the lives of anyone wanting fresh air but not sure about exercising to any serious degree.
At this price, and with your cycling goals firmly set, you might well find that this ebike takes you into realms of cycling you would never have considered. You might even end up adding to you bike fleet with a non-e-bike. That isn’t the reason to buy an ebike, but it might be a happy consequence.
What they say
"With light off road capabilities the Ibex range features mountain bike geometry, wide tyres with a semi slick tread, enabling the Ibex to be ridden efficiently in both on and off road terrain.
As part of the high quality spec of the ibex are 5 levels of pedal assist, which can be viewed and controlled via the LCD display. The battery is centrally located helping with stability. There is a torque sensor that measures the input the rider delivers to the cranks and so gives a smoother increase in power.
Featuring a 21 speed gearing, front and rear hydraulic disc brakes and a suspension fork, the Ibex is capable of off road touring, stable and comfortable daily commutes and everything you need in between"
What the Magic Spanner says:
It’s a mountain bike with real capability to take on steep off road climbs - albeit maybe not too gnarly - allowing you to make the most of its downhill potential. We wouldn’t recommend anything close to alpine descents but steep, smooth gravel tracks and some forest routes would be ideal. Where this bike really has an edge though is for holidays with family and friends where there are mixed abilities but everyone wants to just ride the bike. Think about the experience of Bill and Jenni Loch in Spain last year.
Credit Byocycles, 2018
Legal Note: All ebikes in the UK are, by law, pedal-assist only. They cannot have a throttle, otherwise they are classed as a motor vehicle - do not confuse them with the version of electric bikes used in the far east for example.
Tech note: pedal assist means that the motor only works when the rider is pedalling, with it’s goal to make the pedalling easier.
Credits JRtB 2018
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