The best electric bike for flyers?
PUBLISHED: 16:40 25 March 2019 | UPDATED: 16:41 25 March 2019
Pilot magazine Editor Philip Whiteman reviews the Gocycle GS
For many years, when it came down to which bicycle could be stowed in a private aircraft for use when touring abroad, the choice was the Brompton – the most compact ‘folder’ of the lot. Favoured by commuters, this bicycle is fine for urban rides and – in six-speed form – it makes a decent job of country roads and hills. However, good though it is, the Brompton does not feel quite as solid and secure as a conventional bike.
Time moves on and there are now an increasing number of electric bicycles available - machines that are making cycling more attractive to a wider group than the fitness freaks who have tended to dominate the cycling scene in the UK. Electric assistance makes a bike more attractive to flyers too. When you arrive at a rural airfield on the Continent, do you really want to face a further endurance test, or would you rather glide smoothly to a restaurant and bed for the night with minimal effort?
So the object of desire is now a folding electric bike, and preferably one that rides more like a good road cycle: enter the Gocycle, an appealing new design that is modestly claimed to be ‘the best electric bike in the world’. Pilot has been testing the ‘S’ version, the lowest priced model in a range of three (the ‘fast folder’ GX costs £2,899 and the electronic-gear-shift, longer-range G3 ‘design icon’ will set you back £3,499).
One of the first things you want to know about a folding bike is whether it will fit in your aircraft. It is only the swinging arm/chain case of the GS that actually folds, the wheels and saddle post detaching to be stored alongside in a package that is actually smaller than Gocycle’s GX fast folder, perhaps making the GS more attractive option for the aviation world. It won’t fit in my Piper Cub, as the Brompton does, but the GS slipped easily enough into the baggage compartment of a Vans RV-7. It also fits in a representative production aircraft, although we’d not have been able to get the it through the external access hatch of our example, one of West London Aero Club’s Piper PA-28 Warriors, without removing it from the rather bulky 780 x 580mm (31 x 23in) ‘docking station’/case illustrated.
Weighing in at 16.5kg (36lb) the Gocycle GS may not be light by conventional bicycle standards, but don’t forget this mass includes the 250W motor, which is mounted in the front hub, and lithium ion battery built into the frame. In practice, the motor action feels magical: thanks to a torque sensor in the bottom bracket, it cuts in at a predetermined pedal pressure and provides assistance at all speeds up to the 15.5mph maximum allowed by UK regulation. This makes the rider feel like some kind of superman but ensures they fit in with cycle traffic – we found you can keep pace with, but not overhaul all those fitness freaks. That is until you come to strong winds and hills, because here the electric bike’s ‘superpower’ really counts, largely banishing the two great miseries of cycling: fighting your way through gales and slogging up hills.
Reproducing the saddle/pedal/handlebar geometry of a conventional safety frame bike, the Gocycle also handles very nicely and, with its powerful and effective hydraulic disc brakes, feels very secure. A whole variety of riders, from skinny girls to 100kg six-foot men (guess who) tried the GS and all took to it immediately. It’s a practical and useful bike around town too. We liked the built-in folding stand, which allows the Gocycle to be parked upright, and thought especially useful carrying capacity was provided by the nicely designed optional front pannier/shoulder bag, which hooks on the handlebar stem and is locked in place by a neat cam latch lever.
On a full seven-hour charge, the battery will give up to forty miles of electrical operation, depending on how much you use the motor (the setup can be personalised using Gocycle’s app, and your phone attached to the handlebars to monitor input/output and speed). With the motor switched off (curiously, the charging point and the switch are sited low down by base of the saddle tube, which makes turning the bike on and off feel like poking around its backside) the Gocycle rides and handles like a mountain bike.
With the motor on, its fat tyres and built-in traction control make for off-road riding – it was at home on dirt and grass tracks in local parks – and prevents any potential upset on slippery surfaces. The optional mudguards offer excellent weather protection and the welcome absence of nooks and crannies in its smooth, all encased from make it quick and easy to clean after a spell in the wet. It is much more of a go-anywhere machine than small-wheel folders like the Brompton.
Certainly, the Gocycle GS does not fold/break down quickly, and it does take up more space than the smallest folding bikes. However, it offers a nice and very easy ride that will put a smile on your face, it looks nice and modern in a kind of clean, Apple design way, sports some lovely features like the quickly-detached ‘pitstop wheels’ (go to the company’s website to appreciate this touch) and it will probably fit in your aircraft’s baggage bay – so what is there not to like about it!
For further details, see gocycle.com The GS is available from various retailers at a recommended price of £2,499.