If someone tells me that they’re scared of electric bikes, but have ridden bikes before, I assume that the type of bike they’ve tried looks something like Ride1Up’s Cafe Cruiser. Every direct-to-consumer electric bike company has a model with similar components, frame style, and price point that is positioned as an affordable, entry-level bike.
I’m always surprised that this is considered an entry-level electric bike. A laidback beach cruiser with a plush seat and big fat wheels makes sense on paper, but in practice, it weighs 65 pounds and has an electric motor bolted onto it! That once light, comfy ride is now big and heavy. With a less sophisticated computer, calibrating the right level of assistance is difficult. There’s no way to brace yourself properly. Jolting yourself around on what is basically an e-motorcycle is a little scary.
That said, Ride1Up’s version isn’t bad, for the type. It has a powerful 750W rear hub motor that will get you up steep hills, integrated lights and kickstand, a rear rack with a 150-pound cargo capacity, and a battery that seemingly lasts forever. But—and this is hard to write—especially in light of the death of Molly Steinsapir on a similar RadRunner 2, this is not the bike that I would recommend for a new bike rider, or a smaller one.
The Cafe Cruiser is a biggish bike, with an alloy frame that hides the electronics internally. It comes in two separate styles, a step-through and a step-over—I’m on the step-through, which is still juuuuust a bit too tall for me at 5’2” (Ride1Up notes that the minimum height for a rider is 5’, but I do have short legs). Both versions weigh 65 pounds and have curved cruiser handlebars that allow you to sit upright, with your elbows relaxed and your butt firmly planted on a giant, squishy seat.
For such an affordable bike, it’s pretty powerful. It has a 750W rear hub motor with five levels of assistance. It’s a Class 3 bike, which means that it can travel up to 28 miles per hour. I got it up over 20 mph pretty easily by pedaling, but it also has a left-side thumb throttle that can provide up to 20 mph assist. (This will really give you quite the jolt if you’re wheeling it somewhere and accidentally tag the throttle.)
To counter this, the Cafe Cruiser also has hydraulic disc brakes with an electric cut-off sensor, meaning that if you press the brake lever, it cuts off power from the motor. The battery is a 48V battery with Samsung cells that has a stated range of 30 to 50 miles, depending on the rider weight and terrain. I weigh about 115 pounds and rode it for two weeks on 1 to 2 mile journeys around my neighborhood, and barely saw the battery level go down at all.