[Edit May 2018: Turned out the naysayers were right, and these bikes are presenting all manner of issues, ultimately resulting in the importer going out of business after losing a lot of money. I’m only saying this for the benefit international readers, not to depress existing owners. Later models including Crosscurrent S seem to be no better. Sad that poor quality can wreck an otherwise great bike but this appears to be the case here.]
In 1976 Volkswagen introduced the Golf GTi to the world, and instantly there was a realisation that a hatchback could be both practical, economical and a whole lot of fun, without looking stupid. The Juiced Crosscurrent is the Golf GTi of ebikes. It challenges so many preconceptions of what an entry-level ebike can be.
I am sceptical whenever I am presented with a new claim—it’s probably the engineer in me. In this case I doubted that the bike could actually be fast, after all it is an 8Fun geared rear hub bike, and I’ve ridden plenty of those. They are generally good for low-to-mid 30’s. The speed on this one though is phenomenal, easily getting to 40+ and providing assistance to 50+ as long as you can pedal that fast.
So that’s it in a nutshell – it’s a fast commuter, and one of the very fastest. Faster even than my Specialized Turbo, which has generally been king of the cycleway and friend to many a drafting road biker. As a comparison my ride home on Wednesday took me 48min on the Turbo. Under similar conditions on the Crosscurrent it was 43min, 2 min faster than my personal best under favourable wind conditions. I still had 2/5 battery remaining after 27km despite it being the ‘baby’ battery, 374Wh. [Edit: turns out I had a 417Wh battery in the demo bike – see footnotes]
But that’s not all it can do. It is a really nice bike that can also cruise around slowly. If you are happy on a bright red hardtail mountain bike, you will love the Crosscurrent. I sometimes work at ‘try’ ebike events with ElectricMeg, and men especially shun the typical ebikes with their step-through frames and obvious batteries and gravitate towards the MTB-style ebikes. When we were doing photos for this review, people were staring at the Juiced, obviously taken by its style—a genuine head-turner.
As a design philosophy, it is clear that Juiced has adopted a stripped-back approach here, and I like it. They’ve taken MTB geometry and applied it to a commuter. It works – the frame is stiff and exudes confidence; I was easily able to ride along no-handed. The Suntour Nex forks take the harshness out of the ride, and the Selle Royale gel saddle does the same for the rear. I was riding a ‘L’ frame which was probably a little small for me, so I’d recommend going up a size. My roadbike is ML and my MTB and ebikes are L. ElectricMeg was able to ride this bike despite her 5’ frame (her regular bike is an XS). Luckily Juiced offer a range of frame sizes to suit.
The review bike only had the smaller of the two currently available batteries at 374Wh [Not quite – see above note]. You can order it with 499Wh and massive 816 and 1008Wh batteries soon to be available. I’d say the lower capacity battery will be fine for one-way speedy commutes of 20-25km. The charger is fairly light so you could carry it with you or buy another charger. The bike has a torque sensing design, so rewards you for your own effort. Apparently Tora Harris from Juiced has tweaked and tuned the controller to within an inch to get the best possible speed to battery ratio. I believe it.
Power comes from a Bafang/8Fun geared rear hub motor. In NZ it is labelled 300W but I suspect that motors can be labelled at whatever anybody wants to placate regulators. There is no standard way of testing. Looking at the estimated power output on Strava I am confident that this motor was consistently pushing 350-400W on the straights, going over 45km/h. The motor is configured for speed over torque, so don’t expect to climb hills like a mid-drive. Even the Magnum UI5 climbs better, but that’s where the comparison ends.
The controller looks minimalistic – there is no fancy LCD screen with speed, distance, temperature, you name it… instead a simple control with +/- and ‘Sport’ buttons. A nice touch is that you can go into Sport (MAX) from any setting, and go back to the same setting again, you don’t have to scroll sequentially through power levels. The buttons are also nicely placed to operate with the left thumb. You can get an optional throttle – at the time of writing it hadn’t arrived yet. If you want speed and distance, you’ll need to buy yourself a bike computer. I use a Garmin 520 anyway so I didn’t miss it at all.
The brakes are superb – smooth, powerful and quiet. Hydraulic disks are really a step above the mechanical disks you get on most bikes at this price point.
So what’s the catch? Ummm, ummm…. Nothing really. OK, so you don’t get racks, mudguards or lights. But decide for yourself what you want, spend some money at your local bike shop and buy what suits you. Compared to other (slower) bikes on the market, I reckon you have $2000 spare to spend on accessorizing your Crosscurrent. You also don’t get internally routed cables, but everything else is nicely configured, and nothing about it is ’cheap’. Except its price.
Phil (who imports these bikes into NZ) tells me that Tora from Juiced is constantly looking for ways to improve the bike. I have seen for myself how he gets involved in online forums, and takes peoples comments and suggestions onboard. This is often where a start-up like Juiced can offer more than big brands, or other brands that are simply rebadging Chinese bikes and claiming “designed in NZ” or wherever.
The Juiced Crosscurrent sells for $2499 with the 374Wh battery. You will likely want to spring for the generous 499Wh battery at $2899. A throttle kit is available for $99.
You can buy direct or through a retailer. https://www.juicedbikes.nz/retailers/
Who should buy this bike?
- Anyone who wants a great looking bike styled like a MTB
- Commuters, especially longer commutes
Who shouldn’t buy it?
- Anyone who doesn’t like swinging a leg over the back, ie prefers a step-through. There is however a semi-step-through frame available in size M
- People looking for an upright ‘Dutch bike’ experience, basket and all
- Anyone who has very steep hills on their route. Moderate hills are no issue.
- Brand snobs
[With the 374Wh battery I’d probably have been down to 1/5. Update: While showing 3/5 at the end of my 27km full-speed commute I found that it wasn’t delivering full power uphill. So if the 417 is good for 25km full-speed, the 374 is probably a 20km and the 499 a 30km battery. More if you are riding slowly, ie not in Sport mode going 45km/h]
Footnote #2: I have heard stories of some reliability issues with the first generation of Crosscurrents, nothing that hasn’t been sorted under warranty. However, remember what you paid; if you want a bike that goes the distance you’ll have to spend more – but it will likely do it a bit slower. I have no doubt that this brand will keep getting better. Edit: it hasn’t 🙁