Kreidler Vitality Eco 1 – Smooth Urban Explorer
You probably haven’t heard of the Kreidler brand before (sounds like Chrysler). It is a German brand that makes motorcycles and bicycles imported into NZ by Electrify.NZ who also bring in Magnum, Prodecotec and Bottecchia. I first saw and loved a Kalkhoff Agattu in their Auckland shop, and this is an equivalent bike but powered by a Bosch Active motor system.
I like stepthrough frames – they aren’t ladies bikes – especially if they are stiff enough not to wobble. This one is, you can see the thick sections in the downtube. That little bit of fore-aft flex lends some extra comfort and compliance while not feeling wobbly at all. My top speed down a hill was over 70kph and it felt completely stable and safe. They’ve done a clever placement of the Bosch battery to keep it out of the way and not compromise the step. This is much better for balance than a rear rack placement, keeping the weight low and centered is what you want for good handling.
Bosch Active Line is a premium system, but at the lower end of power and torque (the Performance Line is better and Performance CX is best/for eMTB). I’d say it’s equivalent to a 200-250W hub motor, but it delivers its boost with a whole lot more sophistication and ease. Being a mid-drive, it works through your gears so you do end up rattling through the gearbox a bit more than a rear hub. It does a subtle back-off on the power when you shift, hardly noticeable but saves grinding the gears. Because you’ve freed up the rear hub, that can be used for an internal gear system – this has 7 Shimano Nexus gears – which is nicer and less maintenance than a derailleur. Also means changing gears at a standstill is possible; a useful feature with a mid-drive bike because it relies on you being in the right gear unlike a hub drive. There is no throttle here (similar to all Euro bikes), so you need to get moving yourself. Power pickup is swift though so you aren’t left hanging, you also don’t get that rush of power that many of the cadence sensor bikes have.
The Bosch drive is incredibly smooth and quiet – you might hear it at first but once on the road it is barely audible, unlike some hub drives and the Shimano STePS drive. Power rolls off between 25 and 27kph but you hardly notice it, the bike just seems to gain a bit of weight. I’ve had a go at some bikes for their speed limits because of their intended purpose, but 25 is an OK speed for this bike (more would be better of course). Its intended purpose is relaxed cruising to the shops rather than ripping through traffic. If you are happy tooling around in the 15-25kmh range you will be delighted by this bike. You could feasibly ride rail trails, it is smooth and comfortable enough to ride for hours on tar or gravel. The 400Wh Bosch battery is good for 40-50km in Turbo mode (it also has Sport, Tour and Eco but I can’t see much point in those modes unless riding with people on non-powered bikes or doing longer distances).
You might be surprised to see rim brakes on this bike (same as the Kalkhoff), but these are not ordinary rim brakes. They are hydraulic Magura HS11 brakes. They have a lovely soft-yet-powerful modulation, further contributing to the ‘smooth’ feel of the bike. The Suntour forks and suspension seatpost help out too, along with inherent lack of harshness in a step-through frame.
Tyres are Schwalbe Citizen 42x700c. They are Kevlar reinforced (light puncture protection) and a reasonable urban tyre with reflective sidewalls. Remember that punctures on a mid drive aren’t quite the unmitigated disaster they are on a hub drive, though the rear hub will still require a spanner to remove (no quick-release).
I found myself exploring parts of my neighbourhood that I wouldn’t be inclined to ride to normally, including some metaled tracks, wooden boardwalks and steep roads. It was happy going up all the hills, just choking a bit up my driveway (but it made it).
The Bosch system as a whole oozes Germanic efficiency and quality. The charger is 4A so charges relatively quickly. I like the ‘Range’ function on the display. It takes into account recent riding conditions to compute the likely remaining range. I was surprised at first by the 12km prediction when full. That was a result of the previous rider having used a baddass Box to boost the speed. That results in it using more juice and thinking it is only going half as far as it really does. Range climbed up and up when I started riding.
Price: $3999 – Availability
Who should buy this bike?
- Anyone who doesn’t feel the need to tear up the streets but values comfort and ease of use
- You want it for errands and a bit of exploring and might going on a longer jaunt, a rail trail, river trail (not the Waikato River Trail but maybe the Hamilton one) etc
- You want the sophistication of the Bosch drive and hub gears which makes the price premium over a hub drive worth it
Who shouldn’t buy this bike?
- Anyone who feels the need to tear up the streets
- Commuters over 10-12km each way (look for a faster bike)
- You don’t value the sophistication of the Bosch drive and are happy with something cheaper
What else should you consider?
- Kalkhoff Agattu – Can get a bigger battery (17Ah vs 11.1Ah). Very similar in many ways. Impulse 2.0 drive is more powerful but you have to work a bit harder to get the full benefits. Impulse has drive from zero RPM which is good for starting. Entry level spec is similarly priced.
- Smartmotion eCity – Cheaper (including cheaper build quality overall), less sophisticated but faster (35kph) and more powerful. Battery is on the rear rack and frame overall feels a bit more flexy so ride quality not as good.
- eZee Sprint – A bit cheaper, less sophisticated (esp. front suspension), built tough, faster (36kph) and more powerful, can get a huge battery as an option.