This is a guest post from Pete Prebus. Pete runs Electric Bike Report and is enthusiastic about spreading the word about electric bikes because they have great potential to get more people on bikes and out of their cars.
Yes, I know, an electric motor on a fixie bike is a little sacrilegious, but it might have its place as a simple and economical e-commuter bike.
Hipsters are cringing, but hear me out.
Recently I rode and reviewed the Critical Cycles fixie bike and it proved to be a simple and sturdy urban commuter that comes with an amazingly low price tag of $219.
Then I thought, What if we electrified this simple commuter with an electric bike kit that was equally simple and economical? Enter the Clean Republic Hill Topper electric bike kit.
The Clean Republic Hill Topper is a 250-watt geared front hub motor kit with a simple on/off button that is attached to the grip. You can choose from four different battery options (sealed lead acid or three different lithium ion batteries). The kit that I recently rode and reviewed came with their standard lead acid battery and retails for $399.
The really cool thing about this combo is that you can get an e-commuter for around $675 (including shipping). From my experience there are a number of people looking for an affordable and durable e-bike option.
With a price like that you are going to have some compromises, but if you are a little adventurous, you can make it work.
First of all, the sealed lead acid battery Hill Topper kit will give you 10 miles of assisted range. If that is all the range you will need, then this kit will work well.
Keep in mind that the charger for the lead acid battery is very small and light so you could take it with you, or you could have an extra charger at work. Clean Republic also offers their Sprinter lithium ion battery that provides 10 miles of range but it weighs 2.3 pounds compared to the lead acid battery which weighs 11 pounds.
If the 10-mile range is not enough, you could upgrade to the 20 mile lithium ion (4.5 pounds) or 40 mile lithium ion (6 pounds) Hill Topper kit, but that adds money to the price of this Franken-Fixie! The 20-mile kit is $795 and the 40 mile kit is $1295.
Also, here is a video from Clean Republic that provides some tips on the best riding techniques to get more range and longer overall battery life.
You will need to pedal!
The Hill Topper kit is meant to assist, it is not a totally free ride! At 250 watts it really helps you get over a tough hill, but you have to do your fair share of pedaling. The Critical Cycles fixie has a tall gear which make climbing hills tough, so the electric assist really helps with tackling hills on this single speed commuter. The Hill Topper kit is really meant to assist you when you need it, with the a push of the button!
Since this bike and e-bike kit will most likely be ordered online, you will need to coordinate directly with Critical Cycles or Clean Republic for any warranty issues (Clean Republic is currently adding local dealers).
A local bike shop can help you with repairs and maintenance. The good thing about this simple e-bike set up is that there will probably be less repairs and maintenance!
Here are a few things I would change on this Franken-Fixie. The tire that comes on the 700c wheel Hill Topper kit is a little too big (700c x 38) to fit in the Critical Cycles fork, so I would recommend replacing it with a narrower size. If you live in a hilly area, I would recommend a slightly smaller chainring. And don't forget to add a front brake!
How's the ride? Fixies are not the most comfortable rides, but the narrow high pressure tires are efficient! The Critical Cycles bike does have the styley and comfortable BMX style handlebars that make it more comfortable compared to other fixies. The Hill Topper kit definitely takes the edge off of turning over a big single-speed gear!
Overall, the combined simplicity of the Critical Cycles fixie bike with the Clean Republic Hill Topper electric bike kit is pretty cool.
There are no shifters, derailleurs, or multiple chainrings and cogs. A single speed bike is pretty much the most efficient bicycle drive train. There is only one brake, although I would recommend adding a front brake! The e-bike kit is activated by a simple on/off button. The charger is so small and light that you can easily take it with you. This Franken-Fixie is the essence of a simple, minimalist e-commuter.
This e-bike is vehicle that blends human power and electric assist well. As a bike commuter you probably want to get some exercise but you may not want to show up dripping in sweat when you get to work.
This single-speed fixie e-bike could also be decked out with a rack and some bags or using a Burley Travoy would be a great way to run errands around town . The extra electric assist really helps with hauling a load.
If you are looking for an economical way to get an e-bike, this combination may be worth exploring further.
Who knows, maybe some hipsters would like the Franken-Fixie?