One of the big, over-arching stories from Interbike this year is e-mountain bikes. So, I decided that before I could write an article hating on mountain bikes with electric motors, I had to at least ride one first.
Enter the Vitality Dice 29er by Kreidler, a company out of Germany.
The Vitality Dice comes kitted out with the top-of-the-line Bosch e-assist system. A heads-up display provides all the information you need to know: speed, distance traveled, amount of added thrust from the motor, estimated distance range at current output, and more. The Bosch System on this bike can provide additional thrust ranging from 0% of pedal stroke up to 120%.
The rest of the parts kit includes high-quality parts that you’d find on a normal mountain bike, including a full 10-speed Shimano XT drivetrain, TS8R 100mm Magura fork with tapered steerer, Magura MT4 hydraulic disk brakes, Schwalbe Racing Ralph 29er tires, and many other goodies.
Weight with the battery and motor comes out to 22 kilos, which converts to 48.5 lbs.
Out on the Trail
I have to be honest: I was prepared to hate on this bike like nobody’s business. But after reflecting on my experience aboard the Kreidler, some of the lyrics from the Electric Boogie come to mind:
You can’t see it
You gotta feel it
Ooh, it’s shakin’
Let me explain.
At first glance, the Kreidler looks like a pretty standard mountain bike: 6061 aluminum frame, 29er wheels, classic drivetrain, and maybe a big waterbottle on the downtube. You can’t really see what’s going on under the hood… especially when it whips by you out on the trail.
Like I said, I was prepared to hate on it, but to really understand the appeal of an electric mountain bike, you gotta feel it. You can’t just stand on the sidelines and watch. In order to really understand why everyone’s talking electric, you have to ride one yourself.
While I was prepared to hate on this bike, I couldn’t help but have fun once I was on it. Ooh, it was shakin’, alright! Breezing up the hills at 28mph was just so much fun, and on the way back down the quality suspension just did its job. (While I was able to squeeze 28mph out of the motor before the limiter kicked in, according to the guys at Kreidler the US versions will only be able to reach 20mph before the limiter turns the motor off.)
While the e-assist motor can provide 0, 30, 60, 90, and 120% addition to the power you are inputing via the pedals, due to this bike’s massive 48.5-pound weight, I found that at least 30% power was required just to compensate for the large weight… and even then it still felt sluggish. As you might imagine, after testing in the lower settings for a little while, I kicked it up to 120% and left it there for the rest of the ride. As Jeff mentioned in his review of the Haibike XDuroRX29, there’s zero learning curve to these bikes: the added power occurs naturally without you having to think about it. Just use the handlebar control to set the level, and forget it.
However, there are plenty of downsides to riding an almost 50-pound mountain bike. The primary concern, of course, is getting stranded out in the middle of nowhere and being forced to pedal a 50lb brick, without any e-assist, up the mountain. The estimated range HUD should help prevent being stranded, but I think running out of juice would always be a danger.
Also, thanks to the weight, this bike just doesn’t handle nearly as well as a lighter mountain bike. Sure, the weight doesn’t hold you back on the climbs thanks to the motor, but cornering, descending, and navigating tight, technical sections are all made much more difficult. I managed to boost the bike off of one roller and get it completely airborne, but that took some serious doing.
In order to fit all the electronic bits into the bike, Kreidler has really lengthened the frame out in the bottom bracket region. This makes the bike much less nimble than a standard mountain bike, but as I mentioned above, there’s no way it can be nimble… so just get the idea of maneuverability out of your head.
MSRP: not yet fixed, but around $3,500 for the hardtails and about $5,000 for their full-suspension 650b models.
I know what you’re thinking… e-assist mountain bikes are a very polarizing topic, and Jeff and I discussed the merits and the issues associated with them back and forth over the three days we were in Vegas. Stay tuned for a short series of articles analyzing the pros and the cons of this new breed of… bike? motorcycle?