Bicycles are great. They're compact, quiet, and convenient -- as long as you have a helmet, you can jump on and go anywhere, and you're only limited by the energy in your legs. That's just about the only limiting factor of bikes -- the muscles of the humans riding them. But electric bikes? Now that's another story.
What Is It?
Reid Cycles is the first bicycle store in Australia to be certified by Bosch to service the German company's electric bicycle motors and battery packs, and it's those Bosch components that are the centrepiece of this Corratec X-Vert Performance 650B, the most capable and most powerful ebike in the Corratec family. Reid sells nine different Bosch ebikes at the moment, but the X-Vert 650B is the creme de la creme.
The $3599 Corratec X-Vert Performance 650B has an electric motor from Bosch's Performance Line, and is significantly more powerful than other Bosch electric bikes from Corratec like the $2599 Active Coaster and $3199 Active Nexus -- itself focused more on commuters. That Performance Line motor hits the Australian Design Rules legal limit of 250 Watts, and provides a pedal assist up to 25km/h. The X-Vert is also a capable offroad bike, with adjustable front damping, hydraulic disk brakes and 10-speed gearing.
For the most part, this Corratec ebike is extremely similar to a regular geared pushbike -- it has two wheels, gears and a thumb-and-forefinger gear shifter, front and rear brakes, pedals, handlebars. But it's the extras in between and on top of all those things that make the e-Power X-Vert special; it's the chunky 11Ah battery on the front bar of the diamond frame, it's the massive electric motor mid-mounted between the pedals, it's the electronic read-out in the centre of the handlebars, it's the power button that replaces a traditional mountain bike's hub gear shifter and control's the motor's effective power output.
Other gear that comes standard on the Corratec X-Vert Performance 650B -- Continental offroad touring tyres with a very tall and forgiving profile, Shimano Deore gearing and derailleur and hydraulic brakes, Manitou 100mm front forks. This is all high quality gear, and it should be at the ebike's $3599 price point, but it speaks to the effort that has gone into making this a bike that will last a long time. As such, Bosch warrants its PowerPack 400 batteries to maintain 70 per cent of their maximum rated charge after two years or 500 full recharge cycles -- and you can replace the battery as part of regular servicing, too.
What's It Good At?
When you're riding the Corratec X-Vert ebike, you can ride it like a normal bike. You ride it normally, changing gears and pedalling and turning the handlebars and leaning into corners and standing up in your seat over rough terrain. It's a normal bike. But tap that little power button on the corner of the central display, the battery and motor and controls come to life, and you're suddenly riding a powerbike. The ebike has five different power levels -- off, eco, normal, sport and TURBO -- that provide electrical assistance to each stroke of either pedal, so you can adjust exactly how much energy you want to exert.
All the bike's gears work as normal, but step on the pedal even from a standstill on a steep hill and the X-Vert will rocket forward -- the motor massively amplifies your efforts. Even high gears are effectively boosted by the 250 watt Bosch motor, and it's an absolute blast; you can leave it in its top gear and ride it up to that 25km/h maximum assisted speed all day long. But use the gears to their fullest, and it's both incredibly quick and incredibly easy to ride -- and great fun at the same time. I rode through Sydney CBD on a busy afternoon and didn't hold up traffic -- that's the biggest compliment that I can give this bike.
The Corratec X-Vert's battery is a great capacity, too -- at 400Wh and 11Ah it's more than enough for a week's commuting, rated at over 90 kilometres of standard-conditions assisted riding, further in Eco mode, and around 40km in the all-out, full-power Turbo mode. I don't know why you'd take this bike out of Turbo mode, to be honest -- because it's ridiculously fun -- but it does consume more power and you will be recharging the bike more than once a week over any commute longer than a 10km round trip. Over a week of riding, I only recharged the battery once, so I'd say that's all you need for commuting.
And, of course, you can take it offroad. The locking forks let you choose between a plush ride and a more stiff one, the 27.5-inch wheels and knobbly tyres hold onto uneven and soft ground well, and the electric motor is incredibly useful for monstering up some uphill tracks and trails. You don't get tired from using this bike -- you just don't -- you just go faster than you'd reasonably expect to be, both offroad and on. If you like a bit of adventure riding on the weekend, this Corratec is a pocket rocket and it's perfectly suited.
It's also incredibly easy to use. Tap that power button and it's powered on and assisting your bicycling -- simple as that. You've got regular mechanical gears and electric motor power levels, and that's it, so there's no complicated learning curve. Run out of juice? Plug it in to charge overnight, although it'll get a full charge from flat in under four hours. There's even a low-power legs-free mode, so you can move the Corratec ebike around under electric power without pedalling. It even turns on and turns off quickly.
What's It Not Good At?
Riding up to 25km/h is an absolute breeze, and you'll easily outpace cars at a regular ol' inner-city traffic light Grand Prix if you so wish -- all it takes is a bit of practice in rattling through the gears, and you can blast up to the top speed in a couple of seconds. But hit that 25km/h wall -- mandated by law -- and the assistance very quickly tapers off. Because the gearing is relatively basic -- 10 ratios, no speeds -- you're stuck pedalling quite quickly to get any faster. (Although I did top 42km/h downhill, but don't tell anyone.) You can't un-restrict it, either, unless you want to void your warranty in a massive way and break the law -- which means a big fine and probably having your very expensive electric bike confiscated by the cops.
Being a big bike, and having the extra weight (albeit low-slung) of that electric motor and battery, the Corratec-Bosch ebikes -- especially the X-Vert, but it's true of the lesser models too -- are quite heavy. The X-Vert weighs well over 20 kilograms, in fact, and compared to the circa-10kg, lightweight single-speed Create pub bike that I usually ride, that's a big difference. It takes some getting used to, and you really do make good use of the transport button, but it's inescapable. The weight is down low, at least.
And, as you've probably already realised, it's quite expensive. You can buy a 2014 model for several hundred dollars less than a 2015, if you want to save some money, but compared to a similarly top-of-the-line mountain bike or road commuting bike, you'll be paying a significant premium of several hundred to even more than a thousand dollars for the privilege of electrification on your Corratec. It's worth it, but you pay to play. You pay cents to recharge it, for what it's worth, so that hardly even factors into its long-term running costs versus an unpowered bike -- nothing compared to the ongoing cost of tyres and brakes, at least until you need to replace the ebike's battery several years down the track anyway.
Should You Buy It?
This is one hell of a fun bike. It's a hoot. Around the city, you can keep up with traffic, even if you aren't a professional lycra-clad lunatic. Around the park and the bush, you can go offroad and get up steep hills with only the barest amount of effort. For riding between traffic lights, it's ridiculously quick -- as long as you get good at switching up through gears quickly, and ratcheting back down as you come to a halt.
As a battery-powered bicycle, the Corratec X-Vert Performance 650B is awesome. It's quick and simple to charge -- a couple of hours plugged into the wall in your garage at night is all it needs. It's easy to use -- tap the power button and you're ready to pedal away. It's fun to ride -- step on the pedal and you genuinely can be shunted back in your seat with the extra power of the electrics you weren't expecting.
It's expensive, sure. Nearly four thousand dollars is a lot of money to spend on a two-wheeled method of transport. If you're the kind of long-time rider that's happy to drop a couple of grand on a Specialized or Schwinn, then you won't be surprised by the cost. If you're not, then it's a little harder to bear, but if you try it and if you like the experience of an electric bike, it's absolutely worth the gutsy asking price.
Just about the only downside of this Corratec ebike is that you'll be waiting for your mates to catch up.
We borrowed this big ol' Corratec X-Vert Performance 650B from Reid Cycles -- who also service genuine Bosch electric bikes around Australia. You can actually try one out for yourself if you head into a Reid store.