If you want an electric bike, the Riese & Muller Charger GT is the creme de la creme.
This review was originally published on April 5 at 11:00AM.
What Is It?
The Riese & Muller Charger GT is a $6200 electric bike. It's the German biking brand's top performance model, and it's built for speed as much as it is for style. The flattened frame sits a little lower than a regular road bike, and inside its A -- between your knees as you pedal -- you'll find a chunky lithium-ion battery pack. Between your feet, though, is the real magic -- a 250W Bosch e-bike electric motor that spins the crank as you pedal, massively amplifying the amount of effort you put in and delivering it through the chain to the 11-speed gearset mounted on the back wheel. As long as you have battery power available, the Charger GT will multiply your pedal force by up to a factor of three -- meaning cycling any terrain is possible. Hills? Who cares about hills?
In this particular Gulf colour scheme the Charger GT looks awesome. That pastel blue main frame with a bright orange seat post and black accents for the tyres and seat and battery pack and electric motor? Yes please. It's available in three different frame sizes -- 43cm (medium), 49cm (large) and 53cm (extra large) -- and I tested out the 49cm variant which was just right for my 5'11" frame. You can buy the Charger GT in a variety of colours, like flat black, but the blue and orange is the best. It's a fact. Even in its middle size, the Charger GT is sizeable. Here it is next to this little folding 700Bike for a slightly hilarious comparison:
The Riese & Muller Charger GT is an electric bike, obviously, and it's kitted out with ebike parts from Bosch's Performance Line. Like the Corratec X-Vert 650B, the Performance Line motor is a 250W unit that can provide 'pedelec' pedal assistance whenever you're turning that crank, with full-power assistance available up to the Australian Design Regulation-limited speed cap of 25km/h and a little bit extra up to the 10 per cent headroom of around about 27km/h. The battery on the Charger GT is a 500Wh one, capable of up to 140km of electric biking range in its lower-power assistance modes.
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's It Good At?
God damn is this a fun bike to ride. Bosch's Performance Line electric motor and top-spec 500Wh battery pack combine to give you a hell of a lot of pedal assistance, especially in the top Turbo mode of the four assistance levels available. It's entirely possible to just kick off at a set of traffic lights and slam all the way through the 11-speed Shimano gearset as you go, surprising any cars sitting behind you until you hit the Charger GT's 27km/h assistance limiter. Everything is very well put together, too, so there's a sense of quality and a sense that you really can ride the Charger GT full-pelt and to its limits.
Despite its significant size, the Charger GT is a very comfortable ride. That front suspension absorbs bumps very capably, and the oversized fat moto tyres run at a relatively low pressure which gives you plenty of grip in a variety of road conditions. To give you a guide, when I picked the Charger GT up from Eurocycles on Sydney's north shore and rode it home in the middle of an electrical storm -- across roads and footpaths and through mud and oil and standing water and rain -- and didn't once feel uneasy. It's a heavy, planted piece of machinery and throughout my time riding it I always felt supremely confident.
Hey y'know that whole imminent electrical storm thing? NAH LET'S GO RIDE BIKES pic.twitter.com/CJG2QFMvxf
— Camb Simpson (@csimps0n) February 17, 2017
I've ridden a fair few electric bikes over the past couple of years, built with a variety of components and with a variety of motors, and I can comfortably say that the Bosch Performance Line setup in the Charger GT is the best that I've tried yet. The battery location makes sense -- inside the A-frame it's far more stable than above the back wheel, for example. The motor being located at the crank is much better than on the rear wheel, both for stability and for the quality of the electric assist that it gives a rider. And the control centre mounted on the handlebars is ridiculously easy to understand, too. Once you've used it once, it's simple to use again: like riding a bike.
What's It Not Good At?
Like all electric bikes, the Charger GT is pretty bulky for a pushbike. Its battery pack is low-slung and sits towards the front of the A-frame, which helps -- a lot -- with weight distribution, but at the same time its circa-24kg mass might come as an initial surprise to anyone that's expecting a relatively lightweight mountain bike or road bike. A lot of it is offset by the GT's front suspension and fatbike tyres, as well as the fact that you've got that 6km/h push-button walk-along mode, but if you've got to lift the Charger GT over your shoulder to walk up some steps you'll have a challenge on your hands.
And, of course, if you're going to be riding the bike in its hi-po Turbo mode -- where you get a second's burst of acceleration as soon as you so much as tap that pedal -- and if you've got hills throughout your ride, you're going to exhaust the 500Wh Bosch battery system a little bit earlier than its maximum rated range might suggest. It's certainly possible to hit that rated range of (up to) 140km if you stick to Eco or Tour electric assistance, but what fun is that? I got a solid 50km on hilly journeys in Turbo mode. Considering you'll get a thousand charge cycles out of the battery, I'd just leave it in full power mode and not spare the horses.
This is an expensive bike. There's no getting around the fact that it's $6200. It's the absolute creme de la creme of ebikes, sure, but you'll have to be prepared and committed to riding it all the time -- commuting to work daily at the very least, which is the big appeal of an assisted bike -- to justify the cost of what would otherwise be a reliable small city car. You can get novated leases for electric bikes which significantly lessens the impact on your hip pocket, but this isn't a $199 pub bike. You'll have to want it, and take care of it, and always leave it securely locked away when you're not on it.
Should You Buy It?
The $6200 Riese & Muller Charger GT is the blueprint for my perfect electric bike. It's supremely well engineered. Every component has been chosen with the utmost quality in mind, from the Bosch Performance Line motor -- originally meant for mountain biking, so commuting is a doddle -- to the 500Wh battery, the Shimano gearset and chunky Schwalbe tyres. The battery is easily removable and charges either on the bike or off; the controller is equally easy to take with you for extra piece of mind. Just about the only way it could be better would be if it had an integrated frame lock.
And it looks incredible. That's important to me, and it might be important to you, but I think it's not unreasonable to say that if you're dropping serious coin on a bike then you should expect it to look good. I don't know why you'd get it in anything other than that Gulf colour scheme, but matte black is OK too. I guess. Those fatbike tyres probably aren't strictly necessary, but they lend the Charger GT a sense of presence as well as being stupidly grippy and giving you the traction to ride just about anywhere in any conditions.
I absolutely want to buy the Riese & Muller Charger GT. I really, really want one. But it's a lot of money, and I don't think that I'd get enough use out of it myself. If you're spending $6200 on a bike, I think it'd better be a bike that you use every single day. None of this is a slight against the bike, though -- it's a byproduct of the fact that I travel as much as I actually sit down at a desk, and I generally have pretty busy weekends as well. If I could devote the time to using the Charger GT to its fullest, I'd pull the trigger on buying one in a heartbeat.