I’m no cyclist, but I’ve always had a soft spot for retro-style cafe racer bikes with clean lines and a lack of unnecessary engineering. A lovely triangular frame, two narrow wheels, caliper brakes and a lovely paint job make the perfect bike for tootling around town. Years ago one company — Faraday — made an early hit on Kickstarter with its version of the old-school bike that, sadly, I never got to ride. Today at the UK’s Cycle Show, however, I stumbled across Quella’s range of retro e-bikes and already I’m in love.
Its Varsity collection has been around for a while, but the addition of electric options is relatively new. Rather than screw on a whole bunch of tech to the existing frame, all of the electronics are contained within the Zehus-made rear hub. That includes the battery, torque sensor, a GPS tracker, Bluetooth and, of course, the motor itself, with a peak output of 250W. The idea being you should just start pedaling and let the bike work out how much power you need at any given time.
There’s a lack of gears, both to add a greater level of mechanical simplicity and also because that’s just how these bikes usually roll. And while it ships as a single-speed, it’s packing a flip-flop hub, so you can convert it into a fixie if you’re, you know, a fixie rider (it’s okay, I won’t judge). Of more interest to me, however, is that if you pedal backwards when coasting, you can trigger the bike’s energy-recovery system to re-charge the battery. It’s a great feature given the lack of obvious tech here, and also ideal for a low-stakes bike like this.
This sense of low-stakes carries on through to the fact it’s really only designed for commutes on flat ground. The pedal assist will only push you to speeds of 15 miles per hour, and with 40Nm of torque and the lack of gearing, it probably won’t help you on a serious hill climb. But you can edit your speed profile with the companion app, letting you switch from low to high-power when you need that little bit more oopmh. The company says you should hope to get close to 40 miles of range from a single charge, and more if you’re particularly judicious about its use.
If there’s a downside, it’s that you’ll be spending the better part of £2,000 (around $2,475) on one, which is a serious chunk of change. But if you’re in the market for something that offers style first, practicality second and a lightweight frame third, this is something it’d be worth checking out.