Bicycles

Mid-80s video game inspires sleek city ebike

Mid-80s video game inspires sl...
The Paperboy ebike is being offered only to Indiegogo backers in the UK and US
The Paperboy ebike is being offered only to Indiegogo backers in the UK and US
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The Paperboy ebike is being offered only to Indiegogo backers in the UK and US
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The Paperboy ebike is being offered only to Indiegogo backers in the UK and US
US riders will benefit from a 500-W motor, while UK Paperboys will get a 250-W motor
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US riders will benefit from a 500-W motor, while UK Paperboys will get a 250-W motor
The Paperboy is named after a mid-80s video game released in the UK by Elite Systems
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The Paperboy is named after a mid-80s video game released in the UK by Elite Systems
The frame-integrated battery is reckoned good for up to 50 miles per charge for the UK-spec Paperboy
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The frame-integrated battery is reckoned good for up to 50 miles per charge for the UK-spec Paperboy
Elite Systems released the Paperboy video game for the ZX Spectrum and Commodore computers in 1986/87
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Elite Systems released the Paperboy video game for the ZX Spectrum and Commodore computers in 1986/87
The Paperboy features 21 gears for riding flexibility even when the battery is out of juice
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The Paperboy features 21 gears for riding flexibility even when the battery is out of juice
A handlebar-mounted LCD display shows ride and ebike info
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A handlebar-mounted LCD display shows ride and ebike info
The 250-W motor offers assist up to 15.5 mph, while the 500-W variant can help the rider to 20 mph
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The 250-W motor offers assist up to 15.5 mph, while the 500-W variant can help the rider to 20 mph
View gallery - 8 images

A Brit game developer and publisher from the 1980s has pedaled into the ebike space with a stylish ride named after one of its most popular games. The Paperboy by Elite Systems/Elite EV has launched for under a grand on Indiegogo.

Originally coming from Atari and Midway, and played standing upright at an arcade cabinet using a handlebar and a couple of buttons for control, the Paperboy game saw our young pixelated hero delivering newspapers along urban streets without breaking a subscriber's windows or crashing into obstacles. The aim was to complete a perfect delivery, and a training course to hone your skills would follow each stage.

Elite Systems released the Paperboy video game for the ZX Spectrum and Commodore computers in 1986/87
Elite Systems released the Paperboy video game for the ZX Spectrum and Commodore computers in 1986/87

By today's gaming standards, it was a very simple affair – but hugely addictive, and very popular. In 1986, a version for the ZX Spectrum home computer – or Speccy to its legion of users in the UK – was released by Elite Systems, followed by versions for Commodore systems the next year. But it wasn't just these paper-flinging adventures that inspired the development of a pedal-assist ebike of the same name.

"A bike’s my preferred method of getting around," said Elite's co-founder Steve Wilcox. "In a normal week I cover 60 to 80 miles. During the UK’s first lock down last spring I was seeing a lot of favorable press about a 3rd generation ebike from an emerging European brand.

"Out of curiosity I booked a test ride. The ebike was stylish but felt heavy. Its derailleur gears had been replaced with a rear hub gear. Its chain had been replaced with a belt. It seemed the changes were solutions to non-existent problems. Long story short, the ebike was expensive – a couple of grand – I was underwhelmed. So, I started looking for alternatives."

That search led him to ebike builder Dave Neale, which resulted in a collaboration to design and create the Paperboy ebike.

The 250-W motor offers assist up to 15.5 mph, while the 500-W variant can help the rider to 20 mph
The 250-W motor offers assist up to 15.5 mph, while the 500-W variant can help the rider to 20 mph

The pedal-assist ride comes with a 250-W motor for those in the UK and offers assist up to 25 km/h (15.5 mph), but riders in the US can get a 500-W flavor for up to 20 mph (32 km/h) of motor assist. Five levels of power assist can be dialed in, with cruise control and walk assist also available. And the 36-V/10.4-Ah battery in the downtube (which is not removable) is reckoned good for up to 80 km (50 miles) per charge at assist level three with the UK-spec motor.

On the US-spec variant, Wilcox told us: "I can tell you that carrying myself, 6ft1 and 200 lb, in US spec (20 mph max. assisted speed and when using 100 percent of the 500-W of power-assistance available) the Paperboy will still deliver a creditable 22-25 miles around my usual test route."

The 18-kg (39-lb), aluminum-frame ebike is reported suitable for riders between 1.6 and 1.9 m (5.25 - 6.2 ft) in height, its Shimano Tourney 21-speed derailleur makes for flexible riding even when the onboard battery is running on empty, it rolls on 700x25C tires, and stopping power comes from Tektro 160 disc brakes. An LCD display shows ride and ebike status info, there's a LED headlight, and a USB port for keeping mobile gadgetry topped up.

The frame-integrated battery is reckoned good for up to 50 miles per charge for the UK-spec Paperboy
The frame-integrated battery is reckoned good for up to 50 miles per charge for the UK-spec Paperboy

After undertaking a 2,000-km (over 1,200-miles) road test of the ebike prototypes during the UK winter of 2020/2021, and subsequently tweaking the design based on what was learned (including making the LCD display and the ebike's controller user serviceable), the Elite Paperboy ebike has now launched on Indiegogo.

Pledges start at US$999 for either a UK or US version and, if all goes to plan, shipping is estimated to start in July.

Source: Elite Systems (Elite EV)

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