First ride: Bultaco Brinco S electric bike
Bultaco has dramatically widened theappeal of its electric Brinco with three new models, all of them roadlegal. Until now, the Brinco has only been offered in 60 km/h (37 mph)off-road form – the new bikes are homologated for the road and comeas a 45 km/h (28 mph) moped or 25 km/h (15.5 mph) pedelec.
The original high-speed Brinco carrieson as the Brinco R, while the R-E is basically the same bike,restricted to 28 mph. The Brinco C is more road orientated, withshorter travel suspension (150 mm at both ends, instead of 180 mm frontand a massive 270 mm rear), slightly wider bars and lower seat. Themost road-friendly of all is the Brinco S, with the same suspensionplus a broader "comfort" saddle and skinnier Schwalbe Apple roadtires. The changes to turn the Brinco road legal aren't that many –it's got a 750-lumen headlight, an LED stop/tail light, kickstand,horn, mirror, numberplate holder and a few reflectors.
All three new Brincos share the samebasic architecture of the original, with an alloy frame, single rearshock and front forks that wouldn't look out of place on a smallmotocrosser. It looks like a mountain bike on steroids, except thatthere's a 2 kW electric motor in the rear wheel and a can't-miss-it1.3 kWh lithium-ion battery locked underneath the frame. And there arepedals, driving the rear wheel via a 9-speed derailleur, with atwo-speed overdrive box neatly enclosed within the bottom bracket.
So in a very real sense, this is ahybrid which combines electric and human power, and according toBultaco, we shouldn't think of the Brinco as a bicycle, nor amotorcycle/moped, but as something completely new. And they could beright. There's nothing new about mopeds, or pedelecs, but this is acombination of the two.
On the Streets
Bultaco gave the street-legal Brincostheir world launch in London, at a trendy electric bike shop just astone's throw from Tower Bridge. Britain isn't a huge market forpedelecs, but London is big on cycling these days, and Bultaco waskeen to point out that in restricted 25 km/h form, the Brinco can beridden on the capital's growing network of cycle paths, and in Europeby anyone aged 14 or over with no need for a license, helmet orinsurance. Bultaco dealers will be able to derestrict the bike ifneeded.
Sit on the Brinco and it feels morelike a mountain bike than anything with a motor. It's very slim, andat 42 kg (93 lb) weighs about half as much as the simplest and most basic 50 ccscooter. You sit high – on its lowest setting the saddle is stillover one meter off the ground – which gives your legs a goodpower stroke for pedaling.
The Brinco doesn't have a key, just arubber band containing a transponder, unique to each bike and wornaround your wrist. Touch that to the digital display, everythinglights up and you're good to go. Two kilowatts equals about 2.6 bhp,which is about the same as a moped, but add in the legendary torqueof an electric motor and the Brinco's low weight and you've got therecipe for exciting urban performance.
And that is what you get, the motordelivering strong, linear acceleration up to an indicated 31-32 mph onthe digi display, which also shows an odometer and battery level.It's certainly fast enough to keep up with town traffic, and ahead ofit, in congested inner London. The city put a congestion charge onprivate cars (but not motorcycles) several years ago, but theinnermost roads still get clogged with red buses, black taxis and agrowing number of private and Uber cabs.
But this is all meat and drink to theBrinco. What adds to the fun is that you can boost power bypedaling. All right, it's not that much – the average human canproduce around 200 watts, boosting the Brinco by about 10 percent, but it'senough to make a difference. Pedaling also makes you feel good, Remember that cheesy TV series of the 1970s, the Six Million DollarMan? Well the Brinco makes you feel like him, with a few endorphinswhizzing round your system to heighten the effect.
One interesting point is gearing. I'veridden super-fast electric bikes before where the pedals ran out ofrevs at 20 mph, but the Brinco's 9x2 transmission has very high topratios, allowing you to keep pedaling, and putting in useful power,at 30 mph.
Fortunately, it also has the runninggear to support this sort of performance. The quality Magura brakesare very strong, with a dinky little four-pot caliper for the frontdisc, and in fact the rear locked up a little too easily in the wet.The suspension too gives you confidence in the bike, being smooth andwell damped. Because the bike is so slim and light, it can slipthrough gaps that a conventional 50 or 125 cc bike would have troublewith, and sitting so high, you get a really good view of what's goingon ahead. In fact, my only real criticism of the Brinco's in-trafficperformance is that squeezing the brakes lightly automatically cutsoff the power, so you can't keep fingers on the levers, ready tobrake.
The Brinco has always been anon/off-road bike, and Bultaco underlined the point by taking us to alocal BMX track. The bike is certainly well able to cope with dipsand jumps, and way beyond my limited ability. Either way, it offersthe option of riding your Brinco to the BMX or motocross track,having your fun, and riding home again.
Now then, the practicalities. Bultacoclaims the battery will last "up to" 100km (62 miles) but that's onthe Eco setting. I didn't get the time to do a proper mileage check,but on full power, I wouldn't expect more than 30 miles. The Brincoalso lacks some essentials for commuting. There's no direction indicators,for example, or luggage rack, though I'm told these will be availableas options. Nor is there a steering lock or any security hardware.Instead there's the Bultaco app, which includes a tracking system via Bluetooth, so if your Brinco is stolen, you should know where it'sgone.
The Brinco is certainly great fun, andvery good in traffic. If anything holds it back, it'll be price.Thanks to the quality components and assembly in Spain, the R-E and Ccome in at £4,495 (US$6,590) and the S £100 more, so it's the same price for both 25 km/h and 45 km/h bikes. Somegovernments do offer a subsidy on electric two-wheelers, but wherethey don't, the Brinco costs more than twice as much as a moped. Onthe other hand, it will be cheap to run, and I think it represents a genuinelynew idea. Here's to the future.
Bultaco Brinco S specifications:
- Motor: Brushless AC, in rear wheel
- Power: 2 kW
- Battery: Lithium-ion, 1.3 kWh
- Recharge time: 3 hours
- Brakes: Front - Disc, 4-pot caliper, Rear - Disc,2-pot caliper
- Suspension: Front - Telescopic forks, fully adj,Rear - Single shock, fully adj
- Weight: 42 kg
- Colours: White or Black
Product page: Bultaco