The equations just keep looking better and better for e-bikes, and this three-speed carbon-belted mid-drive from Luna Cycles is one of the best we've seen so far. Save for its fairly short-range battery, this lightweight, super-tight machine looks like the ultimate commuter, and is as stealthy as anything we've seen.
E-bikes are a spectacular way to get cars off the road on the daily commute, an excuse to steal a bit of exercise time no matter what kind of shape you're in. Unfortunately, they tend to be expensive, heavy and a bit ... well, obvious for some people. But things are definitely improving, and Luna's new Fixed Stealth e-bike makes a heck of an argument for itself.
It's a 400-watt mid-drive bike, running a three-speed internally geared Shimano rear hub that lets it use a maintenance-, slip- and grease-free Gates carbon belt drive. The motor uses torque sensing as opposed to cadence sensing or running a throttle, and having tried all three it's my favorite way to ride – it just feels like your legs are super strong.
The batteries are stored in the alloy downtube, a cylinder that looks no thicker than if it had nothing in it, and all the wiring is run within the tubes, so the stealth effect is terrific. Only from the left side can you really see a motor at all, and if it weren't for the full-color display and power level controls, you probably wouldn't pick it.
At 39 lb (17.7 kg), it's light for an electric bike, too, and it runs reasonably thin commuter-grade 700x35C Kenda tires, so it won't be a pig to ride even when the power's off. Brakes are decent Tektro hydraulic discs, and contain switches to stop the motor when the brakes are on.
This bike costs US$1,750. Frankly, that's a very impressive price for a brand new electric bicycle, particularly from an established, quality brand. It's even more impressive given how tight and good looking this build is.
But there are two catches. The first is in that downtube battery pack. At 36 V and 7 Ah it offers only 250 watt-hours of energy storage (about half the juice you get in a standard Bosch battery pack these days), meaning that it'll probably get you around 20 mi (32 km) of pedal-assist riding before it's flat as a tack. That means it'll squeak in a 10-mi (16-km) each-way commute, but any further than that and you're on your own.
Should Luna increase the diameter of that downtube enough to fit another row of cells in and boost the range by another five miles? The penalty to stealth and weight wouldn't be huge, but it would add expense. It's hard to say, but with battery life cycles in mind I'm not a huge fan of running anything lithium-powered right down to zero.
The second catch is that at that base price, you don't get a warranty, or even the ability to send it back after a 30-day guarantee for manufacturing defects. You want a six-month warranty, it'll cost you $250, and 12 months is $500. Otherwise, it's fingers crossed and you can pick up your own tab for faults and failures.
Still, the Fixed Stealth e-bike is a terrific-looking and very capable bike running high-quality componentry – and at a compelling price point that has seen it sell out its first run almost immediately. Luna is preparing a second run that'll ship mid to late June.
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