If regulations allow them to, e-bikes could genuinely create a whole new category of transportation. Machines that are mild-mannered enough to poke along in the bicycle lane as cheap, efficient commuters, but that can be uncorked at the push of a button to become powerful trail blasters, or even opened enough to share the highway with cars and motorcycles.
The RCR by San Francisco-based Onyx Motorbikes is such a machine. In full-power mode, it can hit 5,400 watts for short bursts – that's 7.2 hp, which might not sound like a lot, but it's more than the Stealth H-52 makes and it's good for a top speed of 60 mph (96.5 km/h). That's a pretty serious little machine, with all the performance you'd want around town.
Hit a button, though, and you can change it down to a low-power eBike mode where it makes 750 W (1 hp) and limits its top speed to 20 mph (32 km/h). Those figures are rubbery as you can set power and speed limits to whatever you want in each mode to suit your local e-bike regulations.
Its 22-Ah removable battery pack gives it an impressive max range of 75 miles (121 km), but naturally that'll drop fast if you start using all the power, doing high speeds or tackle some steep hills.
There's a smaller, cheaper CTY version as well, with less power, a 16-Ah battery, max range of 40 mi (64 km/h) and a top speed somewhere over 30 mph (48 km/h) in full power mode.
Both bikes feature some strangely stark neo-retro design, with tube frames, headlights, dashes, disc brakes and some fairly thin-looking suspension at either end. Onyx says it'll fit pedal speed sensors if you want to ride them as pedal-assist machines.
E-bike laws are a chaotic state-by-state mish-mash in the United States, a situation which will no doubt help companies like Onyx sneak vehicles like this into the bicycle lanes of America. We're not sure exactly how legal this solution – or any other one that lets you push a button and instantly boost your power six-fold – really is in the US, but we suspect a motivated cop might be able to use your Onyx bike to really ruin your day.
They're definitely illegal in Europe, Australia and a bunch of other jurisdictions, although at this stage of the game you're arguably so unlikely to get caught that the colossal "riding an unregistered motorcycle without an approved helmet in a bike lane" fines attached might not be enough to stop people.
We'd certainly hope to see these laws relaxed to encourage this practical, fun and emission-free form of transport, but we won't be holding our breath. For those who want to play by the rules, Onyx says it'll be selling a kit with all the requisite mirrors, indicators, VIN numbers and license plate hangers to turn the RCR into a fully road-registerable electric motorcycle. Its price might make for a compelling proposition.
At US$2,600 via Indiegogo, where the team has already doubled their campaign goal with over two weeks left to run, the performance to price ratio of the RCR is pretty spectacular, whether you're comparing it to other e-bikes or to small motorcycles. The urban focused CTY sells for $1,875. Deliveries are slated for December 2018 and January 2019 for the RCR and CTY, respectively, if all goes to plan.
Check out the team's pitch video below.
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