Motorcycles

Retro Onyx electric mopeds blur the line between e-bikes and motorcycles

These neo-retro e-bikes pack in enough power to raise the question: when do these things become motorcycles?
These neo-retro e-bikes pack in enough power to raise the question: when do these things become motorcycles?
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Onyx bike details, including headlight, dash, suspension and brake lights
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Onyx bike details, including headlight, dash, suspension and brake lights
Off road is the only place these things will be fully legal
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Off road is the only place these things will be fully legal
The Onyx CTY, a town-focused getabout
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The Onyx CTY, a town-focused getabout
The 30+ mph CTY
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The 30+ mph CTY
These neo-retro e-bikes pack in enough power to raise the question: when do these things become motorcycles?
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These neo-retro e-bikes pack in enough power to raise the question: when do these things become motorcycles?
The Onyx RCR puts out a whopping 5,400 watts at full throttle, but this is a peak power that can't be sustained without overheating
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The Onyx RCR puts out a whopping 5,400 watts at full throttle, but this is a peak power that can't be sustained without overheating

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.

The Onyx RCR puts out a whopping 5,400 watts at full throttle, but this is a peak power that can't be sustained without overheating
The Onyx RCR puts out a whopping 5,400 watts at full throttle, but this is a peak power that can't be sustained without overheating

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.

The Onyx CTY, a town-focused getabout
The Onyx CTY, a town-focused getabout

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.

Source: Indiegogo

MOPEDS ARE BACK TO THE FUTURE!

4 comments
Daishi
In terms of legislation in the US there are laws on the books that guided the mopeds from the 70s and 80s that could probably be dusted off if there are police old enough to remember them. The power this makes is a little behind my old 2 stroke 50cc Aprilia RS50 but it's probably a whole lot quieter. Doing 60mph on an ebike battery would crush it pretty quickly though. 72 volts at 22Ah is 1.58 kWh (compared to the 13.0 to 16.6 kWh you would find with an electric Motorcycle like Zero).
jd_dunerider
Those riders both look like pretty small framed people, and they looked a bit big on the bikes. I wonder how my 6 feet and 200 pounds would do on it.
pinkman
With this e-bike being capable of doing 60mph, no wonder they will legistrate against it. The risk of gravel rash, broken bones, head trauma and being take out by motor vehicles while in a virtually stealth modewould be greatly increased, especially if dressed in the body like the scantily clad like the model.
JeffK
One of the biggest selling points of these machines is their minimal impact on the ears when riding in remote places like those shown in the video. I'll never understand why the manufacturers think it necessary to add a music track; it would make for a more impressive demonstration to use audio from mics mounted on the bikes so all that is heard is the wind and road noise. I appreciate the use of a musical sound track to enhance a video production, but there are instances where it is counter-productive.