Senior Rookie Rider--650 miles on a Stunner LT

Ezra

New Member
In August 2019, I purchased a very lightly used 2018 Biktrix Stunner LT electric bike. This has been a great bike and riding it has been a great experience, so much so that 7 months and 650 miles later, I want to record what I’ve learned about this bike to share with others--especially those "senior citizens" who might be thinking of taking up ebiking.

This was my first electric bike. In fact, this was my first bike of any kind in about 55 years! I decided to get back to biking because, at age 69, I had just had a knee replacement and needed to exercise my knee, as well as my whole self, actually. I had been using a stationary bike for knee rehab, but it wasn’t really enjoyable, and my usage was dropping off.


I considered getting back on a regular bike, but I live in an area called Hollywood Hill, outside of Seattle. It is in fact all hill. It’s a beautiful place to ride, with trees and streams and lakes, but it’s also very up and down. I just couldn’t see my aging self being able to navigate that.

My son had gotten into ebikes a year or so before this and had really become a fan. The passion he previously had for fixing and restoring old sports cars and Mopars was quickly transferred to this new interest in electric bikes. He even built a couple on his own bikes and talked a lot about how much fun he was having. I am not at all “bike technical” and would not be able to discuss the arcane tech and mechanical features of electric bikes, and this review won’t contain any of those things. But my son is pretty technical on all this, so I asked him to consider building an ebike for me. But then this Biktrix showed up on Craigslist.


The bike was practically new (30 miles) and painted a beautiful cobalt blue. My son checked it out and determined that the Biktrix was a really good bike, well built, and was selling at a very attractive price, so I bought it. It was a step-through, which, as a senior citizen with knee and back problems, was the only way I could get on a bike. I also liked the curved handlebars and the riding position. It was the 26” version, and the lady who sold it thought it was too big. She wanted to try a 20”.


At first, I also wondered if the bike was too big for me. I’m only 5’8”. I had tried a 20” Rad Mini and it seemed more approachable to me than this larger Biktrix. I learned that the Rad and the Stunner LT were about the same weight. I decided that I would go ahead and get the larger Biktrix anyway. Part of my concern about size was related to the fact that I just needed to learn how to ride and handle a bike again. It had been years.

They say you never forget how to ride a bike, and that’s true. But that doesn’t mean you stay good at it if you don’t ever ride. The last time I had ridden a bike for any extended period was back when I was in my teens. I had an ancient Schwinn cruiser then (a Hornet, if I recall) and had I converted it to a motorized bike when I was about 12. Given the quality of that conversion, I’m very surprised I lived to be 13. I grew up in Idaho where kids could get a driver’s license at 14 (and had usually been driving a couple years before that). Once I was able to drive a car, I didn’t see a need to ever get back on a bike. So in a major sense, I needed to learn how to ride bikes all over again, and this time, it would be an ebike.


I was not a fast learner. I had to learn how to lean the bike down to get on it, then stand it back up while straddling it. I learned to not turn it on until I was straddling it, having a couple times tried moving the pedals when I was trying to get on, or inadvertently twisting the throttle, and having the bike take off on me. A few little scratches on my shins helped me remember. But then I learned to get on, turn it on while straddling it, then blip the throttle to get it moving while I just slid back onto the seat.

What was at first scary to me became one of my favorite features on the bike—starting off. One of the challenges for me on a bike was to get it going. With an electric, whether it’s first starting or pulling away from a stoplight, you just blip the throttle and away you go, as quickly as you want, no wobbling or weaving because no pedaling, if you don’t want to. At stoplights, the acceleration of the bike is really fun, and surprising to motorists who don’t have to wait for you to peddle through the intersection from a stop. You can go through as fast as they can.

Once I learned how to start off using the throttle, the bike became a lot more fun.

Stopping was another issue. I don’t know that the mechanical disc brakes were set up correctly when I first bought the bike. My son tried adjusting them and they just never seemed to work right. So we decided to swap out the Tektro mechanical discs for Shimano hydraulic discs. Like I said, I’m not technical and couldn’t hold my own in a discussion about the relative merits of Shimano or Tektro, or whether to get 2 or 4 piston or whatever. I rarely went faster than 25 mph, but the hills were a concern. I just wanted something that gave me more confidence.

I actually tried doing the brake conversion myself, but it wasn’t as straightforward as just swapping in one set for another—at least not the way I did it. I needed my son’s help with the electronics, but once that was done, setting up the calipers, pads, and brake levers and bleeding the lines went pretty well. It helped that I’d done this kind of thing on cars.

I suppose I could have just gone to a bike shop and had them do the work, but I wanted to figure it out myself and learn more about how my bike worked. Thank goodness I had my son’s help with the electronics and sensors! But here’s the deal. Swapping the brakes out was one of the best things I could have done in setting up the bike. The new hydraulic brakes work great—easy to modulate, no need for frequent adjustment, and they stop me as fast as I want with little effort. Making the swap really upped my confidence and enjoyment of riding. Less than $120 to do it ourselves. I note that the newer Stunners now have hydraulic brakes. Good.

I also added a rearview mirror, a bell, and ergonomic handgrips. These were all good additions. The mirror adds to my confidence and the handgrips greatly reduce hand fatigue on longer rides. The padded riding gloves I got also help (I also got some heavier ones for winter riding). I got an LED taillight to put on the back so people can see me. The 2018 Biktrix has a headlight that runs off the bike battery, but not a rear light. I think the newer models have the taillight as well. Finally, I got a bike bag to put on the rack.

One of the other things that I had to get used to was bike seats. When I first started out, I was pretty uncomfortable. The Biktrix had a wide, padded cruiser seat, and after the first few rides, where I got to feeling it, I reasoned that wider and more padded would be even better. So I tried a couple of seats, but nothing was much better, really. I wound up with a little bit narrower Cloud C9 seat that my son had, and it seemed to be as comfortable as anything. But two other things also helped.

One really good modification was a Suntour suspension seat post, which is an easy modification and cost around $120 or so. I appreciate the suspension and the more shock-absorbent tires on the Biktrix, but with a back that does not like jolts at all, I found that the combination of the Cloud C9 sprung seat and the Suntour post really absorbed a lot of shock, making the bike even more comfortable for me. I recommend doing something like this if you want to smooth things out on any bike, but some people (like my wife) might find it to be overkill.

I also bought some padded bike shorts, and that helps. But as much as anything, I think 650 miles of conditioning is also a big factor in becoming more comfortable.

The only other modification I made to the bike had to do with the tires. Stock on the bike was a set of knobby 4” Kendra Juggernaut tires, and they were fine. That said, early on, I was still worried that the bike was too tall for me and was looking for ways to lower the ride height. Roshan at Biktrix suggested changing from the 4” tires to 3”. In looking at it, it appeared that doing so would lower the ride height between 1 and 2 inches. Roshan recommended I look at some Duro Beach Bum Fat Tires. I found some and switched them out. Overall, I think the total cost was less than $60 as I was able to use the same tubes from the Kendras. The new tires were not near as knobby as the Kendras.

With the switch, which took about a half hour, ride height did indeed drop a little over an inch and a half, a small bit, but very helpful. But here’s the other part—the new tires are much quieter and more directional than the 4-inchers. They don’t wander as much as the knobby 4” tires, requiring less directional correction. They aren’t as good in gravel and dirt, but they aren’t bad. I ride about 80-85% of the time on paved roads. The ride on the road is much better than before. I also ride on what is known as the Tolt Pipeline, which is loose gravel and some dirt. I can tell the difference between the tires when I get on the Pipeline—the Kendras have more traction, but I’ve never had any trouble with the Duros, so overall, I like the tradeoff. We had some snow in Seattle this past winter, and the Kendras might have been better in that, but I just didn’t take the bike out on those days. Too cold.

So that’s the set-up, arrived at with some experience and trial and error.

I now ride almost every day, with a typical ride being 8-10 miles around the neighborhoods and on the Tolt Pipeline. Most of the time the roads are dry or kinda wet but it’s not raining. I try not to find windows between showers to go out. I have been having a great time doing this, and really enjoy this bike. Why? Well, for one thing, I get comments like “Nice bike!” when I’m out riding it, from kids and adults alike. I haven’t heard anything like that in over half a century! I think the appearance is indeed stunning, especially with the blue painted rims and the bigger tires.

Also, it’s fun. There will always be something about gliding down the road on a bike, like running sitting down. I used to love running when I was a kid. I can’t really run any more, but I can get the same feeling on a bike. It’s great!

I will admit, at first, riding was a little scary. I kept my speed pretty low. 8 mph felt like a pretty good clip. I will admit to a couple of crashes early on, both of which were on the Tolt Pipeline. I re-cracked some ribs both times. I was going slowly, but when that big bike went over a major rut I shouldn’t have even tried to cross, there was nothing I could do except land. I wasn’t hurt bad enough that I couldn’t get back on and ride home, but I was pretty sore for a couple of days. I’d cracked those ribs before so I knew what had happened.

I also had to learn to ride in moderate traffic with cars. If I go on the Pipeline or the Burke Gilman trail, there are no cars, but there are plenty of other people and bikes, so I needed to learn traffic and become confident in navigating my way through it all. That came with time. It was really helpful to learn how to do the start-from-a-dead-stop thing with the throttle and to have confidence in the brakes. The Biktrix handles well once you learn how to ride, and I feel like I can go most anywhere. Okay, maybe not downtown Seattle.

Additionally, the bike has been very reliable. No issues in 650 miles that weren’t things I did to myself. The biggest one of those was when I accidentally disabled the battery during a ride. This happened when I hadn’t been on the bike for a while, and for some reason, when I went riding, I had forgotten to turn on the headlight. I stopped about a half mile from the house to turn the light on, but in fact, I had forgotten how to turn it on. I thought it was done by pushing both the upper and lower arrows on the controller at the same time and holding them down until the light turned on. No. It was just the upper arrow that needed to be pushed. Pushing both arrows did something else, taking me out of the home screen and into settings. In trying to get back (which involved some random button pushing on my part), I somehow changed one of the bike’s settings that wouldn’t let the bike access the battery correctly. I watched in horror as the battery life indicator dropped from about 90% down to nothing! I thought I’d somehow accidently hit an automatic battery drain switch or something.

I could have called my son, but since I was only a half mile from home, I pedaled back, going up a slight hill reminding me how thankful I was for the electric motor. My son helped me reset the settings, and the battery came back, and I was fine. No more random button pushing!

But that’s the only problem I encountered in 650 miles, and that was on me. I have a bunch of tools and tire repair stuff in my bike pack that have never been used on the trail. Everything has held together really well.

I have learned how the power goes down as the battery charge starts to go down. There are some hills that I won’t go on if I’m under 40% of the battery charge, which I can zing right up when it’s fully charged. That’s the way these batteries work, and I set my routes accordingly.

The longest bike trips I take are on the Burke Gilman trail--I usually go 20 or so miles. It's very flat. I do about 11-12 mph average. Plenty of power for something like that. On those kinds of paths, where I’m doing most of the pedaling, I can go maybe 60 miles between charging! If I’m on the hills around my house, I’ll do maybe 50-55 miles. But again, except for the hills, I’m doing most of the pedaling.

I have the 12ah battery. I keep it inside when I’m not riding, in temps well above the 50 degrees recommended for storing. It does take what seems like a long time to recharge—I’d say 5-6 hours.

These days, I zip all over Hollywood Hill and the surrounding area. I’ve lost some weight and built up some leg muscles. Where 8 mph used to seem to be a pretty good clip, now I’m riding around 11-12 mph average. I’ve expanded my riding range and enjoy exploring the area. I go out 5 or 6 times a week, aided by some good wind- and waterproof-clothes. I miss it when I can’t get out.

I’d buy another one of these Biktrix’s in a hot second, set up the way I’ve done mine. I think they are high quality, well-priced bikes, and the Stunner step through is a great senior bike. The only thing I might do is upgrade the battery to maybe a higher AH rating.

As I got better at it, my wife wanted to ride with me. She has a regular Diamondback that she sometimes rides in sprint triathlons (she’s 65 and does pretty well in these) so she knows how to ride. But she couldn’t keep up with me on the hills or the Pipeline, so I found her a Rad Mini to ride instead of the Diamondback. She’s got about 150 miles on it, and I’ve ridden it as well. Great bike, very high quality, and trouble free also. I like it. But I like my Biktrix better--probably because I’m used to it and have it set up the way I want. I would recommend the Biktrix to anyone. One thing I like better about the Biktrix over the Rad is the battery removal set up. Both involve keys, but I can never remember how to work the keys for the Rad, where the Biktrix is a simple process—on or off.

I’d also recommend that if you’re just starting out on an ebike, or thinking of getting one, stick with it. It may feel a little scary at first, and that might dissuade you from riding. But it just takes a little familiarity and you’ll really enjoy it.

It’s fun to “run” like the wind again!
 

Ezra

New Member
Thanks! I’m also glad to report I just hit the big 1000 miles. The weather has been very nice and I’ve been able to get out more. The bike is still going strong.
 

jaizon

Active Member
Great account of your adventure! And I can identify with a great deal of it. I have a Fat Delta eTrike now, but am seriously looking at one of the Stunners as I really want to get back to a two wheeler.
 

rvnmedic

New Member
Thanks. That was just what I was looking for. I'm 70. Have a few knee isuues and really wanted to decide. You helped make my decision. I'll follow up after receiving my bike.
 

scout592

Active Member
One of the best reviews I have seen on here for the "ordinary " non tech rider who may be a little older and not ridden for awhile and who is looking at their first ebike. Thanks