- A retro styled electric minibike that was successfully funded on Kickstarter in 2016, available in one size, uses 20" x 4.25" slick fat tires for cushion and improved stabilization
- Steel frame is sturdy and helps to dampen vibrations compared to Aluminum but may rust if scratched, thoughtful reflective stickers on the rim sidewalls and headtube badge, integrated rear LED light
- Powerful mid-drive motor and rack mounted battery keep weight relatively centered on the frame but the battery is higher up and the frame felt a bit tippy side to side, battery can charge on or off frame
- Smaller 160 mm mechanical disc brakes leave something to be desired given the 74.5 lb weight and higher 25 mph top speed, cadence sensing assist and trigger throttle work well, beautiful color display with USB port
Warning, in some configurations this electric bike kit is classified as a moped or motorcycle and may not be ridden on cycling trails or paths. It may require licensing, insurance and lights when used on public roads.
Lithium Cycles is preparing to launch the Super 73 V2 soon but I finally got my hands on one of the original models which were launched on Kickstarter in mid 2016. The bike I looked at had been brought into a shop for repairs after being crashed by the owner. The left brake lever was a little bent and the grip was torn at the end, but otherwise, the frame was in great shape! The first thing I noticed was how compact it is. While most e-bikes and traditional bicycles measure ~72″ in length the Super 73 is just 62.5″ and those ~10 inches can go a long way in making it portable. Whether you have limited space in your apartment building or the elevator that leads up to your level, the bike should fit more easily. Both wheels are attached with 9 mm quick release skewers which could make it even more compact and reduce weight during transport, and the ~7 lb battery is also removable. Weighing in at ~74.5 lbs, this product is about 20 pounds heavier than similarly specced products I have reviewed. This results from the unique fat-tire size and Steel frame material. Steel tends to be very sturdy and offers some vibration dampening qualities that Aluminum alloys do not, but it can also rust. Aside from the crash this bike had endured, there were already some scratches near the lower fork crown and downtube from assembly and over steering. I should mention, the odometer on the bike was showing just 25 miles when we got it. Scratching and oversteer would be an easy area to be mindful of as an owner, you could put some thick tape on the downtube or even rubber bumpers for protection. Some fancier e-bikes, like the Vintage Electric Scrambler, have custom leather bands around the fork uppers that keep them from colliding directly with the frame.
The Super 73 comes off like a conversion project vs. a purpose built electric bike in some ways. Many of the products I’m seeing in the $1,500+ price range now have internally routed cables and integrated lights. Their new Scout model is moving more in this direction, with a large headlight, but the original Super 73 does have great reflective stickers on the rims for side visibility, an integrated LED backlight, and a reflective head tube badge… and there’s also a USB port built into the base of the display panels, so you could get a rechargeable aftermarket light like this and keep it full using the bike battery. Several times during the video review, I felt myself explaining and sort of “setting the scene” for this product and trying to create perspective. A lot of marketing was done and many positive articles were published around the time of release and I feel like nobody called out the small mechanical disc brakes or questionable ~25 mph throttle activated top speed which is technically illegal in the USA on public streets. The bike can feel squirrely at times because the battery is mounted higher on the frame and there’s no chain cover which could result in pant leg snags. I don’t know how the owner had crashed this bike before bringing it into the shop, but it gave me pause and I was extra careful when riding for this review. I did not see mounting points for fenders, a rear rack, or a bottle cage but there were a few eyelets on the fork and rear dropout area for experimentation or a DIY cargo solution and the basket style drink holder in front of the long banana seat is totally fun.
I realize that most people will just ride this thing around like a scooter, but pedaling is pretty limited and uncomfortable. With just one speed, I was struggling to keep up beyond 15 mph and my knees were very close to the bars. As someone with sensitive knees and concerns about crashing, I felt that my shins and knees were a bit vulnerable and steering was impacted to some extent. Note that I am ~5’9″ tall and have a ~130″ inseam. To be honest, given the MSRP of ~$3k for the Super 73 (unless you were an early Kickstarter backer), the bike seems a little bit expensive and maybe overdone in areas that I would have changed. Imagine a still capable but lighter and cheaper 750 watt or even 500 watt motor with 20 mph speed cap by default with unlock for going faster vs. this one which has a 750 to 1,000 watt motor with a 25 mph default. Once you turn the bike on, the throttle is hot (even at assist level zero) and that could lead to an accidental takeoff and damage to your body or the product. I like many things about this bike but definitely feel concern beyond getting a ticket or confiscated bike, it would suck to end up in a sticky legal situation around property or physical damage given the “unregistered vehicle” situation around this bike. Are a few extra miles per hour worth it? I only got up to ~24 mph and I weigh just 135 lbs. I wish it was easier to lower the top speed in the settings area of the menu but am happy that at least there’s an easy throttle disconnect for people who live in New York City where throttle powered electric bikes are illegal right now. That would change this to a Class 3 electric bike which does have an accepted legal definition and could be ridden on the side of many roads.
Another mixed-bag design choice with this bike is the chain tensioner at the back. This little pulley wheel keeps the chain from bouncing and works in tandem with the narrow-wide chainring sprocket to reduce chain drops. However, it produces a lot of noise and ticking whenever you pedal or use the motor. I love how Lithium Cycles engraved their logo on the side of the pulley wheel and the rear dropout tensioner as well as the intro screen on the LCD panel. Operating the bike is fairly straightforward and traditional. Once the battery is charged up, you just hold the rubberized power button on the control pad near the left grip. It’s easy to reach but the geometric plastic button pad is a bit more vulnerable than most other models I have tested. Be particularly careful not to snag the + or – button with your shirt sleeve or jacket because they can get bent up pretty easily. So, once the display is on, you get a battery percentage readout, current speed, assist level, and some trip stats. There are five levels of assist and the throttle overrides all of them which is great. I felt very empowered on this bike and didn’t struggle with acceleration or climbing because the smaller wheels provide a mechanical advantage. But again, the smaller wheels bring the frame closer to the ground and the company opted for shorter crank arms to reduce ground strikes… which introduces that “egg beater” pedal feel at lower speeds. I actually enjoyed pedal assist more than I thought I would on this bike, Bafang has done a great job with their BBS02 and BBSHD motors and the pedal sensors are responsive. I used the first and second level of assist most of the time and then relied on the throttle above ~15 mph. Note that the display panel can be swiveled forward and back to reduce glare, but it is not removable and could take sun and water damage if parked outside. Scratches at the rack may also be common, and even though it looked bright in the shade, I found that the color LCD was a bit dim in my photos and in direct sunlight compared to some grayscale and newer transflective models.
With the Super 73 you get a fun look, a control system that most people can figure out and enjoy, and a single size that’s fairly versatile because of the long banana seat. Some companies have jumped on the bandwagon in recent years with their own interpretations of the 70’s minibike design including the HopMod eBike and Luna Banana. It’s neat to see a V2 of the Super 73 just around the corner and I love how they are iterating with the Scout which is priced closer to $1,500 and using a hub motor. Mid-drive systems are efficient if you can shift gears and balanced in terms of weight distribution, but they do put strain on your chain, sprockets, and derailleur. The Scout S1 appears to have a more exposed controller box but I love the chain guide (which doubles as a protector for your pants or dress) and the big light. This model has knobby tires and the marketing around “electric motorbike” fits any high-speed riding… but it lists a more standard 20 mph which makes it a Class 2. That model even has a rear rack so you could pack a picknic! In some ways, I feel that the knobby tires and higher speed mid motor would be more appropriate with an off-road high speed bike and the hub motor would be a better fit for the original Super 73 which has slicks. It’s an evolution and I love that they appear to sell to and ship overseas to Mexico, Canada, Europe and Australia. Hopefully I’ll get to review that product soon, but keep in mind you may have some assembly to do and could be limited in terms of shop support and warranty. One final note on the repairs that were done to this bike, the brake wires were tightened because of some stretch (pretty easy to do yourself) and the rear wheel was getting pulled out of alignment because of how powerful the motor is and the shop really cranked down when tightening it to try to eliminate this.
- An iconic design, fun features like the drink holder and bottle opener near the head tube, throttle and pedal assist drive modes with higher top speed of 25 mph for use off-road, great marketing and outreach
- Clean single-speed drivetrain won’t get beat up from the powerful mid-drive the way a multi-speed could (without shift sensing) and the big trigger throttle and lower stand-over height just makes this thing easy to understand and approachable by anyone
- Extra attention paid to safety with large grippy pedals, reflective stickers on the rim sidewalls, a reflective badge on the head tube, and a light strip built into the battery pack (you could even add a USB headlight like this and charge it off of the power port at the base of the display panel)
- Wide 4.25″ tires offer improved stability and comfort, they won’t sink in on soft terrain like dirt, sand, or snow as easily but probably aren’t optimal for such use given the slick tread pattern
- Shorter frame length of ~62.5″ might fit into elevators and closets more easily than traditional 72″ bicycles, both wheels have quick release for easy maintenance and portability
- The battery pack can be charged on or off the frame and the charging port is easy to reach, I didn’t get to see the charger but I’m guessing it’s a standard 2 Amp design and weighs ~2 lbs, I recommend storing Lithium-ion batteries in a cool and dry environment to maximize their lifespan (extreme heat and cold can strain the cells)
- Both the motor and battery are positioned towards the center of the bike for improved balance and I feel that the battery is well-protected under the saddle
- I love how the kickstand is positioned just far enough back that it does not get in the way of the left crank arm, the stand feels solid and is a good length for stabilizing the bike
- The frame and fork are made from Steel which tends to be sturdy and offer some vibration dampening qualities but also weighs more and can rust if scratched, the fork crown was colliding with the downtube and marring the paint so I could see rust happening there
- The crank arms are shorter than average at 140 mm which is perfect for the smaller wheels (you don’t want to have pedal strikes when turning) but pedal cadence maxed out for me around 15 mph, my knees can pretty high up and I had limited extension, and the Q Factor (crank arm width) seemed wider than average
- I’m not sure how much assembly the Super 73 requires but you’ll probably have to do some work with the packaging and may be on your own since this is sold direct, the warranty seems pretty limited at ~90 days vs. one to two years on most store bought electric bikes
- Lots of exposed wires, this bike looks unique because of the frame design but the additional motor inhibitor wires and cables running from the display to the battery and motor felt cluttered and I was a bit concerned about pinching them because of the fork crown-downtube collision point
- Even though the 4.25″ wide tires and lower frame height improve stability to some extent, the bike felt a little top heavy and tippy because of how and where the battery was positioned, I noticed this when trying to ride with no hands
- Very minor gripe here, I’m not sure about mounting fenders or a rear rack, there weren’t any traditional bottle cage bosses but I like the cup holder that’s built into the top tube just in front of the saddle
- Minor comment, the display is not removable and could take more exposure from weather and scratch damage at public racks, I see many people clip their helmet over the display to keep it out of sight and protected
- No chainring protector or cover to keep pants from snagging or getting greasy on the chain, it’s less of an issue with a single speed setup like this and I did like the narrow-wide tooth pattern that grabs the chain extra well
- I feel like the 160 mm disc brake side is a bit minimal for such a heavy and fast electric bike, 180 mm would have me feeling more comfortable and of course I’d love hydraulic disc brakes
- Be careful with the button pad (with the up, and down buttons in particular) because the plastic covers can get bent up, I have had this happen when my coat sleeve snagged a similar display once
- Part of the appeal here is simplicity but the bike only comes in one frame size so it might not be ideal for extra tall or large riders, I am 5’9″ and weigh 135 lbs for reference