- A sturdy, potentially high speed, motorcycle-inspired electric bike with lots of custom options including paint, saddle, bars and grips hand built in Southern California
- Optional battery size upgrade for improved range (up to 100 miles), twist throttle is simple to use and a large hydraulic disc brake offers good power but there was only one brake on the models I tested
- Single speed design is simple and durable but not much fun to pedal with, especially if you choose a lower saddle like the ones ones we saw, the fold-down foot rests are comfortable and solid
- The batteries rattled a bit and aren't easily removable (to reduce weight when transporting or charge separately), the kickstand is easy to break if you back the bike up while it's down and just didn't seem that sturdy
Warning, in some configurations this electric bike 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.
The Marrs Cycles M-1 and newer, more affordable M-2 electric bikes are custom, American made hot rods… They deliver a lot of power, range and comfort depending on how you set them up. The stock motor is a 1,000 watt direct drive gearless hub mounted in the rear wheel. It’s supported by sturdy 10 gauge spokes connected to wide rims and true motorcycle tires measuring ~27.5″ in diameter. The battery is a 48 volt Lithium ion type that starts at 20 amp hours but can be upgraded to 40 ah or 60 amp hours for increase range, it’s made up of aluminum battery boxes stacked inside the mid-section of the frame and these packs resemble those I’ve seen on some of the early Pedego ebikes.
On the one hand, Marrs electric bikes are like art because they are so unique and custom and on the other, they resemble electric motorcycles because the control system can be unlocked for higher speed operation (up to ~30 mph). The challenge here is that they aren’t truly motorcycles… they don’t have lights, turn signals or other DOT required equipment that would truly make them road worthy. And as far as electric bicycles go, the powerful motor used here may not be allowed in some states but if you ride with the 20 mph setting and aren’t too reckless (or just use it on private property) it could probably go unnoticed. Frankly, I’d prefer behavior enforcement on ebikes vs. technology requirements just like we have for cars but coming back to the DOT safety measures around lights, seat belts etc. I can see how the lines get blurred. Anyway, I love how clean the frame looks and appreciate the black motor casing, spokes, rims and tires that blend together. While the M-2 does have pedals, the models I saw only offered one gear so that’s going to limit your unassisted power and speed significantly. This is not a bicycle I’d want to pedal at all, the custom saddles (which were taken from actual motorcycles) offer comfort but tend to be mounted lower – designed to support a more upright ride and let you extend your legs forward onto special platform rests. You can see this in action during the ride tests in the video review above. In short, you sit down and use your feet to stabilize the bike then push off and twist the throttle which is a full grip design (like a motorcycle). This is another area that could probably be customized if you prefer a trigger or half-grip as many other electric bicycles have.
The bike feels solid but I noticed a bit of rattling from the battery boxes inside the frame when traveling over bumps. The units shown in this review were numbers 1 and 2 in the series so it’s possible that newer builds have resolved this. I bet those little rubber bumpers sold at the hardware store would probably do the trick if yours is rattling. I love the extra large 203 mm hydraulic disc brake but was a bit concerned about actual stopping power given that you only get one in the rear. Many times, electric mountain bikes I review have a larger more powerful front brake because inertia sends weight forward during heavy stops… you get more traction and stopping power from the front wheel. With the Mars Cycles you don’t get a front brake at all, for me this is an area you might want to ask about customizing if you plan to ride fast in varied environments. Another area where hardware felt a little underwhelming was the kickstand. Sam Townsend, the owner of the two models shown here, had broken the kickstands a couple of times by backing the bikes up with it deployed. thankfully there’s a standard heavy-duty mounting point to swap in a new stand but the ones used here felt a little weak and sensitive. You can see it rattling in the ride test when I show the motor view.
Operating the bike is fairly straight forward and I appreciate the charging port near the lower rear end of the main box (which has a rubber cap to protect against dust and water). It’s not super easy to reach so your hands could get greasy but it does seem well protected. Charging is quick thanks to a powerful 12 Amp power supply but the trade off is size and weight, it wouldn’t be fun to carry the 5.5 lb charger around. And that’s where the battery size options come in again, you don’t need to bring the charger at all if you’ve got a 100+ mile range on a single charge. Inside the battery box there are rectangular packs daisy chained together and a controller at the back with a circular vent. Up front there are several louvers that catch air as you ride and pass it through by the battery boxes then out the rear. So once the packs are charged and you’re ready to go you just press and hold the center button on the control pad and watch the LCD display panel come to life. It shows your speed, battery level, odometer and offers assist settings which aren’t relevant since this is a throttle-only electric bike, that means the up and down arrows on the button pad don’t get much use. The display itself is large which makes it easier to read even with super-long cruiser bars positioning your head further back. If you go with longer bars however, the button pad may not reach to the grip for easy interaction while riding… but again, no reason to adjust assist here so that’s fine. I like having the ability to remove displays and batteries for when you transport a bike or park it outside but this thing is so large and unique I’m not sure it would be sitting outside or used as a commuter as much as a showpiece, neighborhood cruiser or special trip rider.
I love the creative approach with this e-bike and enjoyed riding it with Sam. The optional spring-saddle design was very cool and comfortable but even the unsprung motorcycle seat felt good. Sam is a big guy measuring over 6 feet tall and 260 lbs but he looked happy and comfortable riding the Marrs Cycle. The only thing I might add besides the bell, Kicker sound system and battery upgrade would be a bar mounted drink holder. But then, real motorcycles don’t have those and this thing could easily take you down to the local restaurant for refreshments with friends. We got a lot of positive attention cruising these ebikes around in SoCal where the hot rod, low rider and custom low rider bike scene has deep roots. I’m sure that anywhere in the country people would be excited to see this thing and curious about what it offers. It’s a great next step for Marrs Cycles and one that balances utility with style and art quite well.
- I appreciate the larger display panel considering the option of super-long cruiser bars which put your face and eyes pretty far back, I was still able to see the display but might have mounted the button pad closer to the grip (which might require an extender wire or might not be possible depending on the bars you go with)
- The battery pack comes in three different configurations to increase your range (20 amp hour, 40 ah or 60 ah) which of course adds to the price and weight, each configuration runs at 48 volts so you get a lot of power
- The battery packs themselves are pretty sturdy and tough, they appear to be similar to the older rear-rack style batteries used on a lot of electric bikes with aluminum cases, I like that they are hidden inside the frame box along with the controller
- The tires I saw on both M-2 Cycles were extra large, thick and tough (borrowed from actual motorcycles) so you probably won’t have to worry about thorns and other minor puncture threats that impact traditional bicycle tires
- Each bike is custom and something of a work of art, you can choose the color of the frame, the pedals, saddle, handle bars, grips and more
- Given the heavier footprint of this ebike, especially with the larger battery pack option, I appreciate the 1,000 watt hub motor and 48 volt battery combination as well as the foot-forward fold out rests, pedaling with a single speed drivetrain isn’t much fun
- The M-2 model here is a bit more affordable than the original M-1 (which cost ~$8,000 or so), that model was completely custom and hand built whereas the M-2 is still very custom but relies on some standardized parts to lower the price and speed up build time
- Depending on the battery pack size you choose this electric bike can reach 100 miles, this was confirmed for me by Sam Townsend, owner of the Electric Bicycle Center in SoCal who rode from Trestles to the Mexican border in 2016 with his wife (Sam weighs ~260 lbs)
- I love how they were able to integrate a Kicker sound system on one of the bikes and have it run directly off the main battery pack! It matches perfectly and even the control panel for the speakers was made to match
- The battery box has louvers and a rear vent allowing air to pass through and cool the packs, I’m not sure how well it actually works but they look awesome… like a vintage sports car
- I like that the motor casing is black along with the spokes, rims and tires because it looks seamless and almost hides the motor which operates fairly quietly so it can fly under the radar if you need to pedal for a bit in public places
- They kept the wires to a minimum and ran them through the main box to improve the look, it doesn’t look tacky or messy thanks to this custom work
- I love that they can actually customize the saddle mounting point to build in springs and improve the comfort that way, yes it does have a traditional seat tube at 27.2 mm but a normal bike seat or suspension post on this thing just wouldn’t look right
- The motors I tested start gently and almost require some rolling movement or they will stall, at first this seems disappointing but I think it’s a safety thing and speaks to the faster gearing design vs. power at low speeds, it makes accidents less likely when you’re mounting or moving the bike since the right grip is a full twist vs. half or trigger design (again, all of this could be customized probably including motor power vs. efficiency and speed)
- The weight on this bike is fairly well distributed, considering the heavier motor the rest of the weight is low and forward in the frame box which improves handling and stability
- The battery powering this thing is made up of multiple box-style packs inside the frame box and I could hear them rattle a bit when riding, perhaps some extra padding or mounting brackets could reduce this (this may be resolved ongoing, we were looking at model 001 and 002 for this review)
- These bikes are heavy and the drivetrain only offers one gear so pedaling isn’t really practical… especially with the low saddle designs I saw
- The bike can be set to 20 mph to comply with electric bike laws and some states do allow 1,000 watt motors (I believe California and Texas might) but it can also unlock to ~30 mph top speed but does not have DOT approved lights and signals so it’s not really legal in many situations, ride safe
- It’s great that you have so many choices with the Marrs Cycles, you get something that’s completely unique but the build time is a bit longer as a result, the M-2 can be made faster than the original M-1 but you still want to plan ahead or get a second hand bike from someone like Sam
- The turning radius is somewhat limited by the swept back head tube and rake of the fork but this also improves stability and brings the bars back towards you creating a more upright seating position
- The battery charging port is protected (low and behind the box) but is also a bit tricky to reach, you might get some grease on your hands or fumble with it
- The battery packs (inside the frame box) aren’t designed to be taken off for charging separately, you probably could get them out to lighten the bike for transport but even that would take some extra time and effort
- The bike is heavy and potentially very fast if you’ve unlocked it but there is only one brake! A 203 mm hydraulic disc brake (which is powerful and durable) on the rear wheel, it would make sense to have a front brake as well and it sounds like that could be added, also I noticed that there were no motor inhibitor sensors on the brake so you could end up fighting the motor vs. having it cut out if the throttle was twisted accidentally
- Considering the size and weight of these bikes the kickstands I saw weren’t adequate, they rattled a bit and struggled to support the frame
- Be careful backing this bike up if the kickstand is down… you can break it off or loosen it (that is the case with many bicycles not just the Marrs but since this bike is so much heavier and larger it might be more common)