- A high speed urban ultra-commuter electric bike with front and rear mountain bike level air suspension, tubular alloy fenders and integrated LED lights
- Powered by the Bosch Performance Class 3 mid-drive offering 63 Newton meters of torque, standard Bosch Powerpack 400 or upgraded 500 for increased range
- Sturdy purpose-built frame with tapered head tube, thru-axles, a chain guide system and large 180 mm hydraulic disc brakes that trigger-bright mode on the rear light when pulled
- Quality hardware extras including unique headlight mount, oversized Velo pedals and flick bell, the bike is heavier at ~55 lbs and more expensive at $6k with limited availability in the US
The StarckBike Asphalt is part of a series of electric bikes created with input from Philippe Starck, a famous designer known for his work on hotels, restaurants and even electric cars, for Moustache, a French ebike company. Philippe’s interest in “where and how people live” has led to “simple but inventive structures” according to Wikipedia and those values are reflected in the Asphalt electric bicycle. It’s a very complete and thoughtful ebike but one that remains simplified and elegant in several ways… You can see this reflected in the fender mounts and all-black color scheme (conveniently matching stock battery and motor casing colors). From my own ebike-enthusiast perspective, what you have here is a uniquely styled product that’s using top of the line hardware and components from leading manufacturers like Bosch, Shimano, Supernova, Magura and Fox. The Asphalt is a mountain-capable electric bike that’s designed for urban environments. Air suspension cushions the 28 mph top speed, tight tubular fenders hug both wheels providing protection without rattling or impeding your movement, angular tubing with an oversized headset and stiff thru-axles on both wheels deliver power directly to the road vs. flexing under pressure and the sloped top tube allows for easier stand over positions. It’s a bike that will work for a range of body types because it’s available in three sizes. To me, it almost looks like a lightweight motorcycle or something and the higher top speed delivers on those looks. Unfortunately, if you live in the US, it’s not an e-bike that’s going to be easy to find and test ride at dealers (at least at the time of this review). I saw it while traveling through New York city during a visit to Propel Bikes, a retailer known for importing unique products. You do pay a premium for the design element but with top-end hardware (repairable and replaceable by most leading bike shops) it should last and could be worth it for some. There are only a handful of speed pedlecs with full suspension designs out there today to begin with and as someone with a sensitive back and neck… it’s my preferred way to travel if budget allows. Safety and utility are addressed well through integrated lighting, reflective surfaces and the designer fenders. Perhaps the one area that’s lacking is cargo utility. As with many full-suspension bikes, there isn’t a rack or mounting provisions to add one yourself. Beam racks can get the job done but are easily bumped out of position from side to side… so wearing a backpack might be your best option but that can reintroduce the back and neck sensitivity issue. Thule has an interesting Pack ’N Pedal rack that might work here.
Driving the bike is a Bosch Performance Line speed motor offering 350 watts nominal power with up to 63 Newton meters of torque output. It uses a smaller chainring that can spin up to speed or stop quickly and Moustache has designed a nice bash guard guide plate to keep your pants clear and clean while simultaneously reducing chain drops. Just below this guard is a guide component that adds even more stability and possibly reduces chain slap on the underside of the swing arm. Despite the lack of a traditional slap guard, the top section of the chainstay did not have nicks as I examined the bike before and after my test ride. I noticed a plastic slider in place just behind that motor on top of the swing arm pivot bolt which seems to act as yet another guide and slap guard of sorts. It’s all very unique but tight and well thought out. With an 11 speed cogset in the rear using the Shimano Deore XT derailleur with Shadow Plus clutch, you’ve got a range of pedaling options and the benefit of a tighter chain if you engage the clutch by sliding a little plastic lever (as shown on the video review above). I think this part is leftover from the mountain variations of the StarckBike but it’s still useful on this higher speed model. It might add some work to shifting, increasing the physical force to activate the triggers, but it’s cool to see and interesting to experiment with. So the chain should stay on track and the derailleur is reliable and adjustable but both benefit from the software driven shift sensing of the controller and motor system from Bosch. The best way to shift is to reduce pedaling force (usually by accelerating for a moment then easing off). The drive system measures rear wheel speed, pedal cadence and pedal torque 1,000 times per second making it one of the fastest and most responsive I’ve tested. And my favorite aspect is that the motor can hit higher speeds without forcing you to pedal at slower, lumbering, pedal cadence. I prefer to spin due to a knee injury and enjoy being able to easily top 20 mph on this bike without pushing especially hard (of course, I’ll usually be riding with the higher levels of pedal assist to do so). The motor box looks pretty good, it works well and despite producing a bit more noise, a higher pitch whine, it’s still fairly quiet. Note that the small sprocket spins about 2x the revolution speed of your crank arms to allow the motor to operate at an efficient speed and generate more torque at start.
Powering the Asphalt is a standard 400 watt hour Bosch Powerpack battery. I was a little surprized it didn’t come with a 500 watt hour without paying extra because the bike is already costly. But at least it’s forward compatible. The battery case is sleek, has a handle built into the top so you won’t drop it as easily and can be charged on or off the frame. It interfaces with the mount by coming in from above then clicking down at the top and there isn’t a whole lot of room with the rear suspension shock clicker hanging down (and the top tube above) so be careful not to pull up too fast and hard or you might scratch it. Some other battery designs from Yamaha and Shimano are starting to mount in from the sides to help frame designers lower the top tube further but I appreciate the moderate bend in place on the Asphalt. The battery position works well enough but doesn’t leave room for a bottle cage and the downtube wasn’t configured with an extra inset or metal plating to help the pack blend in more like you find on Haibike and some others. One area they did a great job with in terms of “blending” is the internally routed cables. Not only is everything black here (helping to hide cables) but they enter the frame pretty high up and stay hidden. Another highlight is the battery charger which is compact, less than 2 lbs in weight and pumps out 4 Amps vs. just 2 Amps on many others. It’s the same Bosch charger you’d see elsewhere but I can’t help but appreciate it for a faster riding, perhaps faster draining, relatively heavy (55 lb) ebike like this.
Activating the StarckBike Asphalt is very easy. Once the battery is charged and locked into place (it clicks in regardless of whether you have the key in place), simply press the power button on the display console. This is the Bosch Intuvia display which is large and easy to read, sleek looking and removable. Yes, there is a little set screw you can use to keep it secured if you like… but I appreciate removability for commuting situations where the bike may be locked to a rack in public. This display, combined with a little button pad situated near the left grip, works very well. It shows speed, battery charge level and assist level by default. There are four levels to choose from and I tend to ride in the second one up to maximize range but still feel zippy. Clicking up or down for more or less power is easy to do without looking down thanks to the simplicity and tactile landmarks of the button pad, the center is a rubberized info button that rotates through trip stats and just above and below are up and down clickers. One of my favorite features about this system is being able to use the info button to display a dynamic range estimate on the display. This enables better planning and outshines the five-tick battery infographic. I do wish Bosch had chosen a battery percentage or maybe an infographic with 10 bars instead of just 5 but the range thing helps to make up for it. As mentioned earlier, the display also has a five volt Micro-USB port on the right side so you can also use your phone for GPS on the go or perhaps run some additional lights on the bike.
All things considered, this is an electric bike I’d love to own because it’s comfortable, tough and awesome looking. I know several people who purchased hardtail eMountain bikes or even full suspension models just to swap the tires out and use them in the city. Well, the Moustache StarckBike Asphalt does the work for you and brings much nicer fenders than you’ll be able to do yourself (especially in terms of splash coverage and quietness) as well as integrated lights that won’t be stolen or forgotten as easily (since they run off the main battery) and you get little bonuses like an annoying spring kickstand that I love to complain about, large hydraulic disc brakes with ebike specific levers that activate a bright mode on the rear light when pulled and a funky side mirror. It’s truly a great combination of style and functionality, even if it doesn’t have rack provisions. For the guy or girl looking to replace their car with a truly worthy bicycle that will go the distance, be compatible with future battery technology (or at least supported for years to come by one of the biggest manufacturers) and keep their body from revolting after daily use… this would be an excellent choice. As a younger rider, I crave the higher speeds that command respect from traffic in the city and find myself very excited with this product. Big thanks to Philippe for his neat design choices and Moustache for their commitment (in the form of three sizes) to a possibly lower volume bike given the price and of course Bosch for introducing their speed motor to the US! It’s a bike I’d feel proud to ride to a second part time job in order to afford it ;)
- Being a speed pedelec, capable of up to 28 mph assisted ride speeds, I love that the bike comes with full suspension because even small bumps and cracks can start to feel uncomfortable
- Top of the line hardware that’s light weight and longer lasting, Fox makes great forks (this is a special edition air) and I the Schwalbe Crazy Bob tires have puncture protection
- Great aesthetic, the purpose-built frame has a consistent geometric angular design and the fenders are kept close to the wheels using thicker struts
- Rain or shine, the bike should perform well and keep you safe thanks to full-length fenders (also wider to keep side splash down) and you’ve got integrated lights and some reflective markings on the tires… important considering the all-black paint job
- I was delighted to see how they mounted the headlight so it could angle independent from the display panel and that the rear light goes bright when brakes are activated
- Great weight distribution, motor and battery are positioned centrally along the frame and kept low, you don’t end up with unsprung weight issues and both wheels are easier to service
- Unique chain guide just below the chainring that works with an Aluminum alloy guide to keep the chain from dropping or getting your pants dirty… it probably also helps the chain clear the swing arm joints when the derailleur hanger is in higher positions for the larger cogs
- I personally love the Bosch mid-motor because it offers responsive power and torque, measures several rider signals and has shift sensing so it’s easier on the drivetrain and offers a wider range of RPM output so you can ride more naturally
- The bike was designed to be sturdy with a tapered head tube, 15 mm / 12 mm thru-axles and mountain bike style rear suspension swing arm, it doesn’t flex under pressure and the large hydraulic disc brakes give it excellent stopping power
- The drivetrain offers 11 gears (the most I’ve seen for Bosch powered ebikes) and has an adjustable clutch on the Shimano Deore XT Shadow Plus derailleur, if you click it on, the chain gets tighter and won’t bounce around as much (this is normally a mountain bike feature but is relevant at high speed as well)
- It’s awesome to have some choice in frame size, especially with a high-step frame like this, you get three (small, medium and large) which is part of what raises the price
- Other nice little extras include reinforcement eyelets on the name-brand Alexrims along with colored adjustable nipples on the spokes, I like the flick bell even though it’s pretty basic and the large side mirror for navigating traffic
- In addition to quick release wheels (which make maintenance easier) the battery pack and display panel are removable, this is handy for commuters – allowing you to charge at your half-way destination and keep your gear from getting damaged or stolen
- While the bike already has high-quality LED Lights wired in, there’s room for adding more electronic accessories thanks to a Micro USB power port on the right edge of the Bosch Intuvia display panel, it puts out 5 volts and I believe it requires a wire sold separately (male Micro USB to whatever you want on the other end)
- The frame is purpose-built to be electric and is DOT rated based on European standards (that’s why the brake levers are larger and have balls on the ends), notice the internally routed cabling and angled but sturdy top-tube to make mounting and stand over easier without compromising strength for higher speeds
- The bike is priced high with limited availability in the USA (at least at the time of this review), I was able to find it at Propel Bikes in Brooklyn New York but the Moustache company is from France… thankfully, the Bosch drive system is reliable and batteries are interchangeable here so it should age well
- Higher speed ebikes tend to get lower range since efficiency drops exponentially above 20 mph… now that Bosch has a Powerpack 500 watt hour battery pack I think that would be a good fit here (especially for the price), the bike I saw had the older 400 watt hour but already cost a lot
- I’m not a fan of the spring-loaded kickstand at the rear, apparently it’s a requirement in Europe for safety but my experience is that it makes the bike easier to tip over which could cause damage or become a safety issue of its own
- No room for bottle cage bosses and Moustache didn’t include a rear rack despite having fenders… looks like you have to wear a backpack or fiddle with a beam rack (which can get bumped side to side more easily, then rub on your tires or fender)
- I believe the side mirror was mounted incorrectly on this bike and could not be fixed because the grips were glued down… not sure I blame Moustache for this but take care when mounting your own and don’t follow our bad example… I feel like the grips were kind of lame given the rest of the bike, perhaps higher quality ergonomic with lockers would solve the need for glue and give people a second chance with their mirrors
- This might be another European requirement but the lights were always on, even though the Bosch display system has a lights on/off button, it just didn’t work and that’s kind of lame if you want to ride without being seen (perhaps in a group of people where you don’t want to blind friends)
- One the one hand, it’s great that the fenders are mounted so close to the tires because it keeps them out of the way (reducing toe strikes while turning and pedaling) but they did make some noise when little pebbles got caught in the tires and scraped along as we walked the bikes for a moment