- A beautifully styled single speed electric bike that functions like a moped and can reach ~36 mph with the optional "Race Edition" upgrade or function as street legal at the default 20 mph
- Good weight distribution and heat dissipation thanks to a custom made aluminum alloy battery box that's permanently mounted mid-frame, multiple color choices, beautiful matching accessories
- Single speed drivetrain isn't much fun to pedal if you run out of batteries, no power level gauge, pedal assist isn't super responsive and brake levers don't have inhibitors
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 E-Tracker is a high speed capable electric bicycle modeled after the gasoline powered track racing bikes of the early 1900’s. Those motorcycles were raced on wood-planked motodromes in the US (modeled after European velodromes for bicycles) that included steep banked corners and bleachers for crowds of paying race fans. With the onset of the Great Depression in America during the 1930’s and the high price of resurfacing the tracks, this sport quickly died out. What Vintage Electric Bikes has created in the E-Tracker is a single speed electric moped that cultivates nostalgia and delivers high speed “off road” use at ~36 mph or lower speed “street legal” at 20 mph in the US. It’s also legal in Europe if you select the optional ~$130 cadence sensor. My experience testing this ebike was mixed, I actually spent two separate days with it to fully explore the features and handling. It performs best under throttle power and isn’t much fun to pedal if you run out of juice given the ~72 pound footprint and single speed drivetrain. The squishy balloon tires and premium Brooks sprung saddle were comfortable enough but in many ways this is a showpiece and there are lots of opportunities for improvement that I’ll dig into below.
The motor driving this bike is a 3,000 watt Crystalyte gearless hub located in the rear wheel. It’s very capable, even the default limited 750 watts output feels strong and fast despite the heavier frame. It’s not super quiet but I kind of liked the noise because it fits the overall motorcycle theme. Gearless hub motors have fewer moving parts and that makes them durable but they also tend to weigh more and have a larger visual footprint in order to generate torque. It blends in well enough and the matching black spokes are a nice touch. With the optional ~$600 performance upgrade (basically a 10 Amp fuse that completes a circuit on the left side of the battery pack) you can unleash the full 3k watts that this motor is capable of but do be careful if you’re riding on public roads without a license. Many states will let you register this as a moped and legally ride at the ~36 mph top speed and for liability purposes it’s totally worth exploring. I was able to ride this in a rural environment at top speed and it was a blast.
Powering the motor and headlight (as well as the optional rear LED light) is an impressive 52 volt 12.5 amp hour Lithium-ion battery pack that’s capable of putting out 60 amps! The cells are all contained within the custom made aluminum casing that’s positioned low and center on the frame. I love how they designed it to match the internal combustion motors used on vintage track bikes and the aluminum is not only light weight but also great at dissipating heat. The big drawback here however is that the pack cannot be easily taken off for convenient transport, storage or charging. This is a real bummer because the bike is already very heavy and the battery likely weighs upwards of 15 pounds with the case. I’m guessing that many owners will leave this machine in their garage and if temperatures get extreme the battery cells can degrade more quickly. Ideally, you want to store Lithium-ion packs in a cool dry environment and keep them between 20% and 80% charged. With the E-Tracker that can be difficult because there isn’t a battery level indicator on the pack or on a display panel. This can be a huge issue if you’re out and about riding the bike and then run out of juice because it’s not that fun to pedal. One proactive measure would be to take the charger along in a backpack or using the optional rear rack and panniers. It’s a high quality quick-charge capable unit that works with 110 or 120 volts and can completely fill the pack in about two hours.
Operating this electric bike is dead simple… You stick the key into the slot on the left side of the battery and twist from horizontal position to vertical. Thankfully, you can easily take the key out and avoid bumping it while riding/pedaling but one possible downside is that it’s very easy to leave the bike on and drain the battery a bit extra. There aren’t any indicator lights on the trigger throttle or elsewhere to help you remember to shut it off but I believe there is a built in auto-off feature after 15 minutes or so. Okay… so once the bike is “on” you have two choices. You can press the circular button near the key slot and activate the headlight (and optional rear light) or you can press the trigger throttle to activate the motor (or pedal with the optional cadence sensor). The cockpit is clean and intuitive, I love the swept back handlebars and Brooks leather grips with metallic end caps. This thing feels awesome to ride around but the utility factor of knowing how fast you’re going, how far you’ve traveled and how much juice is left in your battery left me a bit disappointed. Maybe there’s a way to do a mobile app in the future or something?
I think the biggest complaint I have with the E-Tracker electric bike is that in pedal assist mode, the motor isn’t especially responsive in shutting off once you’ve ceased moving the crank arms. The 160 mm mechanical disc brakes are barely acceptable in my mind given the weight and speed offered here and without motor inhibitor switches in the brake levers it can feel a bit out of control during tense “must stop!!” moments. I expressed this in the video review and mentioned that the regenerative brake button could be an effective way to cut power but that it wasn’t as intuitive to use. I found that trying to pull both brake levers and activate regen made my left hand feel open and vulnerable instead of secure and in control. Still, if you come at this thing like a moped and only use the throttle option to just scoot around town it becomes a joy to ride. It’s beautiful, fairly practical with the fender, optional rack and bags and comfortable with the balloon tires and spring saddle. The reflective sidewalls on the tires are nice, the four default frame colors are classy and the cantilever high-step design is sturdy. I feel like they could do a better job with wire management and the price is pretty steep (especially with all of the options) but many elements are hand crafted and the limited-edition numbered frame feels almost like art. If you know you want this bike then I’m telling you it’s fun to ride and feels high-quality… just remember to top the battery off every couple of months if you haven’t used it and ride safe if you unlock the higher speed. The one year warranty sounds good but this appears to be Vintage Electric Bikes’ only model and I’m not sure how a battery replacement would work after a few years of heavy use? I’m excited to see them refine the design and address some of these issues with future iterations.
- Aluminum alloy battery box is sand-casted in Santa Clara California (local to Vintage Electric Bikes) and is designed to dissipate heat efficiently as batteries are charged or used, it blends in nicely with the frame, seems rugged and theft-resistant
- Beautiful vintage style reminiscent of the internal combustion powered 1910-1920’s board track racer bikes used at motordromes, accents include leather saddle and optional Challenge seat bag by Brooks and hand crafted leather frame bumps
- Available in four stock colors, powder coated for durability, optional “custom” colors if you pay ~$600 extra, two tire color options for free (creme and black)
- Six amp “fast charger” is compatible with 110 and 220 wall outlets and can fill the 650 watt hour battery in about two hours
- Large classic style headlight by Xanadu completes the look of a motorcycle or moped, optional rear light uses six LED’s and is very well integrated into the Brooks saddle
- Great optional accessories including Brooks saddle bag, rear carry rack and panniers and rear LED light
- Simple to operate with a clean cockpit, you really only have a trigger throttle and the regeneration button, no distractions
- Each unit is numbered and feels almost like a piece of artwork that could retain value over time as a “classic”
- The rear fender is sturdy and well mounted so it doesn’t rattle while riding, even at high speed, it protects your back and the battery from water and mud splashing up
- KevlarGuard puncture protection is built into the Schwalbe balloon tires which helps to avoid flats, this is important given the weight of the bike and lack of quick-release systems
- Brake levers do not include a motor inhibitor switch which would be useful because the motor sometimes lags to shut off given the cadence sensing pedal assist option
- Regenerative braking feature is neat but sometimes awkward to use while simultaneously squeezing the left brake lever, may compromise grip
- Extremely minimal cockpit looks nice and isn’t confusing but lacks battery level indicator to help you avoid being stranded
- Single speed drivetrain is clean, tight and durable but not much fun to pedal, even in pedal assist mode I found that the cadence was difficult to match with the higher speeds of the bike
- Battery pack is not designed to be removable and as such, makes the bike permanently heavier, difficult to transport and more susceptible to extreme heat and cold which can wear down the cells
- Only available in one standard frame size with high-step frame that may not be easy for shorter riders to stand over
- limited suspension can feel a bit jarring at high speed (especially over 20+ miles) but the sprung saddle and balloon tires help
- Most of the wire management is good but quite a few exit at the base of the battery pack and wind around at the bottom bracket area, this might make them easier to access but some kind of little wrapper or integration could keep them cleaner
- No indicators to help you remember to shut the bike off (using the key) and avoid wasting battery charge when parked