To run the forums, host the website, and travel, I charge a universal service fee for my reviews. This review was sponsored by Vintage Electric. My goal is to be transparent and unbiased, this video and written review are not meant to be an endorsement of Vintage Electric products.
Vintage Electric invited us out to come see their new offerings for 2019. Among them is the Roadster, a more clean and powerful cruiser electric bike that feels like a perfect blend of a bike and motorcycle. Jumping right in, the first thing anyone notices about Vintage Electric bikes are the aesthetics. It has a unique retro look, similar to a cafe racer and much of this is due to motorcycle cues in the body line. I love that everything matches well. Most bikes are black with a couple neon accents, where as the Roadster is completely decked out from head to toe. I am seeing a lot of matte black, glossy black, silver touches, and even some brown leather to finish it off. Overall, it blends together beautifully. A lot of custom parts are here to achieve this too. From the custom stem, crown, handlebars, battery casing, and in the case of the Roadster, the unique suspension fork… all make it look more like a motorcycle than a bike. The fork is an inverted fork, so that means the 60mm of travel portion is lower down the fork like a motorcycle. This also makes it very strong and sturdy and I love how they even have these leather wraps at the top of the fork to prevent metal on mental contact with the frame when tightly turning. Even the custom stainless steel handlebar has the right sweep and bend to feel less like a bicycle and more like a motorcycle. It also comes with these great leather grips here, really a nice touch. It’s little details like this that let you know this was definitely a purpose built setup. Continuing on the strength theme are these 14 gauge spokes in the front, 12 gauge spokes in the rear. Where as the Scrambler is geared toward off-road, the Roadster ditches the knobby tire setup for these nice smooth high volume street tires. There is a lot of weight here, overall the bike weighs about 86lbs. That may be a lot, but it really serves a purpose here. The bike is capable of some very high speeds, especially when unlocked, so the weight makes higher speeds comfortable and safe. Speaking of safety, you also get battery integrated lights here. Both are great with the front serving perfectly between form and function. You get a front headlight that really is a proper headlight, not some magnified bike light, so it just adds to that perfect look. In the rear you have 5 LED red lights, although they are mounted right under the seat, so you could block it with a jacket or backpack. Both lights are automatic which I love since they turn on and off in low conditions without any fuss. Other features include stainless steel MKS pedals, rear metal fender (and provisions in the front to add a front one as well), and a kickstand, although it is mounted near the crank arm so you could get pedal lock when reversing.
Driving this bike is a gearless, direct drive, hub motor from Crystalyte rated from 750 to 3,000 watts. That’s much higher than the average electric bike which usually peaks at 500 or 750 watts. It’s physically larger and much heavier than a standard gearless or geared hub motor at 16lbs, but it’s super durable and incredibly quiet. Normally it is rated for 20mph, but for $149, you can get a key to unlock the motor and get it up to near 36mph! I never felt like the bike was struggling to help me climb, and it takes off so smooth with the variable speed trigger throttle or optional torque-sensing pedal assist. I would probably skip on the pedal assist unless your hands and right thumb are sensitive to reaching and pushing a trigger throttle setup. That’s because, it can be difficult to pedal beyond 15 mph without the single-speed getting outpaced. I felt most comfortable pedaling around 10 mph. There are benefits to having just one speed however, including reduced weight, longer service intervals, no bounce or chain slap, and a cleaner cockpit without shifter mechanisms. If getting up to speed is important to you, then stopping must be equally matched… especially with a larger, heavier platform like the Roadster. The bike comes with beautiful hydraulic Promax Lucid disc brakes. I say beautiful, because the levers are silver to match the bar, seat post, and other accents. Each lever has a tool-free adjustable reach knob allowing you to bring them in close, which could be useful if you have smaller hands or like to ride with gloves. The rotors are not matched, the front is extra-large at 203mm (as you would see on a downhill mountain bike) while the rear is 180mm. Most stopping power comes from the front brake anyway, and it will be cooling faster and providing a greater mechanical advantage… it worked great during my tests. The Promax setup here is intelligent regenerative breaking, meaning that it will never overfill or damage the battery. It works quite nicely and you get more power back than with other ebikes since this is heavier and offers more rolling resistance.
The battery (along with the controller) is housed in the large casing in the middle. This casing is very protective and even IP rated for water and dust protection. The battery is massively large at 48v 23.5ah, almost an unheard of combination in the traditional ebike world. This will offer fantastic range in the normal modes and if you unlock the bike to higher top speed, will still give you decent range to have fun, rather than just single digit miles that the other faster bikes would do. The battery weight is wonderfully positioned, and the battery itself is removable…. If you manage to get all the casing off… Honestly, it is a lot of work and almost nobody is going to remove the battery, so we will just say that while yes, it is possible, you will likely be keeping the battery on the bike at all times. This can be annoying for certain commuters that want to bring the battery indoors to charge it. Since you will be charging on the bike itself, you will be using the charging port at the bottom of the casing. Unfortunately, this is placed near the crank arm, so be careful not to bump the bike when charging, you don’t want the pedals getting in the way and tearing that cord. To really care for this and other lithium-ion packs, I have heard that storing in a cool dry location vs. extreme heat or cold will extend the life and try to keep it about 50% full when not using for long periods so you won’t stress the cells. Try not to let it run down to zero, because that’s really hard on the cell chemistry.
Operating this bike is intuitive and fast. Once the battery has been charged, just hold the rubber M button near the top of the display panel. This turns it on and also allows you to cycle through menus. There are two more buttons below the display that allow you to arrow up for more power or down for less. You can even ride without any assist by using level zero, and this is handy for running the lights if you nearly deplete the pack or just want some exercise or slower riding. The display is minimal and pretty, but now in 2019 it is the only part of the bike that is looking dated (and not in a good way) as it is more basic. Also, it is not removable. If you leave it out in the sun and rain, it should hold up pretty well, but it might get scratched or worn out over time at public bike racks. This is not uncommon, most ebike displays are not removable, much to my disappointment. But, just like the threaded motor connector, brake lines, and controller cable, it’s likely easy to replace and service. That’s because Vintage Electric did not route their cables and brake lines internally through the frame. This might have been a strength decision (the bike is rated at 300 lbs vs. most others at just 250 lbs) or maybe it was purely for accessibility and tuning access. Whatever the reason, I feel that the cables still stay out of the way and look good. I like that they rand them below the downtube vs. on the top tube. This is a bike that could easily hang from many car and public transport racks. You won’t snag the cables while riding or lifting the frame and that’s great.
So in conclusion, the Roadster is the next evolutionary step from the Tracker. As a new bike, it is perfect on the road. And while it is similar to the Scrambler, I actually preferred this model more on the pavement. I felt like the smoother tires gave it a better turning radius and overall that translated to feeling more control of the bike. The performance is super high and is complimented well by the weight, safety, and features that carry it well. Not to mention, the design aesthetic makes it similar to a work of art. However, no bike is without tradeoffs, so its best if we mention some of those here. It is no secret that that battery really isn’t going anywhere, so don’t look to bring it in the office and charge it up in between rides. The kickstand and charging port are both near the crank arm, so the charge cable could be yanked if the pedals get bumped and the kickstand could get pedal lock when trying to reverse. But probably the biggest tradeoff is the display. It is minimal which is a plus, but many bikes, especially highly electrical capable ones like this with regenerative braking and 36mph top speed, have deeper displays. You see things like color displays, battery percentages which take out the guess work of exactly how much is left, deep dive menus for settings, and even smartphone integration and apps. But to Vintage Electric’s credit, they are always upgrading and improving, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see such features in the future. They also offer a 2 year warranty on both mechanical and electrical components so you are in safe hands. I really want to thank Vintage for letting me check out the Roadster, it was a ton of fun!
As always, I welcome questions and feedback in the comment section below. Whether you own a previous version of the bike, have taken a test ride, or are brand new to the space, my goal is to provide an objective and honest resource. You can also join the Vintage Electric ebike forums and share your own photos, videos, and review updates to help others! Have fun out there, and ride safe :)
- All of the Vintage Electric e-bikes look beautiful, and even though I never raced a motorcycle, I can feel the nostalgia and appreciate the artistic quality of this bike, it’s capable but also special in its own right
- I felt like the smoother tires on this model made for a better turning radius, I also felt I had more control over it, the Scrambler, its sibling, is fun with the offload tires, but I think most paved riders will appreciate this model
- I love the stronger accessories like the stainless steel horizontal drop-out built into the frame in the rear to handle the extra motor torque
- Sturdier, almost motorcycle-grade, hardware was used to build this electric bike including a 12mm rear axle and 20mm thru-axle at the front, wider rims with 14 gauge spokes in the front and extra-thick 12 gauge spokes in the rear, and a custom Aluminum alloy frame, I was told that it’s rated to 300lbs but I’m guessing it can hold even more than that if used on mild terrain
- Because you can actually race this thing, the “race mode” key unlocks higher speeds up to 36mph for off-road use
- The inverted suspension fork looks tough and offers increased strength compared to most traditional suspension hardware I have reviewed, more weight is kept unsprung with an inverted shock and this one has some compression and rebound adjust to suit the terrain, your ride style, and your weight
- Note the leather accents at the top portion of the fork between the double-crown mounts, these keep the tubes from marring the side of the frame where it says “Vintage Electric” when you turn sharp or park the bike
- Premium Promax Lucid hydraulic disc brakes offer the stopping power needed for high-speed riding and a heavier build, the 203mm front rotor will do more than half of the work, cool quickly because of the size, and provide a mechanical advantage over the 180mm rear disc brake rotor
- The Promax setup here is intelligent regenerative breaking, meaning that it will never overfill or damage the battery, it works quite nicely and you get more power back than with other ebikes since this is heavier and offers more rolling resistance
- The rear fender is sturdy, does not rattle when riding on rough terrain, and adds a splash of style to the bike because it’s paint matched, it will also keep your back cleaner when going off-road
- The motor on this bike is seriously powerful, it offers strong acceleration for climbing, a unique regeneration feature (when you press the red button on the left) and can go up to 36mph if you get the race mode pin but otherwise complies with the 750 watt 20mph Class 2 regulation for low speed electric bicycles
- For those who enjoy pedal activated assist, you get a torque sensing pedal assist feature which could be a neat option for those with sensitive wrists or fingers who just want to ride like a traditional bike
- Decent weight distribution, the bike may be heavy but at least the battery box is mounted low and center on the frame, this improves handling and keeps the frame stiff compared to e-bikes with rear-rack batteries
- You get a real headlight in the front (not some bike lamp) for that perfect look and in the rear you have 5 LED red lights, both lights are automatic which I love since they turn on and off in low conditions without any fuss
- The battery is massively large at 48v 23.5ah, almost an unheard of combination in the traditional ebike world, this will offer fantastic range in the normal modes and if you unlock the bike to higher top speed, it will still give you decent range to have fun, rather than just single digit miles that the other faster bikes would do
- The motor is very quiet and durable, these gearless hub motors don’t have any rubbing inside, and when used with a pure sine wave converter controller (which Vintage Electric uses) they feel smooth and don’t buzz, they even adjusted the software to reduce cogging when the bike is powered on
- I mentioned strength as a pro, but the tradeoff is weight, and this electric bike is much heavier than average at 86lbs, the high power motor and extra large battery pack with custom casing contribute a lot
- The heavier a bicycle is, the harder it usually is to pedal, and this thing only has one gear, it’s setup a lot more like a moped than something you’d want to pedal frequently, especially with the less-efficient knobby tires
- The kickstand looks nice and is sturdy but functionally, leaves a lot to be desired, it is not adjustable length and the end tends to sink into soft terrain, it is positioned near the left crank arm and can collide when down (like if you back the bike up with it deployed because the cranks turn backwards)
- Minor con here, there is only one frame size and the high-step top tube could make it difficult to mount and stand over for some… however, it’s much lighter and easier to handle than a real motorcycle
- The display panel leaves something to be desired, newer displays have things like color displays, battery percentages which take out the guess work of exactly how much is left, deep dive menus for settings, and even smartphone integration and apps, where is this is more basic
- The battery is not easily removed, so you are confined primarily to charging on the bike only, which could be a hinderance for those that wish they could take the battery and charge it inside the office
- The rear light is right under the seat, so if you had a jacket or back pack on, you could easily cover it blocking the visibility
Leron2 years ago
This bike was built to last. Vintage cut no corners on parts. There’s no finicky parts here. The combination of parts is ideal for a guy like me. The throttle is a perfect combination to the pedal assist. The throttle gives a real boost peddling from the start line. The peddle assist feels natural. Peddling alone has gotten me up to 25. Using the throttle has gotten me up to 35. Feels comfortable leaning into turns. The bike seems to handle any terrain like a champ!Reply
Court2 years ago
Hi Leron, I’m happy to hear that you’re enjoying the bike so much! I was a little surprised to hear that you got 35 (is that miles range per charge?) using throttle vs. only 25 with pedaling alone. Perhaps you could clarify, maybe you meant top speed instead of range :)Reply
Leron2 years ago
You’re right. I meant speed, not range. I should’ve put mph behind those numbers.