- A bucket style cargo bike with electric assist to help move supplies or children, includes two seatbelts and a little bench, more sporty handling than their three-wheel School Bus model but less stable
- Extra wide custom kickstand provides great stability for loading, upright seating position and short reach to bars makes it easy to see down into the bucket while riding
- Simple battery design is easy to get to and the pack is removable to charge separately or store inside, the rack it mounts to uses standard tubing and works with panniers or a trunk bag
- Beautiful paint-matched fenders and chain guard, only available in one color and size, uses a basic roller brake in the rear wheel that isn't as powerful as I'd like considering the weight of the bike
The Gondoliere+ is one of the sportier electric-assist cargo bikes from Virtue Cycles, a company that offers unique family friendly products at surprisingly low price points. The excitement around the more affordable price faded for me a bit when I got close up and realize that the battery, motor, shifter, brakes and other accessories were more generic or low-end. The ride quality is still good and the aesthetic is very impressive with the solid wood box, brown faux-leather grips and saddle and silver accents throughout. The Atlantis Green frame color was a great choice, I’d feel proud riding it around as a guy vs. a pastel peach or yellow that I’ve seen on some of the small cruisers geared more towards women from brands like Pedego and Electra.
The value of this bike is that it lets you keep an eye on your precious cargo, be it groceries, pets or kids. You can look down from the relatively upright seating position and even communicate all without having to twist back as you do with most trailers and child seats. The wooden bin has a little bench seat and two seat belts designed to keep kids seated and comfortable. It would be a blast taking your kid along with their friend to the beach or park :D
The downsides of this design, other than a few basic components, are the size and weight… The tires and tubes aren’t especially tough and getting a flat tire would be no fun as there’s no quick release and you’ll have to deal with the motor cable on the front wheel. I love the oversized super-stable kickstand and was impressed with how easily it was to activate. You can step down on one of the little pegs and roll the bike backwards to have it pop up into position. The metal fenders and chain guard add utility keeping you and the cargo bin dry and with seven gears (and a super large climbing gear) the bike was easier to move than I was expecting.
I mentioned “sporty” handling earlier in the review and was referring to the two-wheel design of the Gondolier vs. the three wheel School Bus also made by Virtue Cycles. While it takes a bit more balance getting up to speed, turning is a lot easier on the Gondoliere as you can lean side to side. Note that the clearance of this bike isn’t great, the small 20” front wheel brings the tubing close to the ground and two steering rods extend even lower. I realize this isn’t a bike you’d probably take off road but even going over curbs or tall speed bumps could be a little precarious.
Activating the bike is a two step process with an on/off switch on the battery and another on/off button on the display. I like that the battery is easily removable and protected well inside the rear rack (which also doubles as a cargo spot, keeping sensitive gear out of the way of animals or kids feet and curious fingers). The display panel is very basic and I wasn’t able to switch from KPH to MPH, you get six levels of assist and at the highest level the bike felt very zippy. This was a surprise because a 250 watt motor is at the low-end of power in the US where legally you can get up to 750. What made it work so well is the smaller wheel it’s mounted in, and I love that the weight of the hub motor is up front and sort of pulling you along vs. in the back. I feel that it improves stability and of course the weight balances out the battery in the rear. All things considered it performed very well and even activated quickly, at first I was bummed that there was no throttle because having to pedal with a full load or up a hill with this thing could be daunting. you still do have to get it started on your own and hopefully you’ve switched down to a low gear before you stopped! But it doesn’t take long for the motor to activate and when it does you’re golden.
The Virtue Cycles Gondoliere Plus isn’t a perfect electric bike but fur under $2k it’s very affordable compared with the competition like the Urban Arrow Family for ~$4,500. It’s a bike I’d feel less worried about scratching or getting wet and messy because I could literally buy a second one if there were issues. The trade off is possibly more repairs, a less responsive motor system and disappointing brakes. Given the weight and size of this thing the band brake in the rear is massively underwhelming. Thank goodness the front linear pull brake works well. This is the one area I’d really like to see updated.
- I love the beautiful color of the frame, matching saddle and grips and the silver accents on the pedals, chain guard and rear rack… it’s a beautiful bike
- Surprisingly affordable at $1,800 MSRP compared to many of the other more custom electric bikes I’ve covered, you can get the Gondoliere without electric for just $1,200
- Plenty of storage space inside the wooden cargo bin (which has seatbelts for two small children) and the traditional rear rack which could support a trunk bag or panniers like this grocery-bag style one – they shouldn’t rub on the wheel thanks to side blocker bars
- The kickstand offers great stability for loading the bike and is surprisingly easy to use, you step down on it and back the bike up as shown in the video
- Solid seven speed drivetrain with Shimano Acera component group (two steps up from their most basic hardware), the extra gears are great for climbing and there’s even an extra-large sprocket to make help with heavy loads
- At 25″ wide this bike can pass through most standard sized doors making it easier to store inside out of the elements
- Comfort saddle with rubber bumpers, ergonomic grips and a swept-back handlebar provide good comfort along with 1.95″ wide tires
- Whether you’re transporting kids or pets in the cargo bin you can see them the whole time without having to turn around and worry about a seat or trailer, it offers peace of mind and lets you communicate more easily as well
- Currently only available in one color and frame size, the step-thru tubing makes it easy to mount and stabilize for smaller people and the swept-back bars also improve fit so it works out alright
- Some of the hardware used on this bike is more generic including the rear roller brake which doesn’t offer a lot of stopping power, the basic tires and tubes which might not offer as much durability or flat protection and the battery pack, motor and display panel which are more basic
- Changing a flat tire on this bike could be difficult… there are no quick release systems, the tubes are different sizes (which means more fix-it gear to carry around) and the bike itself is heavy
- No throttle mode here, you have to pedal in order to activate the motor and because it’s activated through a cadence sensor you actually have to pedal about one full rotation before it starts and that can be heavy and difficult when the bike is loaded or on a hill
- Considering there’s no throttle here I would like the option to have an internally geared hub or continuously variable transmission vs. a standard cassette and derailleur, this would enable shifting at standstill and easier starts
- The steering rods hang down a bit and may collide with curbs or other obstacles in part due to the length of the bike and smaller front wheel
- Activating the electric systems is a two step process (a switch on the battery and a button on the display) which takes a bit of extra effort and time and could create confusion if you hadn’t ridden for a while, I noticed that the display only shows Kilometers vs. Miles and wasn’t able to switch it
- Official Site: http://www.virtuecycles.com/products/2015-virtue-gondoliere
- More Pictures: https://goo.gl/photos/6dCNzst5xqW3DBAY8