- An upright tadpole style velomobile with electric assist from E-Rad, powerful 750 watt motor paired with a 48 volt battery offering five levels of pedal assist and throttle on demand with override!
- Strong 20" wheels with cast Magnesium rims in front provides amazing strength, you can haul up to 750 lbs, there's comfortable seating for two adult riders (including the driver) with cargo up front
- Sleek fiberglass shell provides shade and large visual footprint while open side windows allow sound and fresh air to pass through, LED headlight, rear light, turn signals and an electronic horn improve safety
- Heavy and large at 175+ lbs and nearly 6 ft tall, produced one at a time with a 3+ month wait time, shipping outside of California costs extra, custom paint costs extra, can be noisy inside riding over bumpy terrain
Virtue Cycles produces a range of affordable bicycles with two electrified variants called the Gondoliere Plus and Schoolbus Plus. The Pedalist by contrast, only comes with electric power because it’s significantly larger and heavier than the two cargo bikes. This thing weighs in at ~175 lbs without the battery (which adds another 10 lbs or so depending on size). It’s a partially-enclosed velomobile that will keep you shaded and cool in summer months and relatively dry and wind-free in winter months. I say partially enclosed because the side windows are open-air on the stock unit. Apparently Virtue Bike can add flexible fold-up roll-up windows for those who’d like additional protection but otherwise these openings improve the flow of sound.
Sound is one of the question mark areas with this and other velomobiles I’ve tested out. The fiberglass plastic canopy looks great and sounds decent when you’re not riding inside the unit but once you sit down, pedal along and begin riding over bumpy terrain, even large cracks, a booming rattly sound echoes around. You can hear this in the video review above and with comparable products from Organic Transit. What I love about the Pedalist is really just how affordable it is. The looks are good, the platform is sturdy (capable of hauling up to 750 lbs including two adult passengers with room up front for cargo or a child seat). It’s surprisingly powerful, relying on a 750 watt mid-drive motor kit from E-Rad that can peak out around 1,300. You get pedal assist, throttle mode (that overrides assist) and can setup multiple 48 volt battery packs for extreme long distance riding. The stock pack now offers 20 amp hours of capacity which is more than double what I would call average on traditional non-enclosed electric bikes.
What you don’t get here is suspension… the 20″ wheels are small and sturdy but not as forgiving as something with more “spanning” potential like a 24″ or 26″ wheel. They do keep the overall height of the bike down, making it more stable, and I was impressed with how easy it is to step into and mount. The custom Steel frame is setup as a low-step so you don’t have to lift your leg very high. Note that there isn’t a floorboard or any protection where your feet go (as with most recumbent trikes and other velomobiles) so do be careful not to drag your feet or the weight of the bike could injure them. The passenger seat is just behind the driver and the front box area has lots of vertical space to build up a basket or mount accessories. The driver has a nice upright seat with bars that are close and use a mid-rise bar. This isn’t a recumbent bike and it doesn’t force you to lean forward, I’d describe the seating position as up, alert and comfortable. The steel is sturdy but does cut out some of the vibrations and if you really wanted to smooth out the ride you could swap out the standard seat post for a 27.2 mm Thudbuster (some newer models may have 28.4 mm or 28.6 mm).
In conclusion, this bike seems incredibly affordable to me. You get a premium drive system from a company I recognize and trust, an quality internally geared hub with eight speeds from Shimano (that let you shift at standtill), a full set of lights including turn signals and the option to coat the inside with a softer noise-absorbing flocking material and choose a custom color. Virtue Cycles is backed up about three months for the Pedalist and each one is a custom build. If you live near Southern California they will deliver it but otherwise you’ll have to pay for a shipping company. This thing is stable enough to load and mount easily but narrow enough to fit through standard sized doors. It’s intuitive to pedal and steer, just like a regular city bike, but unique and fun in the way it looks and very capable in how it transports passengers. The rattly noise does bother me a bit but I can’t see a way around that for now? Maybe in the future the body panels will be mounted on rubber bumpers to help dampen it or some thicker coating will be applied inside? I want to close by calling out the removable rear panels on the outer shell that make changing tires or adjusting the gearing much easier. You can even leave one off and use the Pedalist Cycle with a trailer for even more cargo capacity! I love the concept and had a blast riding around with the founder William Mulyadi in San Diego near where the company is based.
- In my experience it’s more comfortable to ride than a recumbent trike, your body is upright like a regular bicycle which provides better viewing and the reach isn’t super far thanks to riser bars so you don’t have to lean forward and get a sore neck or back, the padded grips and saddle are nice considering the smaller 20″ wheels and lack of suspension
- At 35″ wide, the Virtue Pedalist was designed to be narrow enough to fit in bicycle lanes, slip between congested automobile traffic and go through standard sized doors so you can ride it in more locations and store it inside if you’d like
- There’s a passenger seat with foot rests behind the main rider so you can easily transport two adults, there’s a cargo platform in the front so you can haul gear, groceries, a small pet or even mount a child seat
- In my opinion, the Virtue Pedalist is priced very well, you get a high quality mid-drive motor system from one of my favorite producers, E-Rad / Lectric Cycles, along with a large 48 volt Lithium-ion battery and a custom made platform and sleek body, I feel like it would cost just as much if not more to try to make this yourself considering the tools and moulds required
- As a Class 2 electric bike with a top speed of 20 mph, you don’t need a license, registration or insurance to drive this thing on many public bike lanes, parking is relatively easy considering the compact size and charging is extremely affordable at less than $0.10 per charge at current rates at the time of this review
- Optional roll-up door covers can seal the cabin keeping wind, rain and snow out for those who plan to ride in varied conditions
- Excellent climbing ability thanks to its powerful 750 watt centerdrive motor and internally geared eight speed Shimano Nexus hub (which can be shifted at standstill), apparently they climbed Hyde Street in San Francisco with a 21% grade transporting 180 lbs of payload successfully
- They tested the bike with 350 lbs of cargo up front, a 200 lb rider and 200 lb passenger for an amazing total carrying weight of 750 lbs! that’s pretty incredible to me
- The body was designed with special detachable panels on both sides of the rear wheel to make maintenance easier or for use with a trailer so you can haul even more cargo and keep the cabin clear
- The smaller 20″ wheels lower the center of gravity on the bike and also provide more strength (especially since the front two are cast Magnesium vs. spokes) which is important given the weight of the bike and potential for hauling multiple adult passengers
- For extended range you can order multiple battery packs and stack them in the front cargo area, this allows you to use one after another without charging immediately
- Integrated headlights, tail lights, turn signals and a horn help keep you visible, the white color option is going to have the largest visual footprint but due to the taller design all units should be easier to see by cars that are higher up than most recumbent velomobile trikes
- I like that the system offers throttle override so if you’re in a low level of assist but need to zip out of the way or start from a stop sign you can instantly get full power, it builds confidence
- The right brake lever has a locking pin which holds the brake constant, you can use it as a parking brake so the bike won’t roll away if you park on uneven terrain
- It sounds like William will deliver the Pedalist all over Southern California, up to San Francisco and even parts of Arizona or you can use a fulfillment company
- They have had nine iterations of this bike! Constantly improving it and adding new features but also trying to stay as light weight as possible, the gray one from the video was very impressive and sleek
- Because the Virtue Pedalist has three wheels, it’s much more stable when mounting and loading the cargo box at the front
- Newer models have a wall that separates the wheels from the front cargo area keeping it cleaner and providing more space for gear
- Each Pedalist velomobile is produced in a “made-to-order” way that allows for some customization but this requires more time, currently they say it’s a three month wait
- In addition to a wait time, you will need to pay extra and make special arrangements with a fulfillment company for delivery if you don’t live within the delivery range
- While the plastic fiberglass shell looks great and protects you from the wind and some elements, it does create some rattling and booming noise at higher speeds and especially when riding over cracks and bumps
- The locks for the doors are little slider parts like you’d find in a bathroom stall, they didn’t seem super strong to me and I feel like the door could be easily broken if pushed down on while open, it works… just a little fragile and possibly vulnerable
- The bottom area of the bike is completely open for the rider like a normal bicycle but since there’s a metal cage surrounding you there’s more risk of pinching your legs under the bike if you stood up, just ride carefully and keep in mind that the bike weighs 175+ lbs whereas traditional bicycles are closer to 25 lbs and most electric bikes are ~50 lbs
- Riding at night could be uncomfortable even with the lights, I saw some glare on the plastic windows because the back side of the tail lights weren’t covered up completely and the windows themselves are tinted so it could feel extra dark inside
- The electric drive system is bolt-on and the wires aren’t run through the frame, it’s not as nice looking as a fully purpose built ebike on the inside but the price is low and this is a unique build
- Changing a flat tire on this bike could be difficult… there are no quick release systems and the bike itself is heavy, you might have to set it on some bricks or prop it up somehow, maybe tip it to one side? Be careful!
- I’m not sure how tamper resistant the bike is… there’s no keyed ignition to lock the battery down or keep people from switching it on and using the throttle if it was just parked outside