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Bicycle Cycling London

The Cyclotricity Stealth 250 – 10,000km later

So the day has come, my Cyclotricity Stealth 250 passed the 10,000km mark (6214 miles). Ever since writing the review of the bike at 1000km I’ve been telling myself I would do an update at 10,000km, so here it is ūüôā

I’ve already covered a lot of the technical aspects of this bike in the original review which you can find here. In this post I want to go over what it has been like to live with every day, and what my experiences have been like with the Stealth over the last 3 years.

Life with a Cyclotricity Stealth 250

Back in August 2012 my daily train commute across London was driving me to despair. I did have a bicycle, but it was completely unsuitable for a day to day commute. Being rather out of shape and a huge gadget fan I chose to get an electric bike so that I could get a little more exercise, escape the daily sweaty crush on the DLR and arrive at work fresh and unflustered.

I hunted around for an eBike that I liked, trawling every corner of the web and decided on the Cyclotricity Revolver… for about 2 days. My fancy was taken by it’s bigger brother and despite it being a blind buy as there were no reviews of the Cyclotricity Stealth to be found anywhere on the internet , I took a gamble and bought the Stealth 250 watt with a 20″ frame. After getting the bike I had this great notion in my mind that I could gently waft along the streets of London zipping effortlessly to and from work and then spend all of the money I had saved on TfL travel cards, buying pizza and fruity beverages instead. And actually that’s pretty much how it worked out. It was a sedate and pleasant experience. My commutes were a lot enjoyable and I got to see more of the city. After the first 1000km I finally got around to writing an in-depth review about my Stealth 250 so that other people who were thinking about buying one didn’t have to go in completely blind like I did.

I have several friends who regularly cycle around the city for pleasure and so one Friday evening I joined them on a large group bike ride known as Critical Mass. Which blew my mind… completely… Thousands of people from all over the city converge on the Southbank one evening every month and then set off together taking in all of the sights and sounds in London on a glorious evening ride with musical accompaniment provided by some large trailer based sound systems being towed behind bikes. This seemed to go on for hours and at the end of the evening it came as a complete shock to see that we have covered over 40 miles. I attended more and more of these events and relied less and less on the electric bike’s throttle as my fitness improved. My Stealth 250 has acted as gateway which allowed me to gently and gradually introduce myself to more serious cycling. Where once my Stealth was the only bike I owned, it now forms part of a motley crew including a carbon hybrid and road racing bike, neither of which are electric! I regularly ride distances of 50-100km in group events and am now the fittest I have ever been. With all of the friends I have made on these rides my social life is probably at it’s healthiest too.

Owning an electric bicycle has had a massive impact on my health and general lifestyle. As a gateway to a healthier and wealthier life it has worked out brilliantly. As a means of transport it has been superb, though on a day to day basis the Stealth has been the victim of it’s own success and has been replaced by a lightweight road bike for the daily commute. I ask myself sometimes could any of the other other electric bikes that I considered back in 2012 before choosing the Stealth have had such a dramatic effect on me? The answer is “almost certainly”… but that’s not really the point is it :p

The Big Issues

The Components – As mentioned in the 1000km review some of the component choices appeared to suffer a degree of penny pinching in places seemingly to keep the costs down. The mudguards were so cheap that they were flimsier than tissue paper and laughably ineffective, the original brake pads wore out very quickly before one of the brake calipers failed completely, the wheel reflectors kept flying off while the front and rear ones were dull and hard to see, and the bell rusted to the point of not working at all in barely a month flat. I can’t help but feel that if just an extra couple of pounds was spent selecting each of these components that my experience with the included accessories would have been a lot more positive. I replaced all of the aforementioned parts with ones from familiar brands and have not had any problems since. On the other hand, the saddle was incredibly comfortable and lasted well over 2 years of daily use before wear and tear got to the point where I had to replace it, the stock tyres were still going strong at 8000km and were only actually replaced for aesthetic reasons (more on that later). The wheels themselves have held up superbly taking a lot of abuse over the years without any problems, on the odd occasion where they get washed they still come out looking brand new, The chainrings, cranks, and pedals have performed very well and have only recently got to the point where they need replacing and the electric drive system has been flawless since day one with no design or quality issues to report.

The Dashboard – This isn’t something I had even considered when I first reviewed the Stealth but quickly came to terms with after moving home to a slightly less salubrious part of London. The dashboard is permanently mounted to the handlebars and isn’t removable, from a distance it looks a lot like a speedometer or cycle computer and can attract the interest of thieves. Twice while my Stealth was locked up in public places and in broad daylight, somebody has attempted to steal the dashboard. The first time they simply snapped the bracket off but upon realizing what it was, left it dangling by its cable meaning it was still functional, I managed to repair the snapped bracket and considered it a one off oddity. The second time though it was torn clean off the bike snapping the bracket again and physically ripping the cable out of the back. This left the Stealth with no electric function at all so I had to pedal it home and wait until a replacement dashboard could be delivered and fitted. Needless to say I do tend to consider where I leave the bike a bit more carefully now.

The Battery – I can’t really skirt around it, the battery has been the biggest concern ever since I first considered buying an electric bike. I was aware that battery technology isn’t very advanced and that over time the performance decreases to the point where they need replacing. For me this happened just shy of the 2 year mark. At first the ranges I could achieve were superb, beyond my wildest expectations even. Several months on when I made the 1000km review they were still very good and the battery made it up to a year old before there was any noticeable decrease in range. It was still perfectly capable of doing the daily commutes but started to run out more frequently on longer leisure rides and needed charging more frequently throughout the working week. As i increased my cycling proficiency and bought a dedicated commuter bike, the Stealth became purely a leisure bike and the limited range really started to become an issue around the 2 year mark. Once it got to the point that it could not complete a 20km round trip to work and back I decided to look into replacing the battery. Cyclotricity have new batteries available to buy on their website but I found an online retailer selling a similar bottle battery with the same power characteristics but a much higher capacity for a not unreasonable sum. This did mean I had to change the power cable from the controller box to the battery mount but with a fresh battery the range bordered on being absurd and I could go a full 2-3 weeks between charges for occasional use or manage rides of 70-80km without running out of power. I have since come to consider batteries for electric bike as being like “consumables”. They have a limited shelf life and need regularly replacing, while they are seemingly quite expensive they still provide better value than a travel card when replaced every 2 years.

Customer Service – One of the main draws to Cyclotricity for me was that they are UK based, this means that not only are customers fully protected by UK consumer laws but also that the company is able to provide effective and fast support in their native language. It was one of the key reasons I chose to go with the Stealth and even after 3 years with my bike being long out of warrantee they still provide top notch care and get my wholehearted recommendation. The service I have received from Cyclotricity has been nothing short of outstanding. When my dashboard was stolen I had a new one on order and delivered to me in less than 24 hours, when I enquired about battery pricing I received an answer within an hour, when I needed to figure out what type of headset bearings the stealth used I was given the exact part number I needed. They know their products inside out, they appear to care deeply about the people who use their products and can take pride in the level of support they provide. It has honestly been one of the best customer relationship experiences I have ever had with a British company.

The Birth of the BattleBike

With the road bike taking up duty as the daily commuter the Stealth was used instead for taking comfortable and relaxing rides, as well as being used for the Critical Mass and social group events. These events attract a huge number of amazing hand-made and customized bikes, so I set about making some changes to the stealth to help it stand out a little more. At first I switched out the surprisingly excellent stock tyres which came with the bike for some chunky Continental X-King 2.4 tyres instead, while these introduce a little bit of drag, they work with the suspension to increase the comfort of the ride and more importantly, look absolutely superb on the Stealth. Given that most of these group rides take place in the evenings some party lighting seemed like a good idea too so i fitted some coloured LED strips to the frame for extra effect. With a couple of small capsule speakers attached to the frame for a little music the Stealth had become a great party bike.

Sadly the “PartyBike” had quite a short life.

One evening on the way home from a social gathering, I hit a very large pothole in Southwark. I managed to stay upright and was unharmed but the Stealth’s front suspensions forks were not as lucky, they had noticeably bent causing the front wheel to jam solid and the suspension would no longer move when compressed. Being in something of a rush to get the bike back on the road I switched the damaged forks out for a spare set of stupidly heavy steel triple clamp suspension forks that I had kept hold of from an old mountain bike i had discarded long ago. These forks being bright red obviously looked terrible on the white and black stealth, there was no way I was going to be able show this off in public. The new forks provided such a comfortable ride however, that I decided I had to keep them on the Stealth and decided on a colour change instead. Why stop at the forks though?

A bit of research later and I found PlastiDip, a spray on rubber coating in a range of colours which is perfect for bicycles and automobiles. After a quick browse through the colour options I settled on “GunMetal Grey” and stripped the Stealth down to the naked frame.

With the frame completely bare I sanded out all of the stickers and rough patches then set about spraying the bike. PlastiDip takes 4-5 coats to provide the best finish and once dry forms a waterproof durable rubber skin over the bike. Given my relative inexperience with spray painting I was amazed at just how good the finish was.

As with the old PartyBike, the Battlebike in its new sinister stealth-fighter grey was going to have some lighting too, I painstakingly measured out the frame sections of the Stealth and created a fully RGB colour changing light strip which ran down the length and both sides of the bike creating some dramatic effects. Most of the rebuild was painless but soldering the lighting segments together was almost certainly the most time consuming and tedious part taking almost 2 solid days to finish. Once finished though I was happy with the result, very happy indeed!

The Stealth in new “BattleBike” guise was definitely a talking point at group rides and events. The new forks, larger battery, fatter tyres and rear rack managed to bring the total weight up to a staggering 31.4 KG meaning it wasn’t the most practical bike in the world but that hardly seemed important given the feeling it gave you when you rode it.

The most amazing thing about the BattleBike was how well the original Stealth DNA coped with all of the changes I made to it, all of the extra weight made very little impact on the top speed or range and considering none of the components were designed with this type of setup in mind they coped brilliantly with almost everything I threw at it. The only major trouble I faced with the battlebike was after a minor mishap caused one of the motor bearings to fail. Yet again Cyclotricity customer service came to my rescue and were able to help out not only in helping me to figure out which bearings I needed to buy, but also providing some tips on how to go about replacing them, for a highly modified bike almost 2 years out of warrantee I found that pretty incredible!

November 2016 Update…

The battle bike was sadly killed on November 2016, murdered by an inattentive bin collection team who hurled a full binbag at head height across a packed Cycle Superhighway and wiped me out during a morning rush hour commute. I hit the deck pretty hard and suffered three broken ribs and a dislocated finger, the bike came off worse than I did with bent suspension forks, a buckled rear wheel, snapped brake lever, snapped crank arm and a bent handlebar. The company involved have to their credit admitted full responsibility for the incident and provided compensation for the damage to the bike and covered my public transport travel costs while I was recovering.

This has left me without my much loved Stealth 250 for a while but I’ve been keeping my spirits up by commuting on the FatBike since then. A closer look at the damage to the 250 has been fairly encouraging. The frame is fine, the front drive wheel is fine, and the electronics are all in perfect working order. So… expect another rebuild of the Stealth 250 soon ! Cyclotricity have been very helpful too and have even hooked me up with a Stealth 1000watt to play with while my 250 is in intensive care, so expect a review of the Cyclotricity Stealth 1000 Watt soon as well.

While I hope that this review was pretty exhaustive, there may be things I have missed, please feel free to ask any questions using the comments section below, I aim to respond to every message

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Bicycle Cycling London Review Uncategorized

Cycloc Solo Review – Wall mount your Bike

A practical and space efficient way to securely store bicycles in your own home without eating valuable space?

As someone who has owned and ridden bikes in London for well over a decade I’m a whole-hearted subscriber to the “urban cycling” lifestyle. While this has a number of advantages it also comes with some pretty big pitfalls. Ranking highly is the issue of security. A sad fact of our times is that bicycles are seen by thieves as high value items which can be easily stolen and sold on quickly. I live in a modern apartment building which has a “secure cycle storage” room. What this actually boils down to is a rather small locked room with a few woefully inadequate bike stands along the walls to which all of the development residents have a copy of the rather generic key. The first time I saw this room there was a freshly cut cable lock in the corner of the room, not reassuring!

With this in mind I have always preferred to keep my bikes inside my flat away from prying eyes and light fingered miscreants. This does keep them secure and has the advantage that the electric bike has easy access to a power socket, but it does have one or two drawbacks too. The chief of which is that bikes may feel quite compact while you’re riding them but as soon as you get one indoors you quickly become aware that they take up quite a lot of room. Also there’s the British weather… it’s not unheard of for there to be rain in the UK from time to time and so wet and grubby bikes are definitely best kept away from your carpets.
I toyed with keeping them in a spare room or my bathroom when they were wet, and while this did work for a while the practicality was a big issue. Time passed by and while checking out some of the cycle2work options in April 2015 I spotted a product at Halfords which appeared to fit the bill perfectly. A wall mount!

I’ve seen wallmounts before but they have always looked like the kind of products which should be used in sheds or workshops, they are generally very industrial in appearance and largely unsuited to a contemporary living space. The idea of screw mounting a large galvanized steel hook to my walls was not appealing. Certainly not the kind of thing you would want inside your modern freshly decorated home. This new product was completely different from all of the other wall mounting solutions I had seen before.

 

The cycloc solo in its packaging has the appearance of a brightly coloured plastic bucket. It is made from a very strong polypropylene plastic with contoured cutouts to accommodate almost any frame profile with rubber pads to protect the frame from scratches. The solo sits far enough from the wall to allow bikes with handlebars up to 490mm (suitable for 99% of road bikes), but it also includes a spacer which can allow bars up to 600mm wide. Additionally you can use a D-Lock to secure the bike inside the holder.

Given available space in my flat I picked out a spot in my kitchen to fit the cycloc. It’s relatively out of the way and has the advantage of being above a vinyl floor so hanging a wet bike on it wouldn’t cause any problems. Unfortunately before fitting the cycloc solo I encountered 2 problems. Firstly I wanted to fit it right in the center of the wall directly above a mains powered carbon monoxide detector. A quick check with a cable detector showed that the mains and alarm cables run vertically straight up from the alarm and so drilling into the wall above it was not an option. The area right next to the alarm was clear though and had a wooden stud through it which is something cycloc recommends. The second problem was absolutely confounding… although the solo ships with some large looking bolts included, it turns out these are only used to attach the spacer for extended handlebars.

 

This £59.99 product ships WITHOUT any fitting hardware!

 

After re-reading the product literature I found a pack of 10x M8 fixings with cross-headed bolts included on Amazon for > ¬£4. Given that this product retails at ¬£59.99 I found the lack of included fittings completely incomprehensible. I had to wait about 3 days for my amazon delivery to arrive but once it did it was a very straightforwards process. The solo has a template card which you fix to the wall after checking the alignment with a spirit level you drill 3 holes and push the M8 fixings through, then you simply screw the bolts through the 3 holes into the M8 fixings until they are completely solid. To refine the level you can loosen the bolts slightly and adjust the solo by eye before tightening the bolts again. Once you’re happy with it you fit the center section to cover up the bolt holes, it has a cute bicycle logo embossed in it too… and that’s it.

Lifting a road bike into the solo is easy and the added holes for a D-Lock are very welcome although I don’t tend to lock mine given it’s already inside my locked flat. I have also found that the “bucket” allows for storage of smaller items like gloves and lights even with the bike mounted. I have tested it with bikes weighing 12kg, 14kg and 32kg (yes really) and with M8 fixings in a sturdy wall the solo handled all three without any problems… obviously this is 100% dependent on the wall that it is fixed to, but I mention it to demonstrate¬†that the plastic shell itself can take a substantial amount of weight.

Conclusion

The Cycloc Solo fills a useful niche for those people who need indoor bicycle storage but don’t want the industrial lackluster styling of current offerings to compromise their living spaces. The solo does it’s job very well, the colour range is limited at the moment but there are enough options that most people will be able to find something which works for them. The question I’m having a hard time answering is this one… Can I recommend it for ¬£59.99?

 

For the convenience of not having to use the laughable cycling storage in my development it’s certainly handy, but I wasn’t using the storage anyway, I was content to just live with the inconvenience of a slightly cluttered hallway. So while it certainly is a benefit having one fewer bike to navigate around when grabbing the morning coffee, the practicality isn’t the dealbreaker, after all a ¬£12 steel hook would do the same job. It’s the style that mostly sells this product for me, the Cycloc Solo looks slightly peculiar without a bike on it but it doesn’t intrude on the space physically or visually, with a bike on it though it looks superb. It has actually improved the appearance of the long blank wall in my kitchen and is quite a talking point when visitors see it. I have found that it also leads to me taking better care of my bike as having it prominently displayed almost like a piece of art makes you really want to keep it clean.

 

 

My recommendation is a yes, for £59.99 I would indeed say it is worth the cost over traditional wall mounts, but only just. If only Cycloc had included the actual fittings you need to install the Solo then it would be a resounding yes, it is a startling omission from what is otherwise a great piece of kit.

 

For more information about the Cycloc Solo you can check out their website.

Halfords are currently out of stock however PlanetX have a Cycloc range available.

Disclosure: I have no affiliation to Cycloc, Halfords or PlanetX. This review is based entirely on my own experiences with a Cycloc Solo (Orange) I purchased myself from Halfords, there is no monetization on this website and I receive no income from page hits, advertising or reviews.