If your full list of bike formats consists of road and mountain, you might have a hard time remembering what a cruiser is. Think of a long, heavy frame with handlebars that slope back in a sweeping bend, allowing the rider to perch nearly upright on a wide, comfortable seat. Fat tires allow for comfortable driving, often along a beachside road in warm, sunny weather.
Based on the name and aesthetics, the Ride1Up Cafe Cruiser is meant to evoke those bikes. And it does a passable job with fat tires, wide handlebars and an upright riding position. But it also provides the pedal assistance of a class 3 e-bike, which means it will continue to deliver power until the bike reaches 45km/h. And that makes for a ride that’s definitely not a casual cruise.
The Cafe Cruiser is available in both step-over and step-through frames; we tested the step-over version, which weighed in at around 30kg (65lbs). Its heavy rack is integrated into the frame, and the front fork features suspension to smooth out some bumps. There are a couple of places where the frame is thicker for ostensibly aesthetic reasons; beyond that, the bike’s most distinguishing feature is the fact that the battery drops out from the bottom of the frame rather than slotting into place from the top. This makes it a little more difficult to put it back in place if you remove it, but it does leave room to put a bottle holder on top of that tube.
Most of the components are pretty standard, like solid disc brakes and thick, heavy tires that soak up bumps and rough pavement. It has a set of eight gears on a rear derailleur; combined with five levels of assistance, these give you plenty of options to fine-tune your ride. Having ridden both stationary and geared e-bikes, it’s hard to overstate how much more enjoyable and enjoyable this makes for the overall experience.
As for the assist, its level is controlled by the up and down arrows on a standard controller. The display is pretty standard too, showing speed, miles traveled, power output, etc. The front and rear lights are integrated into the electronics and can be switched on and off from the controller.
One weird feature is the throttle, which lets you activate the engine without pedaling. Technically, class 3 e-bikes should have no throttle; those are part of the Class 2 specification, which limits the top speed to 20mph (32km/h). On the Cafe Cruiser, the throttle exists and cuts out at 20 mph, but the pedal assist doesn’t cut out until 28 mph. Maybe it’s a 2.5 class?
In each case, the motor is a standard 750-watt unit generating 60 Newton-meters of torque. It’s not enough to go up every hill without slowing down, but enough to never stop.
The motor is activated by a cadence sensor, which simply registers if you’re pedaling and not if you’re generating force. Thus, it is possible to set a high level of assistance and keep the pedals rotating smoothly, and push the bike forward at high speed. This way you’ll definitely burn the battery faster, putting you in the low end of the Ride1Up’s 50-80 kilometers (30-50 miles) range; keeping the assist low and pedaling harder stretches the battery for longer distances.
Aside from the frame, the most distinguishing feature is probably the handlebars, which are quite wide and arched back from the stem. With my height, I had to angle the bars up from the stem to have a comfortable cruising position. The ends of the bars are covered in a faux leather grip that is wider at the ends than where it meets the handlebars. I found this a bit awkward, as your hands tended to slide towards the narrow end, squeezing a bit against the brake levers. Things were only worse when wearing gloves on a colder day.
As with other bikes in this price range, the Cafe Cruiser was delivered with some required assembly: attach the front wheel, fender and light, and add handlebars and pedals. All the necessary tools were included and there was nothing complicated about the process.
Overall, in terms of build and components, the Cafe Cruiser was pretty typical of what you’d see on bikes in its price range. The real selling point is its cruising design, which has some implications for the driving experience. That, and the fact that Ride1Up chose to make it a Class 3.