The last days of the Vektron

January 23, 2017    


We’re going to have to send the Vektron back next week, and that’s a shame if you haven’t had a chance to try it out yet. Schedule a test ride, or just stop by. Update: Next shipment of Vektrons arriving this May. See you then. are here now.

I’ll also be bummed because I’ve been having a blast doing “product research” on my days off. I’ve been out to the beach the hard way over Twin Peaks, through the wasteland at the old SP railyard off Tunnel road, to the bank and just grabbing a cup of coffee.

Vektron posed with berry bushes.

Vektron in the wild. Overlooking the tank farm out on Tunnel road.

I’ve learned a bunch of things, some not so obvious from reading product descriptions.

It’s stable-

at over about 9mph I can ride no hands, even on packed gravel roads.

Nobody complains when I bring it inside-

Last week, I left my lock at home. This is a tremendous leap of faith for someone of the generation that had to hide their bike commuting at job interviews for fear of being labeled “that guy”; the one who shames people about pocket mulching and might have crazy political beliefs, but I fold the Vektron up and walk it right into the bank and even the security guard is fascinated.

Vektron folded fits through BART gate

The Vektron fits easily through a BART gate for crossbay trips.

It feels like a bike-

Less sophisticated ebikes surge when you start, and whine, and all around make themselves noticed. Years ago, when testing Giant’s LaFree, the product rep told me they’d detuned their drive unit on purpose because the entry level users they were targeting couldn’t tell the assist was operating if there weren’t obvious signals.

Bosch doesn’t stoop to such shenanigans. They’ve been making a solid product for the European market for years so the Vektron operates quietly in the background, giving you the equivalent feeling of a tailwind or just having a really good day.

Walk assist-

Yep, Bosch finally trusts Americans to be able to walk their bikes. Drive units for the US market have been famously lacking in the button that moves the bike at a steady 1.5 to 3 mph while you’re walking it (not so important on the flats, but welcome when pushing uphill). It’s enabled on the Vektron and it’s a really nice feature.

Walk assist also demonstrates how well gear changes are handled. If you shift while in walk mode, the bike stalls for a moment during the shift and then speeds up again, smoothing the transition. This takes strain off the drivetrain and also makes shifts much cleaner. There’s no slamming into gear and jerking as with other brands.

Range estimates are accurate-

Last week, I was nervous leaving the house with half a charge because the display said I had only 20 miles left but I was damn well not going to miss my opportunity to get out and about. When I got home, the trip meter said 17 miles and the remaining charge said 3 miles.

Lower assist levels are just fine-

The first time you get on an e-bike, you run the assist right up to maximum for that woohoo boost feeling, but I very quickly discovered that I don’t need it all that much.

The Bosch has four power levels. Each level adds a couple mph to your speed. The lowest level is nice for casual cruising on a bike path, and the highest will get you up even the steepest hills. I spend most of my time on the middle two; tour and sport, only occasionally switching to turbo.

Charging is faster than you think-

Yeah, Bosch says it takes 3.5 hours to fully charge a battery, but the last hour is trickle topping up and doesn’t add hardly any range, see table.

Charge timeEcoTourSportTurbo
1 hour34191413
1.5 hours48282321
1.75 hours54322623
2 hours60342624

I’ve been thinking about touring, and this means that if I stop every couple of hours for a cup of coffee, bring the battery inside and plug it in, I can ride continuously all day. If that kind of range isn’t enough for you, Bosch is coming out with a 25% larger battery this year.

Supplies are limited-

Tern’s first shipment of Vektrons, coming in mid-March, is already mostly pre-sold, so they won’t be just sitting around in shops. You’ll need to reserve one before they arrive. Or you can wait until the next shipment, but that will be a while.

Your ultimate commute bike is here.