BMW has been making bikes for years, but it wasn't until this week that we took the time to pedal around in one. After all, it's pretty clear that four wheels are more fun than two when it comes to the roundel. But, well, maybe not always. For example, if you're trying to navigate through a dense urban center, then a car often falls short compared to a bike if you're looking to, you know, actually get where you're going. We'd certainly rather get some exercise as we run our downtown errands than sit in traffic and then struggle to find parking. And if that city is Amsterdam, a place where they put the aggressiveness into being bicycle friendly, then we'd rather have a bike any day of the week. Even a rainy one, which is how it was when we took the BMW Cruise e-Bike 2014 for a spin this week. Here's what we learned:
  • In addition to the standard bike pedals, the Cruise e-Bike adds a 250W Bosch electric motor (it's a BMW, so of course it has Bosch parts) that puts out 48 Newton meters of torque (35.4 pound-feet) to assist you when your legs are moving. This part is important, since the e-Bike, technically something called a "pedelec," does not offer up any momentum if your feet stop. If it did, then the e-Bike would be considered a scooter in some jurisdictions, and that means you would need a license and/or a helmet. The Cruise e-Bike is just a bike, but one that's easier to use.
  • I've been a practical biker for years, riding for transportation and fun when I've lived in cities and even in a rural home seven miles from the nearest town. I've ridden 70+ miles in a day many times, but I've never been on electric bike. It's an odd sensation, to be sure, the first few miles, but I quickly got used to the way the bike is there to assist you. The motor provides assistance to match the power of your legs, anywhere between zero and 225 percent, depending on the mode. BMW says there are three sensors taking measurements 1,000 times a second. It certainly responded near-instantly to my pressure, which did take some getting used to. You know that feeling when you start pedaling on a bike? How it takes a second to overcome inertia and get moving? That doesn't happen with the Cruise e-Bike.
  • Electrical power comes from the 400-Wh battery (also by Bosch) that BMW says is good for "around 100 km" (62 miles). We're not sure how that's measured, given that you have to be pedaling the whole time, but let's just say that if you're going about your daily business, you'll always have enough charge. The battery is locked to the frame, but you can remove it with a key to take it in and recharge it, a process that takes 90 minutes for the first 50 percent and then another two hours (so, 3.5 hours all told) to get to 100 percent (all on European outlets of course, which is where the bike is sold).
  • The 22-kilogram (48.5-pound) bike is solid, and somewhat heavy and difficult to maneuver when you're not sitting astride it. The thick black and white frame certainly looked better than the standard city commuter bikes that are all around this town and the fenders kept some of the wetness off of our person. The BMW logo is present at the top of the front fork but also on the included bike lock.
  • There are no hills to speak of in Amsterdam, so we couldn't much test out the 6-kph boost the system is capable of providing up slopes (going up bridges was all we could find for non-horizontal surfaces). The city is also so bike friendly that there are barely any curbs to speak of, so the suspension fork with 75 mm of spring travel didn't get a huge workout. On the cobblestones, the e-Bike felt as smooth as one can expect. Maybe a bit smoother.
  • Other technical features include front and rear disc brakes, front and rear lights powered by a hub dynamo and a handlebar-mounted computer that doesn't just display useful things like speed and distance but also controls the bike's various modes. There are five settings: off, eco, tour, sport and turbo. Off made the bike feel like it was dragging (whether from increased friction from regenerative braking or because I was just so used to the electric assist), and eco and tour modes did not provide all that much assistance. Sport was good, but since I didn't care much about depleting range - the pack said 45 km when I left the hotel (climbing to 47 as I pedaled before starting to drop down - I soon realized that anything other than turbo wasn't really worth it. Turbo is the most spritely, which means it is way more fun than the other modes, once you're used to the pep. The everyday bike commuters we blew past on the bike paths didn't know what hit them.
  • So, that's the good news, but there's bad as well. Namely, the fact that the BMW Cruise e-Bike 2014 costs 2,799 euros. Which is $3,785 US and totally bonkers for a city bike that I'd worry would get stolen every time I took it out. Oh, well, at least I got to ride it for one afternoon.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 8 Comments
      raktmn
      • 1 Year Ago
      I was surprised to see a Bosch center-drive bike headed stateside, and then I saw the "Europe-only" part of the story. It is a shame, because the Bosch center-drive is pretty cool.
      Ryan
      • 1 Year Ago
      Seems like a good design, but I would have put a bike rack on the back and mounted the battery back there. Then use the normal space for a custom water bottle. And for that price, they need to come up with a new way to lock the bike to prevent it from functioning if it it locked. For a pure bike commuter, compared to the costs of a car, this makes sense. Compared to the costs of a normal bike, it is hard to justify the extra cost, even if I do ride thousands of miles a year.
        2 wheeled menace
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Ryan
        That would give you really bad weight distribution if you did that. That's literally the worst place to mount a battery on an ebike. I did that early on about 3 years ago, and went to a center mount very shortly after because i was tired of hearing the battery clank and jump around. You want all your weight as close to center and as low as possible.
      Technoir
      • 1 Year Ago
      Google this "Stealth Electric Bikes" to see what a REAL electric bike looks like. This BMW bike, with a bunch of no name low end components, is worth nowhere near $4000.
      Jeff Zekas
      • 1 Year Ago
      Sounds like a typical BMW: expensive to buy and not much better than the Japanese competition.
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Jeff Zekas
        ..."Not much better than the Japanese competition??".....You obviously never have driven a BMW before.
        Baldev
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Jeff Zekas
        yeah right comparing a diamond to a zircona, Jeff I can afford it and BMW is awesome to drive. Go work hard and you can know what it drives like, beautiful.
      2 wheeled menace
      • 1 Year Ago
      Gee, only a $2,000 markup for the BMW logo... what a deal.. :P At least they put the battery in the right place ( in the front triangle ) You can still convert a regular bicycle, whether it be a wamart special, r something more expensive, for about $1,000 and have more power and hill climbing grunt.