The first generation of e-bikes tended to look like retrofits—slap a battery pack and a motor on a regular bicycle and voilà, there’s your e-bike. And that approach certainly works, in the same way you could bolt a 50-cc two-stroke to your Schwinn and call it a moped. But now that e-bikes have been around for a few years, we’re seeing the genre move beyond pure functionality, integrating the powertrain components to deliver a unified aesthetic. The Priority Current is one of these next-gen bikes, with an integrated battery and discreet 500-watt mid-drive motor. It looks like a regular commuter bike—white or charcoal color, step-through frame, available in three sizes. Oh, and it does 28 mph.
Yes, 28 mph is the new 20 mph. Bike people tend to embrace the hot-rodding ethos, and to that end the Current ships with the assist limit set at 20 mph, which is the baseline limit for most places to consider a bike a bike. (Beyond that: moped, with attendant registration issues.) But some places say 28 mph is the bike-to-moped cutoff, so e-bike companies have begun designing bikes to hit that speed, after some electronic fettering. With the Current, you won’t accidentally knock it into 28mph mode, but a minute or two spent deep in the settings does the trick. It’s kind of like the bicycle version of active exhaust on cars—Ford won’t hand you a Mustang that sounds like it’s ready for Joey Logano to race at Talladega, but it will sell you one that sounds that way once you push a button to bypass the mufflers. You know, if you’re somewhere that allows that. Same deal with 28mph e-bikes.
The other e-bike threshold, and one that seems a little more inviolable, is a 750-watt max for motors (or: one horsepower). The Current’s motor is rated at 500 watts, but it’s mounted in the crankset rather than on the rear hub. That’s an important distinction, since it allows the motor to enjoy the mechanical advantage of the gearing, whereas hub motors are one-speed affairs that don’t like low-speed, high-load situations (read:hills).
Hub-motor bikes tend to offer a standalone throttle, though, and that’s something that the Current lacks. You want power assist, you’ve got to move those legs. That’s consistent with Priority’s, uh, priorities, given that it’s a bicycle company first. This is its only power-assisted bike (though its second effort in the category), so it rides like its other bikes. But with a kick.
The Current, like all Priorities, uses a smooth and clean Gates belt drive that runs to either a five-speed Shimano Nexus internal hub or an Enviolo stepless manual hub. We tested the latter, which is controlled via a twist knob on the right-hand grip. If you’ve never ridden an Enviolo-equipped bike, it takes a little while to get used to the idea that there are no defined gears. There’s a display window on the handlebar that shows an analog representation of the terrain—twist up to low gear, and the worm inches up to depict a hill. Wind back into a tall gear, and the line goes straight to indicate a flat road. If there’s any secret to the Enviolo, it seems to be that true top gear isn’t available until you’re already moving fast. You think you’re maxed out, moving right along, and then you give another twist and find that the hub has a little taller gearing to give. And that’s helpful when you’re pedaling along halfway to highway speeds.
Priority says that the Enviolo version is sold out for now—the past year wreaked havoc on bicycle supply chains—but will be available again later in the year. The Shimano is said to be quicker and has a larger dealer network, while the Enviolo is smoother. Either way, the Current could probably use a taller top gear, just to settle down your pedal cadence when you find space to hit that 28mph assist speed. The motor certainly feels strong enough to handle it. Plus: you can go faster than 28 mph, depending on hills, your legs, and your level of bravery and/or foolishness. We saw almost 39 mph downhill while attempting an e-bike course record for the Virginia International Raceway. That lap came in at 9:57, for an average speed of 24.5 mph around the hilly 4.2-mile track. We’re gonna go ahead and declare that the course record unless someone says otherwise.
The Current’s 500 watt-hour, 48-volt battery offers between 30 and 60 miles of range and can charge on or off the bike. And it doesn’t look like you’re carrying a loaf of bread strapped to the frame. When the battery is clicked into place, it fits seamlessly with the lines of the bike. Maybe the only giveaway that this is an e-bike is the digital display screen on the handlebar, which shows the five assist levels and trip information, and is used to access the motor settings. The side of the screen also hides a USB power port, which you can use to charge your phone if you have a handlebar phone mount. The left side of the bar hosts a few hard buttons for basic functions: power, assist level, info, and one that lets you manually control the LED headlight, which, along with the taillight, automatically activates at dusk. There are a lot of new cars that have automatic LED headlights, but still plenty that don’t.
At $3,299, the Current sits in the fat part of the commuter e-bike price range but delivers a decidedly upmarket riding experience. And it’s not a moped masquerading as a bike. It’s a bike that can endow you with superhuman pedaling power up to 28 mph. Beyond that, it’s still up to you.
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