Price: €35 per week (€100 deposit)
Bleeper eCity 1 ebike
Pros: performs well, no maintenance or insurance cost
Cons: limit of three gears won’t suit everyone
ELECTRIC bikes are a tantalising idea for a great many people. But they have one drawback – their price. While the prospect of breezing up hills or cruising against headwinds is attractive, the €1,500 to €2,500 that most full-sized models cost may put some of us off.
Into this space comes Bleeper’s new subscription service. It’s a €35-per-week tariff for a €1,500 Bimas eCity 3.0 electric bike (which Bleeper calls its eCity 1 model) with a step-through frame. Performance aside, the main deal here is that you don’t get stuck for any maintenance – if there’s any technical issue or problem with the bike, you get to just swap it out for another one or have it immediately repaired (at Bleeper’s Dublin City base).
That €35-per-week is for a 350km weekly allowance. If you want to go further, there’s a €50-per-week ‘unlimited’ tariff option. From a user’s perspective, this is a little vague; Bleeper says that it can tell if your bike has gone over 350km in a given week, though apparently only when it gets the bike back (suggesting that it’s an internal distance counter on the bike rather than a remote tracker). It says it then reserves the right to retrospectively charge you the higher tariff for that week. On the other hand, the bikes don’t have GPS and so cannot tell where the bike has been. This means that you could rent one of these for, say, a fortnight to bring on holidays to hilly Kerry, Galway or Donegal.
The range on the bike between full charges was, I found, reliably over 40km on near-maximum motor assistance. It lasted longer if you kept the assistance at a more moderate level.
The performance of the electric bike itself is very decent, if a little basic. It’s a very simple setup. A small control panel, with no display, on the left side of the handlebar lets you choose your power assistance from one to five, or whether you want the motor turned on or off. It also shows you how much battery reserve you have.
Setting the power assistance to level one will give you a barely perceptible nudge as soon as you physically cycle. At level five, it will push you forward with enough force to easily get you up any hill in the Dublin area without too much effort on your part.
I found that I used it mostly between levels two and three on flat surfaces, rising to level four on noticeable uphill inclines or against stiff winds.
There are only three gears, located on the right-hand handlebar. This effectively puts a speed limit on your bike – I was never able to push it past 25km per hour, even on level 5 power and pedalling furiously. There are probably solid safety reasons for this and it should be fine for most commuters. It will also undoubtedly lessen Bleeper’s risk. But for anyone considering taking this bike for a long time, it will occasionally feel limiting.
The ride itself is sturdy and fairly comfortable. The saddle is very easy to adjust and I prefer the step-through style to the crossbar one.
Recharging the Bafang motor system with the supplied adapter is fairly simple from any wall socket, although I found that it ran extremely hot when charging. The battery, about the size of two hardback books, can be removed from the rear of the bike.
Lastly, the bike comes with a clever locking mechanism that secures both the front wheel and lets you attach the bike to a parking station.
I can see this setup being useful for people who like the idea of an electric bike but know that they’re unlikely to use one in the depths of winter.