Most of you will have the same thoughts on e-bikes that I did. They are heavy, unattractive and not for the true cyclist, who rides to feel fit and free. But sure, they can be beneficial for seniors, and kids cycling long distances to get to school. Full stop.
It was on a recent trip to San Sebastian, when we visited Orbea’s headquarters in Mallabia, that my thoughts on electro-enhanced cycling changed. Completely.
We were invited to test ride Orbea’s latest model, the Gain.
As you can see, it’s easy to mistake the Gain for a regular road bike. All you need to do is cover the magic boost button, just behind the stem. Gain looks fast and lacks the bulkiness that is common in e-bikes. Its weight might give it away, although the Gain is exceptionally light in its class. The motor and battery add just 3,5 kgs to the frame, bringing the total to 13 kgs for a 56 cm bike.
This bike is not a moped. It won’t do your work for you. Gain was designed to enhance your ride, not dominate it. It was also designed to look good and attract the attention of cyclists like you and me.
The Orbea Gain is a pretty bike. Clean and well balanced, keeping up with current design trends. It uses a unique hub-based motor produced by another Spanish company: ebikemotion. The boost button you see in above picture shows you your battery level and a double click changes your power level.
The motor can only be heard when you’re in the red boost mode, and it’s a gentle hum that doesn’t spoil the serenity of our surroundings. Conform regulations, the Gain will give you assist up to 25km/h, when you cycle faster the engine stops assisting. So the real bonus here is on climbs and when facing strong headwinds. With my 55 kgs I am on the light side for the programmed power output, and got launched a few times when in red mode. The green boost was more my style, as I was doing the work, without losing my breath. It feels like a slight wind in the back, and gives you the opportunity to talk while cycling, take on a tough climb with confidence and finish a long ride without feeling knackered.
For an optimal experience on the Gain, custom programming and a little practise on when to power up or down is needed.
Later over lunch, Orbea’s purchasing manager Jon will confide that he believes the e-bike is the future, and we will nod and eagerly agree. The Gain is Orbea’s first road bike powered by an electric motor. They were careful to introduce it, aware of the resistance among their targeted audience. Production started with a conservative number of bikes, much less than Jon had in mind. But after its worldwide presentation, and keen reactions from buyers, production levels were quickly increased and are now up to what Jon originally had in mind.
“Gain is the start of a new approach to cycling”, Jon says, and we agree Orbea is at the forefront of a strong movement that will impact cycling worldwide. Electro-enhanced means: cycling at your own convenience. With a little boost you will get around your regular loop quicker, and be able to keep up with faster friends or a fitter partner. Feeling drained halfway up a climb? Add a little power and you can enjoy the surroundings again. And think about the gain to be had for bike-packers and other bike adventurers who travel the distance for the experience not so much the speed.
This new e-bike, the road bike with a small e, allows you to cycle at a steady pace, using whatever power output you are willing to give. All you need is a charged battery and the push of a button, literally.
Here’s a thought: