I love electric bikes, but too many people think that building a great one is as simple as bolting a battery and motor onto a pre-existing bike frame. The result almost never feels as natural as riding a pedal bike.
If anyone can understand the desire for a smooth ride, it would be Gocycle’s founder, former McLaren Automotive engineer Richard Thorpe. After working for 25 years on some of the most speedy and stylish cars in the world, he has brought his design acumen to folding bikes.
His company, Gocycle, has been making premium folding bikes since 2009. This April, the company released its fast-folding ebike, the Gocycle GX. The GX has Gocycle’s signature clean, sleek, aluminum frame with a removable, rechargeable 300-watt-hour lithium-ion battery inside.
The bike does look beautiful. But for me, the biggest revelation was that the Gocycle mobile app lets you customize your own level of pedal assistance. Instead of selecting between “eco” and “power” modes, for example, you can tinker on a sliding graph in the app to dial in different amounts of electric assistance in correlation to different levels of pressure on the pedals. This stands in contrast with most ebikes; I usually have to spend a few days experimenting with each bike’s different assist levels to see how they feel and how much pedal force it takes to trigger them.
On the GX, I created two custom modes, one tuned for riding the bike lanes of my city and another for when I just want to haul ass around my quieter neighborhood streets. These custom settings—created by me, for me—made pedaling this electric bike feel almost as easy as riding a traditional bike. Maybe riding the GX is the bike-riding equivalent of driving a McLaren? I wouldn’t know. These bikes were originally made for people who own yachts and fly on private planes, as the engineering and the price tag show.
Wash and Fold
The GX has a mere two hinges, one on the top tube and one on the handlebar post, and the company claims the bike takes just 10 seconds to fold. It took me 15 to 20 seconds. It’s not hard to fold, but it weighs about 40 pounds and is just friggin’ heavy. I suggest wearing shoes with covered toes if you’re moving it around your house or yard, or if you’re carrying it up a flight of stairs.
The folded bike can be stowed standing if you leave the kickstand engaged, which makes it about 25 inches high and 15 inches wide. I found it a little too large to store under my desk. Still, it’s pretty easy to roll it around while folded by just pushing the seat.
The handlebars and seat post height aren’t adjustable via a quick-release clamp; you need an Allen wrench. Happily, if you find yourself in need of an adjustment while you’re out riding, Gocycle included an Allen wrench under the seat. I was able to find a good handlebar and seat position for my own 5’2″ frame. The bike accommodates a max weight of 220 pounds, which includes your body and any luggage you might be carrying.
The GX’s specs are impressive. It has a Shimano Nexus 3-speed transmission, rear seat suspension, and front and rear hydraulic disc brakes. The electric front-hub motor powers the front wheel, while the pedals power the back wheel. This results in smooth acceleration. As a sustainable bonus, the manufacturing process for the bike’s magnesium frame does not emit any of the harmful fluoride gas emissions common to aluminum manufacturing, and magnesium is easily recyclable.
I spent a week riding the GX, taking it through a local park and using it to run errands around town. The company claims the bike has a range of about 40 miles, depending on your level of pedal assist. After 15 miles of travel, the battery life on my GX had dropped by only 20 percent.
I especially liked the thickness of Gocycle’s proprietary 2.25-inch all-weather tires, which were fun to ride on the dirt and gravel paths in a park around my house. They were fat and stable, and I worried a lot less about hitting a pothole or crack in the road at high speeds.
Instead of a permanent console attached to the handlebars, the GX has a small LED battery display. If you’re just jumping on your bike for a quick errand, you can quickly see how much juice is left in the tank.
But for longer rides, you can slip your phone into two rubber loops on the handlebar. After you turn on the bike, you can connect your smartphone to the bike’s computer via Bluetooth. When you turn your phone sideways, the app reconfigures to look like a car’s dashboard, so you can check statistics (speed, distance traveled, battery life) while you’re riding.
The menus in the app are not as much fun to look at, making the app a little hard to navigate. To customize and adjust your assist mode, you select the mode editor and then adjust the level of motor assistance by sliding your finger across a graph showing the pedal power in watts.
For example, I found out that for tooling around my neighborhood, I liked for the motor to wait until I’ve applied about 200 watts of pedal power before kicking in, and I prefered a gradual increase in pedal assist after that. The Gocycle also lets you tinker with its preset modes if you want.
Using your phone as your bike’s console is a pretty ingenious idea. On long rides, I sometimes like to listen to podcasts on a Bluetooth speaker, and having my phone accessible means that I don’t have to dig in my backpack whenever I want to start a new episode. It does, however, mean that long rides in the rain might not be a great idea.
I also didn’t like the proprietary front pannier at all. It easily clips onto the bike’s handlebar stem and comes with a padded shoulder strap for off-bike use, but I found its cube-like shape to be bulky and uncomfortable to carry. I ended up switching back to my backpack.
At $3,299, the GX is about as expensive as the electric cargo bikes that I reviewed recently. With their multiple cargo options and higher weight limits, those bikes are more complete car replacements. The GX is expensive enough, heavy enough, and limited enough to put it out of reach for many people. But thoughtful details like the fat tires, smooth and customizable acceleration, and covered cables, gears, and chains means that the GX looks fantastic and feels great too. If you have a few grand left over after you finish repairing your yacht for the season, the GX might be a great pick.