The eBike that makes people go “wow, that is nice!”

Spencer and Ivy eBike in the Greenwich tunnel

Walking down the Greenwich foot tunnel and pushing the bike into the lift at the end, the operator clicked and pointed his finger. “Ebike”. He proudly shouted out. I nodded confirming his keen observations. “That’s cheating!”

We’re not yet at the stage of having our small island invaded by eBikes. Perhaps the feeling that you’re cheating has something to do with it. The poor quality of the initial electric bikes that arrived in the UK market may also have put people off. However, a number of companies are banking that eBikes have a big role to play in our transportation future. Riding around London on Spencer of Spencer and Ivy I can see why they might think this.

Introducing Spencer

Hopping on the bike and pushing your foot down slightly on the pedal instantly kicks in the motor. Unlike the GoCycle, another electric bike which I’ve tried out in the past, you need to be pedalling to benefit from the electric motor. This definitely feels more natural as a cyclist.

Spencer electric bike front view

Using the bike for the first time I observe that it handles well. I point my wheels in the direction of Canary Wharf. It’s time to impress my friend with my new toy.

The bike certainly fits in well with the banking crowd but I soon hit upon my first challenge. To get the bike to where my friend is I have to go up a flight of stairs. No big challenge for most light, modern bikes. However, Spencer weighs a ton. I lift it up and can’t avoid pulling that horrible face you get when you’re lifting a huge weight. I imagine the owner of this bike will soon be building some serious muscle if they have to lift it down a set of stairs every morning to get to work.

Arriving at the top my friend is instantly impressed: “Wow, that is nice!”. I count that as the first of many compliments I’ll be clocking up sporting this bike. Excitedly, I explain to him how fun my short first test ride was and what a great looking bike it is.

At this point I hit upon the second challenge. Locking the bike. With the cost of Spencer being understandably high (£1,895) you feel a little scared to lock it up. No doubt many owners will be opting for bicycle insurance. I use my Kryptonite lock and a chain lock and head in for some lunch hoping the bike will still be there when I return. Fortunately my fears prove unfounded.

Encouraging you to cycle more

I set the power to full and ride in the direction of Regents Park. It’s a far more comfortable and effortless ride than normal. Stopping and starting at traffic lights is when you really notice the benefit of an electric bike such as Spencer. I arrive home without having broken a sweat.

I’m soon out of the house again running various errands. Using the bike I found myself cycling more often. This is partly due to the reduced effort require to pedal but also the way the bike is setup. A chain cage means you don’t need to worry about your trousers getting caught in the gears and a pannier rack proves very useful on a trip to the post office to deliver some Proviz helmets to lucky London cyclist winners.

VA Hua, the owner of Spencer and Ivy a new company that sells this bike, has lent me it for five days so I have plenty of time to test it out. I decide to take it with me to Birmingham as I’m visiting family anyway to really put it through its paces.

Spencer in fjord in Birmingham

“Wow, that’s nice!”

Showing off the bike has really become my favourite activity. Taking it home once again everyone comments on the appearance of the bike. A few test rides by various members of the family and they’re converted to eBikes.

To prove I’m not lying about the family here’s my Grandad sizing it up!

My grandad on the ebike

In fact someone like my Grandad or for that matter your Grandad may be one of the ideal target markets of the bike. According to VA Hua, director of Spencer and Ivy, the company is targeting mothers who need to carry their shopping, commuters to get to work without having to sweat and anyone who just wants to wear their normal clothes to go cycling.

Overall review of Spencer

Changing the eBike power setting

By default I’m not exactly in the target market of this bike. Therefore it’s difficult to pass a final review. Personally I’m happy with a smaller, lighter bike that I can pedal around town in. With a motor that cuts out at 15.5 mph (EU regulations) I found it very difficult to reach serious speeds. This is because as soon as the motor cuts out you’re on your own and with the heavy weight of the bike you’ll have to pedal furiously to get any speed.

However, if I was to assume for a moment I was the sort of person that would buy an eBike then I would be hard pressed to beat the offering by Spencer and Ivy. The bike rides beautifully, the battery life was plenty and it’s a stunning design that’s guaranteed to turns heads.

I think there’s definitely a market for electric bikes and I would assume they will seriously grow in popularity. Bikes such as this one by Spencer and Ivy are proof that eBike manufacturers have moved on from the early offerings. Now I just have to gather £1,895 together to buy one for my grandad!

What I liked about Spencer

  • Looks that make people say “wow, that is nice!”
  • Quality components that will last ages and won’t have you going back and forward to the bike shop
  • Well designed, comfortable bike that offers a great ride
  • Panniers and chain cage make this a great utility bike
  • Makes cycling accessible to people who previously may only have been able to travel around in a car

What I didn’t like about Spencer

  • Heavy – although this can be said for most electric bikes
  • I can’t afford one – £1,895!

Where you can buy Spencer or Ivy (The female version)

Head to the Spencer and Ivy web page: http://www.spencerivy.com/

Join 9,241 fellow cyclists who are subscribed to the London Cyclist newsletter

Sign up for our free newsletter to get...

  • Advice on the best cycling gear
  • A Friday roundup of all the latest London cycling news
  • Exclusive content not available on the blog

Subscribe today, and get exclusive access forever! (It's free)

*No spam, ever!

As seen on The Guardian, BBC and The Independent.

, , , ,

22 Responses to The eBike that makes people go “wow, that is nice!”

  1. Philippe 18/11/2010 at 6:43 pm #

    You’re 100% right: “wow, that’s nice!”. I own a black Matra TidalForce iO Cruiser and your comments about Spencer could be the same about the Matra.
    Personally I think I am exactly in the target of the Ebike market and I admit that it made me hop on a bike again after a 30-year-lasting pause.
    On a sunny sunday afternoon I did exactly what you said: I took it out to show it to all my neighbors and friends and was so proud of it (silly, isn’t it?).
    But its horrible weight (35 kg) is really a problem.

    • Andreas 18/11/2010 at 10:11 pm #

      Glad you understand the feeling! It’s silly but I loved it :)

  2. Steve 18/11/2010 at 8:41 pm #

    There is definitely a market out there for a bike like this.
    How does it go up the hills? How would it cope in Bristol or Bath?
    If it gets more people out of their cars, it has to be good.

    • Andreas 18/11/2010 at 10:11 pm #

      That is one of the big advantages Steve. It pedals well up the hills you just have to make sure you switch down to a low gear. As you normally would when tackling a hill.

    • Paul Johnson 29/05/2013 at 7:07 am #

      Hi Steve I live in Otley West Yorkshire, and bought. Spencer Ivy feb 2013, the hills around where I live are steep in particular east and west chevin road, I can cycle up both in comfort never having to stand up out of the saddle, I am very pleased with this bike, it is basically a kalkhoff, London company and very helpfully they are too, but German build quality.

  3. diana 19/11/2010 at 8:31 am #

    yes, lovely looking bike. It’s of the ‘Comfort bike’ model, if anyone wants to find a cheaper and non-electric version of that style. The sporty-style bikes you see out and about are not really appropriate for non-sport use and end up being kind of ugly.

  4. Andy 19/11/2010 at 10:37 am #

    No suspension?

    • Andreas 24/11/2010 at 12:22 pm #

      Is it just me who thinks suspension is overrated?

      • Andy 24/11/2010 at 12:31 pm #

        Wait til you get older!

      • Paul Johnson 29/05/2013 at 7:02 am #

        I too think suspension is overrated , adds weight to a bike too

  5. Chris 19/11/2010 at 10:56 am #

    Good review!

    I’ve just been trying a pedelec as well (a Kalkhoff) which I also found brilliant. I think it is exactly the same build as the Spencer and probably comes from the same factory.

    I live in a VERY hilly area. The final 50 metres is a 20% climb, which is normally a nasty little end to a shopping trip.

    The pedelec revolutionises cycling up hills and I think could prove really useful to those who live in hilly areas. Personally, like you, I wouldn’t want to own one because, like having a car, it would simply make me very lazy and instead of getting 20 miles of hard cycling in a day, I would get a fraction of the exercise and end up getting (even) fatter.

    I also showed it to my family who were universally won over. My 80 year old uncle is already planning to get one! I think these things have a bright future amongst the old and wealthy, just as they have had this year in Germany, where they have sold 300,000 units this year.

    • Andreas 24/11/2010 at 12:22 pm #

      Chris thanks for the heads up on the Kalkhoff pedelec. I’ve got some steep climbs near the end which always make me dread the last few miles especially after lots of cycling. This is truly when you do appreciate an electric bike.

      • Paul Johnson 29/05/2013 at 7:11 am #

        Andreas as regards hills I can certainly recommend the spencer ivy we have some shockers of hills around where I live, and my spencer ( basically a kalkhoff ) does make cycling a pleasure around where I live.

  6. Adrian 19/11/2010 at 11:26 am #

    You might be interested in the Gruber Assist motors. From what I can tell they can be fitted to almost any standard bike (depending in the seat post diameter), and as they turn the pedals, you still get the full range of gears.

    http://www.gruberassist.com/english/product/product-description/

    With a weight of under 2KG for the motor and the battery it’s not going to break your back, and as the motor is hidden, it woun’t attract the attention of thieves.

    The EU regs are a problem tho….

    • Andreas 24/11/2010 at 12:20 pm #

      Thanks for the link Adrian – plenty of people go down the conversion route..

  7. Filippo Negroni 19/11/2010 at 12:06 pm #

    I have one question popping to my mind:

    Would you feel the same way about this bike if it had a combustion engine on it?

    From my point of view, the whole point of a bike is that it is human propelled and wholly mechanical.

    You might have battery operated phone, lights and cyclo computers, but they are accessories which do not have any impact on the performance of the vehicle.

    I can do 12mph average without breaking a sweat too on my heavy commuter bike, and that’s without the need to top up batteries, nor spend a fortune.

    I am not saying this is not useful to someone who might need it, but that’s what got us to SUV’s: many small steps in the wrong direction transformed the original idea into a problem.

    • Andreas 24/11/2010 at 12:19 pm #

      Interesting comments Filippo. Personally I’d rather have someone sat on an eBike that a motorbike. These things are silent, still provide for some exercise and don’t clog up the roads (and our lungs).

  8. David Cohen 19/11/2010 at 1:54 pm #

    Good review. Electric bikes were certainly more visible at this year’s Bike Show at Earl’s Court. The problem in the UK is that there is a bit of an attitude amongst cyclists that you are either a cyclist or a motorist, and that electric bikes don’t quite fit either.

    For the time being, they’ll always be some angle that people are not happy with (weight, range), but as time goes on, they’ll be more devlopments to overcome some or all of these issues.

    VeloVision have just lainch a new electric bike mag, so definitely worth a look:
    http://www.electricbikemag.co.uk/

    David

    • Filippo Negroni 19/11/2010 at 2:16 pm #

      This reply is meant to be thought provoking. Please do not read too much into it:

      I have no problem with the whole ‘hybrid’ issue: I ride a hybrid (MTB-come-touring bike) to work and to the shops every day.

      I think the distinction is quite clear though when it comes to motor and non-motor vehicles: self-propelled = motorised. If you ride a self-propelled bike, whether electric, combustion, hydrogen-cell or nuclear powered, you are a motorist.

      It is a distinction that must be made.

      The bicycle is a health machine: reduces pollution, makes you move your legs, gives you the ability to process information at human pace, and refreshes the mind. It is not simply a method of transport.

      If it were, there wouldn’t be such a big cycling revolution.

      Because, let’s be honest, as a method of transport, it mostly sucks! I mean, you get cold and wet or hot and sweaty, you can get dirty, you must carry a lock everywhere, it must be folding to fit on a train without pissing every one else off, it offers no protection from other road users. It is the ultimate antagonist to a car.

      And that’s the reason it is so revolutionary in its simplicity: that feeling of achievement with every rotation of the pedals.

      So no, I am not accepting a self-propelled KERS operated two-wheel vehicle with pedals as what I now call a ‘bicycle’.

      • David Cohen 19/11/2010 at 6:35 pm #

        I was coming more from the multi-modal transport angle, i.e. if it gets people away from vehicular transport, then this is a positive. I consider ebikes to be closer to cycles than vehicular transport. As I said, we have this penchant for categorising things, which means something either fits or it doesn’t – personally, I find this a bit inflexible. The new VeloVision ebike magazine is excellent – really good reviews.

  9. Va Hua 22/11/2010 at 10:59 am #

    Many thanks for the review Andreas. I hope you don’t mind if we upload it to our Press review page? http://www.spencerivy.com/testimonials.php

    Electric bikes certainly tend to be heavier than standard bikes due to the additional weight of the motor, controller and battery. To counteract this, we have used a lightweight aluminum frame which brings it down to 21.5kg, lighter than most on the market. It also comes with a foldable handle in the rear rack that eases the load when carried with the handlebar stem in the other hand, instead of like a conventional bike, carrying it by the seat post and stem.

    We are currently working on an Electric Bike Buyer’s Guide- some handy tips on what to look for in an ebike, which we would be happy to post to your readers. Just need to fill in the contact form on the Spencer Ivy website: http://www.spencerivy.com/contact.php.

    Thanks again!

    Va

    • Andreas 24/11/2010 at 12:17 pm #

      You are very welcome – please go ahead and place on testimonials if you wish.

      Looking forward to the Electric Bike Buyer’s Guide – will be having a good look through.

Leave a Reply