Sur-ron is a new type of electric bike—but not the usual E-bike limited to 15.5mph.
It has a twist-grip throttle, and motor cycle-style footrests instead of pedals. Designed in the fashion of a rugged off-road mountain bike, it appears primarily aimed toward track-&-trail applications, but with further fitment of a conversion kit of lights, indicators, and a rear number plate, can be road registered as a 30mph electric moped!
So is this our first look into a new future?
The Chinese-made Sur-ron does appear to have a somewhat better build quality than many small motor cycles and scooters that come out of the orient. Its cycle frame is constructed as a pressure die-cast aluminium sectional welded fabrication, with a further cast aluminium section fabricated mono-shock swing-arm. The pressure is adjustable on the mono-shock spring damper, and this one’s set to firm.
The key plugs in just behind the steering headstock, turn on, and the circuits initialise. There’s an LCD on top of the battery pack indicating the level of charge, and a blue light above the key-switch illuminating the charging socket. On the fork crown an LCD speedometer activates, and surrounding status lamps blink, an amber battery light flashes on and off, a blue lights indicator, and the two left & right green indicator warning lamps flash on and off. If the prop-stand is left down, an amber (!) warning light stays on, and the system won’t operate. Put the stand up and the (!) light goes off and the green (ready) light blinks on.
The headlight & taillight have no off–on switch, or beam–dip, and they come on every time the ignition is turned on, so the only switches are for the left & right indicators on the left-hand bar, a horn button, and a red EP(out)–Sport(in) button.
The wheels are fitted with 70/100 × 19 knobbly tyres on alloy rims, and 200mm cycle hydraulic disc brakes front and rear.
The front forks are hydraulic telescopic with adjustable preload and rebound damping, so you can set up all suspension to suit your own requirements and applications for on-road or off-road.
The 6kW electric drive motor is mounted at mid-bottom of the frame, with a synchronous belt driven intermediate reduction pulley to a final chain drive. The 60V × 32Ah Lithium-Ion battery pack is housed in a removable cartridge captive in the frame and requiring the key to unlock, though it can also be recharged without removing it.
So we’re on and ready to go.
For legal road use as an electric moped, the bike functions in EP mode, which delivers the best energy-efficient use for a quoted maximum battery range of around 50–60 miles. This gives a smooth and graduated acceleration which builds up to an indicated maximum speed of 27mph on flat, and can be coaxed up to 28/29mph on downhill sections. It’s a little eerie how everything happens quietly, with little more than some road noise from the knobbly tyres, some whirring from the motor transmission, and a minor background chain sound.
The short brake levers seem rather odd and, because you can’t get your whole hand onto the lever, operate by only two fingers on each hand. This is probably to limit the amount of pressure you apply, because the brakes are so fierce! The brakes are far more likely to surprise you than the bike’s performance. You need to adapt quickly to only light application of even those half-length levers.
OK, Sur-ron goes better than a 15.5mph restricted E-bike, but within just half-a-mile, we were already getting bored. Most 30mph restricted slopeds and scooters have maybe a slightly better performance than Sur-ron, and at least the engine & exhaust sound makes them a little less dull … a cyclist might perceive Sur-ron as a great and green step up, but a motor cyclist could well view it as a big and boring step down.
So what can we do to make it more interesting? Maybe press the red button and try it in ‘Sport’ mode? That may not technically be legal for road use if the bike exceeded its 30mph classified speed, but would be OK off-road, and might still be OK on-road within 30mph? It’s all a bit of a case of neither black or white, but fuzzy grey margins…
Press the red button in at the 27mph top EP speed, and a strong ‘sport mode’ boost kicks straight in to urge Sur-ron on to indicate around 43mph on the flat, and can be teased up to indicate 44/45mph in downhill sections. Throttle reaction feels practically doubled in sport mode, and acceleration is markedly increased. If you’re sitting upright and snap up to full throttle from a standstill, it will readily lift the front wheel and you can find yourself looking at the heavens, so if you want to do a drag start in sport mode, then you’re best advised to lean forward to keep the front end down.
The most effective use of sport mode is just to click it in when you want to keep up the pace in town traffic, which would ordinarily overwhelm the bike in EP at 27mph. EP is just that little bit too slow for most impatient motorists, who will be constantly overtaking and cutting you up (as they do)—only to get stuck at the next lights or junction.
That extra boost allows you to maintain general traffic pace and run with it, rather than becoming a slower moving obstacle.
The effect of full performance in sport mode has the same consequence as full throttle on a motor cycle: it gobbles up the fuel faster. On Sur-ron, it eats up the battery reserve much faster, and will dramatically reduce the range … maybe even halve it, or even less than that! If you travel out some distance and don’t keep an eye on the charge level indicator, you might end up cruising home slowly in EP-mode—remembering you can’t cycle this bike if you run out of electricns, and you can’t fill it up again at the local petrol station!
So, is Sur-ron a glimpse through a window to the future?
Maybe a bit of yes, and a lot of probably not.
The knobbly off-road tyres are part of the off-road image, but they’re inefficient because of the battery sapping drag they create, and that inefficiency also produces a certain amount of road noise.
Many potential riders might prefer a more comfortable and power efficient commuter model, with quieter and smoother riding road tyres, and maybe some practical storage capability instead of the bare bones of off-road styling.
A 50ish-mile range may well suit what many riders would use an electric moped for, in short local trips, then plug-in for more charge.
The better performance does make the E-ped more practical for use, since the 15.5mph electric bike is a bit of a slow irritation to many motorists, and is often treated with disdain by too many car drivers who resent being delayed for just a few precious seconds. The Sur-ron can capably keep up with general town traffic pace, which means you’re likely to get cut-up a lot less.
The legal requirements of registration, licence and insurance are the price of its classification beyond the electric bicycle, and will maybe keep unqualified juveniles off them for road use until they’re old enough…
The writing is already on the wall for petrol-powered vehicles, and you are absolutely going to be seeing more electric scooters and motor cycles appearing in the near future. The big problem is that they’re all going to be disposable machinery once the battery expires, because that’s invariably what happens to all that stuff, since the replacement batteries quickly become prohibitively expensive or completely unavailable. Off-road E-peds like the Sur-ron are likely to get knocked about a bit, and become just as readily disposable as mountain bikes seem to have become today, because few get maintained or fixed, they just get thrown away, and people buy a nice new one.
They’re likely to become just another icon of the consumer society. If anyone buys one on the self justification of being non-polluting, environmentally friendly, and good for the planet, then they’re likely to be fooling themselves because the chances are that it’ll be broken in the bin in far less time than a motorised predecessor.
The realities aside, the E-ped is also a pretty soulless thing to ride, and none is ever going to be a collectable classic. It’s hard to think where IceniCAM might be, if we were reduced to featuring nothing but different makes of soulless E-peds with identical performance in every article, and four times a year. Porridge for breakfast, every day, for ever…