BluesCat is a resident of Phoenix, Arizona, who originally returned to bicycling in 2002 in order to help his son get the Boy Scout Cycling merit badge. His bikes sat idle until the summer of 2008 when gas prices spiked at over $4.00 per gallon. Since then, he has become active cycling, day-touring, commuting by bike, blogging (azbluescat.blogspot.com) and giving grief to the forum editors in the on-line cycling community.
It’s hard to believe that I’ve had the Ultra Motor A2B Metro electric bicycle for almost ten weeks. Time does fly when you’re having fun, and I’ve had an absolute blast riding this bike.
As loyal readers of may recall, Commute by Bike would have put the Metro in storage unless they could find someone in Phoenix to ride it for the winter and write a review on it. The tires on it are just not suitable for the icy streets in Flagstaff. I jumped at the chance, as I said in my initial impressions: A2B Metro Goes South for the Winter.
I admit, I had an ulterior motive: through most of November and December I had a nagging pain in my right knee. I was actually gingerly jumping for joy at the prospect of being able to give that knee a rest for a while by having an electrical assist to pedaling. Heck, I would have jumped for joy at the prospect of riding a Suzuki Hayabusa for the winter if one had been offered! As a result, I was not too dismayed when I discovered how heavy the Metro was. I had heard that a lot of e-bikes have pedals just so their owners can avoid having to pay motorcycle registration and insurance; they are so heavy you aren’t really expected to pedal them. What I discovered is that the Metro is actually a pretty fair pedaling bike.
But to be a commuting pedaling bike, it must be outfitted it to carry stuff and negotiate the Phoenix streets safely.
The bike comes standard with fenders, which are a luxury for Phoenix commuters, but an understandable, necessary feature for almost every commuter everywhere else. I got a handlebar-mounted bottle cage, since there are no threaded bosses anywhere on the Metro frame to put a cage. I also added an inexpensive bike computer and light set.
Ultra Motor’s new Metro comes with an integrated tail light and headlight and a dashboard array with a digital speedometer, trip odometer and battery meter.
The older Metros have a little Christmas tree display for the state of the battery. With a fully charged battery, all three lights are on: green, gold and red. When the battery charge goes below about 45 percent, the green light shuts off; below around 30 percent the gold light shuts down; when battery power power is below 20 percent the red light starts to flash and power cut-off is imminent. Unless you are riding a distance of better than ten miles each way, I think the little Christmas tree works just fine, but the graduated digital meter on the newer A2B’s is definitely an improvement.
I have a set of Jandd Economy Panniers and a Jandd Rear Rack Pack II that I switch between my recumbent main commuter and my backup Giant mountain bike. These bags fit on standard rear racks, and I was pleased to discover they fit just fine on the A2B Rear Carrier optional rear rack.
I also received two optional Ultra Motor bags for the A2B: a shopping bag and a commuter-bag. I decided to use these bags instead of my Jandds. The shopping bag is a water-repellent polyester bag with a large shower cap rain cover for inclement weather. The commuter-bag is a huge, 20 liter (1,220 cubic inch) 100% water proof bag. I have to say that the big commuter-bag spoiled me, and I’m going to buy a big Vaude commuter pannier to replace one side of the Jandd panniers.
Another thing which spoiled me was the electric motor assist, although it took a little getting used to.
Unlike on a motorcycle, the entire right grip is not the throttle, but just a one-and-a-half-inch ring next to the brake lever mount. So you use the first two fingers to work the throttle, and the last two fingers to work the brake lever; bass-ackwards from the way most riders use their right hand on a motorcycle.
I found that by wedging the webbing between my thumb and forefinger down against the throttle ring I could give just a slight, constant “blip” to the throttle without having my hand tire. By spinning with my normal pedaling pressure, and having this slight assist from the motor, I was hardly working on my ride with this heavy bike fully loaded.
The range of the Metro is supposed to be 20 miles but, using the technique I just described, when I would complete my 16-mile round trip to work and back, I never fell below 45% of battery charge left. And most of the time I was scooting along comfortably at a respectable 16 to 18 mph.
The ride of the Metro is much more motorbike-like than bike-like, owing to the weight of the bike and those small, wide 20-inch wheels and tires. The smooth Kendas are great tires for a dry, desert city like Phoenix. But if I was going to commute on the Metro in Flagstaff, I’d get a set of moped tires with a much more aggressive tread.
The saddle is okay, it could be slightly wider. I put a faux sheepskin cover on the seat and didn’t feel any “taint complaints.”
I think there are a couple of markets which make sense for the A2B Metro. The first would be that group of people who are just on the cusp of either going completely car-free, or reducing the family auto collection down to just one vehicle from a Mom+Pop, two-car fleet. The Metro would be perfectly happy taking up a fraction of the carport space of a car, and could do just about every errand and commute the typical urban dweller does, with a couple of caveats.
I don’t think you want to do multi-modal commuting on the Metro. I’m in pretty fair shape, but I would not want to try hefting the Metro in and out of the front-bumper rack on a city bus. And if you live or work above the ground floor, you’re going to need an elevator if you take it up to your home or office.
The weight of the bike is actually an advantage when it comes to securing it. Just wrap a cable lock down through the chain stays and to the bike rack, and take the key with you. A thief won’t be able to use the electric power to ride away, and if he throws the bike into the back of a van or pickup truck, the police can simply catch up to him at the nearest hospital: he’ll be the guy checking in for emergency hernia surgery.
The other group of people who would do swell with the Metro are folks who are genuine bike commuters, AARP age, who like the idea of having a little power assist when knee pain or laziness invite them to use the car to go to work.
I wonder how I could convince Commute by Bike I simply misplaced a $3,000 electric bike …
“I know it’s here somewhere. Maybe I’ll find it by the Fall. Hey, then maybe we should keep it here in Phoenix for next winter, eh?”
The A2B Metro E-Bike — the new model with the integrated lights and an improved control panel — sells for $3,099.00