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Ten Weeks (and Counting) with an A2B Metro Electric Bike

by BluesCat

BluesCatBluesCat 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.

A2B Metro Electric Bicycle

The A2B Metro wintering in Phoenix

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.

A2B Metro Electric BicycleI 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.

Added Accessories for the older-model Metro

Added accessories for the older-model Metro

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.

A2B Metro's new Panel

A2B Metro’s new and improved panel..

A2B Metro headlight

… and integrated headlight.

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.

Optional Pannier for the A2B Metro

Optional Pannier for the A2B Metro

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.

A2B Metro Electric BicycleThe 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

 
Burley nomad 229

10 Responses to “Ten Weeks (and Counting) with an A2B Metro Electric Bike”

  1. Looks like a blast – but will they be coming out with a recumbent version?

  2. Joel says:

    I wonder if the legal authorities will attack these electric bikes the same way they attacked MOPEDS when they became popular during previous periods.

    This is a nice option for local shopping. These types of machines can also serve as a gateway for riders who are not in shape to get in sufficient shape to attempt a regular bicycle.

  3. BluesCat says:

    Tom – I got a plan for an electrified recumbent. I was originally going to go with a BionX Conversion kit for my ‘bent, but that only electrifies ONE bike, so I think I’m going to go with a Ridekick trailer. That way, I can get an extra trailer hitch plate and throttle for my Giant (my foul-weather backup commuter) and have an electrified bike option for bad weather AND good weather!

    Joel – Yeah, they’ll probably try it in Arizona if the transportation bill that makes it into law is too favorable to us bicyclists. Thumbs up on the “gateway” idea.

    • Ted Johnson says:

      A Ridekick on a recumbent would work fine — as long as it’s a two-wheeler (like yours) or a tadpole.

      I have an extra hitchplate and throttle so that it’s incredibly easy to switch between my wife’s bike and mine. For the recumbent, you may need to a throttle extension cable — which is basically an eighth-inch stereo extension cable like you would use for headphones.

  4. Graham says:

    Perhaps I’m still too young to appreciate it, but I still think I’d prefer something that was more bicycle and less moped.

    Wasn’t there an electric assist motor that connected to the crank instead of the wheel that required you to pedal while it was on? I always thought that was a very clever design as it allowed you to take advantage of your gears and required a smaller (lighter) motor and battery.

  5. BluesCat says:

    Graham – You’re talking about a “pedelec” system. I’m not very familiar with those systems. I understand they are lighter than e-bikes like the Metro.

    I think, though, that more moped-like bikes may make better “car substitutes” and, like Joel said, they make a great “gateway” bike.

    The day I took that picture of the Metro at Starbucks, there was a gal there riding an AOWA e-bike. AOWA’s are moped-like, and she had it outfitted to carry literally everything.

    “It’s my only wheeled transportation,” she said.

  6. That thing is awesome! Would go great with our Travoy for commuting.

  7. Joe O. says:

    My car just died. I have been thinking of going car-less for some time now, but have needed one to do my day to day chores in upstate New York. Dose anyone know how these bad boys handles in the fickle North East? Rain…Snow…ICE?

  8. Peter says:

    No one in the history of electric bicycles has ever owned a bike long enough to ‘want’ to replace the battery.
    They all realize that the battery dies faster and faster – by about 1/2 hour each use.
    The battery is also ridiculously priced to replace. The mechanics of an electric bike are “Made in XXXXX”
    Getting a well made bicycle dwarfs anything you can do an a supposed electric “bike”. Have you ever tried coasting on an electric bike without giving it battery power? Funny, no one is addressing this….mmmm….wonder why… – your brushless motor will spin a few times, your wheel will rotate a few times, you’ll advance 10 feet and grind to a halt. And no, my brakes were not rubbing the rim. I did the same experiment with the rear wheel while the bike was lifted. Try coasting on a well made bicycle, you’ll get my drift. So go ahead, buy one. That’s what keeps craigslist alive.

  9. erik says:

    ive put about 1100 miles on my a2b metro since i bought it used. I own the first model from 2008 and the owner was older and took very good care of it the bike looked mostly like new and he had obviously charged the battery once a month or more which is what they recommend for battery longevity. suspensions a decent no name brand they work pretty well for beign a house brand or whatever. The disc brakes are avid bb5 which is entry level into quality the pads seem to be lasting well so far and I try to go light on the brakes after all this bike only goes 20 mph and feels very stable with the 3 inch wide tire. This bike is tested with a 180 pound rider to do 20 miles all throttle and I do believe that. My bike still goes about 20 miles even though the battery and bike are from 2008 (6 years old now). The only tough part about this awesome bike is that the back tire takes a very long time to change with out a proper rack and even with a rack its no cake walk. I dont know if i would ever attempt to change a tire on the side of the road im still thinking if i would or wouldnt even try. I got a flat tire and my friend picked me up. Bottum line you will want to have someone to pick you up if you get a flat tire in the back, the front tire is obviously much easier and quicker to change. I have ridden this bike in the rain once and got it fully wet and it was fine. It climbs hills impressively well , the charger that comes with it is really good quality and dure able, note.. remember not to turn the pedals while your charger cord is plugged in cause it will hit the connector and could cause damage but .. its tough ive already smashed mine a few times and it didnt even bend. very impressed with this charger. I feel like this bike needs a little more maintainence then others and costs a little more to maintain. The wheels may go out of true a little faster from the weight is my guess this bike weighs around 75 pounds with a single battery. I will be purchasing a new tire soon and they are 35 dollars each which is a bit expensive. The tubes are 9 bucks which is considerably more then a normal bike tube… a2b metro bikes can be tricky to work on I nearly cut the throttle cable just trying to take the back wheel off.. Back wheel weighs around 20 pounds and it was a little tricky to line everything up properly to get it back on too. Basically if you are not comfortable trying to work on this bike you should probably have access to professionals who can work on it. Luckilly I have a local shop but i like to do the basic things myself so I dont have to pay for every little service. I will be getting the wheels trued on her soon by the mechanics and I really love this bike. Time will tell how much money I choose to put into this bike I think everyone has there limit so far its not too bad.

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