I’ve always liked going fast, but I’m keenly aware of the consequences. When I was a child on the ski slopes, I’d spear my way down the mountain on my runs, eating more than my share of snow between the lift lines. As an adult, who more coherently understands mortality, I impose limits on my madness. I want a motorcycle, but I’m willing to concede I’d kill myself on one.
I had some trepidations before testing the Vintage Electric Roadster, an electric bike that scrapes the gray areas of legality with a top speed that approaches 40 miles per hour. But after a few weeks of riding, I’m happy to say my biggest fear is getting a bug in my Cheshire Cat smile. Despite the café racer looks, this doesn’t feel like a motorcycle at all. It’s something more fun and less lethal. There might be no better toy for stir-crazy suburbanites during this pandemic, but its base price of $6,999 will put most people off.
The Vintage Electric Roadster is unlike any ebike I’ve ever ridden. Where other mopeds or motorcycle-inspired ebikes tend to look like something a tanked bro would ride down Venice Beach, this feels entirely more classy.
It’s also made to be ridden more than a few miles. The leather-wrapped handlebars and cushy leather seat are cozy and form-fitting, forcing a classic forward-leaning riding posture. The reverse-mounted shocks in front (meant to mimic the look of vintage motorbikes) are relatively hard to compress without speed, unlike on mountain bikes. Instead, it’s got big donut tires to take the smaller bumps.
Then there’s the weight of it. It’s heavy for an ebike but featherlight for a motorcycle or moped. You can stand up on the pedals, BMX-style, and throw this thing around corners like you’re on a dirt bike. You can slightly lift the rear wheel and do burnouts. You’d never try that on a Vespa.
I also love the built-in lights, which are bigger and bolder than on other ebikes and provide a cool focal point on the front. The attention to detail is exquisite too. There are two hand-stitched leather wraps on the front shocks, designed so your handlebars never ding the finish.
Spend a few hundred miles in the e-saddle, and you’ll discover a hierarchy of bellyaching from “all-natural” cyclists. Pedal-powered spandex lovers are least averse to cargo ebikes. They’re big, and you’re often carrying kids or groceries. Onlookers gaze at you fondly, thinking about the gas you’re saving as your motor helps you up a long, steady hill.
Superpowered electric bikes like this one sit at the opposite end of this spectrum. Even with the hidden “race mode” key removed—a special stainless steel bolt that unleashes the full 3,000 watts instead of the bike-path-legal 750 W—you’re likely going to get yelled at by someone on their Bianchi.
They’re not wrong to be mad. This isn’t really a bike in the classical sense. While you can pedal the Vintage Electric Roadster, you really never do. It’s an 86-pound bike with a single gear and a thumb throttle. In two weeks of riding, I spent more time spinning the pedals backward than forward.