I’m not a cyclist, but I’ve always had a soft spot for retro-style cafe racer bikes with clean lines and no unnecessary engineering. A handsome triangular frame, two narrow wheels, caliper brakes, and a beautiful paint job make the bike perfect for cruising around town. Years ago a company, Faraday, had an early hit on Kickstarter with their take on the old school bike that I sadly never got to ride. However, today at the UK Cycle Show, I stumbled upon Quella’s range of retro e-bikes and I’m already smitten.
Their Varsity collection has been around for a while, but the addition of electric options is relatively new. Instead of bolting a bunch of tech to the existing frame, all of the electronics are contained within the Zehus-made rear hub. That includes the battery, the torque sensor, a GPS tracker, Bluetooth, and of course the motor itself, with a maximum power of 250W. The idea is that you should start pedaling and let the bike calculate how much power you need in a given moment.
Changes are missing, both to add a higher level of mechanical simplicity and because that’s how these bikes typically ride. And while it ships as a single speed, it does include a flip-flop axle, so you can convert it to a fixie if you’re, you know, a fixie rider (okay, I won’t judge). What I’m most interested in though is that if you pedal backwards when sliding, you can activate the bike’s energy recovery system to recharge the battery. It’s a great feature given the obvious lack of tech here, and it’s also great for a low-risk bike like this.
This low-stakes feel continues to the fact that it’s really only designed for commuting on level terrain. The pedal assist will only push you to speeds of 15mph, and with 40Nm of torque and no gear, it probably won’t help you on a serious hill climb. But you can edit your speed profile with the companion app, allowing you to switch from low to high power when you need a little more. oomph. The company says you should expect to get closer to 40 miles of range on a single charge, and more if you’re particularly judicious with your use.
If there’s a downside, it’s that you’ll be spending the better part of £2,000 (about $2,475) on one, which is a lot of change. But if you’re looking for something that offers style first, practicality second, and a lightweight frame third, it’s worth a look.