27 Mar Review: Surly’s ‘Big Easy’ smooths out family biking and cargo-hauling
First of all, a quick word on e-bikes: I don’t expect to change any firm opinions that differ from mine, but e-bikes aren’t “cheating” and with a “class 1” e-bike like the Big Easy, you still get plenty of exercise. It’s common for new e-bikers to use the assist sparingly; but the system is design so you always have some level of assist engaged at all times. In other words; you can turn it off, but there’s no reason to.
That said, I didn’t have the key to the battery (to remove it from the bike and charge it) for the first two days. I left the e-assist turned off to stretch out what juice I had. I learned the 1×11 gearing is great and the e-assist is so strong and light that even the lowest “Eco” mode more than compensates for the weight of the motor and battery. People sometimes complain about the noise generated by e-assists, but after riding without the hum of the motor I found it to be music to my ears! Also, it’s a very soft hum to begin with so even if you’re not forced to ride it like an analog bike initially, you won’t find the hum noticeable.
Parts and accessories
E-assist, tires, cargo bags, Kid Corral — there’s a lot of awesome that comes standard from Surly and Bosch (maker of the electric motor) and that can be added to the bike.
I borrowed a medium Big Easy. I’m 5’5″ and my Surly Big Dummy (the non-electric version of this bike) is a small, but the redesigned Big Easy frame fits all riders using just three sizes (S, M, L) to the Big Dummy’s four (S, M, L, XL). If I were to buy a Big Easy, I’d get a small, but the medium worked just fine.
Longtail cargo bikes tend to feel like regular bikes, and this one especially so. On my Big Dummy, I feel a bit of flex if I max out the load weight. The Big Easy however, is solid. I felt no flex, even carrying kids and their bikes. I hear this is partially due to the fact that the mid-drive motor situated in bottom bracket takes up a lot of space so the down tube, seat tube, and boom tube (the one parallel to the ground behind the pedals) are shorter than on my Big Dummy.
Bosch Performance CX drive unit
Have you ever heard the term “It flattens out the hills?” It does, and then some! I can finally talk while riding uphill, I can even answer math questions on hills, breaking my old “No asking mommy to solve math equations on hills!” rule.
The Performance Line CX assist has five modes: Eco, Tour, eMTB, Turbo, and Walk. Since I’m used to being a slow-poke, I spent a lot of my time in Eco mode, especially at the beginning. In Eco mode I found myself traveling 10 mph without even trying. In Tour mode I easily traveled 15 mph, and when I was carrying zero or one kid it felt like the bike was pulling me along. I’m not much of a mountain biker so I didn’t test eMTB mode which sounds fascinating (it automatically switches between Tour and Turbo modes depending on the terrain). And Turbo mode is incredibly fun! Especially when carrying a kid or two up a big hill. It’s easy to go 20 mph (the max) in Turbo mode. All modes require pushing the pedals and don’t do all the work for the rider, but they certainly make it easier and more fun.