15 Apr Volt Pulse: ‘An ebike that’s both elegant and a pleasure to ride’
Price £1,599, voltbikes.co.uk
Gears Shimano Alivio
Motor 250W SpinTech
Battery 400 or 646Wh
Range 60 or 90+ miles
Almost 20 years ago, Hannes Neupert, known to his many disciples as the Electric Evangelist, wrote Das Powerbike. In it the German cycling advocate stated that the future of urban transport belonged to electric bikes. He then went on to say that: “Electrification will kill the mechanical bicycle,” and that pedal bikes would become “fossilised cult objects”, like typewriters and record players. It was enough to make a grown cyclist weep. Advertisement
His predictions haven’t come true (yet), but last month sales of ebikes in Holland, for instance, outstripped sales of regular bikes for the first time. Here in the UK, sales of ebikes are also rising at a giddy speed, and one of the many firms making hay while the sun shines is Volt.
Based in a light-filled, open-plan office in a historic courtyard near London Bridge, Volt was founded in 2010 by two brothers – James and Lyle Metcalfe. Both keen cyclists, they’d been travelling in China and noticed that everyone was riding early versions of ebikes. Aware that these didn’t really exist back in the UK, they spent a year travelling the country and researching their product, before going into business themselves. It was a brave decision. At that time riding an ebike was seen at best as cheating and at worst as a sort of bonkers social eccentricity. If they’d had £1 for every time they were told it would never catch on…
The brand began life in the family’s garage in Buckinghamshire. After testing bulky and inefficient machines that often had batteries that barely got them round the block, the Metcalfes took up the challenge of reinventing and improving the urban ebike. Rather than simply bolting unwieldy motors and heavy power packs to existing bikes, they started from scratch, designing their frames from the ground up. They believed that just because a bike was electric it didn’t mean it couldn’t look elegant and be a pleasure to ride. Today, Volt is at the forefront of the ebike business and, as far bigger firms add ebike models to their line-up, it is Volt’s pioneering bikes they are often emulating.
or those who live in flats or use caravans, trailer homes or boats, the Volt folding Metro LS is a favourite. But for those travelling a little further to the office, it’s the flagship Pulse that is the bestseller. There is a sweetspot commute of between eight and 12 miles – too far for traditional pedal-pushers but within range of an ebike. Sales are now about 50/50 between men and women and the average age is coming down. It was people in their 50s, but now many are now in their 20s.
The frames are made in Poland and then assembled in the UK. The Pulse features the SpinTech system that uses multiple sensors to connect you to your ride. You can choose between four power outputs via an LCD display unit and the “continuous spin” motor is embedded in the rear hub, while the Panasonic battery sits neatly behind the rear seat stay. It is easy to access and can be charged on the bike or removed.
I’ve ridden many ebikes and the majority disappoint: the power is hesitant and underwhelming. But the Pulse is a joy – smooth, agile and fun. I liked it so much I was tempted to buy one… But I’m not quite ready to turn my beloved road bike into a “fossilised cult object” just yet.