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Road Tested: Ribble Endurance SL E-Road

The thing is, for a long time, I’ve personally resisted e-bikes. No, I am not a snob and I do not look down on people who use them. In my riding group, I’ve seen a couple of people benefit from the use of the e-bike as a recovery machine or as a way to get active after a long period of exercise lull.

I simply didn’t ever picture myself spending multiple days riding one.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve been put on plenty of e-bikes while travelling, because it seems to be such a trend in the cycling tourism industry these days. They do allow more people to access the joy of cycling and give them the freedom and energy to travel further. Yet, none of the bikes I have been given had really caught my attention.

Until the day I unboxed the Ribble Endurance SL e-road bike.

THE LOOKS

First up, it didn’t look like an e-bike. It certainly is lighter than any other e-bike I’ve ridden so far. The racier frame design is slick and aerodynamic. Where’s the chunky battery? Where is all the baggage that comes with making something electric?

The lightweight e-road Ribble – at 11kg that’s not bad for electric assist!

British manufacturer Ribble had make an e-bike out of its popular Endurance SL road bike, maintaining a similar geometry, the look and the feel. Step away to admire it from afar, you could hardly see the power button, the charging port and the slightly chunkier hub on the rear wheel where the motor is hidden. It just looks like any other bike.

My ride, at size XS, is around 11Kg, making it lighter than my personal (cheap) non e-bike. This makes the Endurance SL e one of the lightest e-roads currently on the market and it certainly looks it.

I know it fooled my group when I pulled up for a ride. When I mentioned it was an ‘e’, surprises all round. While the grey palette of the paint job simply adds to the visual allure, everyone wanted to touch it. That’s when you know you’ve got something sexy.

THE UPS

Other than the looks, there are definitely some very attractive features to the Endurance SL e. 

What most people who have never been on an e-bike don’t understand is that the electric assist doesn’t actually ride for you. It isn’t a motorcycle, it’s still a bicycle. The power only kicks in when you pedal, all it does is to make you feel like you have bionic legs.

At first glance you’d think it was a straight roadie, but look closer at the rear hub and you’ll see the motor.

However, those who have experienced some e-bikes will agree that with power comes dangers. There are e-bike drives that can be a little too forceful to start, like a powerful first gear in a car where it jolts you forwards with the gentlest push of the pedal. That’s not good, especially if you are surrounded by traffic, causing unpredictable consequences.

What I love about riding the Endurance SL e, is that the rear motor activates subtly and gradually on assist level 1, providing a more natural sensation to a point where you don’t even feel there is motor assist (while being in awe of how your legs could be pushing so easily). Don’t be fooled though, the assist assisted, for when I turned the corner and faced with an unexpected 10 per cent climb, the bike gave me the power to make it up without breaking too much sweat. That has got to be a plus, especially if you are using your bike for a commute and don’t want to arrive smelling like you’ve not showered for a week.

Electric assist is performed via the top tube button.

Do groupsets feel different when the bike is or isn’t an e? I don’t want to pretend I know the difference, but the shifting of the Shimano 105 is silky smooth as expected. On an e-bike you really do notice these things because you are not really concentrating on your physical power, but the actual experience of riding the bike. Everything felt smooth on my few test rides of Ribble’s Endurance SL e, including the saddle and the thick bar tape. 

The ‘light’ weight also adds to the pleasure of riding. It is an e-bike that doesn’t have to be an e-bike. On a day I didn’t feel like the assist, it is light enough for me to ride it as any other bike. Which makes the expected 3.5 hours battery life last just a bit longer.

Lastly, charging is an easy plug in and go process. There are no batteries to remove, don’t need to get into an awkward position to find the port. The charging port is located on a flattened section on top of the bottom bracket shell.

THE DOWNS

There are three assist levels to the Endurance SL e, although I can’t imagine anyone ever gets to utilise its maximum power without living in the high alps of Europe. Changing between the levels is a simple press of the button on the top tube, but it can only go in a linear direction, so to go from level 2 back down to 1, you’d need to go through 3 and 0 first. There isn’t an easy way to tell which level you are currently riding on other than the feel of the ride or a quick glance at the colour surrounding the button.

 And that’s its major drawback. There is no easy way to see anything to do with the ‘electric’ part of the bike. I would very much like to see at a glance, what assist level I am on, and most importantly, how much battery I have left.

With it’s sculpted headtube and sleek looking this is an impressive steed indeed.

The only way to tell just how much battery is left is by looking up the Mahle MySmartBike App, which you can download to the phone and synced to the bike. I don’t want that, not if I am half way up a climb and don’t want to stop.

Then there’s the small little cosmetic niggle of the plastic cover between the headset and the headtube. It isn’t round. It’s square and fixed to the headset, which means every time I turn the headset it pops out side to side. It’s completely cosmetic, and has no major drawback to the riding experience, but it’s just one of those little things that bothered me.

Although, honestly, if I starting to be bothered about the little things, it means I’ve run out of things to be bothered about.

THE APPLICATION

Going back to talking about never wanting an e-bike, I’ve come to a realisation that there are very practical applications to owning them. For one, it makes a great bike for those recovering from an injury, or have health conditions where they need to avoid doing anything that over exert their heart. It keeps you active without the risk of damaging yourself further, and as you recover and get better, you could try turning off the power from time to time as a way to regain your fitness. 

Charging is performed via a weather sealed plug above the bottom bracket.

Then there’s the matter of using the bicycle as a form of transport, especially for those who live in hillier cities, like Sydney. There are many excuses people use when talking about how cycling un-friendly Sydney is, one of which is because it’s too hilly. Well, here is your solution.

I’ve recently written about my experience returning to Sydney to find a better cycling city than ever. Cycling is a great way to get around, without the stress of traffic jams and parking fees. It makes shorter journeys even shorter, and more pleasant, at the same time keeping you fit and healthy.

An e-bike, especially a quality one like the Endurance SL e, can help battle the hills with you, so that you don’t need to exert the same amount of energy as you would on a conventional bike. It has the added advantage of looking very cool on the road as well.unknown.gif

Bike Base Price: $7690 + freight

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