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Gocycle GS review

10 Apr 2019
Verdict:

An intelligent, well-designed holistic answer to city cycling, though we’ll be eager to see a lighter model

Cyclist Rating: 
Price: 
£2,499
For 
Fantastic integration, nice ride quality, intelligent and robust design
Against 
Slightly heavier than some competitors

Gocycle had a headstart on most of the current e-bike contenders, having hit the market back in 2009 with the original Gocycle G1. It shared the same silhouette as the brand’s current GS, and the same principles of bringing style and automotive tech to urban electric cycle commuting.

From the outset, Gocycle challenged cycling conventions with a fully enclosed drivetrain, disc brakes, a single-sided fork and rear dropout, and a modal assembly that offered easy storage.

This GS sits second in Gocycle's line, below the G3. The G3 is identical aside from integrated daytime running lights on the handlebar and electronic predictive Shimano Nexus shifting.

Buy the Gocycle CS from Gocycle 

Founder and CEO Richard Thorpe came from a design position at McLaren, and wished to bring his automotive expertise to the bike market. Integration has been key to the design, starting with Gocycle’s proprietary Cleandrive system.

'The Cleandrive is at the heart of every Gocycle – the only side mounted, multi-speed, monocoque enclosed drivetrain in production today,’ says Thorpe. The benefit of the system is that the chain is protected from dirt or grease, and Gocycle believes a chain will last for tens of thousands of kilometres without servicing.

A clever wheel-hub engagement system allows the wheels to be removed from the disc brakes and drivetrain altogether without any tools. A further example of integration is that the lights are powered by the central lithium battery.

The bike’s motor can be controlled manually, or via a bluetooth smartphone app. The app can alter the intensity and engagement point of the motor. It also displays a variety of information – from charge to mileage and even a power reading from the rider.

‘The industry doesn't work like the car industry,’ says Thorpe. ‘It's made for drivetrain makers to fit to standards of frame makers, to fit to standards of component makers. If you try to do something different, you need to spend a decade setting up your own supply chain just to get into the market.’

My first impression was that this integration all made for an impressive package. I was eager to see how it compared to competing electric folding bikes, but my first surprise was that this is not a folding bike at all.

Low and neat

Gocycle has often been keen to explain that while its bikes have the profile of a folding bike, they have no central fold mechanism, and really are better described as easily dismantled and stowable. Recently that has changed with the release of Gocycle's new GX folding bike, for which the central monocoque frame folds into two. Compressing the GS, on the other hand, is not so straightforward.

Dismantling the GS took me around 2-3 minutes even when I was used to it, and it leaves you with a set of wheels separate to the frame. The entire process can be awkward, as you need to hold the bike while dismantling it. It's neither quick enough, or small enough for hopping onto a rush hour train filled to the brim.

That said, with the seatpost removed and handlebars folded it is a compact package. Not being a multi-modal rush-hour cycle commuter, that stowability was very useful for storing in my living room and office. Crucially, though, this is an electric bike designed for city living, not a folding bike.

So what makes it so attuned to the job?

Motor

Gocycle drives the GS from the front wheel, which is rather unorthodox for an e-bike – normally we’d see a crank based motor or a motorised rear-hub. The GS’s motor is housed inside the front hub and separate to the wheel, which is neatly done. 

The front-hub drive also hugely reduces wear on the chain, and balances the weight of the bike in a slightly more agreeable manner.

The GS uses Gocycle’s proprietary 250 watt motor to drive the front wheel. It bases that output in readings from strain gauges in the cranks to complement the rider’s efforts, so it avoids the binary non-responsive motor-drive of some cheaper systems. For those not familiar with e-bike restrictions – it’s important to clarify that in the UK the motor will cut out at 25kmh, but offer the full 250 watts when below that speed and under strain (climbing, for instance). 

Gocycle’s system is impressive in also offering a rough power calculation from the rider’s efforts, available from the Gocycle app.

Riding it, I was impressed by how intuitive the drive felt. At times I felt as though the bike must have a crank-based direct-drive, and at times it was as if the motor was not there at all.

Of course, there are limitations to the motor. While I felt that it bettered the sensation of the Hummingbird Electric or Brompton Electric, the drive sensation is still considerably more agricultural than the newest Shimano Steps E6100 system, for instance. 

With the Shimano Steps direct-drive motor system it was hard to feel the motor at all, it was as if my legs were simply stronger. It tapered on carefully from a slow speed and then cut off with a gentle reduction in power when approaching the EU limit of 25kmh. But that really represents the gold standard in electric cycling, and is not only large but expensive.

Ride quality

The GS was, simply, a very pleasant ride. 

While the motor isn’t the most advanced out there, it offered a very pleasant boost, and yet it always felt controlled. Coupled with a nice stable geometry and wide tyres, the GS felt as though it did all the work. I was happily able to sit back and pedal over rough terrain and pot-holes.

While the tyres were wide, the contact patch seemed to suit the bike well as it never felt as though I was dragging a heavy set of rubber along with me. It had the efficient feel of a supple set of 32mm tyres on a road bike.

Handling was responsive enough for city riding, but also stable enough for a fast descents, unlike conventional town bikes that can prove a little jittery at higher speeds. The disc-brakes also hugely helped that control. Few other folding-style bikes offer that level of braking.

Despite the weight of the bike, I rode it a little without the motor at all, and found that it was still responsive and spritely enough for a long commute. Though speeds over 25kmh, and steep climbs, did take some real effort.

In terms of running out of energy, I was also pleased to notice that when the motor ran dry, the lights still had several hours of charge – a nice safety precaution to make sure that when the battery runs dry you don’t lose visibility.

Interestingly, Gocycle offer only a single size, with the seatpost extending at a steep diagonal angle to increase the setback as the saddle height goes up. In honesty it’s a crude solution to sizing, however for this style of bike it worked well. At a height 185cm I found the fit in terms of reach amicable, but a 175cm colleague found it just as comfortable.

In terms of the interface with the Gocycle app, I was impressed with the metrics on offer. A calorie count, cadence and power reading offered a little more training insight than we might expect from a bike of this range.


Thorpe stresses that the power accuracy is only within 10%, and admittedly there some odd readings, but while riding I found they hovered around the 200 watt mark, just as I’d expect.

Practicality

The Gocycle wins out on practicality in many ways. It is small when stored, charging is easy, cleaning is straightforward and initial assembly is intuitive (aided by a video on the app).

I was impressed by the quick release system for the wheels and hubs, which was a one-sided mount with plastic quick releases that required no tools, but locked the wheel thoroughly in place. The disc rotor remaining on the hub, and being covered, offered no end of potential benefits in terms of not warping or contaminating the rotor.

As a die-hard roadie, you may ask why I would tolerate using this bike. Well, simply put it makes a lot more sense than a conventional road bike. I didn't have to clean my drivetrain once a week in bad weather, lug my bike through my pokey flat or cycle to work in lycra.

I felt that with the Gocycle GS I could save my road bike for the weekend riding, and be able to preserve as much energy as I needed for genuine training, while still enjoying a quick commute. 

I’m also left thinking that the Cleandrive system is a direction that many commuter bikes should take – exposed chains seem almost antiquated for utility town-riding, especially those limited to single speed or a handful of gears anyway.

So, oddly, I found that while the Gocycle is an affront to a traditional bicycle, it was a perfect compliment for a serious road cyclist working in a city.

Buy the Gocycle CS from Gocycle 

There’s no doubt that Brompton has eyed the same market with its CHPT3 range of folding bikes. But when it comes to electrification, Gocycle is well ahead of the competition. Where other brands are retrofitting electric motors to conventional bikes and folding bikes, Gocycle has only ever designed with a motor in mind.

There is still progress to be made, though. The weight of 16.5kgs is frustrating for those taking the bike up or down stairs, as well as for general handling and riding without the motor. Equally the Gocycle app is better than most, but could be made slightly neater and offer more long-term training data.

The Gocycle GS is certainly amongst the top of the e-bike class, and with the company visibly growing I have a feeling that in the next few years we’ll see something really exceptional from the brand.

Visit Gocycle for more information.