Review: Gazelle Orange Pure Innergy (March 2011)
The Orange Pure Innergy (from £1549) is the base model in the electric bike line-up from one of the Netherland’s largest bike makers, Gazelle. Will it be a hit this side of the Channel? We try it to find out. Read the review in full...
Posted by Peter Eland on Thursday 19 May 2011
This review appeared in Electric Bike magazine Issue 2. Click the viewer below to read the review with the original print layout - or scroll down for the full text and images online!
Gazelle Orange Pure InnergyThe Orange Pure Innergy (from £1549) is the base model in the electric bike line-up from one of the Netherland’s largest bike makers, Gazelle. Will it be a hit this side of the Channel? We try it to find out.
» BACKGROUNDWith a history stretching back to 1892, Gazelle have a track record few can rival, and as one of the Netherlands’ (and the EU’s) major cycle producers, they have plenty of commercial weight behind them. All components on their electric bikes are made in Western Europe, they say. They now have a number of dealers in the UK, but the longest-serving is Cycle Heaven in York, who have pioneered selling Dutch bikes to the UK public for over fifteen years. They kindly supplied our review bike.
Gazelle’s ‘Innergy’ electric bikes are divided for the 2010/11 season into four ranges (Orange, Chamonix, Fuente and Medeo) and four specification levels (Pure, Plus, Xtra, Excellent, although not all are available on every range), hence the mouthful of a name. An indication of the scale of their operation is that each of these permutations is available in diamond and step-through frames, and in several frame sizes for each.
Electrically, the Pure models are the simplest, with just a pedal rotation sensor to ‘feed’ the control electronics. Higher models add torque sensing and more elaborate handlebar display consoles. Any of the models can be fitted with a choice of battery: 7 Ah (bronze), 9 Ah (Silver) or 11 Ah (Gold). Prices for the three battery options are £1549.99, £1629.99 and £1669.99 respectively. Our ‘Pure’ review bike had the Gold battery. Batteries are guaranteed to retain 80% capacity up to two years old and 600 charge cycles. Frame and forks have a 10-year guarantee, while for all electrical and other non-wear parts it’s two years.
The Orange Pure Innergy offers two frame sizes in the diamond frame version and four in the step-through design. Our bike had the 49 cm step through frame.
» ON THE BIKEOverall Gazelle have done an excellent job with the styling of this machine – it looks very ‘integrated’. Everything is harmoniously matched, right down to the colour of the cables, the plastic ‘soft touch’ inserts in the brake levers, and through to the green highlights on the grips and carrier elastic matching the frame graphics. It’s also tidy, with cables largely concealed within the frame.
At first glance only the oversized front hub and a bulky rear rack give away the fact that this is an electric bike. Add some panniers, concealing the battery, and it really becomes very hard to distinguish from a normal Gazelle roadster. It’s also the first electric bike we’ve encountered to do without a suspension fork, going instead for a simple rigid fork. This requires no maintenance, saves weight and with such an upright riding position there’s relatively little weight on the front wheel anyway. The plain fork also adds to the ‘normal bike’ looks.
Many of the parts are Gazelle’s own components, for example the brake levers and handlebar grips.
As is typical of mainland European bikes used for daily transport, this Gazelle is kitted out with very full equipment. The transmission used is the well-proven Shimano Nexus 7-speed hub gear, and the entire transmission is enclosed within a plastic chaincase. This keeps dirt and water off the chain, cutting down chain maintenance to a once-in-a-blue-moon event. It also keeps your clothing clear from any chance of contact with the chain. On the low step-through models, there’s also a skirt guard to shield the back wheel.
A full chaincase keeps the chain and your trousers clean.
Brakes are a V-brake at the front (complete with a ‘power limiter’ to prevent it grabbing if you panic stop), and a low-maintenance roller brake for the back wheel. The levers are comfortable Gazelle-branded models, with nicely shaped grips on the bars to support your wrists. What looks like a throttle on the left-hand grip is actually a bell – twist it to ring.
Other items include good long mudguards, a superb wide side-stand and a built-in frame lock which quickly secures the back wheel (it’ll stop anyone riding it off, but use a more serious lock to anchor it to something solid if you’re leaving it unattended).
Frame lock and dress guard: standard on bikes in Holland, not so usual for the UK.
There’s also a rugged rear rack and LED lights front and rear, with the rear light built into the battery pack. They’re powered by the main battery, with two hours reserve even after the battery is ‘flat’.
The battery is a nicely styled aluminium unit, with plastic-lined channels along its length which engage with the carrier rack for a tight rattle-free fit. A locking mechanism (keyed alike with the frame lock) and the control electronics are at the front of the rack, with the cable from this running very unobtrusively down inside the rack tubing to the rest of the bike.
The battery is very neatly integrated: note no obvious wiring.
Finally for the electrical systems, the handlebar display unit is fairly basic, with controls and LED lights for battery status, power level and lights. The charger is a compact fanless type.
» ON THE ROADLet’s get the bike bits out of the way first. Basically, with the assist turned off, it rides like any normal Dutch-style bike. You’re very upright, with most of your weight on the wide saddle, so wrists are relaxed and neck unstrained. In the upright position you do catch the wind rather, so headwinds slow you down, but you get a great view over traffic and many people find it’s easy on the back.
The steering is light and precise, and I never missed the lack of front suspension. There’s no ‘dive’ when you brake, either. Gears and brakes were equally effective. It all just performed well without any fuss, and on the flat at least the weight was of little importance. It’s no heavier than some older steel Dutch (non-electric) bikes I’ve ridden, anyway. Bikes with this layout don’t pretend to be fast, but they’re comfortable and reliable.
Even the motor cables and connector box are colour-coordinated. Rigid forks are simple and light.
So to the electric assist. There’s no throttle or other control: the motor adds power automatically when you pedal and stops when you stop. So pedal away… and nothing happens.
Well, that’s how it seems at first, because this bike’s motor is utterly silent. The assist is also subtle (the unkind might say weak) at low speeds; this means it’s super easy to control, though, as any pull at the steering from the front wheel motor is barely discernable.
It’s more when you’re up to 15 km/h or so that you start to feel it helping you along. Even then, you can’t hear it. I really tried, switching it on and off while riding, well away from traffic, but I just couldn’t tell when it was on or off over the road noise of the tyres and the running of the chain.
The low power at low speeds does mean that you’ll have to do most of the acceleration yourself, and use low gears for hills. Where the assist comes into its own is when you’re cruising along (I imagine a Dutch rider heading into the wind along one of their long, exposed cycle paths…). It lets you keep up a good speed with very little effort, and to converse unstrained with fitter companions.
I asked Cycle Heaven about the apparent lack of power, and they explained that the Pure’s assist system has been deliberately ‘detuned’ by Gazelle, to around 70% of the power it reaches on the bikes higher up the range. This is because with the Pure’s fairly basic control system (just a pedal rotation sensor) full power at low speeds might cause motor overheating. I am rather surprised that a more elegant solution couldn’t be found.
I suspect a louder motor might have felt more powerful, just because the brain’s conditioned to perceive it that way. Also, I’m a heavy rider at around 95 kg, and lighter riders will be accelerated more dramatically by the power it delivers.
Nonetheless, I think it’s fair to say that this is a bike for those who can and want to pedal, with some assistance. It’ll maintain your fitness more than most, while taking the drag out of longer stretches.
The 11 Ah ‘Gold’ battery seems to last for ages, certainly 60+ flattish urban miles with a heavy rider, perhaps because the bike encourages a considerable pedalling contribution. The weight at the back of the bike was only really noticeable when lifting the machine, not helped by there being no obvious grip point near the centre of gravity.
As a commuting machine I enjoyed using the Gazelle: the upright position encourages a laid-back approach to speed and traffic, and it’s a machine on which I tended to arrive relaxed.
» SUMMARYThe absolute silence of the Gazelle’s electric assist was a real pleasure: sometimes you don’t want to draw attention to yourself. It’s also excellent when you’re riding in a group: no unsociable buzz to compete with conversation, or to mark you out as the one who needs a helping hand.
The bike itself was also as polished and robust as you’d expect from one of the Netherlands’ most popular brands: components are solid and smart, with every detail evolved for long life, low maintenance and ease of use. I could find absolutely nothing of significance to complain about – not something that often happens for a nit-picker like me.
Various upgrades might be nice: a more informative handlebar display, for example. But you can go for a higher model in the range if you want that. As it is, the bike’s equipped to an excellent standard for everyday use.
The only real reservation is that the silence comes at a price: sheer power. This isn’t the machine to choose if low speed acceleration or hill-climbing is your priority. The power is delivered gently and subtly, ideal for the less confident rider, and it’s very much assistance for your pedalling rather than a replacement.
Overall, the Orange Pure Innergy delivered a lot of sophistication for the money. It’s not a cheap bike, even without the ‘Gold’ battery, but I doubt the quality will disappoint any purchaser.
» SPECIFICATIONWeight (inc batteries): 24.8 kg
Battery weight: 3.55 kg
Bike only weight: 21.25 kg
Charger weight: 0.58 kg
(inc. mains cable)
Battery type: Li-Ion
Battery capacity: 396 Watt hours (11Ah 36V)
Gearing: 7-speed Shimano Nexus hub gear.
Brakes: V-brake front, Shimano roller brake rear.
Lighting: front LED, rear LED
Accessories: full chaincase, carrier rack, frame lock, dress guard, mudguards, stand, bell.
Price as tested: £1669.99
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