Review: Juicy Bike Sport 2011 (March 2011)
We review the Juicy Bike Sport, an all-purpose machine towards the top end of the ‘budget electric bike’ spectrum. 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!
Juicy Bike Sport 2011We review the Juicy Bike Sport, an all-purpose machine towards the top end of the ‘budget electric bike’ spectrum.
» BACKGROUNDBased in the Peak District town of Buxton, Juicy Bike is an off-shoot of Eco-Republic, a shop which sells all sorts of environmentally-focussed items to the local and visiting population.
Founded and run by Bob Wales, formerly Head of the Faculty for Engineering and Computing at Derby University and manager of an eco-homes development in Buxton, the business has now been running for several years, importing a modest range of electric bike models direct from China. Bob travels several times a year to visit the factories, and to liase with Juicy Bike’s local quality control manager, who provides on-the-spot, ongoing checking before the bikes are packed up for their journey to the UK. Bob told me that he’s selected Juicy Bike’s manufacturing partners in China carefully, with working conditions, attitude and quality as higher priorities than price alone. Juicy are also members of BEBA, the UK electric bike industry association, so bikes can be serviced under warranty or otherwise at any BEBA dealer.
In the UK, the bikes are sold direct from the shop of course, and also via dealers in Bristol, Preston, Whaley Bridge and shortly London, Hastings and more. Juicy Bike can also send them by mail order to any UK destination. If a problem develops which cannot be easily resolved at a distance or by shipping replacement parts, Juicy Bike will try to work with a local cycle dealer to provide a solution, and failing that, they’ll have the machine collected for repair.
All bikes have a one-year warranty, including all electrics and the battery (no specific percentage of retained capacity is quoted). Spares are held for all machines and can be ordered online, including spare 36V 10Ah batteries at £198.
Our test bike, the 2011 ‘Sport’ model, retails for £789 (£739 if ordered online), plus shipping if applicable (usually £30). An extended range version with 14 Ah battery comes in at £859. Other models include the Dutch-style ‘Classic’ at (with a very upright riding position, new models arriving in April) and a 20"-wheel folding bike, both also at £789. Power-assist kits, using components similar to those on the bikes, cost £435. Juicy also offer a (no pedals) 3 kW electric scooter.
» ON THE BIKEBob delivered our review bike in person, so it arrived fully assembled. Mail order customers whose bike arrives in a large box normally just have to straighten the handlebars and attach the pedals; the bike will have been pre-checked by Juicy before dispatch.
The Sport has a distinctive frame, with striking curves ‘crossing over’ at the front. It’s made in aluminium, TIG-welded and polished with a clearcoat finish. The welding and finish is generally tidy. There’s just a single frame size, but this does cover a wide range of heights. The frame itself is fairly low, ideal for shorter riders, while the long seatpost means it adjusts well to my height (6' 2") or taller.
Cable guides are welded on to keep the neatly-wrapped wires running close to the frame as they lead from the handlebars to the control unit near the pedals. Keeping the wires outside the frame (rather than running them internally, as some others do) makes maintenance easier, arguably at the cost of a slightly less tidy appearance.
An aluminium-cased 36V, 10Ah lithium battery fits down behind the saddle, which is fitted to a suspension seatpost via a tilt-up hinge – so removing the battery for charging is easy. There’s the usual key mechanism for battery release, and a button to activate the on-battery charge level indicator LEDs. The key is held captive in the bike while it’s switched on, so it can’t be kept on your usual key-ring.
The key is held captive while the battery is switched on; note how it folds for extra clearance.
The control electronics are fitted below the battery, and joined to the motor in the rear wheel via a connector block – handy for rear wheel removal, but alas protected by poorly-fitted heatshrink. The motor itself is the widely used and reliable Bafang brushless unit for 26" wheels.
The Bafang motor is a well proven and widely used component.
So to the wheels, and these are well built with stainless steel spokes, deep section alloy rims and wide, smooth tyres. Wheels can have a hard life on an electric bike, so it’s good to see decent ones here.
Additional cushioning is provided on the front by some basic suspension forks, with no obvious adjustments possible (to cater for differing rider weights, for example). A suspension seatpost is also fitted, and its spring tension can be adjusted if need be.
Brakes are mechanical ‘Zoom’ units, of which more later. The gears are a six-speed Shimano derailleur set-up: quite a good choice, given budget constraints. Rather than go for a more impressive-sounding 8 or 9-speed transmission but compromise on quality, Juicy have stuck with the brand leader Shimano and gone for ‘old-fashioned’ six-speed. With just six sprockets to squeeze onto the back wheel, tolerances are less strict, so it’s likely to be a robust and easily adjusted set-up.
Six-speed derailleur gearing from Shimano should be a reliable choice. The thin wire you see tied to the frame leads up to the rear LED light.
So to the accessories. Metal mudguards are supported rattle-free on stainless steel stays. The front one is a bit short to my eyes – it won’t prevent mud being thrown onto the bottom bracket area where the control electronics live. Also pre-fitted is a rear rack, complete with a spring clip for small loads.
LED lighting front and rear is also good to see – the ‘bulbs’ last effectively for ever, unlike the older halogen type, and they’re much more efficient. A push-button on the handlebar operates the lights, driving them from the main battery.
Finally, there’s a useful side stand, a cute ‘compass’ bell and a bottle cage, somewhat awkwardly positioned within the frame.
Naturally a charger comes with the bike: this one is compact and light enough to take with you if necessary.
» ON THE ROADFirst ride with the Sport was very encouraging: the motor pulls you along decisively with a muted hum, with a power easily set via the progressive twist-grip throttle. But what surprised me more was the ride quality: with those wide tyres inflated moderately, they act as excellent suspension. So much so that for a future model it might be worth Juicy considering dropping the suspension on forks and seatpost, and investing the saved pennies elsewhere.
Neither component impressed anyway: the seatpost would ‘stick’ and release disconcertingly on speedbumps and the like, and I’m not sure it did much for comfort. The front forks did perhaps do something useful on bigger ‘hits’, but they also didn’t seem particularly responsive.
The brakes did stop the bike effectively in all weathers, but they lacked any sort of distinct bite point, giving poor lever feel. It was also hard to adjust them to bite without also rubbing (and slowing you down). If you live somewhere hilly I’d recommend replacing the front one at least with an Avid BB7 at a cost of £50 or so (if you fit it yourself).
To my taste the flat handlebars were less than comfortable, and if you feel the same then Juicy can swap them for a more swept-back model. Adding ergonomic grips would also help.
But none of these are show-stoppers, and I really enjoyed commuting on the Sport for a few weeks. The power assist whisks you along, pulling you up from a standstill right up to the 15 mph full speed briskly and holding just below that even into the wind. Steeper slopes first slow it down, and then will eventually defeat the motor alone, but the bike has low enough gears to get over almost anything with some modest pedalling. The gear range also goes high enough to let you pedal along usefully in top gear if you want to contribute, saving a bit of battery and keeping you warm. The gear change is clunky but positive via the thumb-shifter unit.
There’s a thumb-operated shifter for the six-speed gearing, and the usual 3-LED battery status display alongside the throttle twistgrip.
If you want more exercise, or have managed to run the battery flat (best avoided if at all possible!) then the Sport does ride pretty well unassisted. It feels heavy, of course, but it rolls along well enough to get you home.
Several weeks’ use was enough to expose a few issues with our bike, however. First the battery pack rattled annoyingly; this turned out to be due to a loose screw which would re-loosen even when tightened. A bit of threadlock would fix it. The same fix might be required for the angle-adjustable stem, which kept working just very slightly loose despite my best efforts with an Allen key. Juicy say both issues will be fixed on the next batch of bikes.
A more serious issue, although likely a one-off for our particular machine, came towards the end of the review in the form of a loose pedal; the threads in one of the cranks had stripped. Juicy had their mechanic phone me, offered to replace the crankset from stock forthwith, and even arranged with a local bike shop to do the swap. But as the review was pretty much done it seemed simpler to return the bike to Juicy. For a ‘real’ customer a problem like this might be an inconvenience, but these things happen and Juicy did go the extra mile to fix it fast and with minimum hassle.
During the review, the battery reliably delivered commuting ranges around 30 flattish miles, as promised in the specification. Hills could cut that in half or worse, of course, especially with a heavy rider.
» SUMMARYJuicy Bike have positioned the Sport in the middle zone when it comes to pricing and quality – above the super-cheap electric ‘bikes’ at £500-600ish, but below the £1000+ level of machine. It’s certainly fair to say that the efforts made by Juicy to source good yet affordable components raise it above the ‘generic Chinese import’ level, even if it does look rather like one. Compared to some similar machines I’ve seen, the function and finish of the parts is indeed a step up.
It went rather well during the test, too, with the wide tyres providing a vibration-free, comfortable ride, and full equipment catering for everyday use, with just a few component quibbles to complain about. I’d probably ask Juicy to swap the handlebars for ones offering a more comfortable grip, but that’s a minor point. The electrical system provided good, reasonably quiet, effective assistance (with or without pedalling) on even quite steep slopes. Stopping was OK but less convincing, with the supplied disk brakes an obvious target for an upgrade.
Longer-term, it’s harder to say. Cheaper electric bikes don’t have a fantastic track record historically, but I’d hope this would rise well above the average. There’s a committed company behind it, with what seems to me a sincere interest in quality and in providing back-up. But the simple laws of ‘you get what you pay for’ mean that you shouldn’t necessarily expect either bike or battery to have the same longevity or pleasure-of-use in hard service as a more costly machine.
Then again, there’s a warranty to fall back on, and spares are cheap (and Juicy are committed to holding stocks for several years), so you could keep the electrics going affordably even well after the warranty expires.
You do need to be realistic in your expectations: this is a bike carefully assembled to come in at a price point where every penny counts. It doesn’t offer exactly stellar performance in any area, but it’s to Juicy’s credit that it doesn’t fall down below an acceptable quality level in any, either.
If you’re looking for a budget machine, the Juicy Sport definitely seems to be one of the better ones on the market, and it should serve many riders well.
» SPECIFICATIONWeight overall (inc batteries): 24.3 kg
Battery weight: 4.8 kg
Charger weight: 0.45 kg
Battery type: Li-Ion
Battery capacity: 360 Watt hours (36V 10Ah)
Gearing: 6-speed derailleur (Shimano), 14-28T, 48T ring. Ratios 44-88".
Brakes: ‘Zoom’ mechanical disks, front and rear
Lighting: LED type front and rear, powered from main battery
Other accessories fitted: Mudguards, carrier rack, stand, bell.
Price as tested: £789 (£739 ordered online).
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