Updated: January 21, 2022 3:13:24 pm
“Dad, I know an electric car is trying to save petrol, but what is an electric bicycle trying to save?” Even before I started reviewing the Hero Lectro F2i electric bike, this question from my 10-year-old son had me asking myself what I really expected from a bicycle that does not need to be pedalled.
Interestingly, the opportunity to review the Hero electric bike presented itself around the time I had started toying with the idea of buying a bike to push up my cardio levels. So I also wanted to be sure what it means to own a bike that works both on human and battery power.
The Hero Lectro F2i came in a box not much larger than that of a large-screen television. However, I chose not to assemble it myself and got help from the company to set up the bike. Self-assembling bikes was not a thing when I last owned one a few decades back.
The design is a bit different, given that the alloy frame is thicker than regular bicycles to accommodate the battery. However, that doesn’t make the F2i much heavier and I could easily manage the task of taking the bike down from my fifth-floor apartment every time I wanted to take it for a ride. On the handlebar there is a small unit that switches on the battery-operated part of the bicycle. Yes, you can ride the bike without this using just the pedal like a regular bike. On the right is a seven-speed drive train from Shimano.
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To start the bike you need to tap the RFID key on the control unit. This is one thing I did not like about the bike and does test your patience every single time, as it just refuses to work at times. But it does in the end, always. It is all about persistence.
This unit has a power button, an indicator for battery level and a mode selector to shift speeds. You can also select to go fully manual. There is also a button for the front light here. Once the controls have been switched on, the Hero Lectro app on your phone can also take charge of the bike. It can also record a ride with distance covered, speed and other values. But you have to remember to do this manually on the phone every time you start and end a ride. For me, this did not work properly and none of my rides was recorded on the app. However, I did manage to get the same on the Apple Watch easily.
Riding the Hero Lectro F2i was more than fun. It works like a regular bicycle with gear when you are using your own power to run it. And being an MTB, I could take it into some light dirt roads near where I live. The F2i has a pretty good suspension that made it easier to negotiate some of the bumps.
But the magic happens when you turn the ring on the right handle and it switches to battery power. Suddenly you are going a double the speed of what you would have managed with the pedal, especially for a rider like me. In fact, I was not prepared for this during the first ride. While I was okay pedalling, as I switched to the battery, I could feel the cold air pierce the sweatshirt and the wind is make my ears numb. That was a short ride.
But soon I was back for more, with the right attire to take on an e-bike ride in the Delhi winters. This time I took the bike on a 10-km ride where I was pedalling every time I felt guilty of using the battery and switching back to the battery every time I was feeling tired of pedalling. And this is when I realised how an e-bike can be handy. Like when trying how far you can go on your own and swishing back home on battery power when you are tired. Also, during the ride, I saw that the Apple Watch has recorded a decent calorie burn for my efforts as I was using the pedal more than I had expected.
With the modes, you can stroll around checking out new parts of town in the slow mode or whizz to the nearby market to get something quickly in the fast mode. Interestingly, these are assistive modes and you the reduce the manual effort needed, but you still need to pedal. The accelerator works even when it was not in any of the three modes and has the same torque throughout, you just need to accelerate by turning the ring as you would on any motorbike. The gears are not really of use when you are in battery mode and it is better to keep them in one slot for the entire duration.
There is also something very unnatural about using an e-bike. For instance, I won’t forget the look on the faces of some people who saw me go up an overbridge without pedalling. Then there were a couple of times I overtook cars and they too were not that happy about it. That said, the Hero Lectro F2i is not that fast and stays within a very safe speed even when on full torque. Still, I would recommend a helmet while riding this. Then there was the off-roading, where the extra power comes in handy to pull yourselves out of a ditch or a muddy spot with little effort.
The battery lasts about 35km and that is a lot from my experience. A 10-km ride used up only about 3km from this quota. So on a full charge, you should be able to manage a week of rides, unless you are going to keep off pedalling completely. It takes about 3-4 hours to charge the bike back fully and this is where I had the biggest challenge living in an apartment block — I had to charge it at home and that too inside as the charger does not have a long wire and I don’t have plug points in the corridor.
The Hero Lectro F2i is an interesting bike that gives you the best of both worlds. But who is the ideal customer for such a product beats me, especially given the price point of around Rs 39,999. After a bit of contemplation, I came to the conclusion that this could be someone like me who is looking to take up cycling but is not sure if they have the stamina to come back home on their own. But if you can afford it and love the outdoors, then this is an investment that will repay you in a few rides cutting through green and yellow mustard fields, your legs cosily rested on those pedals.
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