Maria and I have been riding the T50e electric recumbent bike around our new hometown in Massachusetts for several months and loving it. This is a review of the bike after loading two of them on the back of our RV for a trip to Maine where we put about 100 miles on the bikes in just a few days. Despite being an owner of the Cruzbike company, this is my honest review, including both the strengths and weaknesses of the T50e.
The first thing I noticed when I lifted the bike off of the ground to put it on the RV was that the rear end has some weight to it. I’m used to the rear end of my other bikes being very light. In this case it’s heavier, but the 39 lb weight of the bike is balanced, with a lot of the weight in the center of the bike, where the battery is located. Once at our campsite, I unloaded the bikes and set them up to charge. Each battery was fully charged in 2-3 hours. Charging is simple: just flick open the waterproof cover on the side of the battery, plug in the charger, and wait until the light on the charger turns from red to green. The charger is “smart” and won’t overcharge the battery. When you unplug the charger, it’s a good practice to close the cover over the plug to keep out dirt and water.
The next morning, we took off on a very hilly route along the rocky coast of Maine. The T50e uses a simple throttle on the right handlebar. There is no sensor at the pedals that requires you to pedal in order to get electric-assist; you just turn the throttle and you take off. This is a great advantage, especially on a recumbent. All recumbents can be hard to get started, especially on a hill, so getting rolling while your feet are still hovering over the ground feels safer and more comfortable. Once you’re coasting along, it’s then easy to bring up your feet to the pedals and begin cranking.
Beautiful waterfront near Jonesport, Maine.
I used the throttle sparingly. It was most helpful getting up steep hills. My weight, including a loaded rack, was about 200 lbs. We climbed some steep dirt roads, where traction would have been an issue, but adding power to the rear wheel with the throttle, while pedaling the front wheel, got me up hills that might not have been feasible for me even with a mountain bike. Having “all-wheel-drive” when you need it is a big advantage. The T50e is not intended for off-road use, but occasionally you might need to take a shortcut through a rough patch and you'll be glad to have both wheels pulling you through mud, sand, or gravel.
Handling a short segment of gnarly trail like this was no problem.
On the way back home, about 18 miles into our trip, the battery started to run out. I would be climbing a hill, and the motor would shut off. If I hit the on/off button twice, the motor would work again, but for a little less time each time I used that trick. Eventually I just left the switch in the off position and road home. I got a great workout, but I would have rather had the battery last longer. On the T50e you can’t go a long way if you want to use the battery a lot. For the technical people out there, the battery is 36-volts and has a listed capacity of 6.4 Amp-hours. That converts to 230 Watt-hours. I didn’t feel like I got the full 230 Watt-hours on the hills of Maine, so my guess is the real-world capacity is somewhat less than that, though I have no way of knowing for certain. Maria went a lot further than I did using battery power, no doubt due to her much lighter weight. On the bright side, the battery is easily detachable, locks in place with a key, and weight less than three pounds.
Other minor annoyances are that the display on the throttle control is difficult, if not impossible, to read in sunlight. I had to find a spot of shade to read the battery level, which is indicated by either 1, 2, 3, or 4 bars. If you only have 1 bar, you better be ready to pedal very soon.
There is no kickstand on the T50e. The T50 has one, which is nice, but the battery holder on the T50e blocks mounting a kickstand. Therefore, I either had to find a place to lean the bike, or simply lay it flat on the ground, derailleur side up to prevent bending the RD hanger. Back at camp this was no problem, because we had good spots to lean the bikes. While away from camp, I could usually find a good place to lean the bike, but a few times I had to lay it flat.
Maria and I discovered a huge wild blueberry field and gorged ourselves. Note bike resting on its side... no kickstand.
Closeup: plump delicious wild blueberries.
The ride quality of the T50e was great. The cushion is thick and comfortable. The upright seat gave me a great view of the scenic coastline, and the bike handled well on corners and bombing down steep country roads. Even when the battery was dead, I still climbed well on the bike, despite the extra weight of the battery and motor.
Our second and third days of riding in Maine were also a blast, although the battery died somewhere in the 15-20 mile mark each day, despite my judicious use of the throttle.
Gearing and brakes:
The front and rear mechanical disc brakes worked great, even with the bike loaded and coming down a hill. The gearing is a simple 9-speed system with a 38T chainring, 11-34T cassette, and 155 mm cranks. I had plenty of climbing leverage, even when the battery was dead, but missed some top-end speed on the occasional steep downhill.
Tires and Tire Changing:
The stock tires that we have been riding on are 26 x 1.75 (44.5 mm), a pretty fat tire, but the tread is for road use, so they don't make a lot of noise on pavement. The maximum pressure is 80 psi, but we rode them at about 65 psi for comfort and traction. If you need to change a tire (we haven't so far) the front wheel is quick-release. The rear wheel, where the motor is, mounts with 18 mm nuts. So carry an adjustable wrench or 18 mm open-end wrench in the event of a rear flat. When removing the rear wheel, there is a short power-cable connection that you just pull apart to separate the wheel from the bike.
What about water/rain on an e-bike?
On the 270 mile RV trip to Columbia Falls, Maine, we drove through heavy rain, and the bikes got coated in rain and wet road grime. While driving at highway speed in the rain, both windshield wipers on our RV flipped off their holders. I had to pull over and find some tools to do a quick repair, getting soaked in the process, but that's another story. We also rode through some rain on our daily trips, and the bikes sat out in the rain a couple of nights, but that did not cause any electrical issues. I was worried there might be a short from all the exposure to the rain, but everything worked fine despite that. When at camp, we always bring our cushions inside to stay dry if there is any chance of rain.
One other advantage worth mentioning is that the T50e is great for teaching people how to ride a Cruzbike. The hardest step for a beginner is getting started from a stop. Having the throttle to get started is a very useful learning aid.
Easy to operate throttle but hard to read the display in sunlight.
If you want to watch a video of the T50 in action, go to https://cruzbike.com/products/t50e and scroll down to find the video “T50e Overview and Ride Along”.
In summary, the T50e is a fantastic short-distance, relatively lightweight recumbent e-bike, ideal for cross-town trips of 5 miles; but don’t expect it to carry you a long distance only on battery-power. If you want to increase the range, carry an extra battery. Also note that the top speed with e-power is only about 20 mph. This is not an e-motorcycle, but a 36-volt e-bicycle with a lightweight Lithium-ion battery. The throttle interface is super-simple and great for easy starts, but you can’t read the meter in the sunlight. The “all-wheel-drive” function opens the door to climbing slippery slopes that would be tough on ANY bike. This is a great "around town" bike, especially for Cruzbike beginners or those wanting a little assistance climbing hills. At only $2600, it's a great value in the e-recumbent market.
We bought two huge lobsters straight off a boat at Beals Island and carried them 15 miles back to camp, where they made a delicious dinner. I'm pointing at the lobsters in the panniers.