Kevin Brennan is a lifelong cyclist and mountain biker, a regular face at the Monday Night Pub Ride, er, rides and is definitely old enough to know better. So who better to get to test the new Islabikes e-Jimi? The e-bike version of the regular Jimi bike, designed to be a fun all around (and beyond) town bike for a variety of surfaces, particularly suitable for older riders and those with a lack of mobility or confidence on a bike, thanks to its low, step-through design and upright riding position. Over to Kevin:
“It was about two years ago I tried out the non e-bike (normal/regular/pushbike) version of the Islabikes Jimi as I was then, at 63 the nearest to an OAP, baby boomer readily available and still riding, that Chipps and co knew. Even though this wasn’t that long ago, I was a lot fitter and capable then. Now I’m 65, coupled with the fact that my health and fitness took a bit of hit in March, I was quite keen on trying out an E- bike and a chance meeting with Chipps gave me the opportunity to try out this E-bike version of the Jimi, the eJimi”
The eJimi looks virtually identical to the regular, £999 unpowered Jimi. It’s only the slightly larger downtube, the small charging port and the bigger, powered rear hub that might initially give it away.
Looking closer, the eJimi differs from the regular Jimi in that it has 30T chainring instead of a 26T and the brakes have 160mm rotors front and rear instead of 160 front and 140 rear. The Epac motor has four power levels and is in the rear wheel hub which makes the rear end quite heavy even though the entire bike is surprisingly light (around 14kg/30lbs): I found I could pop it on my roof mount as easily as my current full suspension bike.
eJimi battery and hub motor
The battery is fully enclosed and well-protected in the larger down tube. The control unit does not have a screen display as such, it has a single coloured LED with various steady and flashing colours depending on the mode and three vertical buttons, the middle one is the ‘on and off’ button which, when kept pressed, gives you a walk function. The upper button increases the power assist and the lower one decreases it, when the light is blinking it is showing the power assist level and then while it is still blinking the up and down power assist modes can be selected. The light then returns to a steady colour which will now indicate the battery status. There is an ebikemotion app available and is recommended to download to your phone which, when paired to the bike, gives quite a wealth of extras. One thing to point out as the motor is on the rear wheel if you need to remove the wheel for any reason, you must make sure to disconnect all the wires before tearing into a puncture repair.
For my first test ride I decided to do pretty much the route I did two years ago which takes in some of the Mary Townley Loop around Todmorden and Hebden Bridge. So as before, up London Road then, the bike was just as capable as before but with the pedal assist I was going a bit too fast (having not ridden an e-bike before in anger) for the rough terrain on a rigid bike, though once I got used to backing it off a bit in the rough it was a blast. The two riders on Orange Fives picking their way through the top rocky section couldn’t quite believe it, when I went leisurely past them on a rigid bike and me fully dressed in MTB gear, knee pads too (though these are really only to keep my legs warm these days.)
The rocky, loose and cobbled drop down into Hebden Bridge was a lot slower than on my mountain bike, which was the same story as two years ago, but now the first of two niggles surfaced, with my arthritic fingers I needed to adjust the reach on the brake lever, I found this is not easily done as tools are needed and there’s no access to the adjuster without moving the complete levers away from the grip shift or the control unit. I also needed to drop the seat and was disappointed not to have a quick release clamp thus having to rely on my multitool. (A 27.2mm dropper post is an option on the eJimi for an extra £140)
From Hebden I left the MTL and went (actually, I flew up) up Ragley Wood towards the New Delight Inn, great fun, near the top it re-joins the Mary Towneley Loop, so I reckoned I’d have a go at going up what’s affectionately known the B@st@**d (or Vomit) Hill, which is narrow, loose and steep. I’ve only ever cleaned it a couple of times and then some years ago. I didn’t make it this time as I couldn’t keep the speed up through the loose narrow technical parts. A silver lining appeared though as I got to try out the walk function, (Oh how I wish I’d had this aid when pushing, fully loaded, up the steeper side of the Walna Scar Road from the Newfield Inn on my last Jennride), when using the walk function in the narrow loose stuff it reminded me of half running, stumbling as a four year old, trying to keep up with my mum when shopping.
I think in fairness again, I took the eJimi on trails that are outside of its design intent, but it handled it all very well for a rigid bike and with the pedal assistance, great fun, in fact such fun I took it out quite a lot, on average each ride doing about 10 to 15 miles with 1000ft to 2000ft of climbing over one to two hours. The battery life seemed good as I only managed to get it on an amber light (which indicates between 25% and 50% left, the app may give more accurate figure). Plus, the battery seemed to charge up quite quickly. I rode without any assistance for a while and found that it wouldn’t be too difficult to return to base if the battery did run out, the advantage of a relatively light bike.
A more appropriate test came in the form of Mrs B expressing an interest in having a try. First, a bit of history Mrs B had lost a lot of confidence after a broken arm and then a broken collarbone both cycling incidents on our (notoriously slippery, cobbled) canal overflows, she found the step-through frame gave her more confidence as she felt she could get on and off before any mishap occurred, as she attributed her previous woes to the interference of the crossbar on her bike. We first went out over a part of the MTL through Callis Wood, she flew up leaving me hanging out on my ‘acoustic’ non e-bike when I got to the top there she sat with a big grin on her face. I persuaded her to try going down London Load where she rode 90% of it, which is 90% more than she’s done since her accidents. When we got home she was buzzing; ‘Can I sell my bike? Can I get one of these?’.
Mrs B Approves of the eJimi
We went out a couple of more times, even crossing most of the dreaded canal overflows, she then asked if there was one with some suspension on the front as her hands were numb with the harshness of a longish ride, this thought had also crossed my mind: I think that Islabikes is missing a trick with the eJimi not having a front suspension version. Mrs B certainly thinks so, as she would then have one tomorrow.
3 Things that could be better
- It would be great to see a suspension fork option for the eJimi – even for those riders who want to ride the towpath, a bit of damage limitation would really help.
- A dropper post is an option, though a stock option would be even better. But at least fit a seat QR (or offer it an option, Islabikes…)
- Having Everything Mounts on the forks is great, but a downtube bottlecage option would be nice.
3 Things I loved
- The riding position is great
- The motor assistance is subtle and pretty unobtrusive – physically and visually. If you’re after a bit of stealth help, the eJimi is great.
- That low step-through design doesn’t affect the riding, but it’s a huge help for riders with less mobility or less confidence…
Like this idea of the eJimi? Have a look over at Islabikes