“Dad, I know an electric car is trying to save gas, but what is an electric bike trying to save?” Before I even started testing the Hero Lectro F2i electric bike, this question from my 10-year-old son made me wonder what I really wanted from a bike that didn’t need to be pedaled.
Interestingly, the opportunity to review the Hero e-bike arose around the time I had started toying with the idea of buying a bike to boost my cardio level. So I also wanted to be sure what it means to own a bike that is both battery and battery operated.
The Hero Lectro F2i came in a box not much bigger than a big screen TV. However, I chose not to assemble it myself and got help from the company to set up the bike. DIY bikes weren’t a thing when I owned one a few decades ago.
The design is a bit different, as the alloy frame is thicker than regular bikes to accommodate the battery. However, that doesn’t make the F2i much heavier, and I could easily handle the task of lowering the bike from my fifth-floor apartment whenever I wanted to take it for a ride. On the handlebars there is a small unit that turns on the battery-powered part of the bike. Yes, you can ride a bicycle without only using the pedal like a regular bicycle. On the right is a seven-speed drivetrain from Shimano.
To start the bike, you must press the RFID key on the control unit. That’s one thing I didn’t like about the bike and it tests your patience every time as it sometimes refuses to run. But it does in the end, always. It’s all about perseverance.
This device has a power button, a battery level indicator and a mode selector to change gears. You can also choose to switch entirely to manual. There is also a button for the front light here. Once the controls are activated, the Hero Lectro app on your phone can also take over the bike. It can also record a trip with distance traveled, speed and other values. But you have to remember to do it manually on the phone every time you start and end a ride. For me it didn’t work properly and none of my rides were logged on the app. However, I managed to easily achieve the same on the Apple Watch.
Driving the Hero Lectro F2i was more than fun. It works like a regular bike with gear when you use your own power to run it. And being an ATV, I could take it on light dirt roads near my house. The F2i has pretty good suspension that made it easy to negotiate some bumps.
But the magic happens when you turn the ring on the right handle and it switches to battery power. So you will double the speed of what you would have achieved with the pedal, especially for a pilot like me. In fact, I was not prepared for this on the first outing. As I pedaled hard, as I switched to the drums, I could feel the cold air piercing the sweatshirt and the wind numbing my ears. It was a short ride.
But soon I was back for more, with the right outfit to ride an e-bike through the Delhi winters. This time I took the bike for a 10km ride where I pedaled every time I felt guilty about using the battery and returned to the battery whenever I felt tired from pedaling. And that’s when I realized how convenient an electric bike can be. Like when you try how far you can go on your own and come home on battery power when you’re tired. Also, during the ride, I saw that the Apple Watch saved a decent calorie burn for my efforts, as I was using the pedal more than intended.
With modes, you can wander around new parts of town in slow mode or head to the nearby market to get something fast in fast mode. Interestingly, these are assist modes and you reduce the manual effort needed, but you still have to pedal. The throttle 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 motorcycle. Gears aren’t really useful when you’re in battery mode and are best kept in one slot for the duration.
There is also something very unnatural about using an e-bike. For example, I will not forget the look of some people who saw me climb a bridge without pedaling. Then there were a few times I overtook cars and they weren’t very happy either. That said, the Hero Lectro F2i is not that fast and stays at a very safe speed even at full torque. Still, I would recommend a helmet while driving. Then there was off-roading, where the extra power comes in handy to get you out of a ditch or muddy spot with little effort.
The battery lasts about 35km and that’s a lot in my experience. A 10 km trip only used about 3 km of this quota. So with a full charge you should be able to handle a week of rides, unless you stop pedaling altogether. It takes about 3-4 hours to fully charge the bike and that’s where I had the biggest challenge of living in an apartment building – I had to charge it at home and that too indoors because the charger doesn’t There’s no long cord and I don’t have power outlets in the hallway.
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 considering the price of around Rs 39,999. After a bit of thinking, I came to the conclusion that it could be someone like me looking to do cycling but who is not sure if he has the stamina to get home on his own. But if you can afford it and love the outdoors, then it’s an investment that will pay you back in a few jaunts through fields of green and yellow mustard, your legs resting comfortably on those pedals.