- I spent two weeks commuting in New York on the Gocycle G4i+, a $US6,000 ($AU8,289) folding electric bicycle.
- Riding a bike that folds up small and gives an electric boost was a game-changer for NYC commuting.
- The G4i+ made two-wheeled commuting super convenient, and looked great doing it.
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The pandemic has given rise to plenty of habits we’re all too eager to leave behind: masks, fistfights over masks, awkward elbow bumps, and more.
But it’s also sparked, dare I say, positive additions to people’s hobbies and routines amid an otherwise terrible 18 months. Some were blips during the early, frenzied, this-is-going-to-be-a-tough-three-months stage of the outbreak – like baking sourdough bread. Others have stuck around, as evidenced by the huge number of people who started biking when public transit got scary and never stopped.
You can count me in that camp. I always rode around New York for exercise and transport, but Covid kicked that into high gear. Even with a vaccine coursing through my veins and the virus beginning (hopefully) to recede soon, my bike has remained my default way of getting most places. I’d like to keep it that way.
But moving through the city by bike has its downsides. Even with a beefy lock, you can never be certain that your bike will be where you left it. You’re always committing to riding home, lest you become that person jamming their bike onto a packed subway car. And, unless you’re Lance Armstrong, you’re going to arrive places tired and sweaty.
This all may be fine for some people. But I know that if I want to make two-wheeled commuting a daily routine, I’m going to need to consider options aside from my trusty road bike.
I figured a folding e-bike – compact, maneuverable, and with plenty of electric oomph to aid my puny human legs – would solve these problems and make the perfect long-term commuter.
Gocycle, a British maker of high-end folding e-bikes, loaned me one of its new G4i+ models so I could put that hypothesis to the test. I spent two weeks in July commuting from my apartment in Queens to Insider’s downtown Manhattan office – and now I never want to go back to commuting on a normal bike.
High design, peak convenience
Having a bike that folded into a tidy little package when not in use was a game-changer for a host of reasons. And the $US5,999 ($AU8,288) G4i+, Gocycle’s latest and greatest model, collapses quickly and effortlessly.
All you need to do is unlock two sturdy main latches: one that lets the handlebars fold downward and another that allows the frame to fold in half down the middle. It’s all cleverly held together by a little elastic band that hooks the handlebars to the frame.
Every time I got to work, I folded the bike up in a matter of seconds and wheeled it into the office using its seat as a handle. The office building doesn’t allow bikes, but the staff didn’t seem to pay much mind when I would roll or carry the neatly folded-up G4i+ through the lobby.
Being able to easily bring a bike inside wherever I went was huge – especially when that bike was a flashy, expensive machine that didn’t belong to me. Theft problem, solved.
The bike’s compact folded size was a blessing the one time I wound up wanting to take the subway home after a tough workout, but that’s not something I’d do every day. While the Gocycle is miles easier to take on the train than a conventional bike, it’s a bit cumbersome to carry and lugging it up and down subway steps is no walk in the park. At 35.9 pounds (16kg), the carbon-fiber, aluminum, and magnesium G4i+ is lighter than many e-bikes, but it’s not that light.
The G4i+ can fold up even smaller when needed. Removing the seat and a pedal – both of which have their own spots for storage in the frame – gives the bike an even more compact footprint. At home, the folded-up G4i+ could comfortably fit in a corner and stay out of the way, making it loads more apartment-friendly than some of the bulkier e-bikes I’ve tested.
Plus, the bike’s thoughtful enclosed drivetrain eliminates the risk of smearing chain grease on a pant leg or piece of furniture when maneuvering it around.
Folding e-bike vs. New York streets
All that convenience doesn’t come at the expense of ride quality. And the G4i+ has everything you’d expect from a high-end e-bike and then some.
A top speed of 20 mph (32km/h) was plenty for getting places fast, passing slower bikers, and keeping up with cars on less bike-friendly streets. The bike’s petite front-hub motor made getting up and over steep bridges a breeze. If I ever showed up to work sweaty, it was because of the 90-degree heat, not because I was huffing and puffing on my ride over.
An estimated range of up to 50 miles was more than enough for my 20-mile (32km) round-trip commute. And although I never fully tested the Gocycle’s battery capacity, I never came close to running out of energy by charging overnight regularly.
The G4i+ has both pedal-assistance and a twist throttle. I stuck with the pedal-assist most of the time. Like many pricier e-bikes, the G4i+ delivers power using a torque sensor, meaning that the more effort you put into pedaling, the more electric assistance you get. That makes for a natural-feeling ride.
The bike also automatically shifts between three gears depending on the effort a rider puts in. That took some getting used to, but I eventually got the hang of it. I liked having a bit more control over shifting, so I tended toward changing speeds manually using a gear selector on the handlebars.
Pairing the G4i+ to Gocycle’s app allows riders to choose from a few different ride modes or create their own, though I never felt the need to switch out of the default “City” setting. Turn your phone on its side, and the app doubles as a dashboard display that shows speed, battery level, miles traveled, and other key data, which was a nice touch. The bike comes with an elastic phone holder on the handlebars that’s surprisingly secure.
A person riding a folding bike sometimes looks like a bear on a tricycle, and I came in concerned that the small-looking G4i+ wouldn’t fit me. But I found the Gocycle remarkably comfortable, even for a tall person. I could ride for long distances without feeling fatigued in my wrists or neck.
The ultimate urban commuter
The Gocycle G4i+ is a fantastic, well-made e-bike that made moving through New York exceptionally quick and convenient for the two weeks I spent with it. It folded up easily for storage in the office and at home and alleviated many of the inconveniences that keep even the most enthusiastic bikers from riding more.
Plus, it looks great and is packed full of clever touches that show just how much the company labored over every detail. There’s an allen wrench slotted under the seat for on-the-fly adjustments, for example. And the center stand is contoured to the underside of the frame so it folds out of view. A slick LED light bar up front with multiple brightness and strobe settings made me feel safe riding at night.
The main downside, of course, is the bike’s cost. $US6,000 ($AU8,289) could buy you a fleet of decent human-powered bikes, and more than a few solid battery-powered ones. But if this $US6,000 ($AU8,289) bike is the one that gets you to ride daily or drive less, it could be well worth the money in gas savings and other transportation costs.
Plus, Gocycle offers a full lineup of folding bikes, and although they’re all expensive, some can be had for thousands less than the G4i+.
The Gocycle G4i+ was, sadly, more of a blip in my pandemic routine than a mainstay. But once commuting becomes more of a thing and there are more places to go, I may just have to pick one up. Or at least, something like it.