I escaped quarantine on a $2,000 electric bike, and it was the distraction from reality I desperately needed

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Super73 S1. Tim Levin/Business Insider
  • Super73 is a California-based company that’s been building good-looking, retro-styled electric bikes since 2016.
  • I put the company’s S1 model through its paces to see how good the bike is for getting around New York as the city starts to open up.
  • The quick, sturdy, and fun e-bike took me far away from my apartment and put a huge smile on my face in the process.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

As New York creaks open for business, I – like many living in densely packed cities – have been wrestling with how to get around safely over the coming weeks, months, and possibly years until a coronavirus vaccine hits the market. Restaurants, barbershops, beaches, and offices are reopening, but the challenge of how to travel to those places without excessive human interaction remains.

Walking only gets you so far, close-quarters public transit isn’t exactly welcoming, and, like most of New York City’s more than 8 million residents, I don’t own a car.

But as one dainty green e-bike showed me, you don’t need doors, windows, or four wheels to get around in an age where nobody wants to travel in close proximity.

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Super73 S1. Tim Levin/Business Insider

Regular cycling is a great way to get around lots of cities, but it, too, has its drawbacks. While you can cover a lot of ground on a bike, there are only so many miles an average rider can pedal in a given day. Not to mention, some of us prefer not to show up to gatherings – even socially distanced ones – drenched in sweat.

Itching to get far away from my cramped apartment and unsure of when I’d venture back to the subway, I had a feeling that an electric bike might be the ultimate form of socially distant transportation over the coming months and beyond. It would give me all of the convenience of a normal bike, plus some pedal assistance should the need arise.

Super73, an e-bike manufacturer out of California, sent me one of its S1 models so I could put that theory to the test.

Super73 headlight
Super73 S1. Tim Levin/Business Insider

The S1 is part of Super73’s mid-range S Series, slotting between the company’s entry-level Z Series and its sportier R lineup. It retails for right around $US2,000, claims a conservative top speed of 20 mph, and boasts an estimated range of somewhere between 30 and 50 miles depending on terrain, pedal-assist level, speed, and other variables.

A few weeks back, I decided to take the bike on its maiden voyage – a cruise out to Manhattan’s Central Park from my apartment in Queens. After what felt like years under lockdown, it was due time to calm my nerves, get some air, and take in scenery that wasn’t within a 10-block radius of my building.

I figured kicking back in New York’s largest park would do the trick, and the Super73 S1 would get me there.

Super73 drivetrain
Super73 S1. Tim Levin/Business Insider

After pulling out into the street for the first time, I took a few minutes to get used to this odd new machine. I got a feel for the S1’s thumb throttle and its three different pedal-assist levels – basically, you can twist the throttle like on a motorcycle or start pedalling to engage the motor.

Using a small handlebar-mounted display, you can choose between four drive modes: no pedal assist at all, an “eco” mode that provides a tiny bit of assistance, a “mid” level, and a “high” mode that will rocket you up to full speed only using the pedals.

The throttle is always available and I used it for most of my riding, since the bike’s low seat height makes pedalling in earnest damn near impossible – especially for taller riders. Anybody who considers themselves tall should probably spring for the optional extended seat, which provides a little extra legroom.

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Super73 S1. Tim Levin/Business Insider

Although I’ve been biking around New York for years, I was a bit shaky at first on an e-bike. The combination of a touchy throttle and a powerful, 500-watt hub motor takes some getting used to, and I certainly wasn’t immune to the learning curve.

But as I whizzed my way westward toward the bridge that would take me into Manhattan, my confidence built along with my speed. Soon enough, I found myself pegging the bike at its unofficial 25-mph top speed for a few seconds here and there, still wary of going overboard – both figuratively and literally.

A few sketchy run-ins with New York’s famous potholes early on were enough to tell me that the S1 – despite its knobby tires and rugged looks – is best suited for smooth pavement. From then on, I tried my best to lift out of the saddle when the terrain got bumpy, and that seemed to do the trick. Its oversized, grippy tires did, however, inspire a ton of confidence when carving around corners at speed.

Super73 seat rack
Super73 S1. Tim Levin/Business Insider

I suspected that the S1 would begin to show its true colours on the steep Queensboro Bridge, and it didn’t disappoint. What would have been a sweaty slog on my normal bike was, unsurprisingly, a total breeze on the e-bike; the S1 easily whisked me up and over the bridge at 15 to 20 mph before dumping me out on Manhattan’s First Avenue.

That’s where I got my first real taste of what e-biking is like on bustling city streets. I death-gripped my way uptown, dodging delivery bikes, pedestrians, and turning cars – all typical annoyances of biking in the Big Apple that felt even more dicey on the quick and new-to-me S1. Several somewhat chaotic blocks later, I turned off of First and onto a broad cross street, where I was finally able to wind the bike up full speed again.

As I was breezing across East 72nd Street at what was probably a recklessly fast clip, I felt I finally got the Super73. I was having an absolute blast keeping up with cars – passing them, even – and I realised I hadn’t thought much at all about the weighty global health crisis since setting off from Queens. Speeding through the streets was thrilling and mind-clearing; I had no choice but to focus fully on the task at hand, or risk wiping out.

Super73 front wheel
Super73 S1. Tim Levin/Business Insider

Don’t get me wrong – the S1 certainly has its flaws. The bike has no suspension, an unforgiving seat, and tricky geometry for taller riders, but its sketchiness only makes the ride more exciting. Plus, hydraulic disc brakes in front and rear provide more than enough stopping power for when things get hairy.

Then, there’s the novelty factor. That first afternoon on the Super73 S1 showed me just how exhilarating riding a quick, stylish, and sturdily built electric bike can be. As I continued to ride the bike over the following weeks, that initial thrill wore off a bit, but the fun never went away entirely.

The Super73 proved to me how enjoyable and effective getting around New York can be on an electric bike, whether that be for long 20-mile journeys or quick jaunts around the neighbourhood. And while the S1 is undeniably great for getting from A to B, it’s equally fit for letting loose a bit and going no place in particular.

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Super73 S1. Tim Levin/Business Insider

I made it to my destination during my maiden S1 voyage and sat for a few minutes in the park, scribbling down some notes about what the trip there was like. But I was itching to get back on the bike and ride, because for the first time in months, I had a much-needed distraction from the world around me. I set off on Central Park’s main bike loop, intending to follow it for a couple minutes and then head back home.

I zoomed up a path while further getting a feel for the S1, effortlessly passing plodding families and Spandex-clad semi-pros alike. I’m sure I got a few sneers from non-motorised cyclists, and on a different day, I probably would have been one of them. I must have gotten a bit carried away toggling the bike’s settings and putting it through its paces – when I looked up some time later, I realised I had overshot my exit by more than a mile.

But it was no matter. After close to 10 miles of hard riding, the S1 still had plenty of juice and I was more than happy to take the long way home.