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I had to say goodbye to my Gocycle a few weeks back. It was sunny in Brooklyn's Prospect Park, the wide-stretching landscape of rolling hills, ponds full of turtles and geese, and constant, constant barbecues that provided such indispensable refuge during isolated times. I was allowed one final ride on my (or rather, formerly my) folding e-bike, which I’m referring to as “the Cadillac of E-Bikes” because it sounds sharp, but it should really be compared to the McLaren, since the gorgeously sculpted marvel of carbon fiber transportation was designed by the guy who used to be a design engineer for the British super car company.
I’m not riding with Gocycle founder Richard Thorpe this afternoon, though, as much as I’d love to pick his brain on how he built a bike that seems to glide peacefully above the ground like a flying saucer. I’m cruising around the northwest corner of the bike path in the park. The notoriously rollicking route is quiet, the perfect setting for the final ride of an e-biker and his beloved (foldable) hog. I almost felt that it would have been better if I’d never been given the chance to test out a Gocycle at all. Ah, the memories we shared, my e-bike and me…
This affair started back in January after I endorsed the Swagtron EB7 Plus, a portable e-bike that somehow costs only $699. I praised the (albeit horribly named) Swagtron for somehow managing to deliver a quality ride at under $1,000. I had become fascinated with e-bikes mostly because it seems everywhere I look in New York City, there are bikes with batteries strapped to them. You see delivery riders, their hands covered by oven mitts in the winter, on their gerry-rigged electric mountain bikes. Dudes with motorcycle helmets silently whiz by cars on their fat-tired wannabe motorcycles. I didn’t necessarily want to join their club. But then Gocycle offered to let me test out one of its high-end folding bikes. Heck, if I could fit the thing under my desk, why not?
Today, Gocycle offers two models on its webstore and from authorized dealers: the $4,000 G4, and the G4i, which clocks in at $5,000. Expensive, I know. But can you put a price on love? Probably. I got to spend time with the GX, a previous model, which cost $3,299 and is no longer in production. I’ll admit, I was severely put off by the ludicrous price tag. That’s a down payment on a car. That’s about seven PS5s. But alas, it was January and I’d been stuck inside for a year. The chance to ride something more expensive than I’ll probably ever own was hard to pass up.
It didn’t take long for me to be won over. I’m not a designer, I’m not a gearhead, but it’s the first time I’ve felt the design of a bike. Right out of the box, I watched myself reenact those scenes from The Aviator, my eye pressed to the side of the frame, running my hands down the immaculately sculpted molding, imagining the e-bike scorching through the sky like a fighter jet. The Gocycle really commands your attention—and gets a lot of looks on the street, too. So many, in fact, I was a little bit afraid to take the thing out at night.
What I noticed on my first ride with the Gocycle, having spent a lot of time on the Swagtron at this point, was the smoothness and security high up on the GX’s saddle. What had worried me most about my long trips on the Swagtron had been its sometimes rickety feeling. The joints would audibly click around; the folding mechanisms didn’t always feel 100 percent locked into place. That was fine for short trips around town. But when you’re bombing a hill at 25 mph with traffic on both sides, you don’t want to have to worry that the handlebars are going to click out of place. Gocycle bikes don’t feel this way.
You’d think with the extra security would come a bulkier machine. But the bike is actually less of a cumbersome setup than most. I was surprised to see that the GX, with its 20-inch wheels, could fold down into a more compact pile of parts than my Swagtron, with its tiny 16-inch wheels. There are no sharp wires sticking out, no crunchy gears out in the open ready to get jammed on a loose twig—the GX (and its younger siblings in the G4 family) have all their junk covered up. In this way, Gocycle bikes really look like supercars. If it weren’t for the pedals, you might think you’re riding on a two-wheeled hover car from the future.
I began testing the bike by taking casual spins around the three-mile bike path in the park. On the GX, and the new G4, you get between 40 to 50 miles on one seven-hour charge (or a 3.5-hour charge on the newer models), so I barely had to charge the thing all spring. But since the ride is so comfy, and I had a lot of steam to burn off (the resulting symptom of a year of cabin fever, I guess), I began riding the bike without its Bluetooth-connected phone app, without its motor, just as a plain ol’ analog bike.
Trips around the park went from three-mile tours to nine, as I passed by the ice cream shop, the pond, the zoo, the plaza, and all the way back, three laps in total. I was a biker, and much to the frustration of the many leotard-wearing cyclists in the park, I had no trouble getting ahead in the crowded bike lane, because if I ever needed a little boost, I just clicked on the motor.
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The GX, which sat out of sight under my work desk all spring when I wasn’t out riding, provided a consistent, if not overly luxurious, form of relief from the confusion of segueing back into whatever this new “normal” way of life is. It was more like a car, I think, than a bike. I could rely on it to get me far, far away, even if I didn’t have the energy to pedal myself more than a mile or two. If I needed to venture back into the office, I could do that with my Gocycle. Or, if I was stuck inside for too long, cramped in that pandemic mindset, the Gocycle under my desk was a good reminder to experience outside again.
Take a look around next time you go out for a walk—you’ll see a few e-bikes. The battery-powered bicycles have already proven to be more than a passing trend. I grew to depend on my Gocycle more than I expected. With subway trains becoming more congested, my ever-present student loan payments halting any ideas of buying a car in the foreseeable future, and all of my friends reconsidering the clustered way of life in the city in favor of the more spread-out suburbs, I think e-bikes will turn out to be more of an essential way of transportation than we ever expected. I mean, city dwellers already rely on them constantly—how else do you think you’re getting your Thai food delivery so fast?
The email came in early July: It was time to hand the bike back off to Gocycle. I got in a ride on the latest top-of-the-line model, the G4i, which was as much of a dream as I expected it to be (it’s got a lamp, predictive gear shifting, and folds down in just ten seconds). Then it really was time to say goodbye to my GX. It was such a short four months. Smile because it happened, I keep telling myself.
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