If the electric car is the next big thing, the electric bike has already become ubiquitous. They’re on every bike trail, path and city street, and sales continue rising, with a 145% increase from the already robust 2019 numbers. While so many are eschewing public transport for e-bikes, it also begs the question: can an e-bike also replace a car? And, is that the goal? From Momentum (a sub-brand of Giant, the world’s largest bicycle manufacturer) comes the PakYak E+ which boasts a motor from Yamaha, who has quietly been making electric bike motors for decades. Together, these two brands are seasoned experts within the space, which is just one reason we wanted to test ride the PakYak E+ cargo bike.
The difference between a regular bike and a cargo bike, in this case, manifests as a long frame design with a smaller wheel size (keeping your center of gravity lower and making it easier to hop on and off) and storage capacity up to 135 pounds, in addition to the rider. With such a massive capacity, it’s no surprise that the bike is burly. At 79 pounds, this isn’t a spindly single-speed—so it’s hardly ideal for those in apartments; getting it into and out of a garage with a significant step requires rolling up one wheel, then walking around and lifting the other end. Though one wise feature is a stout, motorcycle-style center stand. This (unlike a kickstand) uprights the bike straight. That’s perfect for that sort of heft maneuver, loading and unloading wares, and locking it up. It’s not going to tip over, ever, unless you forget to use the center stand.
While riding, there are five assist modes that work by helping you turn the pedals. Of note, some e-bikes turn a hub at one or both wheels; this is a mid-drive model that turns the pedals instead, adding boost in conjunction with your own effort. With up to 80Nm of torque, launch is smooth and powerful. The gear-set of just six cogs might seem limited, but it’s not—thanks to that electric shove to augment the gears. Top assist is 28mph, which is faster than a lot of cargo bikes that are governed to 20mph. Rolling it on gravel paths, on the street, on dedicated bike lanes quickly feels natural—and fun. It’s a liberating kind of experience to still get plenty of exercise, but also go further and faster.
The only time you notice it’s especially large is negotiating messy intersections, where a bike path ends or gets chopped up by a crosswalk. Maneuvering around pedestrians, joggers, trucks and cars takes getting used to. But it’s not difficult, rather a skill that riders will develop.
Errand-running is the PakYak E+’s raison d’etre, which is how we tested it. On one trip, we put a 40-pound folding bike on the back, and the ride experience barely changed. On another, we decided to load it down heavily with bulky, unevenly weighted and shaped items: 30 pounds of food, a few six-packs, and some produce at the farmers market. We quickly learned that loading the bike isn’t just a matter of filling the high-top baskets, front and rear, because that led to an unsettling sensation with a bit of wobble at speed.
The Momentum has a steering stabilizer meant to offset that sort of shimmy, but offsetting weight that’s high on a bicycle is also a matter of using common sense, as well as the accessory panniers that hang below the rear basket. These enabled filling four reusable grocery bags and putting the heaviest items on either side of the bike. Then, to prevent all the weight from being on that back wheel, putting a couple six-packs and some other groceries in the front basket. After that, the 28mph top speed wasn’t an issue. And Momentum gifts their cargo e-bike with excellent oversized, 203mm rotor disc brakes, so even with all this extra baggage, it stopped safely and quickly. Another test ride was in the pouring rain and the brakes still worked great.
There are some range anxiety issues buyers have about the concept of e-bikes replacing cars. The Momentum’s 28mph top assist level is a boon here because it allows for keeping closer pace with traffic lights. There’s an argument that if you’re not that much slower than cars, you’re also in a safer spot because you’re less likely to be overtaken, especially on streets where traffic is actually moving slower.
As for battery range between charges, we saw closer to 40 miles not the claimed 60, but that was over some reasonably steep hills and after loading up on groceries. Of course, riders can purchase and carry a second battery to double the range, but batteries are $900. Depending on your own terrain and needs, the extra cell may not be necessary; the average commuter isn’t exceeding 20 miles on a round trip. Plus, Momentum’s battery recharges in 3.8 hours, which is less than half the time for a lot of e-bikes.
At $5,500 the PakYak E+ isn’t the most affordable bike, but it does come loaded: an onboard, lockable storage bin, lights, fenders, a USB port for your phone and a remote adjustable seat (which makes lowering and raising the reach to the pedals quickly adaptable to a multi-rider household). Some might prefer the bike to be lighter and shorter, but then it wouldn’t be as stable when fully laden, defeating the barge-like capability. In fact, this isn’t so much a car replacement, as a mind-changing vehicle.
Hero image courtesy of Momentum