Bikes > Cycle

Climb to the top with the Bicyc City Air

Commuters and enthusiasts will enjoy this electric bicycle

The frame does a good job of hiding all the wiring. PHOTO BY LEANDRO MANGUBAT

While many electric bicycles make for decent commuter rides, you’d be hard-pressed to find ones that are good bikes on their own. Sure, you can go with the likes of Giant, Specialized and Trek, but those cost more like a car rather than a bicycle. That’s why I was pleasantly surprised with the Bicyc City Air.

At first glance, it looks like an ordinary hybrid bike. It’s not as aggressive as a road bike, yet not as rugged as a mountain bike. But a quick overview of its specs shows that it packs a lot underneath the hood: a 350W rear-hub motor with a torque sensor, a maximum range of up to 80km, and hydraulic brakes.

Combine a responsive pedal-assist system, a long-lasting battery, and sporty handling, and you have something that’s begging for a long ride.

Some pedal-mashing was needed to get up to Timberland Heights. PHOTO BY LEANDRO MANGUBAT

To really put the e-bike through its paces, I decided to try climbing up Timberland Heights in San Mateo, Rizal. I rode out at 4am to avoid the heat and traffic. And after traveling 20km, I arrived at the start of the climb with five out of five bars on the battery indicator. With other electric bicycles, that could have easily drained a good chunk of the battery life.

The motor easily propeled me to a cruising speed of 30km/h on flats. And thanks to the torque sensor, the pedal assist kicked in seamlessly as I turned the crank. The more effort I put into the pedals, the more boost I got from the motor.

Unlike with cadence sensors, the pedal-assist level doesn’t dictate the speed. There’s also no need for a throttle as lag is minimal with the torque sensor. In my experience, the differences between the three levels are negligible, and Level 1 is more than enough.

It’s one thing to go fast; it’s another to climb. On light and moderate inclines, the motor had more than enough torque to get me through leisurely. But once things got steep, I had to put in my fair share of effort. I was starting to work up a sweat from steadily mashing the pedals at low cadence. But it wasn’t strenuous. My legs would have been burning on a purely mechanical bicycle.

Electric bikes are a clean mode of transportation. PHOTOS BY LEANDRO MANGUBAT

After riding around a bit in the hilly subdivision, I went down with three out of five bars left. The key to descending safely is maintaining the proper speed. Go too fast and the brakes will be powerless to slow you down. Brake too hard and you risk going over the handlebars. Thankfully, the Tektro hydraulic brakes gave me the right amount of stopping power and modulation.

Since there was ongoing construction near the foot of the hill, I had to pass through an unpaved road. This allowed me to test the ride comfort of the City Air. With the 700c-by-40mm Chaoyang gravel tires, you can go where road bikes can’tjust don’t expect the ride to be plush with the rigid fork.

Not just any electric bicycle can go that far and climb that high on a single charge. SCREENSHOT FROM STRAVA

As I was on J.P. Rizal Street going from San Mateo to Marikina, there were only two bars left, so I began conserving my battery. Traffic was heavier, so there was no point leaving the pedal assist on. Even without the motor, I was able to sprint as quickly as 30km/h with my own two legs on flat terrain.

The remaining juice was saved for the two climbs on the way back. However, the battery died out on me during the final push on St. Martin Street (or Ultra). This wasn’t a big problem, though, since I was on the home stretch with less than 2km to go.

I arrived home after biking for a total of 51.6km. That’s less than the advertised range. But the conditions were far from ideal with an elevation gain of 1,125m. Had I minimized the pedal assist on the way to Timberland Heights, perhaps the battery wouldn’t have been completely depleted.

The key is used to remove the battery. PHOTOS BY LEANDRO MANGUBAT

Thankfully, charging isn’t a hassle with the detachable 36V, 10Ah Samsung battery. According to the distributor, a full charge can take up to six hours. For even longer rides with the City Air, you can get a spare battery.

The beauty of a pedal-assist bicycle is that it functions like a hybrid vehicle, with the pedal power and the electric motor complementing each other. This alleviates the strain on the rider and eliminates the need for a large battery and a more powerful motor, like what you’d find on heavy e-scooters.

The author wished the Bicyc had fenders for the rain. PHOTO BY LEANDRO MANGUBAT

The ride to Timberland Heights was quite the adventure. Yet my time with the Bicyc City Air wasn’t over. The rain poured throughout the next day, but that didn’t stop me from commuting. After attaching a rear rack and a pair of panniers filled with spare clothes and shoes, I was good to go.

The IP65-rated motor can handle the rain. Just don’t submerge the hubs and the bottom bracket (like with any other bicycle). And don’t forget to conceal the charging port on the frame with the rubber cover. When cleaning an e-bike, avoid using a high-pressure washer on the electronic components.

At the end of the day, I did 34km on Strava with 50% battery life remaining. This was after two round trips between Kapitolyo and Eastwood for Sunday service, and a family dinner at Rockwell.

The stock drivetrain is a nine-speed, 11-32T Shimano Altus.
The compact motor is hidden in between the brake rotor and the cassette.
The gravel tires are good for riding on mixed surfaces.
The minimalist controller keeps the cockpit clean.
The front light is too dim for night riding. PHOTOS BY LEANDRO MANGUBAT

At 18.4kg on my scale, the City Air is light considering it has a battery and a motor. Lifting it isn’t that much of a hassle since the weight is more evenly distributed.

The aluminum frame has a sporty geometry with steering that is lively and responsive, without being twitchy. Since the bike handles well on its own, range anxiety isn’t a major concern in the city.

You'll need a hex wrench to adjust the oddly shaped seat post. PHOTOS BY LEANDRO MANGUBAT

While the specs are fine straight out of the box, commuters will have to spend on a rear rack and fenders. Personally, I’d put thicker tires for greater ride comfort, and wider gearing so climbing without the motor will be easier.

The Bicyc City Air is a good bike, made even better with the pedal assist. PHOTO BY LEANDRO MANGUBAT

Bicyc is distributed here by 3×9 Mobility, with the City Air going for P80,000. That is not affordable. However, when you consider that one of its competitors, the BESV JF1, has an SRP of P135,000, the Bicyc looks like a bargain. If you just need something to get from point A to B, then offerings from more affordable brands will do just fine.

The Bicyc City Air is a premium e-bike that you can commute with on weekdays, and then go on leisurely rides over the weekend. You can enjoy it like a normal bicycle. But if ever you want to take it easy without sacrificing speed, the pedal assist can be turned on at the press of a button.

If you think cycling is too hard, you should try an electric bike. It is truly a game-changer. For more information, you can check out Bicyc Philippines on Facebook.

Leandro Mangubat

Leandro is our staff writer. Although having a background in mechanical engineering, he enjoys photography and writing more.