by Larry Varney
Last year I reviewed the “standard” ICE Adventure. Some of the features were the same, or similar. Drum brakes, full suspension, and the general geometry of the two trikes were nearly the same – we’ll get into the differences in a moment. Yes, that earlier review trike did not have electric assist. If that had been an option then, I probably would have added it – even though I don’t think I *need* electric assist, I find it to be both interesting and helpful. You might want to go back and read that earlier review to get more of my impressions upon riding it – http://www.bentrideronline.com/?p=10574#more-10574. I will discuss some of the differences between that model and the HD version in more detail in this review. There are a few, and they are of importance to some of us. And yes, I’ll spend more time talking about, you got it, that last portion of the title – the electric assist! How it feels, what it does, what it doesn’t do, and if it’s worth getting. Anyway, enough intro information – let’s get on with it!
Let’s talk first about the trike itself, and how the HD version differs from the standard Adventure. As you might expect, with a addendum of HD – Heavy Duty – you are going to expect that it is more substantial, bigger, can carry a heavier weight, and so on. And, you would be right! Let’s look at some specifications. The standard has a width of 32.5”, while the HD is 34.5”. Length, 65” – 73.5” as compared to 66.9” – 75.9”. Weight for each is given as being “from” 36.2 pounds and 36.7. Trust me, when you pick a 26” rear wheel over a 20”, start adding on fenders, drum brakes and racks, you’re going to be moving away “from” that weight! And we haven’t even gotten to the star of this review, the electric assist! But don’t start getting in a panic – the weight may be more than what some of the lesser trikes proclaim, but you’ll probably not notice the difference so much while riding. When picking it up to hang on your garage wall, that’s another matter! As for the other specs that people are most interested in – the seat height and recline angle – the differences are minimal: 12.2” and 12.4”, along with 38-51 degrees for both.
OK, so the specifications aren’t horribly different between the Adventure and its HD sibling. How about the ride, the feel of it? If you have read my first review of the Adventure last year (http://www.bentrideronline.com/?p=10574#more-10574), you’ll see that I liked it. The same goes for the HD version. If anything, I think the latter handles better, which may be due to the increased width, making it less apt to go up on two wheels. Braking is good with both – and as most of you might know, I like drum brakes. Nearly impervious to weather, adjusting is seldom needed, and while technically they may not brake quite as quickly as a disc, I’ve never heard anyone complain about their performance. Oh, and the Adventure HD comes standard with Schwalbe Big Apple tires, which does lessen the road jolts, though I recommend at least rear suspension if your riding encounters rough roads frequently.
If you are at a dealer who has both models on display, it’s a good idea to hop from one to the other, to see if one “feels” better than the other from the start. That difference would probably be due to the increased seat width and depth of the HD. You have 2.5 inches more width and 2” more of depth for your backside – and in some cases, that’s the deal clincher right there! And at that point, take your choice for a test ride, and when that smile starts spreading across your face, consider the next option: the electric assist.
Let’s be clear on this: it ain’t cheap. But for some of us, it will be more than worth the extra cost. I know, I know, some riders will whine about how having e-assist is “cheating”, won’t provide them with enough exercise, etc. Don’t listen to them. Sure, if you’re in a bike race, they may not allow such things – but you’re not getting one to help you race, but to help you ride! And how does it do it? Does it allow you to just push a button and relax, not even having to pedal at all? Granted, there are some electric assists that do that – check out my review from several years ago, of the Ridekick Powe Trailer (http://www.bentrideronline.com/?p=10574#more-10574). That unit attaches to the rear of your bike or trike, and you can zip along at around 18 mph, without pedaling at all. I have to admit, it was fun – but yes, you won’t be getting much exercise at all. For some, this is what is needed, very little effort on the part of the rider. For others, they just need a bit of assistance at times, especially when going up hills. They don’t want to relinquish all the work to the hardware – and that’s where the Shimano STEPS system shines the brightest.
It can “assist” at three different levels, referred to as ECO, Normal, and High. Just how much assistance does it give at each level? I’m not sure of the exact amount, but they’re each noticeably different. What I found interesting to do, is to start riding with the assist off, at a moderate pace of maybe 50 or 60 rpm on level ground, then switch it on to Eco, and feel the “push” you get from it. Don’t change your cadence, but switch then to Normal, and then to High. If you’re like me, when you get to that final choice, you’ll be saying “wow!” to yourself.
Some observations about this assist – contrary to those who say they wouldn’t get any exercise using it, they’re wrong. If you aren’t pedaling, it isn’t assisting! You’ll sit there, wondering when something’s going to happen. Seriously, you have to be pedaling at a moderate pace for it to show its presence – and when you stop pedaling, it stops, too. So, you’re going to get your exercise – and you can choose just how much, by which setting you choose. I do have to say that steep hills are lots more fun on the High setting.
And how long can you keep going between charges of the battery? Estimates are from 78 miles on Eco, to 36 miles on High. This is based on what a normal ride would be, riding in 7th gear. How long you go with out stopping, how much weight you’re going to carry, and so on, will affect your range. What’s nice is that the display/control unit shows you how many more miles you can expect to get, based on your current riding. This is nice – you don’t want to be out there in the middle of a long ride, and suddenly find yourself out of juice!
Before I forget – the gears. I mentioned 7th gear. My review HD came with an Alfine internal hub in the rear, with 8 speeds. For those of us used to 30 gears, this sounds like a horrible mistake – but it’s not. The gearing is more than adequate for hills and flats, and it allows us to ride without worrying about jugging front and rear gear changes. As you might expect, the steepe the hill, the lower the gear you want to be in – and this unit allows you to switch between automatic and manual shifting! Personally, I preferred to be I manual most of the time, rather than allowing the unit to decide when to shift. When encountering a steep hill, I would suggest that everyone switch to manual, and get down to first or second gear at the beginning of the climb. Remember, it’s just assisting – you’ll still have to do some of the work!
One more thing that may be covered in the documentation, but I haven’t finished reading it all yet – real men don’t read directions, right? Anyway, I wondered about what happens when the battery does exhaust itself, or if you choose to turn it off. Well, you can turn off the assist and still have the unit powering the shifting, which is nice, and does save juice. But what if it is off entirely, your choice or not? What gear are you left in? After all, you can’t shift if it’s not on. That’s when I noticed that when you come to a stop, especially in automatic mode, it drops down to second gear. If you then turn off the battery, that’s the gear you’re left with – which is not going to lend itself to high cruising speeds. What I found out, by trying different things, is that if you turn off the battery – there’s an on-off switch on the controller – while you are in, say, fifth gear, that’s the one it will stay in! This won’t be such good news if you need to climb some steep hills, but if it’s a flat route to your destination, you’ll be ok. BTW, the battery charger is a fairly heavy unit, and I would guess most of you would not be carrying it along with you.
So what else can I say about the ICE Adventure HD 26 with full suspension and electric assist? It’s not for everyone. It’s not light, and it’s not cheap. But if you find yourself needing some “help” on a longer ride, keeping up with your friends, and especially when climbing a steep hill, it won’t seem like it’s too heavy nor too expensive, That’s up to you to decide.
ICE Adventure HD 26 FS with Electric Assist
Pros: More “room” than the standard Adventure, more carrying capacity, and you may just fall in love with the full suspension and the electric assist
Cons: It’s heavy, and it’s not cheap.
Price: Dependent on configuration. As tested, was more than $8,000 US.
For More Information: http://www.icetrikes.co/products/adventure-hd