What A Way To Get To Work

Published 11 years ago
What A Way To Get To Work

Worldwide, commuting has proven to be an increasingly expensive, stress inducing and environmentally unfriendly necessity—the latter due to the increase in carbon footprint generation, defined by the UK Carbon Trust as “the total set of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions caused by an organization, event, product or person”, thanks to more vehicles being used on our roads.

Alternate forms of transportation have been eagerly sought and this has led to companies such as Ultra Motor developing a range of electric and hybrid-powered bicycles designed to alleviate these personal and ecological issues. FORBES AFRICA recently got the chance to test ride a power-on-demand electrically assisted bike for ourselves and we were pleasantly surprised.

Developed with short distances in mind, the A2B Metro, the company’s flagship model launched in 2008, utilizes pedal power which can be offset by an infusion of electric-powered momentum, allowing you to slip in and out of traffic and get some exercise, or not, if you’d prefer—all for a greatly reduced running cost. And as for the headache of finding parking—consider that a thing of the past.


The A2B Metro weighs in at a robust 37kgs, which, while not light by any means, is only tedious when it needs to be shifted in or out of tight areas. Once in motion, the weight seems to disappear and the bike is highly maneuverable and fun to ride, even when pedal power is used exclusively. Thanks to a seven-speed Shimano derailer, changing gears is simple, quick and the chain never threatened to come loose from its gears or housing. Even traveling uphill is not an issue, thanks to the motor, which comes alive at a flick of the wrist, so you don’t have to go to that early morning meeting gushing like a geyser. Crossing large intersections holds no fear for the A2B owner; slipping off the pedals or not generating enough momentum in time for a changing robot are all offset by the ever-present motor that can take over as quickly as you need it to.

We found that the electric throttle became difficult to keep a grip on over extended periods, but that’s no doubt because it was only designed as an assist and not as an exclusive means of propulsion. The bike has a lithium-ion battery, with the option of a second one that can be installed in the Y-frame, which is placed on a rail behind the seat and housed in custom alloy for more efficient cooling. It takes a mere four to five hours of charging time at a standard outlet, and with two batteries installed, the bike has an effective range of 64km. Charging is easy as the rear battery pack simply slips off and is then attached to a standard wall socket.

Lithium-ion batteries have proven successful and popular in consumer electronics because they have no memory effect, lose very little charge when dormant and have one of the best energy densities available. In addition, they are much lighter than their counterparts, and it is advised that they be charged regularly, versus other batteries that should be totally depleted, making them more practical to use.

The frame of the Metro is created using hydroforming technology. The process entails placing lightweight aluminum on a negative mold of the desired shape, and then high pressure hydraulic pumps inject fluid within the mold, causing the metal to match the shape exactly. The benefit of using hydroforming technology is that complex shapes can be created with a higher stiffness-to-weight ratio, and at a reduced per unit cost.


The hand-sized 250W brushless hub motor sits on the rear wheel of the A2B Metro and there’s no visible cabling, making it safe to use and water tight. As opposed to conventional brushed motors, this variant has the permanent magnets on the rotor and the electromagnets are moved to the stator, essentially turning it inside out. The benefits are that without brushes which erode due to wear and tear, these motors are more reliable and cooler, with less sparking and noise produced.

The Metro comes with accessories in the form of pannier bags and racks so you can take your essentials with you. You don’t need a special license or gear, other than a helmet, which makes it far more user-friendly than traveling by motorbike. The oversized seat ensures traveling longer distances is comfortable and won’t result in regular chiropractic visits.

And if you thought the A2B was a slouch, think again—it’s capable of clocking speeds around 28km/h. Stopping the A2B is the task of multiple disc brakes that work tremendously well and won’t get clogged up or slip in wet weather conditions. The front wheel quickly clips off, allowing punctures to be fixed with relative ease­—not so much with the rear configuration—and the wide tires mean the bike can deal with some pretty tough terrain, albeit not off-road conditions. Front and rear suspensions, with the latter having the ability to be set as specific preloads, also help transition the ride over any bumps or potholes, as we South Africans are accustomed to experiencing frequently.

The Metro has a built-in display that shows the bike’s speed and range and also sports integrated lights in the front and rear for added visibility and night riding.


An issue we experienced was with securing the bike to standard racks. Due to the large tires, and also because the front one clips off, the A2B has to be turned around and secured using a long cable. Similarly, car racks will battle to transport the bike as a result of its weight and girth. We also found that the A2B attracted a lot of attention, making us somewhat paranoid at the thought of leaving it unattended outside a shop, even for a few minutes. And with an asking price of R35,000 ($4,000), it’s not a possession you’d want pilfered!

The bike’s quality is overwhelmingly good, so it’s no wonder this beauty was designed and built in Helmsburg, Germany. Ultra Motor is looking at the prospect of adding software to the Metro in due course, allowing bike technicians to plug it into diagnostic systems much like modern cars. While the jury is out on whether or not this is simply overkill, no doubt servicing the bike will call for an unwanted expense thanks to these ‘innovation