Currie Technologies until recently  has been focused on mass market ultra affordable sealed-lead-acid (SLA) powered bikes and scooters (see our $500 Ezip TrailZ review). Recently, Currie was bought by the Dutch bicycle giant Accel Group (read story)  and they have decided to add a few higher quality $2000+ lithium powered bikes (the Izip line) to the Currie brand line-up, with the Izip Metro being the most popular.   Recently I got a chance to test ride this E-bike out of the new Izip store in Santa Monica and the following are my findings:

 

Where did it hit the mark?

These days all electric bikes have their hits and misses. This bike has plenty of both. Lets focus on the hits first:

Purpose built frame

It  is rare for an electric bike company to build a bike from the ground up to be an electric bike (read about purpose built frames). The Izip frame, with the battery built into the downtube, is my favorite element on this bike. With the battery built into the down-tube, the Currie Metro has a perfect weight balance when you consider the motor mounted in the rear hub.  Also this gives the bike an extremely clean look with all the wires hidden and no obvious elements that this is an electric bike. Batteries built into the frame are a much more elegant solution than the old school weld the battery pack to the rear rack (such as in the Izip Zuma) where the bike becomes back-heavy.

Charger plugs right into the frame.

500 watt geared hub motor -

Larri Pizzi (Currie President) has figured out that geared hub motors are some of the most efficent and lightest  hub motors available, and the Metro is equipped with a nice one (Bafang BPM) . It is more expensive to equip a bike with a geared hub motor, and hats off to Currie for making the right choice and outfitting this bike with a very nice hub motor indeed. According to the Currie service manager motor failure is rare on this bike, and price of motor replacement is reasonable. ($350 including labor).

Take a look at the photo…it is easy to spot the hub motor…it is the large silver hub in the center of the rear wheel. Here is where I have a small qualm with the Currie Izip Metro. Wouldn’t a black motor and black spokes look better with this color configuration?  Wouldn’t the motor blend right in if colored black? Its small details like this that add up, and bother me about the Metro.

 

Battery pack -

The lithium batteries in all of Curries upgraded models are made up of high-quality and trouble-free Samsung Lithium-Manganese cells (LiMn). This quality pack should easily last its 500 charge life expectancy. The Izip Metro has 36V / 10-Ah pack which is a 360 watt hour pack (see our story explaining range and watt hours). Our estimate is that you will get an 18-mile range on average with this pack. Most importantly this is a high quality pack that will not give you any hassles. You will have complete warranty support from Currie and it is completely fire safe, and has been extensively tested to ensure that. Replacement cost on this pack will run you $600. Unfortunately there is no way to add a second external pack to this bike without doing your own warranty voiding modification.

Controller-

The 36V controller of this bike is elegantly hidden in the downtube along with the battery. This means no unsightly wiring at all. This bike has really done a great job of integrating its electric components into the frame. The controller and battery pack are still easily accessed through a hatch on the bottom of the bike for repair work.

Performance-

This package packs just enough performance to have fun and stay legal. Currie is adamant about staying below the federal speed limits, and this bike definitely achieves that but at the same time its geared hub motor feels plenty torquey and it’s a decent hill climber. The Currie Metro feels pretty zippy in “throttle mode”, and it just feels fast, much like the Stromer electric bike…but at a better price range. I can confirm that the Izip Metro can achieve close to  20-MPH on level ground without pedaling, and it has close to a 20 mile range under normal use.

 

 

Reliability

I believe with this controller, battery, and motor combination, Currie has a reliable electronic package that will easily make it through its warranty period and beyond. Currie is the only electric bike company to stand the test of time (over 15 years old) and one thing they understand is the importance of is selling a product that is bulletproof, and will not be  a headache in terms of warranty and customer support.

Currie products have always been known to be robust even at the cheaper price points. But at this expensive price point, you can expect your Currie Metro to last a long time. The company president, Larry Pizzi, has invested a lot of effort to make sure that each and every customer is satisfied. Electric bike companies are notorious for hemming and hawing about doing warranty work. In the rare case that your Izip Metro fails under warranty, I expect you will be well taken care of by this company.

PAS and throttle assist modes-

It’s really nice to have the option of both, and you can in fact have both simultaneously. My preferred mode to ride this bike in is PAS (pedal assist system), and the twist throttle is still activated in this mode for when you need an extra push, or you are just feeling lazy. However, this system is just a cadence sensing system and is a little bit choppy compared to the Currie Ultra which has a super sweet torque sensing pedal-assist, which I would really recommend.

 

Decent well chosen bicycle components-

Other than the cheesy and ineffective seat-post suspension, the Currie Metro comes with no suspension. On a bike designed to be ridden on the “road only”, this is actually the way I like it, especially on an e-bike that’s limited to 20-MPH max. Also I like the Metros mechanical disc brakes (front and rear) which do a great job, and have a simple finger adjustment to tighten or loosen the caliper pads. I also like that the Metro has only 8 speeds and a simple twist grip gear shifter. However, the Izip Metro is geared too low for an electric bike. At its top speed, your cadence is too fast to effectively pedal-assist this bike. This could be easily fixed by changing to a larger front chainring, perhaps a 50-tooth.

In comparison, I rode the Metro alongside a $5,000 Izip Express which had a front hydraulic brake and one caliper brake (the brakes squeaked, and without tools I could not adjust them), a Rock Shox suspension (looks tacky and did not improve the ride quality by very much),  27 speed bicycle transmission (did not need so many gears and made the express more of a headache to ride).

Between the $5000 Izip  Express and the $2500 Metro…I would pick the Metro hands down. (read our story on the Izip Express). Also the Metro is quieter, better looking, has more cargo space, and has a throttle.

 

Nice front rack and rear rack.

 

 

Both feel solid and sturdy. The front rack is rated for 20 pounds, but will hold much more. Plus, it is frame-mounted, instead of connected by the forks or handlebars. The very sturdy rear rack is robust enough that I would be comfortable carrying a lady passenger without giving it a second thought. I just wish the rear rack was just a little bit longer so it would be even more useful. Saddlebags would be great on the Izip Metro, especially if the rear cargo rack was a little longer.

Sweet paint job and color scheme

 

 

If you take a look a the above picture you can see the quality of the paint used on this bike. Not only is it two-tone, but the grey is a quality metallic paint. I like both of the two-tone color options on the Currie Metro, the orange/grey and the green/grey. I do think that both color schemes would have looked a lot better if Currie would have chosen black for all of the chrome and metal finishes. Details such as the spokes, motor, stems, seat posts  and handlebars.

Also I think these flashy color schemes are not for everyone, and Currie should offer some more choices, especially something more subtle such as this older E3 Ultra paint job:

 

With all these flashy two-tone paint jobs, I wonder what the Izip line would look like as one solid color so as not to attract so much attention to their over sized frames. Most riders I know like their electric bikes to be stealthy.

The Izip Metro is also available in green and grey and also a low step through version. The low step through makes the bike easy to get on and off (especially when packing cargo in the rear and front racks) without leaning the bike over. If you do not mind the aesthetics of the low step through (and the insinuation that to ride a step through you must wear a skirt) I would highly recommend you go this way because it makes a big difference in the bike’s comfort level:

Nice Styling

I have always like the bold look of this bike, and have featured it on this website front header with some other fantastic looking bikes. This bike look great, especially given its affordable price, and especially from a distance.

Where did it miss?

Unfortunately, the Currie Metro is not all good news.  Here are the drawbacks we found of this electric bike:

No option for an add-on battery pack

It would be nice if there was a simple plug so users can add an optional external battery pack. I would only like this option if Currie left it to us on where and how we mount the pack. (Please don’t build an ugly auxiliary pack holder) we can fit batteries in panniers or bungee it into the front rack just fine.

Goofy handlebars

 

 

Currie decided to design this bike for the aging baby boomers, and opted for a full upright seating position. It would be nice if Currie would offer an option of  a more straight-forward handlebar (such as on the Izip Ultra) for people who do not like the straight up and down look.  There is something really annoying and kid-like   about the chromed  handlebars of the Metro. I was also annoyed by Currie’s pick of  grips, cheap LED indicators, chromed brake levers, and their overuse of warning stickers. I do feel that Currie is trying to break away from that cheap $500 bike they sell in Wal-Mart, but are still falling back to old habits when making design choices. It would have made a big difference on this bike if they used anodized black handlebars, a LED dash, more stylishly shaped handlebars, NO warning stickers, and stylish grips.

Once you get close to this bike there are a lot of elements that an adult would be embarrassed to have on their $2500 bike. When you ride any bike, it is mostly the  handlebars you see. And when you are riding, it’s like a constant reminder that you are riding a “dorky” electric bike, even if in the big picture, it doesn’t look that dorky from a distance. Unfortunately this bike looks its dorkiest from the riders perspective, although from all other perspectives it looks pretty cool.

Goofy Seat

 

 

Currie uses a big cruiser seat which has been stitched with their logo. It is big, comfortable, and dorky looking…but does fit in with the cruiser bike tradition. Unfortunately the rest of the bike does not fit the cruiser image of the seat, so it just seems the seat was made for people who do not normally ride bikes.

One thing that i have found with electric bikes is that they are used much more than regular bikes, so a extra cushy seat is not as necessary as a traditional cruiser bicycle which in reality will probably be only cruised occasionally.  The idea to me of a $2500 electric bike is it is going to be taken out and ridden on a regular basis. So therefore an extra cushy seat is not really needed since the rider will grow accustomed to any seat quickly.

The fat and ugly seat used on the Currie Metro does not do the rest of the bike justice.  We would have liked to see a more stylish seat chosen for this bike like the one used on the Izip Ultra or  Izip Express.

Also the suspension-post under the seat looks cheap and does not do a good job anyway. Having no suspension is better than cheap suspension, especially if you are considering aesthetics and weight.

Missed opportunity in the front rack

 

 

I love wood when it is mixed with bicycles (see our wood electric bike story), and I am proud to be somewhat of a wood E-bike snob. What originally drew me to this bike was the wood in the front and rear racks. I adored this bike in photos. However, once  I got to see one in real life and up close, I was disappointed to see that Currie picked a relatively cheaply finished  thin bamboo wood over the nice wood slats I am use to seeing by the bike industry when it’s added to cargo bikes. The Izip Metro is made in China and Taiwan, so…how much extra would some quality varnished wood slats have cost? Also the design details of the front rack falls short.  There is nothing about the front rack when you see it up close that makes you say wow. These days front racks need to be a real statement, and not just something that looks snazzy on first glance. The front rack adds some pounds to the weight of this bike, and is the most prevalent feature of the bike when you look at it at first glance so i would have liked to see something that is more impressive when you inspect it close up.

Take a look at the Faraday electric bike  for my idea of an excellently designed front rack, complete with integrated front LED lights. Also the Faraday’s use of details such as quality seat, hand grips, and other leather accessories that really bring the package together (in spite of its horribly tiny battery). This is what I really want to see the Izip Metro do, to really set itself apart as a quality electric bike and the front rack is the easiest place to start. It is obvious by the price tag of this bike that the Metro is an attempt by Currie to step into “boutique” bike builds, but with the cheap cost of Asian-made bikes these days, we as consumers are expecting to see thought and care put into the details…even if we have to pay a little more.

Details!

Give us a larger front chain ring so we can effectively pedal assist this bike at 25-MPH, and get some exercise when the mood strikes us.

Take every bit of chrome or steel color and make it black, especially the hub motor and spokes.. Chrome handlebars and bike parts went the same way as chromed bumpers on cars….no longer cool.

Give us a Brooks saddle…or at least a Brooks saddle as an option. Or how about a made in China Brooks replica? I would love to see how this bike would look if it was accessorized right with a good seat, good handlebars, good hand grips, and quality wood highlights. Come up with some creative valve stem covers…yeah that’s right, valve stem covers. Add some built-in LED headlights and tail-lights that feed directly off our gigantic E-bike battery. Sorry Currie, but bicycle lights just don’t work that well with electric bikes (not bright enough) are not convenient enough (need separate batteries) and most of all don’t look as good as built  in lights. The Izip Metro rack is a perfect place to mount built-in LED lights (check out the Faraday for an illustration).

Give us a digital dash that tells us exactly in watt hours how much battery we have left, one that lights up when we turn on the lights. Make an optional leather saddle bag that matches the rest of the bike. Lose all those annoying warning stickers and keep them in the owner’s manual where they belong.

 

 

Currie Metro Vs Currie Ultra

 

 
I really liked the Currie Ultra out of all the Currie bicycles I test rode (five electric bikes in all). The handlebar design to me make the bike look much better, and as said before I prefer the less flashy color schemes.  The torque sensor really makes a huge difference on how the pedal-assist feels, and makes for a very refined and efficient ride. The torque sensor forces you to work, and does not allow you to be lazy…plus, it greatly increases your range. However when you do feel like being lazy and riding with a throttle, the Ultra offers that too. Riding with a torque sensor really makes you feel at one with the motor. Your legs feel bionic. I also like the more tasteful color schemes that the Ultra offers. However, its a close call for me, because I also like the convenience of the cargo racks and the wider tires on the Izip Metro (fat tires are a must-have on a non-suspension E-bike).

I really think its sad that the Izip Metro does not include a torque sensor, and uses a cadence sensor instead, which makes a big difference in the feeling of the ride. I would at least like to see a torque sensor as an option on the Metro. Until then I would recommend the Ultra over the Metro. It sucks that I can’t have both. I get either the cargo option or the torque sensor?  Well I am an American damn it…I want  to be able to have the option of having it all without buying two bikes!

Seriously the torque sensing feature is so nice on the Izip Ultra, I would not be surprised to see it on the entire line up of Currie e-bikes in the near future.

Currie Metro Vs  Stromer

The Currie Metro and the Stromer are similar bikes. They are of a similar quality because both are made at the  same factory in China, and use the same battery cells assembled from the same battery factory.

Pros of the Izip  Metro

  • Less expensive…by nearly $400
  • Metro has a geared hub motor which is a more efficient and lighter-weight motor than the Stomer’s direct drive hub motor, and geared hubs freewheel easily when you want to pedal without E-power.
  • Metro has the front and rear cargo rack which is super convenient.
  • I actually prefer the E3 Metro’s clean looking non-suspension fork to the Stromers cheap-quality front suspension.

Pros of the Stromer

  • Removable and swappable battery pack.
  • Optional slick LCD dash.
  • The Stromer does have front suspension, which most consumers prefer
  • The Stromer has a torque sensor where the Metro has just a cadence sensor.

 

Personally I much prefer the Metro to the Stromer, especially given the $400 price differential. However these electric bikes are very close, and a lot will come down to which styling the customer prefers, and whether you are lucky enough to have a local vendor who sells one. When it comes to electric bikes I strongly suggest you spend the extra money, and buy one from a local dealer so you will get the product support you may someday need.

 

Conclusion

In the photos on the web, this bike is breathtaking! Even riding by one from a distance, this bike is inspirational. But up close, as you spend time with this E-bike, it starts to lose some of its luster and comes off as toy-like because of lapse in aesthetic details. I have confidence that Currie will pick things up in the future. In the past they have had a few awfully-styled products (some of which are still part of their current product line), and the Metro is a gigantic step in the right direction.

Unfortunately it is obvious to me that Currie is still struggling with design choices, and the tendency to accessorize with cheap components. It is sad that the Izip Metro came so close and then fell short in the aesthetics department. With just a little more attention to detail, and a hundred dollars added to the retail price, Currie could have hit it out of the park with this bike.

However overall this bike is terrific mechanically, will give you years of trouble free service, looks better than 95% of  electric bikes, and all in all is one of my favorite commercially available electric bikes at this  price point.

I expect to see this electric bike and this company to make a big splash in the emerging mass market of mid to high range lithium powered electric bikes in the USA.