Published on July 31st, 2020 |
by Kyle Field
July 31st, 2020 by Kyle Field
Just one look at a Delfast e-bike and it is immediately clear that it is not your typical e-bike company. In fact, the bikes themselves look and perform much more like an underpowered electric motorcycle than a bicycle, absolutely destroying any semblance of a line between the bicycles and their new breed of electricity-powered beasts.
Delfast sent the Top 2.0 my way for a few weeks for me to run it through the paces. When it showed up, I was thankful for the time I spent riding gas-powered scooters around town in a former life, as the Delfast Top 2.0 carries itself much more like a motorcycle than a traditional bicycle. The single give away that it aspires to be an e-bike is the small set of pedals protruding from the side of what otherwise looks like a dirt bike.
Thankfully, the real star of the show is the Top 2.0’s 3,000 watt average / 5,000 watt peak motor and battery package. The combination is unlike any other traditional e-bike I have ridden to date and carves a clear path forward for a new vehicle classification of two-wheeled electric vehicles that live somewhere between an e-bike and a full blown motorcycle. Today, the Delfast Top 2.0 is the closest to a moped, which lives between motorcycles and motor-assisted bicycles. These hybrids can have up to 4 horsepower/2,984 kW and must have a set of pedals.
In most of the United States, the three primary classifications of e-bikes are capped at a maximum motor power of 750 watts, so right off the bat, the Top 2.0 is in a category of its own.
After a short dalliance with the pedals, we laid into the throttle and found the 3,000 watt motor to be an absolute joy to play with. We blasted past any and all prior speeds achieved on e-bikes into a realm that had me wanting a more robust helmet and a motorcycle jacket. Make no mistake: a 3,000 watt average / 5,000 watt peak motor is a far cry from a traditional e-bike in every way. The Top 2.0’s motor can be set to any one of 5 levels, with levels that can be set at a touch of a finger from the handlebar-mounted controller.
At the level 1 setting, the Top 2.0 works much more like a traditional e-bike, with a predictable and tame throttle response. The sensation is muted by the Top 2.0’s heft, but we are only talking about level 1 here. Scrolling up through the gears, the Top 2.0’s handlebar mounted color display offers a host of relevant information including range, power level, speed, and more. As you’d expect, the levels gradually increase in power until you get to level 5. The range of different power levels is helpful as riders acclimate to the bike itself and the power it lays down.
Level 5 makes the massive hills in our neighborhood simply disappear with just a light whir of noise from the onboard motor. Even the hefty weight of the motorcycle-quality bike and its massive 72V 48Ah Panasonic 3,200 mAh battery are no match for the beast of a motor sitting on the rear hub.
The massive power translates to a top speed of 50 miles per hour / 80 kilometers per hour which is yet another sharp deviation from the 28 mile per hour maximum speed allowable for any of the three classes of electric bikes with a throttle in the United States. Even stepping up to California’s guidelines for mopeds and we hit a firm maximum speed of 30 miles per hour, so we’re at another no-go there.
Riding the Top 2.0
Delfast works around this by slapping a cap on the top speed in level 2 at 20 miles per hour. I don’t know how that would stand up to legal scrutiny, but I sure was nervous about taking it out on city streets for any extended period of time. It looks like a motorcycle, can take off like a motorcycle, and is priced like a motorcycle. Levels 3 and up are technically for off-road use only. It feels like a tenuous line to walk, if you ask me.
Kicking the Top 2.0 up to level 5 and laying into the throttle wakes the full power of the motor up and had us flying around at speeds comparable to what a gas-powered scooter could accomplish in no time flat. It was frighteningly fun and a bit frightening at the same time. It wasn’t the Top 2.0’s fault, as it feels built for speeds like this. It was more of my mindset than anything. I wasn’t mentally prepared or physically kitted out to be ripping around at 40+ miles per hour.
At faster speeds, the bouncy DNM RCP-2S shocks must be taken into account as the robust disc brakes bring it down from the heights rapidly. The Top 2.0 came to us with the stock motorcycle style seat on it as well as an optional bicycle seat adapter. Riding it on the motorcycle seat was not very comfortable and even had the frame rubbing up on the tires in some of the more extreme situations we subjected it to. For taller and heavier riders, the bicycle seat adapter is a good bet as it lets your legs stretch out and makes for a more comfortable ride overall.
Up front, the Top 2.0 sports a beautiful color display with a design that puts every other e-bike and motorcycle dashboard I’ve seen to shame. A speed indicator shows off the current velocity with the assist level visible off to the right.
- Range per charge: 174 mi / 280 km
- Max speed: 50 mph / 80 kph
- Bike weight: 154 lbs / 70 kg
- Capacity: 298 lbs / 135 kg
- Battery: 72V 48Ah 20S15P Panasonic 3,200mAh
One of the first things that struck me about the Top 2.0 was the alarm. It comes with a pair of key fobs that turn the alarm on and off, with the bike emitting ear piercing chirps with each interaction. Locking the bike with the fob engages the alarm, which sets off an alarm that seemed to indicate the world was ending or some such emergency. We set it off several times by accident and each time had to scramble to find the key fob to shut it off. We ended up just leaving the keys clipped to the bike, eliminating any benefit that could come from the alarm, but it was the best value proposition for us, all things considered.
Range is clearly a strength of the Top 2.0, with a manufacturer suggested range of 174 miles / 280 kilometers of range per charge. We were not able to put this to the test, but in our testing, it was clear this thing has plenty of battery capacity to spare. Its battery is set up as a 72 volt, 48 Ah system, built from Panasonic’s 3,200 mAh cells. Digging into reviews of the bike, range has been a point of contention, with one user seeing the range decrease from 124 miles/200 kilometers of range when new to just 81 miles/130 kilometers of range per charge.
The range each person gets depends on terrain, rider weight, driving style, and more, so this could be an example of a single erroneous record or possibly a forecast of what owners can expect over time. Either way, that’s still a massive amount of range per charge for an e-bike.
Not Meant For Pedaling
Attempting to pedal the Top 2.0 around even a small stretch of street reveals how useless the pedals actually are at moving the bike around. Sure, they might get it started from a stop, but it is a challenge to get its 158-pound frame moving much more than a few miles an hour with the pedals alone.
There aren’t any gears to shift through, meaning the possibility of getting the Top 2.0’s 158-pound / 72-kilogram frame moving at any reasonable speed with pedals alone is completely impractical.
At the end of the day, the Delfast Top 2.0 is a blast to ride, thanks to its class leading range and power. It singlehandedly charts the path forward for electric bikes into a completely new classification that comes in advance of appropriate vehicle regulations in much of the world. It’s a discussion regulatory bodies around the world need to have, but lacking appropriate regulations and thanks to the motorcycle styling of the Top 2.0, could leave riders without many options to ride it.
This is how change comes about. New technologies, new companies, and new products push the envelope of what’s possible. Invariably slow governments gradually pick up on the fact that something has changed and within a decade or so, issue new regulations to govern, restrict, and frame up a new set of parameters. It’s not the most efficient way of ushering in new technology, but it’s all we have for now.
2-wheelers like the Top 2.0 push that envelope while charting out a path towards a cleaner, zero emission future. It’s not hard to imagine bikes like this taking over the obnoxious scooter market in Southeast Asia, offering silent riding, zero tailpipe emissions, and more enjoyment.
Delfast has since come out with the Top 3.0, boasting improved specs for the same price of $6,199.
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