Read a few reviews about the new ZX e-bike from the company Super73, and you can probably pick out who is new to the e-bike experience and who is not. With that in mind, here are some thoughts on a powerful personal mobility device that commands much respect and gives much pleasure.
Does This E-Bike Go Up Hills?
Good question! This question seems to pop up all over the Intertubes. Can the ZX pedal-assist electric bike from Super73 go up hills? Find out for yourself by taking it on a spin.
If you’re accustomed to multiple gears, you can anticipate a different kind of ride with the standard Super73 ZX. It has just one 16-tooth rear cog gear to play around with (a 10-speed version is optional), so if this is your first time on a single-speed bike since training wheels, your best bet is to build a relationship with the bike. It’s sure going to be worth it.
My ZX arrived in a cardboard box and was easy to assemble. After a quick spin around a parking lot I took it on my regular 20-mile commute to work, which consists of a series of low, high, and steep hills followed by more of the same. Incredibly, the ZX sailed up most of them with the power mode set to zero on that one gear. Either I’m in better shape than I thought, or magic is happening.
Part of the difference could be the seat design. It humps up at the rear, which lets you put some extra muscle into your legwork.
To be clear, it was a much more vigorous workout/commute than I get with my everyday e-bike of 7 gears and 3 power modes, so if that’s the relationship you’re looking for, go for it.
For steeper hills, you can use whatever power mode is street-legal in your jurisdiction to give you a bit of an extra kick without breaking a sweat. After zero comes one, two, and three, and then there is a secret 4th mode which is really not a secret, but you have to really want it to get it.
I did find it difficult to feel the boost going up the first couple of hills, which could be where all those questions about going up hills come from. However, after a mile or so I figured out how to modulate my pedaling to get the most out of the power settings. Setting number one was enough to top off most of the hills, and I called upon two and three as needed.
Does The Super73 ZX E-Bike Throttle Obey Your Commands?
Power modes or not, the throttle definitely came in handy for some of those hills, including an actual mountain (well, that’s what they call it around here) that pops up at mile 18 of my round trip and would probably kill me on a conventional bicycle. The motor on this e-bike is ripped at 750 watt nominal/1350 watt peak, so hitting the throttle gave me more than enough juice to get up and over without having to pull off end-of-commute feats of strength and endurance.
As for why you need a throttle on an e-bike, you don’t necessarily need a throttle, especially not if you live in an area without hills. I do have hills, and I find a throttle very useful on a long urban/suburban commute, especially one with no bike lanes.
Aside from topping off hills, the throttle can give you a running start on traffic after stopping at an intersection on an uphill climb, get you through an intersection on the green light before a car turns into your path, or scoot you across big, wide multi-lane intersection before things get hairy.
The throttle on this e-bike is super-responsive, which could be where some of those questions about throttle behavior come from. If the Super73 ZX is going to be your first ever e-bike, you might want to prepare by getting a few minutes of practice on an e-bike that packs a bit less punch.
Otherwise, remember the Simon Cowell rule: respect the beast. The ZX has a thumb-style throttle, which is super fun to play around with, but if you have a lead thumb (lead as in Pb, the heavy metal), you’re going to be in for a surprise. Play around with the throttle on level ground for a few minutes and go soft before going hard.
I did experience one hitch on my first commute, when the throttle wouldn’t engage at the beginning of the return ride. Not sure what happened there, but shutting off the battery for a few seconds fixed the problem and it never happened again.
The opposite thing happened on the second day. I hit the throttle coming out of the driveway from the office just to make sure it would engage, and it seemed to respond with more juice than I intended. On reflection, though, that was probably just my thumb over-compensating for the previous day. I played around with the throttle for the whole 11-mile ride home and the issue never popped up again.
What About The Fun?
The coolest and funnest thing about this e-bike is getting to feel, well, cool, on a sporty-looking bike without blowing a ton of cash on a sporty-looking car.
Since sporty goes along with feelings of freedom, Super73 made a great choice of interface for the ZX. Instead of a big squared-off display it’s a discrete, tiny little round button on the handlebar, so you get the connectivity without having the connectivity in your face.
The coolest thing about the round display is the battery life indicator, which is a thin line encircling the rim of the display. It gives you a lot more nuance than conventional indicators that only give you a number of bars and you think you’re okay until all of a sudden you’re down to one bar and it’s winking at you.
The Super73 ZX gets great reviews for comfort, and it’s all true. The big soft seat, super cushy suspension, and ultra-fat tires are all pulling for you to cruise over potholes without a hitch, and the tilt-able handlebar gives you plenty of room to adjust your posture.
It’s also light for its size, thanks to an aluminum alloy frame.
As for safety features, I had a chance to check out the mechanical 160/160mm rotors when the pickup truck ahead of me suddenly came to a full stop at a Yield sign for no reason while hogging the curb. I didn’t have time to think about bailing onto the sidewalk or landing in the back of the truck, I just hit the brakes (spoiler alert: they worked).
The light kit comes extra, but if you have a set of removable strap-on lights, those will do the trick, and the curved bar behind the seat is a perfect spot for your rear light.
E-bikes: Compare & Contrast
After spending a few minutes on the Super73 ZX, I missed my workaday ride with the seven gears. However, after a few more minutes, I didn’t miss a thing. The ZX is fun, all right. After the first 20-mile commute, I couldn’t wait to get back on and do another 20 miles, only better.
There was time for a third ride before sending the bike back, but by then it was the weekend, it was raining, and fenders are not included with the standard ZX. But I really wanted to see if another ride would be even better than the first two.
It was meant to be, because the rain slacked off to practically nothing by the time I got on the road. Instead of heading for the office, I did a 15-mile loop along a winding road that winds up and down that mountain, most of which is a nature preserve.
With almost no traffic to dodge and just a couple of small intersections along the way, that ride was so much fun I forgot to remember anything about it.
All in all, after spending 55 miles or so getting to know the Super73 ZX e-bike, I’m ready for more.
Follow me on Twitter @TinaMCasey.
Photo: Super73 ZX e-bike with rider dressed for 20-mile round trip to office with no bike lanes (via Tina Casey).