If you are in the vicinity of my age group, then at some point you surely rode a moped. Also equally surely, you rode it fast — as fast as it could go — and it was fair entertainment, till someone in the group managed a fake licence and access to a second-hand motorcycle, at which point things escalated, never to return to that same point of innocence again.
Recently, I had a sort of nostalgic dip back into those naïve, formative years, when I test-rode the new Hero Lectro e-bike. I was reminded of the moped which had a brief surge of popularity in the 1990s, because, in principle, it is similar, even if the technology and other dynamics may classify it as an altogether different beast. For one, this one is batteryassisted, and can be charged, while the moped needed fuel, all two litres of it.
But the main difference is in two aspects. First, in the way it looks. This is primarily a bicycle, but one on steroids. The tyres are beefy and muscled, the frame is anything but dainty, and there is a certain chunky charisma the bike commands. And yet, it’s much lighter than the mopeds of yesteryear. The second difference is in how the bike functions. A moped, essentially, was a toy scooter. It had no gears and could work entirely on fuel. When that ran out, one resorted to pedalling, even though it wasn’t most conducive when one approached a flyover and had to haul the mighty model across it using only your quads. Or, as was the case with certain earlier models, the pedalling was needed to get the motor started.
The average speed promised by the Hero Lectro is an enviable 25 kph (although I managed to cruise comfortably at around 27-30 kph), but the speed doesn’t just come on.
It is more assistive, in that you have to keep pedalling to get the power supply running, or you will coast and eventually come to a halt. The thrust can be toggled using buttons on a small on-bike computer, which also tells you the distance, current speed and charge – but you have to keep pedalling. There are also traditional bicycle gears on the rear wheel, to change the amount of pedalling effort needed to propel the bike. There is no sound, except for the gentle humming which all electronic motors make, but it’s more Segway than Tesla.
The fun begins when you push the pedal, because the acceleration is nothing commensurate to the effort you have just exerted. It almost seems to defy the laws of physics, to cheat the principles of science itself, as you gain much more speed than your legs had applied for. That feeling of getting away with more reward for your effort is something that perhaps only the throttle on a supercharged V8 can deliver.
Among the e-bike’s few downsides is that it doesn’t have an inbuilt lock or storage of any sort, which would have been handy. Secondly, it is much more than a cycle when it comes to handling. It is built like a mini tank, so it’s not very easy to manoeuvre, and in case you live on a higher floor, you might as well build it a tiny garage on the ground floor. Finally, the brakes, which to me felt a bit weak when I got the bike up to, say, 40 kph. Given that the average target customer for this kind of a bike isn’t the type who will be pushing it that hard, the brakes should not be a big worry, but for road-enthusiasts like me, it might be wise to keep the adrenaline in check. Maps and data integration with fitness apps could also be good add-ons, for future models.
So, for those who wish to have a ride for fun jaunts, one that combines some exercise with the added allowance for comfort, the Hero Lectro is probably worth the investment. The fear, though, is that there would be many who would look at it as just a wannabe motorbike.
In short: The Lectro range starts at Rs 40,000 and goes up to Rs 80,000. They come in various sizes and styles, and all feature a 250-watt electric motor and a 48/56 volt battery pack.