A Pedal Electric reviewed – The Wisper Sport 905se

19 12 2009

This is the week of the failed Copenhagen Summit and therefore it is the week of MIT’s  The Copenhagen Wheel, which has some very cool ideas put into the one package, namely the Bluetooth control where you take your normal (Bluetooth and GPS enabled) phone and mount it on your handlebars and you have yourself an instant dashboard.

And the self contained nature of the motor is pretty choice, and it is designed to go into a standard rear fork so presumably it is quite thin. I’d chuck one in my old normal bike, but it getting energy it seems only from braking does seem pretty limited. It’d be a toy electric bike, not a real one. A real electric bike has a handlebar throttle.

So this is a review of a real pedal electric bike, a  Wisper Bikes bike, the 905se-Sport. I’ve been riding one since May.

They’re an English Company from somewhere called  Hampshire and that means they’re relatively expensive to buy in New Zealand. Try this guy in Whakatane.

So here it is a bit bruised and battered (but cleaned) after a few months of use:


It is a pretty solid bike. The frame is strong. It is also heavy. The bike with battery is 23 kg. That makes it a pain to chuck it over a gate or a fence. It is a pretty sturdy ride too. The riding position is quite upright, so it’s pretty comfortable. The 37v 14a advanced lithium polymer battery (518 watt hours) drops in behind the seat. It is lockable to the frame. Unfortunately it means you have to take the seat out to get to the battery. This means each ride I have to set the seat height again. Usually I charge the battery at home leaving the battery in the bike, but if I recharge at work I take the battery out. I have managed to break the battery handle 😦 It was made of plastic and wasn’t strong enough,

which means the battery is just that bit harder to get in and out. The little black rubber cover for the recharge plug and the fuse are long ago lost.

On the whole for the battery design I would prefer to have them mountable on the back carrier (my carrier is a 3rd party after market accessory). I would also like them daisy chainable. So if I bought another battery (which I can’t do, because the batteries cost too much) I’d like to be able to plug in a second or subsequent battery and then the computer was smart enough to drain one entirely first then the next. And if they were daisy chainable to a battery or two in a towed trailer, that’d be even better. I’d love a range on my battery where I could ride electric assisted all day.

Here’s my bike from the front with it’s after market lights. The bike is trying to do an ET wearing a monocle impression. The pannier is a standard one (not one of the Wisper ones) I bought at a local bike shop. The front end is pretty solid too. The throttle in the handlebar grip that works like a motorcycle throttle is an integral part of the system. I’m not wanting to press the screen of an iPhone to change gears. I like the Shimano gear set that comes with the bike. There’s only 7 gears, and I use about 3 of them, but step through the others. 1, 4 and 7 are the ones I use. I do most of my riding in 7th and top gear. On the flat I can ride pedal assist at 34km/hr and sustain about 28 km/hr in the first hour. I eat hills on it, and can ride up quite substantial hills in 6th or 7th and at 22km/hr, where on a normal bike I’d be in granny gear. My friends on normal bikes can usually keep up with me (and vice versa) on the flat, but I accelerate on hills whilst they drop behind.

Range wise I can do a comfy 40km without too much of a sweat. By the time I get back there’s power still in the battery and in me. I can do 80 or even 100km (depending on hills and wind) and me and the bike have had it with nothing left in either of our batteries. On my normal bike I’m dead after 60km.

On a bike carrier on the back of my car there are a few qualms. Firstly it is so damn heavy. I usually remove the battery to make it 3 or so kilos lighter. Next because the bike is longer than a normal bike by about the width of the battery behind the seat, it hangs over the side of the car by a couple of inches. Next the rear brake cable goes under the cross bar of the frame, when everything else is neatly wired on the bottom bar of the frame. And that back loop of metal for running the brake cable along is just in the wrong place for my bike carrier. So the end result is I’ve stuffed the cable up a bit and put a bit of wear onto the frame. Really it would be better to route the brake cable for the rear brakes with the other cables.

The computer is down low and not well protected. It is only splash proof and not fully waterproof. This I reckon is a design oversight. However I’ve forded a few creeks and it’s been fine. Then again the plug on the purple wires has fallen out the back. What that plug is for I don’t know. I plugged it into its other end and it makes the bike stop working.

The cogs on the back hub have corroded a bit. (Maybe cause I ride it on beaches) and the back connector’s plastic lug doesn’t fit on any more (nor did it very well at the start). I think this should be redesigned as a plug and socket for facilitating the removal of the back wheel. You need two 18 mm spanners to get it off and then it hangs by the wire. Two 18 mm spanners carried in the panniers is actually quite heavy. Some form of quick release that is key locked matching the other locks on the bike would be ideal.

So far I’ve had 26 punctures. Between a heavy bike and a heavy rider and off road riding I’ve had a few punctures. I’ve gone for goo filled tyres and not had a puncture since. If it becomes a problem again, I’m thinking of trying out fancy polyurethane airless tyres shipped over from Colorado.

I’ve had 4 broken spokes. They were due to two rough (but fun) rides. And spoke lengths on the rear wheel are a non standard 20cm. I think I should treat it as a commuter and touring bike, and leave the single track downhill for a different bike (and a younger rider).  It does handle the gravel roads quite well. Flying across hard packed sand at 30km/hr it also handles quite well (but don’t stop pedalling or using that throttle as it’s heavy and it’ll sink into the sand).

The rear brakes being the brake pad against the rim type are pretty bad. The front disk brake works a lot better.

It’s taken a bit of rough punishment from me and it’s held up quite well. The original bike computer was rubbish quality and soon went. It’s replacement fell off and was lost, but that was a crap Cat Eye mount’s fault not the bike’s . The pump that comes with the bike is rubbish quality as well. It wasn’t that hard to put the bike together when I got it either.

On the whole it has been a whole lot of comfortable and fun rides and I absolutely love riding it. Routine maintenance is the key for it to have a long life. I may replace the back brakes with a better mechanism and reroute the cable for it and file off those tabs on the cross bar. I’ll be fussy about any bike computer if I get another one (but maybe I should just get an iPhone with GPS).

In Wellington I can chuck it on the trains, but that extra couple inches of length make it more difficult than a normal bike to get it on. One conductor told me I couldn’t have the battery connected since it was an electric train (I don’t get it either), but he was fine with it if I took the battery out and put it in my backpack.

When I’ve gone for a 40km ride in the evening and I don’t feel like pedalling anymore I stand up on my pedals with a straight back, just holding onto the throttle and leaning slightly forward and looking around into the paddocks, watching the world silently go by. I call that riding position the pukeko. Because the bike is so silent I’ve snuck up on a few pukekos and ducks. And I rolled past a falcon on a fence post 4 feet away who wasn’t disturbed enough to fly off. So it is a good mobile platform for bird watching.

Pedal electric technology isn’t perfect yet. The MIT Copenhagen bike shows there’s a lot more room for innovation. It’s not perfect yet, but what there is, is pretty fantastic. And if pedal electrics get more people on bikes for short (or long) commutes, and if we get pedal electric recumbents, and we get pedal electric velomobiles taking over the city, then we should be able to give up petrol and diesel engine commuting.

The keys to it are battery range and this is where daisy chaining comes into it. The other key to it is speed. A 250Watt motor on a bike doesn’t give enough speed. I think the cruising speed of an electric bike should be around 40km/hr, and for a more stable recumbent 50km/hr. In a velomobile  (which by my definition is a recumbent in a shell) it should be 60 km/hr since you could put some basic safety features into the shell like a roll bar above the head. And if people could commute at 60 km/hr (with or without pedalling themselves) carrying maybe some groceries and a kid in safety then who’d need to have a car in the city at all.

We wouldn’t need to plead for cycleways. We could just kick off the cars and use the roads.

I love my Wisper Sport.

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10 responses

19 12 2009
Mark H

Interesting gizmo. Not really for me. But I can see how it would be fab if I had a longer commute. And anything that starts to erode the love affair we have with cars for short journeys gets my thumbs up. (I don’t care what the fuel is, unneceessary use of cars for short, unladen trips causes congestion and contributes to poor health and lack of community)

20 12 2009
dottie

Great review. This is the first review of an electric bike I’ve seen from a real person 🙂 I’m surprised it can go so fast. Would be annoying to take off the seat for each charge, though.

27 12 2009
Patrick

Nice review. Have tried ebikes and they definitely pass the grin test. Am unsure how well they will hold up after a year or 2 of regular use, so I look forward to another review in a year.
2 questions: initial cost? Wattage?
cheers

27 12 2009
Matthew

For cost see http://www.electricbikes.co.nz. Too much is the answer. Over two grand, and they have dropped a little in price over this last year.

For wattage. 250W. I think the legal limit in NZ is 300W. In Australia it is only 200W. In Canada it is 500W. I think 1hp, or 768W would be a nicer limit. The laws are neither consistent, nor well written for e-bikes.

I have noticed the battery is never as good as the first couple times I rode it. It claims 1000 recharges, but there is a drop-off from the beginning. It was completely flat by the end of my 50km Pohangina ride.

And in a year I’m interested too in how it’s going to be. It’s definitely not in as good nick as when I got it. It’s all that regular maintenance that I’m going to take responsibility for that will be the key to it, but that is true of all bikes.

Still if I was confident of getting a standardised set of spare parts which were plug and play for the next 10 years I’d have a lot more confidence in buying one. I think the market is in flux at the moment. It’s going to be interesting to see where the technology will be in 5 and 10 years.

6 03 2010
Rickshaw

yes it is interesting and useful to read this such of review. Very helpful for those who look for an electric bike. Maybe not for me but could have some use for those who have some disabilities

19 06 2010
Martin

I live in ireland. I have had a wisper 905 for the last 18 months. I have the city model. I had almost exactly the same experience. I have also broken 4 spokes but I did not do any heavy riding on it. I think that the spoke threads loosen and put pressure on other spokes around them when this happens. They break where they connect to the hub. My wisper dealer has sent me spokes for free.

I have caliper brakes front and back. The wisper 906 is lighter and have disk breaks front and back. It will also have a light running off the battery instead of a stupid dynamo which goes through bulbs quickly if you can source the bulbs.

I don’t have to remove the saddle to take out the battery because I am tall and the saddle is high enough anyway. However, I cannot fit a good child seat on because although the wisper is long, it is a small bike. My local dealer can fit one on the backer but you cannot remove it.

Overall, I love my electric bike. I cycle to work with my laptop and I can negotiate the steep hills very easily. I cycle to restuarants and save on cabs and getting my car the following day.

In europe, generally 250w is the limit. The engines cuts out at 15mph. I find that where I had bikes that go over 15mph, the battery gets drained very quickly because of wind resistance. However, I think 250w is a bit low for hills when my lap top is on the back.

31 07 2013
Bruce

Get With the plan. I’ve had mine for 5 years now need to re-power as the battery is a bit sad. Best commuting machine ever. ditch the car, get a bike

14 08 2016
George E Hawkins

An Excellent review, I have an older wisper run on a 36v-14w motor.A s my battery was starting to fail ie it wasnt assisting at lower speeds,and it needed charging every 3 days. I had bike serviced in Tauranga and thought I would also buy a new battery. The $900 mentioned for a battery stopped my new battery thoughts. This in turn opened up a can of worms… $900…Trolling internet and in particular China suppliers…I see a battery can be bought from$217 US.,Somene seems to be making a killing. Currently I think I will import my own battery from China and my bet is its price landed will be under $350.Aside of my battery problems I have a few minor niggles….The handlebars I would prefer to come backwards another two inches and the rear brake is poor but the front …lethal!
My bike now is over five years old so the battery realy needs replacing and is not a fault. I do enjoy the bike,its easy to ride and the two minor hills I have to climb….it assists well.I sure would buy another but would not buy a replacement battery from a New Zealand retailer.

22 06 2017
Shuna

I do not have to take my battery out to charge it on my Wisper. Love it.

22 06 2017
Shuna

PS Have done over 14000 kms in 7 years.

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