- Great looks
- Solid Construction
- Great value launch price
- Top assisted speed limited by law
- Could be a little lighter
- Faster charging time would be useful
Assisted Range: 22-50 miles Top Assisted Speed: 15 mph Cost/Mile (@14p/kWh): Negligible
If you want to enjoy riding a bicycle, then your power to weight ratio is crucial. Stiff gears, heavy bikes, steep gradients, aching joints and plain old age are all against you when you want to switch to pedal power. During a normal ride on a flat surface, humans generate around 250 watts of power. What if you could add another 250 watts of power at the touch of a button? Well that's exactly what good eBikes offer.
With the latest research showing that up to 25% of the bicycles sold in the UK last year were fitted with electric motors, it's easy to see just how much further ahead the electrification of two-wheeled transport is when compared to the four-wheeled options.
We took the latest X-Cross 450 from UK specialist eBike maker Mark2 for a test to see what all the fuss is about.
Price and Options
Our main focus was on the X-Cross 450, with its step-thru design, but we also tried the X-Cross 520 with a step-over frame for comparison. They are both ‘2022' designs, that will form the core of Mark2's design offering next year, but they are available for pre-order now with delivery scheduled for late autumn. The second shipment will see these X-Cross models at £1,899, but if you pre-order one from the initial shipment, then there is a £700 discount to reward you.
In terms of options, you can choose to have straight ‘trekking' handlebars, or a swept back design that's more suited to casual cycling. There's no additional charge for the ‘sport or leisure' handlebar configuration.
The same goes for the rack fitted to the back wheel. You can choose sleek/sporty or add in a practical luggage carrier at no extra cost.
Finally, in terms of options, both of the new Mark2 designs come with an Italian Selle Royal saddle as standard, but you can upgrade to a ‘comfort model', which comes full of ergonomic gel.
Both of the new Mark2 eBikes also come with powerful LED lights as standard. Your only other considerations are a safety lock and adding the eBike to your household insurance.
You can buy an additional battery, but we're not sure how practical that is. Depending on how much assistance you need, the supplied 375Wh Promovec battery will give you a range of 22 miles (lots of help) to 50 miles (a little help). Given that the distance from Westfield in London to Maidenhead is 22 miles and all the way to Reading is around 50 miles, then that's some serious cycling. If you then stopped for 3 hours at your destination, then you could recharge close to 100% on a standard 13 amp socket. Would you really need a second battery?
The step-thru design of the X-Cross 450 means that it is generally suitable for people with an inside leg measurement from 28in to 35in up to a maximum load of 120Kg (just under 19 stone). The X-Cross 520 will work well with inside leg measurements from 31in to 38in.
We found the colour scheme bold and attractive. The dark frame has white sections and yellow accents as well as the distinctive X-Cross graphics. The feeling is one of quality. A lightweight aircraft-grade aluminium (6061) alloy has been used for the main construction and the frame comes with a five year warranty.
That alloy means that the basic frame weighs only 2.5Kg and the entire eBike comes in at a shade under 22Kg. The front suspension is easily switchable, giving you flexibility and a more comfortable ride when the terrain gets rough, while letting you switch to fixed-forks in town, so the transfer of power from the motor to the tyres and, ultimately, the tarmac is more assured.
Alongside the suspension, another feature that catches the eye is the addition of Shimano disk brakes. According to Mark2, these offer superior stopping power in the rain.
There is also a Shimano 10-speed derailleur and gear set, which is useful if you decide to pedal the bike manually. During testing, we found that we were able to pull away quite comfortably in the highest gear. Not something we'd recommend for cycling around town on a conventional bicycle, but the X-Cross 450 made pulling away rather easy. You can also use the walk function to start things off, which engages the motor at walking speed. The motor itself sits in the centre of the rear wheel.
As mentioned, the eBike has switchable Suntour XCM LO front fork suspension as standard. The set-up and ride position is natural and relaxed, making it easy to look over your shoulder for approaching traffic etc. No matter how hard you accelerate with the motor, you still feel balanced and in control.
The wheels come with Schwalbe Spicer Plus Puncture Guard TwinSkin tyres, which will help guard against sudden or dramatic pressure loss and they are thick enough to ride smoothly over most surfaces. There's also a kickstand.
It could be an age thing but, having tried both options, we definitely preferred the ‘suspension gel saddle' upgrade (shown below). It is very comfortable and there was no noticeable fatigue, even after peddling for an hour at a time. The saddle has a quick release mechanism, so changing saddles is easy.
Given the variable weather you can experience in the UK, the inclusion of full-sized mud guards is a welcome addition. The last thing you want, after a ride in the rain, is to return with a dark mark from your head to your saddle.
The only negative for us is the speed limitation imposed on the assistance system for products in this class. Once you hit 15mph, you can really feel the reduction in acceleration. There's not a lot that Mark2 can do about this, but let's hope for some changes in the law in the near future.
While it could be possible to integrate a basket (or similar) at the front, it's hard to imagine needing more than the standard rack at the back for carrying loads. You can add saddle bags etc later if that's something you need.
The main LED display is water-proof, centrally mounted and easy to see while riding. The big blue display gives you the information you need most, namely how much assistance is being provided and how much battery power you have left. Unlike an electric car, draining your battery completely on an eBike is not a complete disaster – as you can carry on cycling the conventional way, until you reach a 13 amp wall socket.
The display also tells you speed and distance, which can be switched between miles and kilometres.
The left grip includes an up-down control that lets you set the assistance level from one (minimum) to five (maximum). It also lets you control illumination. Where the rubber grip meets the handlebars, there is a ‘throttle' that lets you add in an electrical assistance ‘boost' when needed. So you could ride the X-Cross 450 in manual mode, then twist the throttle when needed. We were told by Mark2 that this was a common way for riders to use this kind of hybrid technology. Giving themselves the best workout possible most of the time, but kicking in the power when needed – for example on a hill or in traffic.
Performance and Riding
You can try an X-Cross 450 or 520 at one of Mark2's official resellers – for example Hampshire eBikes. It's something that we would recommend. No matter how we explain it, the experience is likely to be much more fulfilling. We specifically targeted the steepest hill in our area and found that we could ride up in 3rd gear without breaking a sweat.
Pulling away from the lights is a satisfying experience and if you use a high level of assist for a relatively flat journey to work etc, you are unlikely to need to change clothes when you arrive. In terms of effort, there's little difference in effort between peddling an X-Cross 450 and walking.
Range and Charging
The quoted range is 22 to 50 miles (36 to 80km), which, as we have mentioned, is more than enough for most cyclists. If you are the kind of person who wants to use two wheels to get from London to Reading or Milton Keynes, then you're likely to be riding something with a fundamentally different design. While a complete 0-100% charge can take longer, a three hour charge will normally get you close to 100%. On that basis, leaving it on overnight at home or plugged in at work, will mean that your eBike is always ready to go. The battery is locked in place and takes seconds to remove. It can be charged in-situ on the eBike or taken with you.
Our calculations show that a full charge will cost around 6 pence on a normal tariff in the day, but you could get it for less at night and free if you can charge at work or in a restaurant, store etc.
Safety & Warranty
Designed in the UK and manufactured in Europe, the Mark2 X-Cross 450 comes with a five-year warranty on the frame, three years on the motor and battery (to 70%) and, outside of warranty, it can be serviced by any good cycle store. There's also a 14-day money back guarantee in case you change your mind while the eBike is in original condition. It comes with LED lights front and back.
|Price:||£1,899 inc vat
£1,199 with Early Bird Discount
|Range (WLTP):||22 miles with maximum assist
50 miles with minimum assist
|Charge time (13 amp home socket):||>4 hours from flat|
|Cost per mile*:||Negligible|
|Max Loading Weight:||120Kg|
*based on electricity costs of 14p per kWh