You can futz around with electric skateboards and one-wheeled hoverboards, but for most people there is only one real contender for your complete car replacement. Whether they’re shared, electric, or folding, bikes relieve traffic pressure, produce fewer emissions, and get people moving.
If an electric bike can get you to work without sweating through your shirt, and a folding bike can fit in a car and get stored under a desk, why not…an electric folding bike? Jetson’s Metro electric folding bike fits a 250-watt CZJB motor cleverly hidden in the bike’s crossbar. At $800, it’s much more affordable than, say, a $3500 Tern Vektron or even a $1700 RadWagon RadMini.
But still: Is it worth it? I rode one around, going to lunch and running errands, to find out.
Nuts and Bolts
The Metro folding bike isn’t small. With the motor and an aluminum alloy frame, it weighs a total of 38 pounds. A magnet clasps the front and back wheels together when folded, but there’s nothing to latch the handlebars onto the frame. When you carry it, you have to hold it carefully to keep the handlebars from swinging around.
If you lower the quick-release seat, it is about 25 inches tall folded, 30 inches long, and 17 inches wide. It’s not as compact as you might expect, either, but it does fit under my work desk with the seat lowered. It also fits in the trunk of my Honda Element.
It’s easy to figure out how to fold and unfold it. I put a stopwatch on myself and discovered that it usually takes under twenty seconds for me to take it apart or put it together. Of course, that’s not including the times when I couldn’t align the crossbar properly, or when it took extra grunt to close the clamp. I thought about loosening the nut to make it easier to clamp the crossbar together, but loosening parts on a bike that can go 16 mph didn’t seem like a great idea.
The components could probably be a little sturdier. The first time I put the bike together, I chipped off a small piece of metal on the clamp that hooks the cross-tube together, which was…worrying. Thankfully, the one-year factory warranty should cover any real issues you encounter with your Jetson.
It was easy to adjust the stem, handlebars, and seat level to fit my short height. Before I rode it, I charged it overnight. The bike’s range is 40 miles, which seemed to be accurate. I didn’t get that far, but ten miles of riding over several days drained the battery to 60 percent. It only took 40 minutes to charge back up to 100 percent.
Get Your Motor Runnin’
The Metro has three levels of pedal assist. Rather than computing how much torque you need to ride up hills or at a certain speed, the simple computer outputs a different wattage depending on which level you’ve selected—150, 200, or 250 watts, respectively.
On a flat stretch of road on the third level, it was easy to achieve the Metro’s max speed of 16 mph. Thanks to its rear suspension and fat, 16-inch wheels, 16 mph still felt stable and safe.
I loved the plush, comfortable seat and big, ergonomic grips. You can check your speed, your odometer, and your battery level on a small LCD, which is mounted on the handlebars. You can also turn on the integrated front light once it gets dark outside.
On the right grip, you will find a button to honk the horn (Wheee!) and a twist throttle. A horn or bell is crucial for city riding, where cars and pedestrians aren’t always keeping an eye out for bikers. I liked the throttle for passing people on narrow bike lanes, but I did learn that I have to be a little careful. One time, I wheeled the Metro down a driveway when it leaped out of my hands and onto the sidewalk—I’d twisted the throttle without even realizing it!
The Metro has front and rear disc brakes, and a guard to keep your pants from getting caught in the chain. It only has one gear, but it capably made its way up a 20-degree hill near my house on level 3 assist. The display measures how much battery you have left, depending on how hard the motor is working, but I found its accuracy suspect. It’s a little disconcerting to see the battery level fluctuate so rapidly. Wait, do I have 51 percent battery, or 14 percent? Only time will tell!
It’s also water-resistant, so you can ride it in the rain. Jetson does, however, caution you to avoid using water to wash it.
Both folding bicycles and electric ones are intended to let you take a bike where you might otherwise not have. There were a few times where I rode the Metro when I might have otherwise driven, knowing that I had plenty of juice to get me there and that I could always tuck it into a trunk for the ride home.
But as a commuter vehicle, the Metro just lacks a few crucial details. There are no eyelets to attach a rear or front rack, so your storage options are limited to racks that clamp onto the seat post, or baskets that attach to the handlebars. Both of these options have much lower weight limits than a traditional rear rack. Your options for fenders (a necessity for foul-weather commuters) are limited, too, since the wheel forks don’t have very much clearance.
I also found the 38-pound electric Jetson to be pretty heavy. I don’t think I’d want to carry it through a subway station; it was hard enough carrying it around my house and putting it in cars.
It’s hard to tell anyone to spend more money. But seriously—if you’re looking for a folding electric bike that can reliably replace your car, then it might be worth it to save up for a sturdier e-bike that can schlep just a little more. If you’re actually looking for a fun toy to get you from the subway to work without breaking a sweat, Jetson’s own Bolt is both lighter and cheaper, leaving the poor Metro between a rock and a hard place.
social experiment by Livio Acerbo #greengroundit #wired https://www.wired.com/review/review-jetson-metro-electric-folding-bike