I have tried a couple of electric bikes over the past few years and while the convenience of an electric motor that assists your pedalling efforts is understandable, I have not really been a big fan of the concept and might as well buy a more comfortable electric scooter at a slightly higher cost. But clearly, my opinion is in the minority and this is why companies big and small are entering this segment.
The Virtus Motors Alpha M is also vying for attention in the electric bicycle segment touting its made-in-India credentials and relatively affordable price tag. But is that enough in this segment and how will users compare it with let’s say a more popular brand like Hero? This was top of my mind when I started my review.
The thick frame clearly indicates that it’s an e-bike (Image credit: Nandagopal Rajan/The Indian Express)
The moment the Alpha M was delivered at my doorstep, it was clear this is an e-bike. It has a thicker frame, there is a key to unlock the bike, the tyres are wider and there are at least two boxes on the frame you will not find in regular bikes. However, despite this, the bike did not seem heavier at just 20 kg including the battery.
My first spin was easy as the battery already had some charge when it came in. The bike is easy to handle and taking it down from my fifth-floor flat in the service lift was not such a big deal. The moment I turned the key, pressed the power button on the panel and pulled the throttle on the right bar, the cycle was on its way. This has some serious power and despite my 75-odd kilos, I did not need to pedal at all even in the first lowest assist state.
The LCD multi-function display on the left bar shows your speed, the assist level and the battery level (Image credit: Nandagopal Rajan/The Indian Express)
It is easy to keep a tab of all this thanks to the LCD multi-function display on the left bar which shows your speed, the assist level and the battery level. The power button here is flanked by Plus and Minus buttons which lets you increase the assist level. The panel, however, does not show the range and this was a dampener as I think it is a must-have for all electric vehicles.
Whizzing past some bikes and even a few cars on the wide Noida sector roads in my locality, this bike really stood out as onlookers could make out this was no regular bicycle. But unlike my first e-bike ride in these parts soon after the lockdown, people now seem more aware of the concept and no one flagged me down to ask what this bike was all about.
The Virtus Motors Alpha M can go really fast with up to 25 kmph max speed (Image credit: Nandagopal Rajan/The Indian Express)
The Virtus Motors Alpha M can go really fast and while the 25 kmph max speed might not seem like much on paper, that’s really fast for anything that is this thin and has just two wheels. I was a bit afraid of how the bike handles braking at high speeds — a very important aspect when on the roads in Noida. But the dual disc brakes and front suspension made this easy and safe. The braking is not immediate and you don’t have to worry about being thrown off the bike in the process — I am telling you this from personal experience of my Street Cat days. The extra wide tyres grip the road well, which is important because of the speeds you can achieve on this.
One interesting aspect of this bike is the removable 36V 8AH (288Whr) Lithium-Ion battery pack. You can charge it on the bike itself, but since I don’t have power points in the apartment corridor, I used the key to unlock the battery pack and take it inside for charging. This is quite easy, though the slider to put the battery back on the frame needs some redesign to ensure users don’t end up getting their fingers caught in the tight space. Just under the seat, there is another box which houses the motor. The wires that connect the battery and motor are tightly tied to the bike’s frame.
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The battery takes a few hours to charge and the company claims it gives you up to 60km on a full charge. However, as I pushed the assistance levels up to 5, I could see the battery level come down a bit. So I am not sure it will always be in the 60km range. It would be safer to play for about 20% less depending on the drive conditions. The bike comes with a headlamp and work built in, which is good.
I enjoyed the overall experience of the Alpha M as an electric bike that takes you places faster. And of course, if you run out of charge you can always pedal back on your own effort. But I found the cycle part of the Alpha M needs a bit more work, especially if it wants to compete with big brands that have been making bicycles for years. I struggled with the seat, for instance, and could not get it to lock in an angle properly and this severely impacted my riding pleasure. The company had sent an extra plush seat but I struggled to get the existing one out. Usually, I would have done this on my own, without taking it to a cycle shop which is a tough thing in my locality. Also, in two weeks, I noticed that the paint was wearing off a bit, which was a put off. But these are small issues the company can easily fix, but it should.
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At Rs 31,999, the Virtus Motors Alpha M is one of the more affordable electric bicycles in the Indian market. It has everything one would need in an e-bike and works without any hassles. Given that it is an Indian brand with a made-in-India product, the Alpha M needs to be commended for the product it is. It also considers Indian issues and this is why it lets you take the battery out for charging as not everyone is able to park their bike right outside their homes. However, there are some rough edges that need to be smoothened, but then these are early days for the segment and the company.
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