by Chuck Castillo
April 23, 2021 - Based in Guelph, Ont., Wike Bicycle Company is not afraid to innovate and their products are sold around the world. The creative manufacturer has been around since 1993 and offers a variety of products that youâ€™d be hard pressed find elsewhere.
One of the unique products is their Salamander, a cargo bike that amazingly converts into a stroller in 10-15 seconds. The winner of a Eurobike gold design award in 2018, I jumped at the chance to test the electric version of this celebrated cargo bike.
Owner Bob Bell gave me a quick factory tour and showed me the eSalamander, explaining how easy it is to assemble â€“ something which always made me hesitant to buy a bike online. But the Salamander comes more or less pre-assembled with only a few easy components to attach. Wikeâ€™s web site has a helpful video showing the assembly steps here.
The eSalamander comes with a Shimano STEPS 6100 drive system that features three modes, eco, normal, and high, which effectively add 50%, 100%, or 200% of support to your pedal power. The Shimano Nexus 8i internal gear in the rear hub lets you downshift at a standstill when youâ€™re caught in a higher gear at a red light â€“ very handy for an e-cargo bike.
Controlling the assistance level with your left hand and the gears from your right makes managing your speed and effort very intuitive.
The first thing I did was pack the kids in and go up and down some local hills to test out the e-assist. The eSalamander can accommodate a combined weight of 100 lbs/45 kg and kids who are under 48â€³/122 cm tall. My average sized 3- and 5-year-old boys have a combined weight of 90 lbs and fit comfortably in the pod. The unit comes with two seat cushions of different depth for different size kids, and provides plenty of comfort resulting in no complaints as we went over the bumps and cracks of city roads.
Strapping the kids in was a cinch. There is a lap belt with two sets of padded shoulder straps. Tightening the straps was as simple as pulling them back to your desired tightness. No fuss no muss.
To flatten out steep hills I found that I had to be in the lowest gear and set the assist to max power. I had set a goal to drain the 36v 418Wh lithium ion battery as soon as possible to give myself no choice but to ride the e-cargo bike manually.
That challenge came a few days later when I achieved this goal. With my oldest in the box and pedalling slow and hard up one of the steepest hills in town, I was leap-frogged by another rider I had just passed. Without assist the 124lb e-cargo bike (including the battery and canopy) was comparable to the non-electric cargo bike I typically use. As such I made sure to keep the battery well charged after that, which wasnâ€™t difficult with a charge time of four hours.
Of course, the defining feature of this unique e-cargo bike is itâ€™s ability to convert into a stroller and back, which is a non-issue on this third-generation model. On our daily school/daycare runs I would go from stroller to bike and back multiple times with and without the kids, each time with a satisfying chunk sound from the lever engaging. The conversion takes 10-15 seconds and is best demonstrated by Wikeâ€™s video here.
With two kids in the pod thereâ€™s not much additional room, so if youâ€™re planning a daytrip consider pairing the eSalamander with a trailer, or purchasing an adapter to fit a pannier onto the rear rack.
For our one-day trip to the park I added a trailer to the rear and the electric assist really shined as I was completely oblivious that I was towing a full trailer in the back and two kids in front. We started the day with the cover open but when it started to rain my oldest could grab the open cover and pull it down mid-ride to keep them dry, while the fenders and chain guard kept me clean.
The cover has a built in screen to allow a breeze and a detachable rain cover. The e-cargo bike also offers plenty of reflective strips, and comes with front and rear lights (batteries included), so we were quite visible to other road users. The 20â€³/51cm alloy wheels and a pair of disc brakes give this e-cargo bike lots of stopping power even when fully loaded.
On a solo trip to pick up some supplies at various shops, the pedals fold to fit through a standard 32â€³ door, and theyâ€™re made of nylon to prevent scratching in case of any bumps. I found it relatively easy to manoeuvre through the narrow aisles of the shop, which gave me some piece of mind as a navigated my way past rows of glass bottles.
On our last weekend I pedalled the kids along some local trails and passed a park where festivals are often held. I pictured a future adventure of bringing the kids there by e-cargo bike and then switching it to a stroller for the day.
Thatâ€™s an outing where the eSalamander would really shine. For now I got to enjoy the smiles and exclamations of passersby while experiencing none of the sweat I usually generate. That will do.
The SRP for the e-cargo bike Salamander is $5,999 ($4,799 USD) and for more information please visit here.
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