First ride: Bultaco Brinco R
To most people Bultaco means one thing and that’s trials bikes. Incredibly successful in the 1960s and '70s, the marque went on to dominate the sport with eight world titles and four Scottish six-day trial wins.
More or less defunct since 1983 the brand has been reborn as a manufacturer of electric bikes and the Brinco R is the first in a line of planned production models.
Powered by a 2000 watt, rear hub mounted motor, the Brinco R is more powerful than similar machines from motorcycle manufacturers KTM (575 watts) and Yamaha (Haibike sDuro at 250 watts) but not quite up to the 5200 watts of the B-52 machine from Stealth.
Built from the ground up as an electric trail bike (rather than a converted mountain bike design) good quality cycle components hang from the Brinco’s unique aluminium frame and swingarm including 203mm front and rear hydraulic disc brakes and nine derailleur style gears. A switchable internal gearbox at the crank supplies an overdrive of sorts. Good quality suspension forks and rear shock work well but need careful set up. The bike only comes in one frame size so very tall or short riders may find the fit less than ideal.
Twist and go, just pedal or both...
The motor and pedals are independent of each other, meaning you can just ride the Brinco R like a twist and go moped, pedal it like a bicycle or, do what I found is most natural and do a bit of both. With a healthy amount of power available, the Brinco R will reach speeds of 30mph or 40mph if you’re pedalling hard.
A swipe of the LED clocks with the credit card key or special wristband activates the machine, a touch of either brake lever energizes the motor then it’s just a case of turning the conventional twist grip on the right bar. Acceleration isn’t startling but in ‘Sport’ mode with moderate pedalling you can reach 30mph fairly briskly. A button on the left bar acts like a cruise control and sets a constant power output for the motor, useful for steep climbs where you’re out of the saddle.
A genuine alternative?
I’ve ridden several other electric bikes and the sensation of riding them is always more bicycle than trail bike. If you pick up any speed off road they tend to become twitchy and unstable but the Brinco R is the closest to an ideal mix of the two genres, it’s as agile as a bicycle down a nadgery single track but doesn’t suffer from any instability when speeds rise, no doubt due to the rigidity of the aluminium beam frame and chunky swingarm. The Brinco R is incredibly entertaining to ride off road and the closest genuine alternative to a small capacity trail bike that we've ridden.
Range is claimed at 30, 46 and 62 miles depending on the power mode setting and how much you’re prepared to pedal. The 8kg lithium ion battery can be charged on the bike or removed with a key.
Should you ever run out of battery power the 39kg Brinco R is an effort to pedal but it’s possible as a get-you-home measure. The included charger is the size of a small shoebox and easily fits in a rucksack. Not as convenient as just being able to plug a lead directly into the bike but saves some weight (unless you’re carrying it!). If the bike is going to be used for commuting you could buy a second charger (£132) to keep at work. Flat to fully charged takes three hours. Bultaco estimate the battery will take between 900 to 1100 charges before it needs replacing at a cost of £1080, that’s equates to roughly 30,000 - 35,000 miles.
The Electrically Assisted Pedal Cycles regulations 2015 mean that the Brinco R isn’t legal on UK roads as a bicycle as the motor exceeds 250 watts and 15.5mph and it doesn’t meet regulations as a moped or motorcycle either so currently if you want to stay within the law, you can only ride the Brinco R on private ground. £3995 is a high price for something you can only legally ride in your garden but if you’re willing to break the law, and slow down a bit when you meet dog walkers you’ll probably get away with it.
The road legal versions
If you want to keep on the right side of the law the Brinco RE (same as the R but in restricted pedelect or Moped format) is available for £4495 and comes fully homologated with sidestand, lighting kit, mirror and extended rear fender with number plate holder.
Motor: 2000 watt brushless, rear hub mounted
Battery: 1.3kw lithium ion
Range: 30 (sport), 46 (tour) and 62 (eco) miles
Charge time: 3 hours
Frame type: aluminium beam
Seat height: 1061 - 1164mm
Brakes: 203mm hydraulic disc front and rear
Tyre size: 24in x 3in front and rear
Warranty: two years, all components