Attaching the Skarper unit to the frame is very simple. The rear inserts the DiskDrive at two points, and the tapered front end clips securely into a small bracket mounted on the bike frame. Press the only button on the unit, wait for the status light to come on, and you’re ready to ride.
Riding on the back streets and gentle hills of North London, I was impressed with the help Skarper provided and the instant pull I felt when I first pedaled. The assistance isn’t overbearing, and doesn’t scare first-time e-bike riders with inconsistent, aggressive acceleration. It’s simple, like a decent e-bike that helps when you need it, but doesn’t make you feel like you’re riding a moped.
I tried the Eco and Max modes, and while full power is more fun, both offer solutions to avoid sweating on your daily commute. Given the compact size and simplicity of the device, this is a huge achievement.
What surprised me most in testing, however, was that the big, goofy stride commuter bike was more fun than the ultralight gravel bike. It bounces off with a real joy that feels like an infinitely superior pay-per-view city bike. Maybe I don’t like the pro design because it’s a fast, fun and attractive bike to ride without power. In fact, it’s a bike where you zip to work under your own steam, then move on while Scarper is under pressure.
Prototyping requires some skill. In my testing, the bearing was a bit like a racket (apparently caused by having BMX riders jump with it at a trade show), and it sometimes pulled too hard when cornering. But even after I briefly tried this preproduction model, I could easily see its potential.
puzzling price point
Arguments about cost are inevitable. The Skarper is expected to retail for around £1,000 ($1,190), an amount most recreational cyclists would rather spend on a full electric bike. A quick search on Amazon turns up 577 complete e-bikes for sale at lower prices. So how does a company justify such spending?
“There’s a real value fallacy about buying a £1,000 e-bike,” Dawood said. “The cost of the battery and motor components is high, so you’re actually paying for a motor, battery and a bike made from off-brand parts that don’t cost more than £100.”
“So you can find e-bikes that look like a great deal, but the truth is, if you buy from a leading manufacturer like Specialized, Giant or Trek, there’s hardly anything under £2,000. So what we’re saying is, go for the bike shop and buy a hybrid commuter bike for £1,000 quality components, and then buy Skarper,” Darwood said.
On the face of it, this is a very big job and expense for the average bike commuter. But the fact remains that you don’t need to buy a new bike to use the Skarper. As long as you have disc brakes, you can install them on a bike you’ve been riding for years.