Time for a little nostalgia. When I was a teenager, back in the early 1960’s, my Raleigh three speed English racer and I were inseparable. I rode it to school on weekdays. I rode it to meet up with my friends on weekends. And once I was brave enough to ride with a friend from Forest Hills, New York to Tenafly, New Jersey and back in a day, crossing the iconic 59th Street Bridge and the George Washington Bridge. Of course back then the hills seemed less daunting, and my backside didn’t have as much of a memory.
Established on Raleigh Street in Nottingham, England in 1886 and incorporated in 1888, Raleigh is still very much alive and in business. I’m not quite sure when the Superbe line began, but we found one in a 1951 Raleigh catalog. The three speed has given way to more gears, and for an increasing number of us, a little bit of an electric assist. The Raleigh Superbe IE sports a retro look that is somewhat reminiscent of those older bikes and adds a bit of a boost. It even sports the traditional Raleigh head badge. However, we did ask to try out the step-through version since these days I’m no longer interested in raising the bar, just lowering it, thanks.
The Raleigh Superbe IE is at its heart a pretty solid performer, especially for the price. While it is a no-frills bike, I found it very easy to handle. It has an all-aluminum frame. It comes with a 350 Watt Currie Electro-Drive Rear Hub Motor System. It has a seven speed Shimano gear set. The geometry makes it easy to ride in an upright position, and Raleigh’s handlebars with Comfort Grips won’t hurt your hands even after several hours of riding. It uses caliper brakes which we found both smooth and effective.
The bike has a 48volt Lithium-Ion battery. From empty, a full charge will take between 4-6 hours. While the company says the range is between 16 and 35 miles between charges, we had it out on a couple of 20-mile rail-trail rides with well over half the power still remaining. We also took it over some demanding hills which definitely pulled more juice. This is a pedelec, or pedal assist bike, which means you need to be pedaling in order to get the motor to kick in. It uses what’s called a speed sensor, which is more sensitive than a torque sensor. That makes it easier to get started from the bottom of a hill or from a full stop at a traffic light. Though we might hope that Raleigh would consider adding the same kind of “boost button” it has as an option on some of its other bikes to throttle up from zero without having to work quite so hard.
The 350 Watt motor made the flats a breeze and even did well on most hills. On some of the steeper hills, you definitely needed to go into the lower gears and put out some real effort, though nothing that would prompt you to get off and walk. The gearing makes this a fun ride. On the flats, I seldom had to shift out of the highest gear, even while using very little assist (1 or 2 out of 4). Motorized speed is capped at 20mph, the legal e-bike limit. The bike weighs about 40 pounds without the battery, making it pretty easy to get on and off a hitch-mounted bike rack. Add another ten pounds if you want to hoist it with the battery in place.
The bike has a multi-function display which shows speed, battery level, and four assist levels. The LED display is one of the few things I didn’t like about the bike. I found it very difficult to read in direct sunlight. And the characters are downright tiny, too small I think for many 50+ riders with vision deficiencies.The only other issue I had was also a minor one, the seat. Raleigh ships the bike with its Comfort Seat, which is wide and has springs, but I still didn’t find it all that comfortable, so if you do get the Superbe IE, I suggest you give the seat a try and consider putting on your own if you’re not happy. No reason not to get this bike just because of the seat.
The bike does have some nice features including a chain guard, a rear rack that holds the battery, comes with a sturdy set of tie-down straps, and can also hold panniers, and has fenders to keep the mud away. The styling definitely drew attention on the trail, more so than with most of the bikes I try. But perhaps the best feature of the Raleigh Superbe IE is its price, $1599, making it less expensive than many other bikes, and with overall performance that well exceeds what you’d expect for the money. How often can you say that?