Gulas Pi1S – 70mph electric cycle | ROAD TEST
Occasionally something comes along to break the mould, something that puts the excitement back into two wheels. Although this machine is automatic we can’t really describe it as a scooter. Even so, we thought SLUK readers would appreciate it (you can let us know what you think in the comments section below).
The Gulas is more of an inter-bred electric motorcycle than it is a scooter but in this modern eco-world we live in it’s certainly green and more importantly insane, we like two-wheeled insanity. Pete Henshaw went to meet the mad German behind the Gulas Pi1S, essentially a 70mph bicycle…
Imagine if you had super-powers. What do you reckon? X-ray sight? Mind reading? Leaping tall buildings at a single bound? I don’t know about any of those, but you really can have supercharged legs, and the Gulas is the way to get them.
This is a Frankenstein machine – part supermoto, part electric bicycle – and it is, needless to say, like nothing else on the road. But it’s real, is made in Germany and you can buy one now, though at a hefty price.”
You’ve probably seen electric pushbikes in your local high street. Increasingly popular, they have a little electric motor as well as the pedals and give you a boost up hills. But they’re restricted to a 15.5mph top speed (more downhill of course) and motor power of 250 watts, which is about 0.3bhp – exciting, they’re not.
You can buy beefier electric bikes which will top 28mph, are classed as mopeds and are a whole lot of fun to ride – imagine doing a fast downhill on a pushbike…but all the time. The Gulas takes all of that to the next level. “I think the ordinary electric motorcycle is just boring,” says inventor Stefan Gulas. “Basically they have just replaced the petrol motor with an electric motor and not changed anything else. It has been diluted because it’s lost its noise and vibration. My bike is more masculine.”
38bhp and A1 friendly – sort of
So it’s got a dirty great electric motor which offers 28Kw (38bhp) and 74lb ft, but the whole bike weighs no more than the average 125. Interestingly, the motor is rated at 10Kw continuous power, which in theory means you can ride the Gulas on an A1 licence and just with CBT, but I reckon that’s a grey area… There’s also a more modest 8Kw version, which is definitely A1.
Power is controlled, not through a twistgrip, but through the pedals, which aren’t actually connected to the back wheel at all. They spin a flywheel which in turn tells the motor how much power you want – the faster you pedal, the more power you get. That sounds like a pushbike, except that you’re getting up to 140 times more power out than you put in. This is starting to sound interesting…
The Gulas looks like nothing else and feels like it when you climb on board. And you have to climb because the saddle (it’s not a seat) is very high off the ground – a lower version is available but wasn’t fitted to the test bike. Stefan Gulas is well over six foot, so he’s all right, but I had to rely on kerbs and verges to reach the ground.
The next challenge is getting going for the first time. Forget everything you’ve ever learnt about twist & go twist grips, because this bike hasn’t got one – instead, power comes in when you start pedalling. On a pushbike, you have to give a good shove on the pedals to get going, but this results in the Gulas shooting off a wave of power, even on the lowest of its three power settings.
But gradually, I started to get used to it, sticking to low power, which gives up to 25mph or so, through the suburbs. The Gulas may look a bit weird, but with its full-size motorcycle forks, lights and wheels (plus the fact you’ll be wearing a helmet) car drivers assume it’s got petrol power, and aren’t fazed when you pedal past a queue.
Out onto the open road, and I switched up to full power. If you do that the acceleration is simply phenomenal, which is hardly surprising with the weight of a 125, the power of a T-MAX and the instant torque of an electric motor. It’s speed limited to 71mph (56mph for the A1 version) in order to keep a reasonable battery range – Gulas claims 78-120 miles, depending on which battery you opt for – but it’s how it gets there that blows you away.
The underpinnings are all good quality stuff, with Marzocchi forks, Excel rims, Michelin Pilot Sport rubber and decent disc brakes at both ends. So it’s well within its limits at 50mph on a bumpy backroad – it’s stable at speed and the brakes are brilliant. It’s also quite surreal – imagine pedalling a pushbike at 50mph, putting in no apparent effort. Weird, but also quite addictive.
The Gulas costs an arm, a leg and at least one other appendage – prices start at £20,400 – and to put one on UK roads you’d also need to put it through the MSVA process (not as tricky as it sounds). Made in Berlin, it really is a quality piece of kit, and although a conventional electric motorcycle like the Zero would be easier to ride, it wouldn’t have the one-off quality of the Gulas.
Words and photos: Pete Henshaw
Gulas Pi1/Pi1S specifications
Engine: Electric motor, pedal controlled
Suspension: Marzzochi USD forks, Rockshox monoshock
Brakes: Formula discs front and rear
Tyres: Michelin Pilot Sport
Range: (claimed) 78-120 miles
Charge time: 2.5-9 hours
Price: From £20,700
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