My daily commute is 15 miles from suburban London into the city centre and over the years I’ve tried all the different options; trains (overcrowded, expensive and unreliable), motorcycle (mentally exhausting in London traffic), and bicycle (physically exhausting, I couldn’t do it 5 days a week) – and the weird thing is they all seem to take approximately the same time on average, about 75 minutes.
I decided to try an eBike because I thought it would have all the advantages of a bicycle (quicker through city traffic, low-stress, physically active) but with a little help from the motor it wouldn’t be as physically tough, and it might make the journey a bit quicker.
I did some research and realised a mid drive motor was the way to go, because there are a few hills on my route, and the Bosch Active Line Plus seemed like the best option. I chose the Carrera Crossfuse for a bunch of reasons. Firstly, at £1600 it was the cheapest Active Line Plus bike available, and secondly, while the lycra crowd might sneer at Halfords, I wanted to buy from a large, well established company. And there happens to be a Halfords close to my house, so if I have problems I can easily go back there.
I waited a while to see if it would be in any of the sales (Black Friday, Cyber Monday, January) but Halfords seem reluctant to discount it, so I paid full price.*
For the money you get a Bosch Active Line Plus drive, a 400Wh battery pack, and the basic Purion control unit. The frame is aluminium but, being an eBike, it’s a pretty heavy beast at a claimed 20kg –the motor and battery account for about 5.5kg of that.
The bike comes with Suntour front forks, which I find do a great job of soaking up the worst of London’s potholes. You can lock the forks out if you want, and while this does make the bike feel a bit sharper on good road surfaces, I swore never to do it again after the first time I hit a big hole without the benefit of suspension.
Hydraulic disc brakes provide plenty of stopping power and feel like a real step up for those of us who are used to riding bikes with old school rim-brakes. The bike comes fitted with fat 700x40C Schwalbe Tyrago tyres, which are a kind of hybrid designed for all surfaces – there was nothing particularly wrong with them but my first upgrade was a pair of lighter, more road oriented tyres with lower rolling resistance and better grip on tarmac.
Speaking of upgrades, you’ll probably want to fit mudguards and lights, as neither are supplied. The first time I rode in the rain my feet kept slipping off the plastic pedals, so I’ve replaced them with some metal mountain-bike cage style ones, which are a big improvement.
The bike comes with a nice looking tan coloured saddle, which is not at all comfortable, so I replaced it with a big fat sprung one, which looks ugly but is much kinder to my backside.
What’s the Carrera Crossfuse like to ride?
Admittedly my experience of eBikes is limited, so I’m only able to compare the Crossfuse against conventional cycles. It’s obviously much heavier than my road bike (which weighs around half as much) but you don’t really notice the extra weight when you’re riding because the motor is helping you out.
There are four different assistance levels, which are easy to switch between using the handlebar mounted control unit. These different modes simply dictate how much the motor amplifies your own pedalling effort: Eco (40%), Tour (100%), Sport (180%), Turbo (270%).
Eco mode extends the battery range for as far as possible, but doesn’t provide a lot of support and in this mode you really feel the weight of the bike – it’s probably only really useful as a limp-home mode if your battery is running low.
I ended up using Tour mode the most for my daily commute, it makes the bike feel nice and zippy but without doing all the work for you. If there’s a bunch of us waiting at traffic lights, I’m usually able to get ahead of the pack easily, although fit riders on road-bikes will sometimes pull ahead if they’re trying to prove a point.
Turbo mode is great fun, it really gets you up to 15mph very quickly away from the lights so that it’s very hard for conventional bikes to keep up, and in this mode you really feel the full power of the electric motor. Sport mode is a kind of halfway house between Tour and Turbo – I tend not to use it that much.
For my day to day riding I mostly use Tour mode, occasionally switching to Turbo for the bigger hills, or if I’m trying to get away clear from a big cluster of cyclists in the city. Riding like this, I can comfortably get two days of commuting out of the battery (that’s 60 miles in total) with juice left in the battery. Sometimes, I’ll switch Turbo mode on all the way home from work if I’m trying to do a speed-run, and even that doesn’t make a massive difference to my overall battery range.
A 500Wh version of the Bosch battery pack is available which will slot right into the bike, but this will set you back around £600, and other bikes are available that come with this unit as standard.
Clearly getting up to 15.5mph is easy (exactly how easy depends on what assistance mode you’ve chosen) but after that the motor switches off and you have to pedal to go faster. This is easier than it sounds, because you already have some momentum, so on a good flat road I find getting up to 20mph doesn’t take an awful lot of effort. Your own level of fitness will dictate how fast you can go and for how long.
The bike’s nine gears seem to be enough to cope with most of the situations I encounter in my daily riding – I never really need to go below second, and the only time I hit the top gears is when I’m trying to hit maximum speed downhill. Gear changes are done with a pair of thumb-levers on the right-side handlebar, which feel smooth and glitch-free so far. If you care about specs, it’s a Shimano Acera/Alivio gear system, with 11-43 teeth on the back gears, and 42 teeth on the front.
Riding into London every day I learned pretty quickly that road bikes with skinny tyres and fit riders have no problem blasting past me – they can easily hit a higher top speed on the straights because the bikes weigh less and the narrow tyres have lower rolling resistance.
Where the Crossfuse wins in raw acceleration off the line, getting up hills, and endurance. This last point is why I wanted an eBike. Riding my road bike into work every day got exhausting, 30 miles a day for five days a week is a struggle – particularly in bad weather. On the Crossfuse I’ve happily been doing the journey every day of the week in the middle of winter and, while I still feel like I’m getting exercise, it doesn’t completely wipe me out. Even on completely miserable, cold, wet days, when the last thing I want to do is cycle for over an hour, I just wrap up in my winter gear and plod-along in low-effort mode, and it doesn’t feel like too much of a slog.
I suspect a large part of that is that the Crossfuse is much more comfortable to ride than my roadbike. Its hybrid style with flat handlebars means I’m sitting more upright, plus the fat tyres and front suspension (and my new springy saddle) make a big difference when your journey includes badly maintained roads. The net result is that your body takes less of a hammering than it does on road bike (which was probably not the most sensible choice of commuter bike to begin with).
I was hoping that an eBike would cut down the commute time, but in truth it takes about the same as my roadbike at 75-80 minutes. The fastest I’ve managed on the Crossfuse is 70 minutes, and I suspect a combination of Turbo mode and maximum physical effort could get that closer to an hour, but that’s not sustainable for daily commuting.
Living with the Carerra Crossfuse
There are a couple of day to day differences between living with an eBike and a conventional bike. Firstly there’s the battery charging, which can be done a couple of ways – you can simply plug the charger directly onto the port on the bike, or you can remove the battery from the bike and connect it to the charger. The battery is secured to the bike with a built-in lock, and a couple of keys are supplied.
I keep my bike in the garage and prefer to take the battery into the house for charging every night, simply for security – a replacement battery costs £500 so it makes sense to keep it separate from the bike. Bosch claims the battery does not suffer from “memory effect” so it’s safe to recharge whenever you like and you don’t need to wait until it’s fully depleted, as this will not affect its lifespan. This was a problem with older batteries, which has largely been eliminated with modern units.
A full recharge will take over 5 hours with the supplied “compact” charger – this is the cheapest and slowest of the Bosch Active Line chargers, the standard charger takes 3.5 hours, and the fast-charger which will bring this down to 2.5 hours. The chargers are quite pricey – I wanted to buy a spare one to keep at work, but at around £100 it’s a bit more than I’m willing to pay. In any case, battery range has not been a problem for my kind of usage, so I’m not worried about this anymore.
The other big difference over a standard bike is security. My low-end road bike isn’t worth much money and I’ve never worried about it getting stolen, wherever I leave it. At £1600 the Crossfuse was a big investment for me and theft was a concern, although I rarely need to leave it in public places. I took out theft insurance with ETA at a cost of £12 per month, and I bought a couple of different Sold Secure Gold rated D-Locks (having at least one was a condition of the insurance).
I always use both locks through the frame wherever I leave it, and I always take the battery off the bike. This extra level of security is a hassle, but it’s a small price to pay.
My main reason for buying the Crossfuse is that it seemed like the most practical option for my daily commute into central London, and in that respect it’s been a success. It’s a much more enjoyable journey, I do a decent amount of daily cardio (without completely wrecking myself), and it’s certainly cheaper than public transport or the motorbike.
I had hoped it would be quicker than my conventional pushbike, but it’s not – although at the same time it’s no slower, and it’s more practical and comfortable for daily commuting.
Compared to other bikes with the Bosch Active Line Plus mid drive, the £1,600 price* was reasonable, although I did have to spend a little extra on some basics like mudguards and lights. It’s a little niggling that the bike is supplied with the slow compact charger instead of even the standard model, but for me that’s not proven to be much of a problem.
Overall I’m happy with the bike and it’s standing up well to a couple of hours or more of daily commuting.
The bike is available from Halfords in a range of men’s and women’s frame sizes.
*As of the time of writing, late January 2019, Halfords has now discounted the Crossfuse £1,280. Dammit.
EDIT: As of April 2019, Halfords has priced the Crossfuse at £1800.