By: , Popular Mechanics
- The Fuell Fluid-1 is a brand new e-bike designed by engineer and motorcycle racer Erik Buell and Formula 1 designer Frédéric Vasseur
- The bike comes in 20mph and 28 mph models, with one or two batteries and a Gates belt drive
- The company says bikes should begin shipping in October
A premium e-bike shouldn’t just go fast and far; it should look like the insanely powerful brainchild of a motorcycle fanatic and a Formula 1 engineer, too. That’s the Fuell Fluid-1, a pedal-assisted e-bike with 100 newton-meters (74 ft-lbs) of torque and a 125-mile range. If Fuell sounds like another two-wheeled name you know, it’s Erik Buell, the American Motorcycle Hall of Fame-inductee who helped design the bike. Since launching an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign in late April, the company has raised more than $1 million for development and production; Fuell says the Fluid-1 will begin shipping to backers in October.
The battery and motor are customizable: The Fluid-1 goes up to 20mph and the Fluid-1S (U.S.-only) model tops out at 28 mph. You can have it with one or two Samsung 504 watt-hour batteries; the latter option extends the range past 100 miles, the company claims. Fuell commissioned a custom mid-drive motor from manufacturer Bofeili, which makes mid-drives for a handful of Chinese brands. The 500-watt power figure is average, but its 100nm of torque beats out the most powerful motors from Bosch, Shimano, and Brose. In other words, this thing should fly off the line.
The power reaches the rear wheel via a Gates Carbon Drive belt drive system, a design we’ve found to be smooth and reliable on mountain bikes. An 8-speed Shimano Alfine internal-gear hub handles shifting and keeps the drivetrain’s mechanics out of the elements. Fuell fitted 180mm Tektro hydraulic disc brakes to reign in the 69-pound bike and resilient Pirelli e-bike tires to stand up to rough pavement. A 3.2-inch color screen shows you speed, distance, and battery and pedal-assist levels.Lifelong motorcycle racer and designer Erik Buell was always good at making bikes go fast, but the transition to electric reflects a contemporary opening for Buell’s skills. After taking his motorcycle racing experience to Harley-Davidson in the late 1970s to improve the handling of the company’s less-than-sporty models, Buell split with Harley to design his own race bikes around leftover Harley engines.
In 1983, Buell started making bikes under Buell Motorcycle Company; Harley bought a 51-percent share of the company in 1993 and bought the rest in 2003. Buell had success selling fast bikes with Harley-Davidson, but the company folded during the Great Recession in 2009. The same year, Buell launched Erik Buell Racing to continue building high-end sport bikes; that company lasted until 2015, when it also declared bankruptcy.
Meanwhile, the Brooklyn-based motorcycle company Vanguard was making bespoke machines with the backing of French entrepreneur François-Xavier Terny. He appears to be the money behind Fuell, and in 2018, a partnership formed between Terny, Buell, and Frédéric Vasseur, the French engineer and boss of Alfa Romeo’s F1 team. (The collaboration’s name has since changed names from VanguardSpark to Fuell.)
The torquey motor and streamline frame highlight the Fluid-1, although you can get a 28 mph e-bike for less than half the price and competitors offer two-battery setups for less than the Fuell’s $4,000 starting price. Still, it’s exciting to see motorsport influence the e-bike market, and the Fluid-1’s streamline, integrated-battery shape looks better than simply bolting a rectangular battery to a down tube. And if you’re a fan of Buell’s motorcycle work, keep your eyes peeled for the Fuell Flow 1-S, the company’s prototype electric motorcycle that goes 0-60 in 2.7 seconds.