Organic Transit

The GEN3 Outcross E-Bike Is An Absolute Off-Road Beast

The GEN3 Outcross e-bike, with its beefy frame, four-inch fat tires, and front suspension, is one heck of an off-road and trail bike, but is just as well-suited to taming bike lanes and surface streets on daily commutes and running errands — or just for some good clean fun on two wheels.

As a long-time cyclist, and one whose experience ranges from bike commuting in the city to hitting the singletracks in the forest to running errands to town and back in a rural location, I’ve had the opportunity to ride a number of different bicycles over the years. I used to love my single-speed for bike commuting (and with an attached bike trailer for hauling groceries and such) in a relatively flat city, and my triple-chain-ring road bike for getting out into the wind on long stretches of asphalt, and I still love my ancient Kona mountain bike for shredding the trails near my house, but the older I get, the more I can appreciate the lift and boost that an e-bike can provide.

It’s one thing to say “Just go by bike and park your gas-powered car” to a single person living in close proximity to all the amenities, and another thing entirely to say that to a person with a family, who often live miles and miles from the nearest grocery or hardware store, because what might be fun and easy for a strong and healthy person can be a grueling challenge for someone else. And getting to low- or zero-carbon in our personal lifestyles shouldn’t have to be grueling or challenging (which often drives people away from making “green” changes in their lives), so the advent of reliable and affordable e-bikes is a real game-changer for the masses (read: anyone who isn’t a die-hard cyclist, or who has physical challenges biking long-ish distances, or who doesn’t have the cash or credit to buy an electric car). [End of e-bike advocacy pitch/rant.]

GEN3 Outcross e-bike

GEN3 Outcross e-bike, all photos by Derek Markham

The GEN3 Outcross e-bike has been an absolute blast to ride, in part because I hadn’t ridden on a bike with 4″ fat tires AND front suspension before, in part because I live at the bottom of a very long hill (and town is also at the bottom of a long hill, so it’s literally “uphill both ways” for me), and in part because since I crossed the ‘over 50’ line a few years ago, I’m starting to see what people always told me about getting old(er).

Disclaimer: GEN3 provided the Outcross e-bike to the author free of charge for the purposes of this review.

First things first: When it comes to putting the Outcross together out of the box, I found it to be incredibly easy, and probably not too hard for anyone with basic bike/mechanical/following instructions experience. I didn’t time it, but it was well under an hour before I first plugged it in and topped off the battery. Your mileage may vary, but considering the bike is essentially mostly built and only the handlebars and pedals and front wheel needed installing, it’s considerably easier than putting together an item from IKEA, in my opinion. Those who aren’t as bike-fluent or handy may want to recruit a friend or take it to a bike shop, but either way it is a simple process. There is always a fair bit of trash and recyclable materials to dispose of from the shipping box, but that’s to be expected of a rather heavy, bulky, and valuable product.

After the initial charge, I adjusted the seat and handlebars to fit my riding style (easy and fast), and pedaled off down the driveway (in my case, dirt and gravel) and onto a local trail for a quick dial-in ride to get comfortable with it. Switching the pedal-assist to level 1 gave a nice mellow boost to my own pedaling efforts, which was plenty for a relatively flat trail. Upon coming to the first hill, switching up to level 2 gave me an additional boost, allowing me to breeze up what would normally take me coming out of the saddle and pumping furiously uphill to overcome, and then when coming to an open flat area of the trail, I switched all the way up to level 5 pedal-assist, and holy moly, it was ridiculously fun. I’m a bit of an adrenaline junkie, so I like faster speeds and enjoy catching some air when I can, and between the fat tires and front suspension and electric motor, the Outcross hit all the right notes for me and I had to *make* myself turn around and ride home (chores and work and kids, you know).

GEN3 Outcross e-bike

GEN3 Outcross e-bike, photo by Derek Markham

A few days later, I was headed off to Sedona, Arizona, on a trip to see some old friends and help out on a project, and because I was already planning to pull a flat-bed trailer full of gear, it was a no-brainer to strap the Outcross on top of the load and bring it along for some red desert time. One of the drawbacks/cons of e-bikes, especially burly ones like the Outcross, is that they are heavier than you might think, and are not as easy to put on a bike rack (they really require a special heavy duty hitch rack, in my experience), so lifting it into the trailer itself was a fun little workout — not overly hard, but not as simple as loading up a conventional bike, either. I did clear this road trip with the GEN3 team, just so they’d know I was going to be putting it through its paces in a rather unforgiving environment (if you’ve ever been to that area, you’ll know just how rocky it is, and how pervasive the red dust can be — I’m literally still pouring it out of pockets and gear some weeks later).

Taking the Outcross on a relatively tame trail on public lands, I got a good feel for the bike’s handling, which was excellent for a heavy e-bike, and was pleasantly surprised at how smooth the ride was on the fat tires and with front suspension.

However. Full stop.

I had originally kept the tires at a lower PSI because I had been riding on soft dirt and sand, so I thought I’d add some air for a longer ride over rock and rubble, and I promptly got schooled by the bike — and by gravity and physics — because the balloon-like 4″ tires and front suspension acted together to launch me off of some gnarly rocks to the point where I had to just sit down and re-evaluate the whole thing. I mean, I value my skin and bones and skull too much to be putting them at risk, at speed, on such a beast of an e-bike. I deflated the tires back down to a reasonable range (a rather spongy feel to the hand), and got back on the Outcross again, which turned out to be a great plan because I was able to ride for miles and miles across the rocky red desert without being flung off the bike and onto my face again. So, a word to the wise, don’t fully inflate 4″ tires on an e-bike and then ride full throttle over rocky trails without full body armor. You have been warned.

GEN3 Outcross e-bike

Back to the bike itself, the aluminum frame is well-made, the geometry of the frame was well-suited for off-road and trail riding, and the mechanical disk brakes were reliable and effective (you absolutely want really good brakes on an e-bike because of the speeds and weight involved). The components were all good choices — Shimano shifter and derailleur, Bafang 500-watt (1000-watt peak) in-wheel electric motor, aluminum rims, etc. — but each rider is different, so you may want to replace the saddle with your preferred model if you ride a lot.

GEN3 Outcross e-bikeThe Outcross comes with a bike bell on the handlebars (another cycling essential, IMO), and a sturdy kickstand. I’m not a fan of kickstands for trail bikes and off-road riding, as they tend to clang around going over bumps and such, so if I was going on a long trail ride, I’d remove it, but having a good kickstand is essential when parking an e-bike, as they are heavy to deal with if they fall over, and kickstands make parking and locking up a bike easier.

In addition to the pedal-assist, the Outcross comes with a thumb throttle for those times when you just want to get going without pedaling (it’s great for getting up to speed quickly from a full stop, or for a quick boost to get out of the way of the distracted driver who doesn’t see you). There is a bit of a learning curve when riding an e-bike — knowing which pedal-assist level to select at what time, and what gear to be in in order to keep your pedaling cadence even — but like any new skill, practice makes perfect. It’s not rocket science, as they say, but it is different than riding your childhood Schwinn.

GEN3 Outcross Specs

  • Battery: 500Wh In-Frame, 48V/10.4Ah
  • Motor: Bafang 500W Rated / 1000W Peak Rear Hub Motor with 1:5 Planetary Gears
  • Torque: 80 N/m
  • Charging Time (0-100%): 6 hours
  • Tire Size: 26″ x 4.0″
  • Range per charge: ~35 miles, depending on conditions
  • Weight: 65.3 lb

The GEN3 Outcross is priced at $1699, with free shipping, and in my opinion is well worth every penny. Find out more at GEN3.

This article is supported by Gen3. All photos by Derek Markham/CleanTechnica.


 

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