Felt LEBOWSKe Electric Assist Fat Bike Review
Ian already posted some impressions of the Felt LEBOWSKe, electric Fat Bike along with a video (below) showing just how much fun this bike can make a workout and just how fast the bike can be ridden.
Now that you have seen why you should find the Felt LEBOWSKe intriguing, I thought that I would add some information about the particulars of this fascinating Fat Bike.
Categorizing and Pricing the Felt LEBOWSKe
First of all, Felt makes a full line of E-Bikes for a variety of uses, including a full suspension trail bike, a hard tail 29’er, a commuter bike, a cruiser bike, and others. The Felt LEBOWSKe is an e-Fat Bike, built around the Bosch Gen2 Center Drive E-Bike system and compliments Felt’s standard pedal only Fat Bikes like the Felt DD30. The price of the Felt LEBOWSKe for 2016 is $5,799 (addendum: Felt added features and reduced the price substantially for 2017 – contact us), which is more than entry level Fat Bikes, but still lower than many top of the line Fat Bikes.
When I first unpacked this bike from its shipping case, I was reminded of a common phrase from the old BBC television show, “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” – “And now for something completely different…”. To me, the Felt LEBOWSKe is just that, something completely different, but in a very good way.
What is “Electric Assist” on a Bicycle?
Obviously the main draw to a bike like this is the electric motor, so I will start here. It is easy to misunderstand what electric assist is on a bicycle. In some ways, it is easier to describe what it is not. An electric assist bike is not a moped or a motorcycle – the bike needs to be pedaled and the amount of assistance it provides relates to how the rider rides it. You can get a very thorough workout on an electric assist bike and the amount of assist can be set from 0% (off) to 275% on the Bosch system found on the Felt LEBOWSKe. Whether you want to make riding easier or whether you want to make it faster or some combination of both, an electric assist bike can accomplish this.
Felt LEBOWSKe BOSCH GEN2 CENTER DRIVE SYSTEM
There are basically two types electric assist, systems where the electric motor is part of the rear wheels, such as the systems made by BionX (previously profiled) and the type where there is a motor integrated into the bike’s bottom bracket. The rear wheel system works well to add electric assist to an existing bike, while the integrated bottom bracket design requires a bike designed specifically for electric assist. The Felt LEBOWSKe uses this second type of design, specifically the Bosch Gen2 Center Drive system – possibly the most popular dedicated electric assist design in the world.
Having the motor built into the frame bottom bracket like the Bosch Gen2 has advantages. The wheels can remain much lighter as they are standard Fat Bike wheels, so they are easier to remove and service. The lighter wheels also makes transportation less of a chore than it is with the wheel motor systems. Having the motor integrated into the frame bottom bracket also adds stability, as the motor’s weight on the bike is more centrally located front to back, at the lowest part of the bike.
Felt LEBOWSKe Features Four Levels of Assist
The Bosch Gen2 system found on the Felt LEBOWSKe offers four levels of motorized assist.
1) The “Eco” setting takes the rider’s power input and adds 50%.
2) The “Tour” setting adds 120% of the rider’s torque.
3) The “Sport” setting adds 190%.
4) The “Turbo” setting is the e-bike equivalent of Tesla’s “Ludicrous Mode”, adding a whopping 275% of the rider’s power input. If you ever wondered what it feels like to climb like Froome, this may be the only way to feel this on a bike for most of us…
The more torque you put into the crank, the harder and faster you pedal and the more boost you get. Pedal softer and not so much assist is provided, but the electric assist will respond almost instantly if you press harder on the pedal. The system is thus very progressive and also does a great job of helping the rider maintain consistent traction. For this reason, counter intuitively, riding with electric assist is actually more gentle on many trails than riding without for this reason.
The higher the boost the rider selects, the more rapidly the battery will be depleted as the system does not have regeneration. The maximum speed for the assist is 20 mph, or a bit over 32 kph. Go over that speed and the electric motor assist stops, drop back down below 20 mph and the motor assist kicks back in. For those thinking that is not very fast, even when riding on a paved road, 20 mph on the Felt LEBOWSKe feels quite brisk.
The electric motor has a nominal power output of 350 watts, and generates up to 60 Newton meters of torque and is maintenance free.
Felt LEBOWSKe Bosch Gen 2 Battery
The removable Bosch battery pack on the Felt LEBOWSKe locks to the frame, and you need a key to unlock it and remove it from the bike. Compared to the higher rear mount batteries found on some bikes, the lower mounting position of the battery on the Felt LEBOWSKe makes the bike more stable, particularly over rough and soft surfaces. The battery mount feels very secure, with no wobble or rattling. According to Felt, the lithium-ion battery has an estimated minimum range of 30 miles under normal conditions (12 miles in difficult conditions using the Turbo mode), and an estimated maximum range of 70 miles, depending on how much boost the rider selects, and the riding conditions. It is quite doubtful that many people will be riding their Fat Bike for 70 miles! The battery takes about 3.5 hours to recharge, and a charger comes with the bike.
How Does the Bosch System on the Felt LEBOWSKe Operate?
The Bosch system uses three sensors to determine the amount of torque the motor will apply to the crank. The system constantly monitors your cadence, speed, and amount of torque applied to the pedals, taking measurements 1000 times per second. The system then calculates the proper torque boost, depending upon the setting you selected. Look at the power selection on the Felt LEBOWSKe as being the maximum assist available at that setting, not the constant level of assist. Soft pedal and the system senses this and reduces the amount of assist accordingly.
Power application on the Felt LEBOWSKe is impressively smooth and seamless. If you head into a turn with the boost set too high, the front wheel may tend to push forward (understeer) rather than turn, but otherwise the system is not designed to work like a motorcycle and it isn’t going to wheelie anytime soon. Again, counter-intuitively, we are confident that electric assist systems like the Bosch are actually going to be more gentle on soft trails than riding without. The traction from the progressive assist on the Bosch system is far more constant than a human can produce on their own without assist.
Felt LEBOWSKe Bosch Intuvia Display Head
The Intuvia, the name of the control center of the Bosch system on the Felt LEBOWSKe, is mounted to the handlebars, and adds a remote button, to be mounted by the left brake lever, for easy thumb control of the assist level without having to take your hands off of the bar grip. The control center lets you scroll through a variety of functions, including your estimated remaining range, distance, trip time, average speed, maximum speed, and odometer. It also has a clock.
Oh, did you forget to charge your phone, or bike computer, before you went out for a ride? No worries. The display console has a USB port that you can use for recharge purposes. Bosch even makes a light system that can be plugged into the system.
Felt LEBOWSKe Frame Sizing and Construction
The frame of the Felt LEBOWSKe is made of hydroformed, double-butted 6061 aluminum alloy. All shift cable, rear brake hose, and dropper seatpost hydraulic hose are routed inside the frame. The rear triangle is 190 mm wide, and provides for a 12 mm thru axle. The rigid fork is also made from hydroformed aluminum, providing for a 150 X 15 mm thru axle. The fork steerer is tapered, 1.125″ in diameter at the top and 1.5″ at the fork crown. The Felt LEBOWSKe comes in three sizes: Small (16″), Medium (18.5″), and Large (21″) and Fit Werx is happy to help you figure out the right size if there is any question.
Felt LEBOWSKe Drivetrain
The drivetrain on the LEBOWSKe, other than the Bosch motor, uses the excellent SRAM X01 1X11 combination of rear derailleur and trigger shifter. The wide range cassette on the rear wheel is the SRAM CS-XG1180 11-speed cassette, with a gearing spread from 10 teeth to 42 teeth and the crankset has an 18 tooth chainring. Yes, that is low gearing, but remember this is a Fat Bike, made for riding in the snow or sand, where high speeds are pretty either impossible or unwise. Riding on the road, getting up to 20 mph, the gearing was fine, and I noted that one of our demo bikes had hit 27 mph at some point on it. I doubt most people will long for higher gearing.
Felt LEBOWSKe Brakes
Braking for the LEBOWSKe is provided by the very nice and adjustable SRAM Guide RSC system. The system is fully hydraulic and the” RSC” means that the lever travel and rotor contact point are adjustable as well. Each caliper has four pistons for very firm brake feel and a high level of performance. Both front and rear brake wheels are mounted with SRAM Centerline 6 bolt rotors, 180 mm in diameter. This is a great brake system and worthy of this freight train of a bike that can hold some serious momentum!
Felt LEBOWSKe Wheels and Tires
The wheels of the Felt LEBOWSKe are comprised of Felt double-walled rims, 80 mm wide, with Felt forged aluminum hubs. I am not sure why Felt chose to use double-walled rims, as the double-walled construction adds weight to each wheel and most Fat Bike rims are single-walled. Perhaps it was a matter of the added strength the double-walled construction would add, given the power assist and added weight of the bike. Each wheel is laced with 32, 2.0 / 1.8mm double-butted stainless steel spokes. The tires are Schwalbe Jumbo Jim Evolution LiteSkin, 26 x 4.0″ and our initial impression is that, when you have electric assist, wider tires may not be as necessary in many conditions as without. 4.0” tires have less rotational mass than 4.8”…
Felt LEBOWSKe Cockpit and Seatpost
Somewhat unexpectedly, as the bike does not have a suspension fork from the factory, the Felt LEBOWSKe comes with a RockShox Reverb Stealth hydraulic dropper seatpost – one of the very best dropper posts on the market. A WTB Silverado Race saddle, with DNAX padding and chromoly steel rails, is mounted to the seatpost. The Felt carbon fiber handlebars have a 15 mm rise from, and a 9° sweep, from the center to the ends, and an overall starting width of 720 mm. The angle of the bar doesn’t feel perfect to some, but with some tweaking it works pretty well for most folks and bars are pretty easy to change if you aren’t happy with the sweep or rise.
What is not to like about the Felt LEBOWSke?
The Felt LEBOWSKe is not a light bike, approaching 50 lbs. This means it does not go onto the roof of a car easily and it also means it is a lot of bike to pedal uphill or through deep snow with the electric assist off. However, the ride criticism is unwarranted as the Felt LEBOWSKe is an electric assist bike and it works great if you ride it the way it was designed to be used. Just realize that this means you aren’t going to be racing it anytime soon as there is no way to try to hide the motor on this baby Femke…
We also wish that Felt shipped it from the factory with a Rock Shox Bluto on the front (we’d trade the Reverb post for it on this bike…). When you are cruising at 20 mph, bumps can feel bigger than they do at 10 mph…This being said, adding a Bluto is an upgrade that can be done to the bike without much issue and we get that it would add to the price. If we’re being nit-picky, we’d also upgrade the stock pedals, which aren’t anything to write home about.
What is to Like About Riding the Felt LEBOWSKe?
When it comes to ride experience, fun and what is to like about the experience, in a word, “Everything.”
I concur with Ian’s conclusion that the Felt LEBOWSKe is a gigantic HOOT to ride! Fat Bikes in general are pretty much fun, as they seem to be able to go anywhere with minimal fuss. However, high speed is not often the forte of human only powered Fat Bikes and sometimes it can become a slog getting through deep snow and up climbs. Add electric assist to the pedaling and it feels like nothing can stand in your way. The torque from the motor feels prodigious, and deep snow or steep slopes are much less of an impediment. With the added torque, you do not slip and slide around (digging big trenches in the process) nearly as much, particularly on climbs or off-camber turns. Instead, you just shift down and carry your momentum through.
Furthermore, you may not have to think about getting those $2K+ carbon wheels with a LEBOWSKe. Having an extra couple hundred watts at your thumb eradicates this otherwise very important and noticeable place to minimize weight.
The easiest way to describe riding the Felt LEBOWSKe is that you can go twice as fast for the same amount of effort. This is an easy recipe for a smile on most rider’s face.
Come and Take a Felt LEBOWSKe for a Ride and Make Up Your Own Mind
I hear the curmudgeons and purists out there, saying that e-bikes aren’t for real riders and that they are going to damage the trail. Well, I think that misses the point of bikes like the Felt LEBOWSKe (while also showing a misunderstanding of how these bikes work and apply power). All I can say is that you should reserve judgment until after you ride one.
Contact us to schedule a time to ride a LEBOWSKe (or any of our demo Fat Bikes). If you don’t find yourself smiling quickly on a Felt LEBOWSKe, you just may need to check your pulse to see if you are still alive.