Zooz Bikes: High on Comfort
Zooz Bikes, the urban ultra-light bikes are the result of a start-up formed by a small network of motorcyclists and product designers.
The idea started in a small garage in Chicago where co-founder Chris Zahner was struggling to appreciate the traffic around his new home – slow traffic with aggressive drivers and not wisties for hundreds of miles. Chris quickly came to a stark realization that something had to be done in order to get his two-wheel adrenaline fix on a daily basis.
A self-described “guy in a shed,” Chris has been building custom motorcycles for over 10 years.A humble, self-starting designer who usually keeps a low profile although his motorcycles have still been featured at some of the United States’ most premier motorcycle shows.
Until one day, after seeing a few interesting concepts in the market, Chris thought “I can make something cooler.” Posing as “a new ebike company coming to market”, Chris inquired with several factories and convinced them to send him some samples. Once received, he quickly assembled the parts around an old BMX frame as a test-bed to see what these electric bits could actually do. The result had immediately and forever changed Chris’ mind about electric.
Speed, silence and a low enough weight to throw over your shoulder, he showed all his motorcycle friends and their response was unanimous – “this is insane; build more.” While building version two, three and four, Chris would “drain 2 batteries a day” (about 50 miles) while offering rides to anyone who wanted, even strangers who commented at stoplights. Each iteration tested new components, geometry and materials.
This caught the attention of a friend and fellow motorcycle rider and builder, Pete Kelly, after a few posts about the bikes on Instagram. At that time, Pete’s day job was the humble post of head of industrial design at Skull Candy in Park City. Conversations were had and Zooz grew, soon adding another partner along the way – a veteran motorcycle dealer owner who “specializes in moving product.”
Their first move was to test the market. The team took what they had, finalized their design and order at that time with their suppliers, and quickly put together an Instagram account and Indie GoGo campaign at the end of 2018.
Chris’ wife, a business design consultant with a heavy background in user-based research joined in to synthesize the data from their Instagram feeds, test their hypotheses in focus groups, and roll their finding into a new brand platform, built from the ground up.
- Although everyone was stoked about using the throttle with a powerful motor, they wanted to pedal.
- The original design was way too fast for public consumption and customers were willing to sacrifice the top speed of 33 MPH for a lighter bike and a more manageable power output.
- People loved the “banana” seat and the design reminiscent of the BMX they rode as a kid.
- Most importantly, they wanted a useful bike to bring them around the city without breaking a sweat, but they refused to ride a bike that made them look goofy.
The team set to work in early 2019 redesigning the bike, testing and preparing for a relaunch of their brand and product, while putting as many people on the bike as possible – each ride resulting in a grin from ear to ear.
The characteristics of this final version make it the ultimate urban ebike experience that doesn’t sacrifice performance in any category.
A strong, but lightweight frame, fork and handlebar all made from 4130 Chromoly steel – an aircraft grade material that has been used in high-bike design that can last for 100 years of use without exaggeration. Although lacking a suspension system the thick, cushy rubber works in conjunction with the ideal flex of the Chromoly frame to soak up road bumps.
The unique “banana” seat, while non-adjustable, allows a large seating area that comfortable accommodates any rider between 4’11” and 6’6”.
“The large surface area of the seat provides all-day comfort compared to regular bicycle seats that can feel like a punch to the nether-region after a couple hours on the saddle,” say the designers.
Only the finest components find their way onto this bike starting with the removable battery. 65 Samsung 35E 18650 cells – the most premium and long-lasting cell on the market – comprise a 48 Volt system rated at 15 Amps with a peak rating of 25 Amps (1200W) put out the most power allowed by American law. Charging time takes 4 hours from a charger that resembles a laptop charger than can fit in a backpack.
The team at Zooz took a lot of time to source a variety of motors to find the most compact yet robust option to match the power output of the battery which weighs up to 35% less than others in the market with the same power output. Keeping speed in check is a hydraulic brake systems connected to the controller to cut power to the motor in case of a short stop situation. This bike can come to a complete stop from 25 MPH in 25 feet thanks to the 203mm disc on the front wheel.
The 17.5aH (840WH) battery is takes you to 35-miles if you use the pedals with the throttle during acceleration, up hills and during speed bursts. Instead of offering lofty and unlikely range numbers with an omnipresent asterisk, Zooz is claiming a minimum range of 25 miles without pedaling, full throttle, flat land and a 90kg weighing rider.
Remember that part about customers wanting to use the pedals? The team at Zooz didn’t forget either. They dialed in the single-speed gear ratio to be optimized for 15-25 MPH. This translates to a pedaling sensation that makes you feel like superman. Mashing the throttle from a stop plus 4-6 rotations of the pedals has you at 25mph in about 4 seconds. While the throttle itself will carry you along at a consistent 20mph, a quick burst of leg-power to the pedals will accelerate you up to 27mph.
Lastly, the bike only weighs 22kilograms. While there are some super light, folding, carbon fiber and ebikes out there, they all have to compromise on something like form factor, range, riding capability or price. 90% of the ebikes on the market range from 50-80lbs making the Zooz Ultralight the lightest, most capable, powerful and evocative electric bike on the market. Can easily be carried up stairs, fit in elevators and looks good enough to display in your living room or flat.
Zooz offers a tried and true ebike for riders who want a serious ride capable of inspiring even the most seasoned riders. Zooz is beginning production this year, with their first short production run of just 50 bikes being offered for pre-sale directly on their website for $1799 with shipping included in 48 states in the US. Bikes will be delivered in June – just in time for the first few lucky owners to enjoy for summertime. Zooz expects to have their production scaled up for on-the-shelf inventory in January 2021, promises the designers.
Weight: 47 lbsor 21.3kgs
Seating: The patent-pending seat is made from custom-molded, high-impact, ABS plastic wrapped with marine-grade vinyl. The length and width of the seat were carefully considered for all-day rider comfort and a wide range of rider sizes allowing the rider to sit for or aft.
Handlebars: Low-rise 6″ handlebar is comfortable for all riders, especially those under 5’10” o High-rise 9.5″ handlebar, comfortable for riders up to 6’6″ or for those who really want those classic BMX proportions.
Battery: The Zooz is powered by a 48V, 17.5aH (840wH) battery, that is partially concealed by the seat. Authentic Samsung 35E 18650 cells is used that pack a serious punch and a long service life. The charging time is 4 hours, and this battery will take as much energy to charge as your laptop.
Motor: The compact 750W-rated geared hub-motor offers the best power-weight ratio on the market. – The controller is rated at 15a nominal, 25a peak offers 1200W of punch!
Brake: The Zooz uses a powerful Tektro brake system that includes a 203mm disc and 160mm disc in the rear offering the best braking performance on the market.