Stand on a corner of a street in almost any city today and you'll see a huge range of electric bicycles being ridden by morning commuters. Most tend to follow the small, light and folding trend. But the Uni Moke Classic by Urban Drivestyle doesn't. It's massive and weighs as much as a cathedral. But what it lacks in portability, it more than makes up for in sheer badassery.
With its gigantic LED lamp on the front, long seat and utterly enormous Kenda off-road tyres, the Uni Moke's design is more reminiscent of classic motorbikes from the 1930s than today's slick, modern commuter bikes. But it's still a bicycle at heart. You'll find pedals either side, with seven-speed Shimano gears and tucked into the back wheel is a Bafang hub motor that provides electric assistance to your pedalling.
The electric assistance settings run from 1 (a gentle help, but you're doing most of the work) through to 9, which lets you sit back, be lazy and enjoy the ride. Assistance levels are easy to control using the up and down buttons on the left hand grip. The motor is available in either 250-watt or 500-watt variants, depending on where you live. In the UK, you'll need to get the lower 250-watt model because anything above has to be registered, taxed and insured as a motorcycle. In the US, you can opt for the full 500 watts, but the top speed is electronically limited to 20 mph.
But what's it like to ride?
As a cruising bike, it's wonderful. Setting the assistance at about halfway and finding an open countryside trail is my favourite way to enjoy this thing. It might be big and heavy but once you get going it's easy to maneuver and you won't struggle to negotiate tight paths between trees, cars or people.
Urban Drivestyle reckons you'll get up to 60 kilometers (37 miles) of range from the battery, though of course that depends on terrain, your weight and how hard you hammer the motor. Based on my time with the bike, I'd say that figure is pretty accurate.
Whacking the assistance up to the max (or using the optional throttle, if your local laws allow) is exhilarating, with the bike casually tearing up distances as the wind rushes through your hair. Those immense wheels mean that rough, stony ground is no problem. Just bear in mind there's no suspension on it, so it's probably not a bike you'd want to ride down mountains.
It's also not the bike for you if you're an athlete looking to hit a new personal best time on your favourite route. Sure, you can work up a sweat on this thing, but it's set up more for casual cruising than for a real workout. I wore jeans, boots and a leather jacket when riding it, rather than a lycra bodysuit, and boy did I feel at home.
Getting it home is more of an issue, particularly if you live in a smaller urban apartment. Its whopping 33-kilogram (72-pound) weight means you won't want to carry it up a flight of stairs, while its bulky size means leaving it in a narrow corridor can be impractical. I opted for the latter, but had to get an Allen key to fold in the handlebars each time I parked it to allow people to get past. Ideally, you'd have a garage or garden shed where you can comfortably leave it, only bringing the removable battery pack inside to recharge. Basically, if you've got room for a motorbike, you've got room for this.
It may not be ideal if you've got a small place, and the 2,890-euro price (about $3,240, £2,600, AU$4,670) means it's not exactly cheap, but it's unlike any bike I've seen on the roads before. I loved riding it, loved feeling like a retro badass and loved the appreciative stares I got from passersby.
Like a sports car, it's hugely impractical. But, also like a sports car, that impracticality pales into insignificance against the thrill it offers to anyone who rides it.