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A2B Alva+ electric bicycle review: A2B electric bike flies up hills, hobbles on stairs

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Hydraulic disc brakes on both axles are great for hauling this heavy hitter to a stop and include electronics that shut off the electric motor when you pull one of the brake levers. That you can't be stopping and going at the same time is good for safety and battery longevity.

The battery's mount at the rear of the bike doubles as a cargo rack for your stuff, but you'll need to B.Y.O. bungee cords to affix your cargo to the bike.

Alva front end
Suspension, lights, and a cargo rack make the Alva+ well suited for commuting. Antuan Goodwin/CNET

Wide front and rear fenders make the Alva+ ridable in the rain without totally wetting up your pants and backside, and the bike is waterproof enough that it performed well even after I accidentally left it parked in the rain overnight on a patio. Integrated front and rear lights illuminate the road and indicate your position to drivers and other riders.

The Alva+ is pretty well-equipped to serve as a commuter bike; pretty much all you'd need to supply is a helmet and a lock.

Range and performance
The Alva+ has a top full-electric speed of about 20 mph and a top assisted speed of 24 mph, but you can pedal past the assisted cap if you've got strong legs. The bike also has an estimated maximum assisted range of about 40 miles.

However, the level of assistance that you select will affect the range that you get. More, your body weight will affect these numbers even more greatly. For example, I'm 213 pounds (according to my bathroom scale, see above) and got only a top speed of about 22 mph assisted and about 30 miles of electric range. That's still almost 2 hours of continuous riding on a charge and more than enough range for this San Francisco commuter to get to work, run some errands, and then return home for charging.

You can monitor battery level, speed, and more with this cycling computer. Antuan Goodwin/CNET

Acceleration was good, but the problem with electric assist is that the speed is so intoxicating that I found it difficult to just kick back and let the bike do its thing. I constantly found myself pushing ever harder for just a few more miles per hour. Anyone who says that electric bikes are for lazy people probably hasn't ever ridden one.

What I liked about the Alva+ was that I was able to get where I was going with the convenience of a bicycle and some of the speed of a car, but without arriving there out of breath with a shirt soaked in sweat. The upright riding position made it easy to see over cars and for them to see me. The electric assist's speed helped me to better keep up with the flow of traffic. The strong brakes and nimble handling gave me confidence to really stretch the limits of the bike's performance. And though they're not as grippy as knobby tires would be, the wide rubber tires that the Alva+ ships with work in a pinch for short trips off-road without sinking the front wheel into loose dirt.

But it wasn't all perfection; sometimes the level of electric assist felt inconsistent, coming and going, particularly on very cold mornings. Once the bike warmed up, this inconsistency went away.

Also, any trip on the Alva+ that involved stairs, such as when visiting a friend who lived on the third-floor of an apartment building or bringing the e-bike onto public transportation, quickly devolved into fits of swearing, scrapes, and bumps as I wrestled the big bike across every agonizing step.

Anecdotally, my personal tendency to rest a foot on the pedal when stopped at a traffic light, in anticipation of getting going, would occasionally cause the electric assist to kick in and the bike to lurch forward momentarily. Quickly grabbing and then keeping a hand on the brake when stopped solved this particular weird quirk.

The MSRP of the A2B Alva+ sits at $3,400, which may seem prohibitively expensive for casual riders used to the idea of a $300 department store mountain bike, but dedicated bike commuters and enthusiasts know that it's not an outlandish price. When compared with my personal favorite e-bike, the $5,900 Specialized Turbo, the Alva+ seems like a bargain.

Let's say that you currently spend $4 to $6 per day on the bus commuting to work, the Alva+ has a break-even time of two or three years.

If stairs aren't a part of your commute, you live in a bike-friendly area, and you're interested in taking advantage of the health benefits of cycling without the sweat, the Alva+ makes a lot of sense.

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