Spencer Ivy are new on the e-bike scene - and the bike scene generally - and the Spencer is one of their two models for this year; no prizes for guessing what the ladies' bike is called. It's big on utility with a classically urban look, and it's a decent ride to boot.
Aluminium framed and forked, the Spencer would look more or less like a classic gent's bike with the electronics removed. Those electronics are a Panasonic 250W hub motor powered by a 10Ah Lithium Ion battery; Spencer Ivy are investigating whether it would be cost-effective to have the power unit in black for next season; as it is the big silver battery stands out a bit although I wouldn't say the bike was ugly. It's a crank motor system so all the electronics are housed - save for the bar-mounted control - in a single box behind the seat tube. this allows the Spencer to run a standard gearing setup, in this case an Alfine 8-speed hub.
The Spencer scores well on kit and accessories. As well as the Alfine you get XT V-brakes, and a Shimano Dynohub to the fore that runs Busch and Muller lights front and rear. There's full mudguards, a kickstand, a nurse's lock and a Pletscher rear rack too, as well as a chain case to keep your best togs free of oil. The 19" frame (one size only) will be fine as long as you're no taller than me (6'3") or shorter than about 5'8". The position is nice and upright for town riding; you wouldn't want to do more than 10 miles on the Spencer but it's fine for those shorter urban errands.
The motor system drives the cranks at the bottom bracket. This type of system has been slower to gain ground because it requires bike manufacturers to completely redesign their frames, it's not a bolt-on solution like a hub motor. however it has the benefit of being compact and keeping all the electrics in one place, and it gives the option of a hub gear as used here, which isn't possible with a driven rear hub.
There's a bit of play in the system when you step on the pedals but away from the lights you get an instant kick which is really handy in town traffic. Spinning the Spencer up to cruising speed is simple and once there the motor does a decent job of propelling you along without fuss. It's less choppy than other systems I've tried, and a lot of the time you won't even notice it's on.
Point the Spencer up a hill and most of the time it'll get you to the top without breaking a sweat. I say most of the time because there's certain scenarios where the torque sensing doesn't really seem to get what's going on. Point the bike up a steep hill and drop the gears and it'll happily chug to the top, but on a slight incline the motor sometimes seems to underestimate the help you want, meaning that if you drop down through the gears you just slow to a crawl. Change to a harder gear and give the pedals a kick and it seems to bring the motor back to life a bit. if you're buying an electric bike, though, you're not looking to make life more difficult. It's only an occasional glitch, but annoying when it happens.
My other main gripe was with the bar-mounted control unit, which on the test bike was a complete ergonomic disaster. However, the new bikes have a different panel which I saw at the London Bike Show and it addresses all the issues I'd noted, so I've been done out of a rant there.
Range-wise Spencer Ivy claim you can get 50 miles out of the battery, which may or may not be the case; I used the bike mainly on the middle of the three power settings and got nearly 30 miles out of a charge, which is pretty good. It's unlikely you'd want to do more than that in one go on a bike of this nature and the range is better than many bikes I've tried. To charge you slip the battery out and plonk it in the charger overnight; there's a charge level indicator on both the battery and the bar unit. run out of juice and the bike is perfectly rideable, if a bit sluggish.
£1,895 is a fair outlay but here you're getting a competent electic bike in full utility garb. The Panasonic crank motor isn't as refined as the Bosch unit but it does a decent job and helps to keep the price reasonable. If you need a helping hand and want full-on utility the Spencer lacks the overall capacity of a cargo bike but it's well-specced and easy to ride. Pretty good for a first effort.
road.cc test report
Make and model: Spencer Ivy Spencer electric bike
Size tested: Black, 50cm
About the bike
State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.
Colour: Glossy black
Frame: 50cm/ 19.7 inches; lightweight aluminium
Gears: Shimano Alfine 8 speed internal hub gears with rapid shifters
Brakes: Shimano Deore XT
Battery: Removable Panasonic Lithium-ion 26volt 10 AH
Motor: High performance Panasonic 250watt brushless mid-mounted
– Shimano dynamo hub powering Busch & Muller front and rear LED lights
– Continental puncture-resistant TopContact tyres, with reflective strip for visibility
– Selle Royal gel comfort saddle
– Pletscher EasyFix rear carrier with spring hinges
– ABUS frame lock
– Rear kick-stand
– Colour coded chain guard and mud guards
Tell us what the bike is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about the bike?
Our commuter bicycle offers the very best in electric bicycle technology with sleek city styling. Fitted with a maintenance free Panasonic motor that powers every turn of the pedal, and with three levels of assistance, you can choose exactly how hard you want the bicycle to work.
The battery will give you up to 50 miles of assistance before it needs recharging - enough for the longest commute or leisure ride.
Frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
Solidly built but not the highest quality finish.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
You only get one size to choose from, if was fine for me (6'3") but you wouldn't want to be any taller, or shorter than about 5'8"
Riding the bike
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
Very comfortable, upright position giving a good view in traffic
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
Electric bikes tend to feel a little vague and this one's no exception, plenty of nip when the motor kicks in though
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so, was it a problem?
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively, neutral or unresponsive? Neutral
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
Very well behaved, fairly low bottom bracket means it's stable and the steering is easy and fairly direct
Wheels and tyres
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes, most of the time
Would you consider buying the bike? No, I'd go Cargo if I was buying electric
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes, if it suited their needs
About the tester
Age: 38 Height: 190cm Weight: 98kg
I usually ride: whatever I'm testing... My best bike is: Genesis Equilibrium with SRAM Apex
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, cyclo cross, commuting, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mtb, Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling, track
Dave is a founding father of road.cc and responsible for kicking the server when it breaks. In a previous life he was a graphic designer but he's also a three-time Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling world champion, and remains unbeaten through the bog. Dave rides all sorts of bikes but tends to prefer metal ones. He's getting old is why.