Martin Sport

The first mid motor FredGo electric bike that I ever tried was a Martin City, it was a bit big for me, fitted with 700c (28″) wheels & with a largish frame it gave a commanding position but was a bit of a challenge to get on and off. It rode really well and was well specced and I liked it, it had another characteristic that I loved, it was pale blue and it had orange detailing – Gulf Racing colours, unfortunately FreeGo went all conservative with production model with a dark, uninspiring blue and red detailing. Boring would be my description- I will put that into context though, back in the early millennium years I wanted a Nissan Navarro double cab pick up, Nissan were caught unawares by demand and I had to go for a grey import, the only one I could get was bright metallic red, it came with big, knobbly Cooper tyres with white writing and chunky alloy wheels set off with big chrome bumpers, this truck was…..a bit glittery, even the valve caps were chrome plated, the engine grunted and people would ask about it, a taxi driver in Cardiff once enquired ‘what’s under the hood’? It was a turbo charged four cylinder diesel was not the answer they expected.

The valve caps were pinched the first night that I had it, the first break in, smashed rear passenger door window within six weeks, then the rear tailgate window a month or so later, it was too good looking (in a brash kind of way), I did 38,000 miles in a year but I was always worried about leaving it, Nissan were useless at servicing it and I sold it (for more than I paid for it), perhaps a Gulf Racing Martin City would be a thief magnet too?

The next Martin I tried was a Sport, I sped up the ramp and out of the yard, over the hump back railway bridge and down to the crossroads, this bike suited me immediately, a short reach to the handlebars made it comfortable, easy to turn my head to see over my shoulder for right turns (a genuinely big deal, as I’ve got older my neck movement has become far less fluid than it once was), the same, confidence inspiring hydraulic disc brakes as the City, same gearing and shifters etc, this Bike was ‘nippy’ and I declared it probably the best bike I had ever ridden when I took it back.

We waited eagerly for the Martins to arrive and have been disappointed that very few people have shown any interest in them, the City hasn’t had any use except for the odd demo but the Sport has virtually become ‘my bike’, it comes with a very good Selle Royal saddle with gel padding as standard but I have a Brooke’s Imperial Flyer ready mounted on a suspension seat post which I drop in when I use it, extra springing and a cut out, I’m at that age where I am conscious of the number of people around me who have nether region issues, I’m doing my best to keep them at bay for as long as I can.

The Sport has over 250 miles on it now, most of them are my miles, finished in a sort of stealth grey with some fluorescent green trimmings this is a nice looking but not too obvious bike, some of the decals are stuck on a bit poorly and the badging reads Martins Port rather than Martin Sport but you do have to look really hard to notice.

This isn’t a heavy bike, the battery is a bit big but it is mounted out of the way – Bosch styled, it’s a Panasonic by the way (36v 420w), on the downtube for good balance, it has Kenda small block tyres, puncture resistant and well suited for poor road surfaces and gravel tracks. I keep the saddle adjusted close to the handlebars to give me a good sense of control, I am too old for the serious OFF road stuff these days and this is not a mountain bike anyway, it’s a road bike that will handle trails and rough surfaces.

it makes me feel as though I could though, as I’ve got back into riding again I often finding myself standing in the pedals as I freewheel along, that’s a confidence, I’m in control thing, the Martin Sport makes me feel like that.

Do I have any gripes – yes I do, it has ‘ergonomic hand grips’ sounds good and feels good – for about three minutes – then you realise they are loose and turn on the handlebars, a bit of double sided tape will fix this and I should have fitted some long before the 250 mile mark came up, perhaps I’ll do it tomorrow will actually happen now I’ve written it down.

Straight bars make my shoulders ache, not the bikes fault, we get lots of men saying the same thing, I’ve fitted a handlebar riser which has pulled one of the brake pipes pretty tight but after about 17 or 18 miles my shoulders start to play up (it was only 4 or 5 miles without the riser by the way), to be fair – it’s me (or my shoulders) where the problem lies really but a compromise handlebar solution would be great.

FreeGo have apparently received a bit of criticism about their choice of motor, they went for Bafang instead of the eponymous Bosch (or Shimano or even Yamaha) and they even show a video on their website defending their decision.

As a retailer life would be a lot easier if they had gone Bosch, they are the acclaimed leaders in mid drive eBike motors and I am pretty sure that FreeGo have missed an opportunity, FreeGo enjoy a (very well deserved) level of respect that few other electric bike brands enjoy, add a Bosch motor and you’re going to sell a lot of bikes, it’s not rocket science.

I prefer the Bafang mid drive to the entry level (and by far the most common) Bosch Active Line motor, the Bafang is more powerful (more like the premium priced Bosch Performance Line motor) and just as natural in its delivery, makes me feel like a much fitter rider than I am, the badge isn’t so cool but it’s different and I love different, it’s reliable, it’s quiet and I know that FreeGo support it here in the U.K. at their own service centre if the worst should happen, the Bosch has to go back to Germany.

On the downside the Bafang feels a bit notchy when you push the bike backwards, not a problem but it’s not smooth, the Bosch is. Which would I rather have under me on a hill – the Bafang without a doubt over the Active Line, it would be 50/50 for the Performance Line but I would have shelled out at least £300 extra for the privilege.

The big thing about mid or crank drives is the natural way they assist you, fitted with both a cadence (pedal speed) & a torque (how hard you pushing down on the pedals) sensor the idea is for the motor to seamlessly boost your progress so it feels as though you are especially fit, the Martin Sport is extremely good at this

I rode from a campsite on top of a hill in Vilanova i la Geltru to the resort of Sitges in Spain, the campsite Vilanova Park is about two and a half miles from Vilanova which has a pretty good set of both dedicated Bike and shared space cycling routes, Hereford eat your heart out.

I used assist level three to cross the quite busy and fast road outside Vilanova Park, progress in fourth gear is effortless, once into the safe, wide assembly area opposite the park I nosed the bike down the quiet back road into Vilanova, this is easy riding and I switched the assistance off, a slight slope up and then a long run down a gently sloping road, no motor (or pedals) required, the only disruption to this easy ride were speed bumps in various states of repair.

After three quarters of a mile or so hang a left at the mini roundabout and down a steep slope, smooth tarmac & more sleeping policemen, hang right, then lift the bike onto the red painted cycle lane which is a bit narrow and a bit deformed courtesy of the tree roots but very, very serviceable, down to the lights where both cyclists and pedestrians are given safe crossing points, follow the cycle path into the park where there is shared space to walk ride and play and where cyclists are warned to slow down.

Through the park and pick up the dedicated cycle lanes out of town and run adjacent to the main road to Sitges, credit must go to the authorities in Vilanova i la Geltru, where there are new roads they have made space for both cyclists and pedestrians, in other areas they have created an easy to navigate space.

The ride on towards Sitges is about 5 or 6 miles alongside factories, shopping areas and sports zones, eventually as the road slopes up a big roundabout looms and I used the cycle crossing to the cycle lane the other side of the roundabout, the cycle lane heading down towards Sitges is a painted one and the road looks quite fast so  I did look twice at first but it was pretty good, there is a lot of publicity about giving cyclists space (1.5m by law) in Spain and most drivers seemed to be pretty fastidious about making this happen, the road was smooth and clean, good riding, I did get cut up a bit once, a ‘proper bike rider’ went past a little bit too close for comfort, I was doing 21mph at the time, he must have been doing nearly 30, he probably had a point to prove.

On the outskirts of Sitges there is a roundabout at the top of a small mound, negotiate the roundabout, over the next steep hump (level 2) and the roll down towards Sitges, here I met a family of four adults who cheered me on and waved, I waved back and smiled, really good humoured stuff, I had no idea I was riding ahead of a peloton of very serious off road riders, still makes me smile.

Sitges has a maze of backroads leading down to the magnificent esplanade where shared cycling and pedestrian progress is the order of the day, bike speed is regulated by the number of walkers, pray pushers and roller skaters, no place for pumped up angry cyclists, go with the flow here.

So along the front, watch the mountain bikers ride in formation to their big van and change into their special shirts and slap each other on the back whilst enjoying a Fanta Limon and a thick burger at Beer & Burgers.

The thing is – the Martin is showing 5 out of 5 bars left on the battery, hardly surprising though, it’s been mostly downhill with slight gradients until now, I’ve used the assist only very occasionally- roundabouts and junctions. I’ve covered 8.1 miles, time for a leisurely ride and stroll around beautiful Sitges before tackling the uphill and off-road route back.

 

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