Fred in Alberta

March 1, 2005

I have been looking at Golden Eagle’s web site off and on for the last couple of years as their kit looked great and the reviews from their customers appeared genuine and sincere. Also I have never seen a bad word about the company anywhere, ever. In the meantime I have owned an old French Velosolex from the Sixties, and a new Tomos moped. The Solex engine was becoming increasingly sluggish and the Tomos disappeared after I brought it into a repair shop which went belly-up shortly afterwards. My 52-year-old bones protested at the thought of tacking some of the unforgiving hills around here, and especially more towards the mountains where I want to take the bike. The idea of a motorized bike, to me, is to greatly extend your range, flatten out the hills, and make bike riding 100 percent fun. I liked the idea of Golden Eagle’s belt drive system as opposed to the friction drive of the Solex, not that there was anything wrong with the friction drive, but the thing was slow, let’s face it. On a good day with the wind at your back the best you can hope for is about 18 miles per hour. Lately on a good day I’d be lucky just to keep the thing upright. And I am no mechanic by any stretch of the imagination. Finally the time was right to get the Golden Eagle kit. My experience was a bit unusual in that I bought the bike first to “agree” with the Golden Eagle kit, instead of doing things in reverse. Or so I thought.

I thought I was really clever in the bike shop, measuring the distance between the chainstay (bottom frame section that runs from the bottom of the seat post to the rear hub, and finding I had an ample 1-3/4″ clearance to allow for their drive ring. So I got my new Norco Pinnacle based on the chainstay clearance, plus the fact that it has front suspension and the 2005 model has regular rear axles, rather than the quick-release ones. Plus a very moderate price and good overall quality. I chose a 17″ frame because I feel more comfortable on a slightly smaller frame than I would normally get and wanted a lower centre of gravity. Only after getting it home did I notice the seatstay (the other part of the frame that goes from the top of the seat post to the rear hub. Might be a new design twist, but some creative person at Norco appears to have decided, hey let’s put a curve in the seatstay so that right where Golden Eagle’s drive ring is, the seatstay will bend inwards right at that point to interfere with its operation. The curve does not appear to be necessary (though I could certainly be wrong here), it just seems to be a “nifty” design element. Not so nifty in my case though. I had two choices: to bend the seatstay or to file away at the point of interference. Attempts to bend the seatpost in my case were just fruitless so I did end up filing a little bit of the seatstay to allow clearance. That worked fine. Aside from this chore, putting the drive ring on the spokes and mounting the engine kit were both straightforward, even for this non-mechanic.

I did some tweaking to the bike. In the past, I have been stuck in the middle of nowhere with flat tires once too often and need to have what is, to me, an acceptable level of confidence. I got Specialized Nimbus Armadillo Kevlar tires, with street treads, the only tires out of about six leading “flat-resistant” brands that did NOT get flats when run on a cruel test course covered in broken glass shards. The tires are great, but on my first test rides I found the aluminum bike with the Armadillo tires was too light, it would tend to bounce around too much for me. As I had plenty of weight in the back, with myself and the engine, it was the front that had no weight. My solution was to put back on the front the original wider, knobby tire the bike came with, and not only that, I installed a Mr. Tuffy tire liner, plus I cut an inner tube in half lengthwise and installed that on “top” of the tire liner, then put in a Bell Universal extra-thick tube with Slime sealant. Not only does this give the front end some heft and weight, but the bike handles much better over rough terrain, gravel, sand, mud, snow and ice, and I have every confidence in the flat protection. I even put Slime into the rear tube, not because it needed it, but I’m using Slime more as an early-warning device — at the slightest hint of a puncture or leak of any kind the green Slime will show up on the tires and I’ll know about it. It looks like you’ve run over a monster bug. Not only that, but chances are good it will fix the problem by sealing it on the spot. I realize that “mixing” tires is frowned upon, but I felt I needed the wide, knobby tires in the front and did not need them in the back, since there is so much weight in the back anyway. And it’s not like anyone is going 100 miles per hour here– my purpose is to cruise comfortably over an extended range with total confidence in the machine I am using. With this sort of thing, I think ultimately it is yourself that you have to please.

Hard to believe, but this location is right in the middle of Calgary.
It’s at the Rocky View Hospital overlooking the Glenmore Reservoir.

In the process of getting the bike tweaked to meet my desired level of confidence in it, I would take the bike out for a couple of hours each day, always trying something new, i.e. different types of terrain, different hills, then come back home and make any adjustments to the bicycle that I noticed were needed during the tests. In the process I learned especially how to change tires and tubes (after this exercise I could do that in my sleep, though I would dread having to tackle the rear tire in bear country. Hence the Kevlar tires). Also how to adjust the brakes, and thankfully a bicycle is a relatively simple machine and if you know about tires, tubes and brakes, you’re in pretty good shape.

And now to how the Golden Eagle kit works. I got their 35cc Robin/Subaru 4-stroke engine with the trail gear installed, since I’m not about speed –it’s the hills that worry me. I love the fact that the engine “mixes” its own oil (actually it automatically sprays exactly the right amount of oil at the right time), so that’s one less thing I’ll be messing up. Golden Eagle says this engine has more low-end torque; that’s why I got it. The very first time I started it up, after four pulls on a brand new engine –not bad at all, I hopped on the bike and just placed my little pinky on the throttle and wow! –the bike and me were off at a speed that I normally would peddle at. I engaged the throttle maybe one-quarter of it’s capacity and zoom –off we were with even more power! I knew at that moment this was no mistake at all, getting this kit. It is all get-up-and-go and no questions asked. Very, very impressive. After about two weeks now of riding it a different “way” every day, with different objectives that is, I have total confidence in the kit, and have learned to help it especially when starting off from a dead stop. Oh, it doesn’t really need the help usually, but it is nice to have that bicycle experience too. A few good pedals, ease into the throttle and the engine scoots right along nicely without exerting any undue pressure on the spokes. This particular engine also has a great sound, maybe a little loud but it lets you know it is commanding the road, and it lets you know this is a real engine, not just some toy. I get a big kick out of the sound –it’s addictive in some way, and it just oozes confidence. I can tell by the way people react that before they look, they think a motorcycle of some kind is heading towards them, then they are invariably surprised by this unique contraption when they do see what it is.

As for the ultimate test of the engine, how it handles hills, Darryl and Sina of Fort Collins, Colorado, other reviewers on this site, said they got the engines to “flatten out the hills”. They have an excellent description of just how the engines work on hills in their review, and that phrase stuck with me. Truly it does flatten out the hills. I find most moderate hills that I would be grumbling about having to deal with are a cinch with the Golden Eagle. I must confess it’s not even necessary to peddle on moderate hills but this is where I feel guilty — I mean I’m able to help out some, right? I get a kick out of pedaling on hills actually, because I marvel at how easy it is climbing a moderate hills and it really is like pedaling an un-assisted bike on level ground. As for the tough hills, the really steep inclines, sure you have to peddle, and you do feel it, but the engine gives all the assist you could reasonably hope for. I don’t like to think I’m straining the engine so I help out. The exercise is of value of course and since you’re climbing at a rate much faster than you could ever pedal, the hill is tacked in a short enough period of time.

So the Golden Eagle bike kit from me gets a perfect score. It’s a well thought-out, brilliantly designed system that brings you the fun of riding a bike with greatly extended range and “flattened” hills. All of the fun of bike-riding and none of the drawbacks. And as a bonus, at least here in Alberta, you don’t need a license, you don’t need to register the bike, you don’t need insurance and you can park anywhere for free. What other motorized vehicle can even come close to this?

Calgary, Alberta

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