Gocycle’s GXi is a folding e-bike with few equals

Nick Summers
Senior Editor
Gocycle GXi

Gocycle doesn't have the history to match cycling giants like Trek, Raleigh and Bianchi. In the folding e-bike space, however, it's one of the oldest contenders. Karbon Kinetics, the company behind the brand, was founded in 2002 and launched its first electric bicycle, the G1, in 2009. While not the first electric folder, its distinctive looks and quick-release wheels earned plenty of praise. Over the last decade, the company has slowly improved the design and introduced new models with different but always pretty expensive price points. 

Gocycle's latest effort, the GXi, is arguably its best model yet. The £3,699 (roughly $4,647) bicycle sits above the entry-level GS, which costs £1,999 (roughly $2,510) and the GX, its fast-folding predecessor. The company makes a more expensive bike — the £4,499 (roughly $5,649) carbon fibre G3C — but like the GS, it has a slower folding process, aimed at people who want to save space in their home or office, rather than multimodal commuters. The GXi, therefore, is a more complete flagship, which stands out against rivals produced by Brompton, Hummingbird, Tern, Raleigh Rad Power Bikes and others.

While not without its flaws, the bike is an easy recommendation for those who want power and flexibility at any cost.

Design

The GXi's distinctive design is a guaranteed head-turner.

From afar, the GXi looks identical to Gocycle's previous wares. And that’s perfectly fine because the company’s trademark design language doesn't feel outdated in 2020. The frame doesn't have a top tube and is, therefore, both eye-catching and easy to step over. The removable battery is contained in the chunky downtube, and the front hub motor, while noticeable, matches the smaller five-spoke wheels nicely.

The clever design elements extend to the handlebars, too. You won’t find any exposed cables — they've all been cleverly routed through the frame — or plastic gear shifters because the company opted for a stealthier twist-grip option instead. They might seem small, but these details add up to ensure the bike's clean lines are rarely interrupted. Of course, they could also make the GXi difficult to repair. The bike comes with a three-part warranty, though — one year for the battery, two years for basic components and three years for the frame — and Gocycle is older than other e-bike upstarts, which increases the chance they'll still be around when you need advice and replacement parts.

Unlike the GX, the bike has a strip-shaped Daytime Running Light (DRL) between its two brake levers. The beam has four possible settings — high and low, with an optional flashing strobe effect — that makes you more visible to other road users. The DRL isn’t designed to help you see at night, though. If you want to illuminate your surroundings, Gocycle recommends buying an aftermarket solution (the review sample I rode already had front and back Supernova bike lights installed.)

The DRL ensures you're always visible to other road users.

On the opposite side is a Formula One-inspired “cockpit” that uses bright LEDs to visualize important information. When you’re standing still, 10 lights on the left-hand side will display the bike’s remaining charge. They fill from left to right and each LED represents 10 percent of battery life. Once you start pedaling, the lights will switch off temporarily and fill in the other direction to show how hard the motor is working. Four blue LEDs placed above and below this section explain the current DRL mode. Shift your eyes toward the center and you'll notice three vertically aligned LEDs — these denote your current gear. Finally, 10 LEDs on the right-hand side explain how fast you're riding. 

It’s a massive improvement over the GX, which only had five LEDs capable of showing the battery's remaining charge. Still, the new cockpit is not intuitive. Would anyone understand what it meant without referring to the bike's manual first? I don't think so. My brain adjusted after a few rides, though, and quickly appreciated the size and brightness of the LEDs. In a laid back or upright riding position, they’re easier to read than a traditional bike computer, which usually has a small, monochromatic display, and practically fade into the handlebars when the GXi is switched off.

I used the app for my first ride but quickly switched to the LEDs.

If you don’t like the LED lights, you can use Gocycle’s companion app instead. The GX comes with two rubbery loops that can slide on to the handlebars and hold your phone in landscape mode. In this orientation, the app will switch to a car dashboard-inspired view with relevant riding information. That includes your current speed and gear, the battery's remaining charge, how hard the motor is working, the distance you’ve travelled and a button that cycles through riding modes. I used the app for my first ride but quickly switched to the LEDs to save my phone’s battery life and, more importantly, innards from the occasional shower.

Performance

My review sample was equipped with some extra mudguards and Supernova bike lights.

When you first set up the bike, the companion app will ask whether you want North American or European firmware, which caps your top speed at 20MPH and 15.5MPH respectively. These restrictions are set by local regulators and are standard for the industry.

Out of the box, you have four riding modes to choose from: City+, City, Eco and On Demand. On City+, the motor will kick in immediately and slowly scale up as you pedal harder. In City mode, the motor won’t activate until you supply some light (100 watts) pedaling, but scales up to 100 percent with less effort. Eco mode, meanwhile, is a battery saving option that requires slightly more effort (200 watts) to trigger the pedal-assisted motor. In all of these modes, you can twist the left handlebar grip for a temporary boost that disengages when you stop or slow down your pedaling.

Finally, there’s On Demand. In this mode, the motor won’t switch on until you wrist-down. Once held, the system will engage until you let go, stop pedaling or reach the firmware-controlled maximum speed. It makes the bike feel more like an electric scooter, though you still have to pedal and can’t, therefore, treat it like a Vespa or Ducati.

If none of the modes suit your riding style, you can build one from scratch. The app’s Mode Editor lets you drag two nodes on a graph — similar to an audio equalizer — to set exactly when and how strong the motor should spring to life. I was happy with the City mode for most of my riding but occasionally switched to a custom profile that forced the motor to engage immediately and ramp up to 100 percent assist with minimal pedaling.

Twist and hold the left shifter for an extra boost.

The GXi has three gears that help you pedal at low and higher speeds. Unlike its fast-folding predecessor, the bike will automatically shift up and down when it senses a change in momentum. In theory, that means you should never be in the wrong gear after stopping at a traffic light or climbing a steep hill. 

I found the system to be a tad unreliable, though. Sometimes I would reach top speed and momentarily stop pedalling to examine a road sign or let a looming car overtake. The bike would then downshift even though I was still cruising at a speed that demanded a higher gear. Thankfully, you can change gears manually by twisting the right handlebar grip up and down. There’s a small learning curve — the system won’t execute the change until you’ve eased off the pedals slightly — but it doesn't take long to understand and memorize the timing.

Another small nitpick: The motor is a little noisy. It's not loud enough to be a dealbreaker or spoil an otherwise idyllic ride through the countryside. But for this kind of money, I would prefer the electrical innards to be a smidge quieter.

The bike is generally responsive and aware of how you’re riding.

The bike is generally responsive and aware of how you’re riding. While climbing a slope, I could see the motor’s assistance slowly building on the left-hand side of the cockpit. Conversely, the LEDs would disappear when I started cruising down a hill at higher speeds.

Gocycle has nailed the basics, too. The GXi's Velo D2 saddle was comfortable, and the hydraulic disc brakes were sharp but not overly aggressive. I appreciated the one-inch ‘Lockshock’ suspension, too, which helped absorb the odd pothole and speed bump. (The GXi isn't a mountain bike, though, so you shouldn't take it on dirt and gravel trails.)

The 'Lockshock' rear suspension.

The GXi promises up to 50 miles on a single charge. Of course, that number will fluctuate depending on your riding mode and the number of hills that you like to conquer each day. I managed 30 miles, for instance, riding predominantly in City mode around my hilly neighborhood. (In line with the UK’s social distancing guidelines, I only rode the e-bike once each day.) Some of my excursions were in the evening, too, which meant the DRL was working a little harder.

Any range anxiety was mitigated by the Fast Charger, which can replenish the battery in roughly four hours. While functional, the accessory is a massive and utterly hideous brick. Still, it’s better than the GX’s charger, which needed seven hours to top up the bike’s smaller battery. You can charge the GXi using a large port hidden by a rubbery seal on the frame. Alternatively, you can fold the bike down and charge the battery separately — a convenient option if you work in a fancy office that doesn’t appreciate muddy or rain-soaked tires.

Folding

It can be daunting at first, but the GXi is surprisingly quick and simple to break down. Here’s the process:

  1. Ensure the kickstand is lowered.

  2. Turn the cranks so the pedal on the side with the chain guard is pointing down and away from the rear wheel.

  3. Pop the red switch on the head tube and lower the handlebars so they rest against the front wheel.

  4. Flip the red switch on the center of the frame and fold the front half so the two wheels sit next to each other.

  5. Unlatch the rubber band on the frame and stretch it over the designated hook on the handlebars. If you don’t do this, the front half of the frame can freely swing back and forth.

With a bit of practice, the Gocycle GXi takes roughly 10 seconds to fold.

The band is functional and barely noticeable while riding the bike. It's plenty thick, too, and never showed signs of stretching or tearing. Still, I worry about its long-term durability — if anything is going to break or perish, it's probably this. The band doesn’t feel like a particularly graceful solution, either. And that’s a shame because the rest of the bike feels oh-so cohesive and cleverly thought out. I just wish they had found a smarter way to keep the two halves glued together (magnets in the wheel hubs, perhaps?) because at the moment the design is one step short of greatness.

With the bike folded down, you can hold the protruding saddle and wheel the whole thing forward like a suitcase. Annoyingly, though, you can’t roll it backwards — doing so will cause the pedals to turn and eventually hit the frame. Still, I suspect it's useful when you're boarding a train or moving the bike through some revolving office doors.

At 39 pounds, the GXi is 300 lighter than the GX but still a tad heavier than both the electric Brompton (37 pounds) and Hummingbird (23 pounds). Moving the bike along the floor, therefore, is always preferable to picking it up. You could feasibly carry the GXi up some stairs, but your arms would probably ache for the rest of the day (unless you're built like 'the Mountain' from Games of Thrones.)

The GXi in its fully-folded form.

If you want to make the bike even smaller, you can take out the seat post and slip it through the centre loop of the rubber band. On the back of the saddle, next to the rear reflector, is a circular piece of plastic that usually hides a multitool. You can rotate it downward and drop it into the hole where the bottom of the seat post usually goes. At this point, everything on the bike is secure again. For a final flourish, you can remove the right pedal and stow it in a special holder next to the Lockshock.

The bike’s folded form is wonderfully compact. I live in a carpeted one-bed apartment (carpet is very popular in the UK, don’t ask) that needs to be covered with a vinyl protector after riding in the rain. The folded GXi fits neatly on my front doormat, though. That means I can easily stow it in the corridor — a gully too small for most bicycles — or neatly propped up in the corner of my living room. I wish Gocycles were even smaller, of course, so I could hide them in a wardrobe or cupboard. But they're still practical if you live somewhere that doesn’t have a garage, shed or a landlord that appreciates you sticking a large bike rack on the living room wall.

Wrap-up

The GXi is undeniably expensive. But it's in the same ballpark as other design-centric folding e-bikes, including the Brompton (£2,595, or $3,231) and Hummingbird (£4,495, or $5,598). 

Admittedly, you could buy a regular folding bike for a fraction of the price. But as I've written many times before, electric bicycles make more sense when you think of them as a car replacement. They're a healthier and greener way to complete shorter journeys without breaking a sweat. If you live somewhere like London, a folding bike might allow you to ditch the Tube or ride-hailing apps like Uber entirely. Depending on your use, something like the GXi could earn its sticker price in a matter of months. But you have to be willing to make that trade, otherwise an electric bike will always be a decadent purchase.

(Well, until the price of high-quality e-bikes comes down, anyway.)

An expensive e-bike, but one with few compromises.

Gocycle's latest bicycle isn't perfect. I wish the predictive gear shifting was better and the pedal-assisted motor ran a little quieter, like the VanMoof S3 and X3. The Fast Charger is an eyesore and the app, while functional, could use some work. These are small complaints, though, that I think most people can live with. The bike is an obvious improvement on the GX — which is heavier and doesn't have the DRL or expanded cockpit — and broadly competitive with the Brompton and Hummingbird. I'm also glad the GXi doesn't have any overly complicated smart locks or location tracking. Instead, Gocycle has focused on the essentials and delivered yet another e-bike that feels like the future of urban transportation.