I found plenty of reasons to adopt the city’s new, city-friendly “Union 1” Diamondback bike this summer. Add to this the atmospheric discord the excess road construction in my city and the rising gas prices that have turned the execution of errands by car into a nightmare baked in the oven. The saving grace was Union 1 – a bike that brought joy, speed and style in raids on cross-blood – especially those that ended on the beach.
Better known for its “acoustic” gravel and mountain bikes, Diamondback is a newcomer to the growing niche of cycling, but its parent brand, Alta Cycling Group, which also owns IZIP, Raleigh and Haibike, is not. The institutional history of the Alta e-bike means that Diamondback did not have to invent the wheel (or engine) before the debut this year of four models of mid-range urban warrior bikes, each offering high-performance components, rugged construction and a slim class.
Of the four, the Union 1 aluminum frame costs the least, but is still impressive. It is based on the Bosch Performance Line Speed engine, which with its 85 Newton-meter drive unit helps the rider reach higher speeds and cover long distances — 35 to 55 miles per charge, depending on which pedal level will help you dial. Rated as a Class 3 bike, the Union 1 reaches a top speed of 28 miles per hour, the maximum speed allowed for a bike in the US. The engine runs on a 400-watt-hour battery, fully integrated into the tube, reducing overall weight. The Shimano’s 10-speed drive makes it easy to switch, and the hydraulic disc brakes (as the workshop mechanic noticed after a test run around the neighborhood) are strong enough to stop this 51-pound car very quickly, which isn’t always the case with bikes. The simple, minimalist display of the Bosch Purion computer on the left steering wheel shows large numbers on the black and white LCD screen, so it is easy to read. Robust 27.5-inch wheels are covered with tires that have a substantial enough city tread to handle even broken asphalt and pavement. A built-in bike rack and wings keep bike bags and dirt off the rider.
The best thing about Union 1 is its smooth and seamless ride. Like most bikes from Bosch, the engine offers four modes: Eco, Tour, Sport and Turbo. Add 10 gears to the transmission, and your options go from near-impossible drills uphill in Eco mode to light pedals reminiscent of launching a rocket ship in Turbo mode.
While cycling, I’m less concerned with exercise and more with fun, which means I tend to keep the bike in Turbo mode while the battery has juice. On my last 12-mile ride, which required a partial 1,200-foot climb on gravel roads after a stop to jump off the bike and jump into Lake Superior to cool off, I was amazed that I burned only 40 percent of the battery, even if the whole time to keep the bike in Turbo. On long trips ranging from 20 to 30 miles I typed it into the more conservative Tour or Sport mode, but battery power rarely dropped to dangerously low levels. The ultra-conservative eco mode is great for those who want a real workout or ride more than 35 miles on a single charge, but I’ve found that the force of rotation of the Union 1 pedals in the Eco has tormented my knees, especially on climbs. For more information on the quoted bike range in each mode, refer to the handy Diamondback range calculator.