In 2020, iconic American motorcycle company Harley-Davidson made a lot of changes in an effort to halt a sales slide and broaden appeal outside of their core and very loyal fan base.
Cut by renewed competition with a resurgent Indian, and seeing market share and sales number slowly sliding back quarter after quarter, new CEO Jochen Zeitz and his team hatched or carried forward several plans to turn the motorcycle maker into a more diversified, market-savvy operation. One of those ventures included launching into the suddenly white-hot market for electric bicycles.
Harley’s ebikes live under the Serial 1 brand, and after a long wait, I finally received a review bike, a RUSH/CTY model in glossy black metalflake. I received the bike in the dead of an Oregon winter, so until just recently, my rides have been short jaunts between rainstorms and the occasional blast of snow. Thanks to some generous loan extensions from Harley/Serial 1, I’ve been able to roll up some miles on the RUSH/CTY in the past several weeks.
Serial 1 RUSH/CTY Tech and Design Overview
The Serial 1 RUSH/CTY that I received is a Class 1 ebike with pedal assist to 20mph and no throttle. There is also a more powerful but technically identical variant, the $5,599 RUSH/CTY Speed, which is a Class III bike with a 28mph top speed under assist. It also does not have a throttle. While the “no throttle” approach may seem a bit contrary for an ebike coming from a motorcycle maker, it’s more likely a business decision as not including the throttle means the RUSH/CTY bikes comply with a wider range of ebike regulations in international markets.
Otherwise, the RUSH/CTY features a long list of tech goodness: An aluminum frame that houses a Brose S MAG mid-drive motor that puts out an impressive 66 pound feet of torque (that’s more than many motorcycles) that’s mated to an Enviolo AUTOMATiQ “intelligent automatic” hub transmission that changes gearing based on motor power, pedal input and other factors. A stout 706 Watt-hour battery sits inside the frame and is removable, and there’s a small storage cubby in the frame as well for a lock or small items.
Up top, a 1.5-inch Brose Allround color LCD display sits on the left bar pod. Dual four-piston 203mm disc brakes are hydraulic and an LED headlight comes standard, as do two rear red LED marker lights that also function as brake lights. The Serial 1 nameplate on the front of the frame also lights up in a nice stylistic touch.
Because of the automated rear hub, there is no shifter or external gears and power is send rearward via a Gates carbon belt, much like Harley-Davidson’s motorcycles. The belt system is silent and essentially maintenance-free. The RUSH/CTY rides on 27.5-inch wheels shod with 2.5-inch Schwalbe Super Moto tires best suited for pavement. Full fenders and small racks come standard and the racks will accept most soft panniers.
Throwing a leg over the the Serial 1 RUSH/CTY landed me in a supportive seat and it should feel instantly familiar to anyone who has ridden a standard-style or beach cruiser type of bicycle. Pedals and handlebars are at just-right positions and the handlebars are adjustable via rotation in the headset if you need to tweak the fit. I asked for a Large frame size and for me, it was a spot-on fit as delivered. This is a large, substantial ebike, so if you’re a big rider (6-foot 1) like I am, it should fit great. However, tweaking the bar position and lowering the seat allowed my 5 foot-3 partner to also comfortably control and ride the bike as well, so there’s decent adjustability.
Initially, pedaling the bike was a bit frustrating as the starting gear as selected by the automated rear hub was too low (for my tastes), but after a quick consult with Serial 1, I downloaded the Eviolo app, paired it to the rear hub and that allowed me to customize gearing and assist behavior. It took some experimenting but it was time well spent, and Serial 1 tells me a dedicated app for the bikes is in the works to better handle such details. The sealed Enviolo hub has a wide gearing range, silent operation and needs almost no maintenance.
Once gearing was dialed in, the RUSH/CTY was a capable and comfortable urban cruiser. The bike has no suspension so handling is concise and predictable, airing down the tires a bit can add in some cush if need be. Traversing Portland’s many miles of bike lanes, I found the Brose motor’s torque plenty powerful, including on hills. Two buttons on the left bar pod controller toggles through four assist levels including Eco, Tour, Sport, and Boost. There’s also a “no assist” mode that keeps the electronics active and the rear gear adjuster on task if you feel like pedaling the 59-pound bike assist-free. In the flat, this was a great way to get around while conserving battery power and it’s an easy bike to pedal despite the weight and mid-mount motor. It’s also very quiet, with no chain noise due to the belt drive and only a soft whir from the motor, even in Boost mode. The rear hub does not have a clicker soundtrack or make any other noise. If you have any doubts about the RUSH/CTY bike’s toughness, here’s the infamous Vittorio Brumotti putting it through some amazing stunts.
The RUSH/CTY gets up to speed quickly even in Eco mode, and can hit the 20mph cutoff point without much pedaling effort, especially in the more powerful modes. You can of course pedal it faster than 20mph, but in the flat that requires stout pedaling from the rider. I did get it up over 35mph down a decent hill and it felt steady, composed and confident at speed. The dual four-pot disc brakes haul it down from speed quickly with good feel and power.
I found I rode most of the time in Tour or Sport, while engaging Boost for hills or aggressive riding in traffic. As always, battery range will vary and the small but concise Brose LCD display gives updated range estimates based on ride mode and battery charge. Serial 1 says range can vary from 25 to 115 miles of assist, but I saw the range number dip to 17 on a full charge in Boost mode heading up a rise, but in the end, that was a conservative estimate and the range usually read closer to 50 miles on a charge. At no point did I run the battery out, and I never saw a range estimate under 10 miles.
Forgive the pun, but one place where the RUSH/CTY really shines is riding at night, which is fairly mandatory during Oregon’s winter months when it’s pretty much dark (and likely raining) by 5 p.m. The front LED headlight is massively bright, so much so I got some high-beam blinks from cars while riding. I adjusted it down a bit, but the headlight features a wide, uniform pool of light that also reaches far down the road. It’s the best stock ebike headlight I’ve seen so far, and it comes on automatically as daylight fades. Out back, the two red LED tail lights are mounted down at axle level, and while that looks cool, it may be a bit too low, especially if panniers cover them up. A seatpost blinker light would be a perfect add-on. But as it sits, the RUSH/CTY nighttime visibility is very good. A bike bell is also standard.
I enjoyed my miles on the Serial 1 RUSH/CTY, and never had a problem with it outside of the initial gearing adjustment that I quickly remedied via the Enviolo app. If anything, that’s the bike’s weak point: the automatic transmission isn’t one-size-fits-all and riders will want to customize it to their tastes and riding conditions, so the sooner a simplified and more comprehensive Serial 1 app can happen the better. For now, the Enviolo app gets the job done with some experimentation.
Otherwise, the RUSH/CTY is a capable, comfortable and powerful ebike that can function well as a commuter, pleasure rider and all-around alternative to a car – or even a motorbike. And while $5,000 might seem like a lot for an ebike, you do get what you pay for here with the high-performance motor, nearly magical rear hub, excellent build quality, fantastic headlight and standard “‘extras” like fenders and racks.
Perhaps one of the best things about the Serial 1 RUSH/CTY is that, despite all of the tech packaged in the bike, it’s very easy to ride and enjoy. There are no gears to manually shift, no complicated touch screen menus, no mystery buttons (save for the blue one on the hub to initially pair it to your phone) and once dialed in, it’s comfortable to ride to work, the store, a distant park or across town. Even loaded down with a heavy rider and some panniers, the powerful motor had no problem getting up to speed. Plus, the RUSH/CTY has a sleek sense of subdued style, with no cable clutter, an eye-catching curving frame, and that ”Serial 1” logo brightly lit up on the front of the frame. As befitting a bike from Harley-Davidson, it’s cool. If you need more velocity, the Speed version may be your ticket, but I found 20mph on this bike felt plenty fast. Serial 1 also offers the RUSH/CTY in a step-through model.
If you haven’t ridden a bicycle in a long time and are thinking of getting back in the saddle because you’ve seen and heard about ebikes, the Serial 1 RUSH/CTY is a great choice. It feels solid and well-built. It can be as fast as you need or as docile as you desire. Just be sure to have a bike tech work with you on the rear hub engagement setup before you head out on the bikeway.