What’s it like piloting a sub-170-pound electric moped capable of 40 mph that doesn’t require a driver’s license? Surprisingly fun.
The M1 from Monday Motorbikes is a unique machine, more transportation solution than canyon carver. So while its $6,000 price tag and its performance envelope mean Monday isn’t targeting the average recreational motorcycle rider, it became clear to me after spending some time on the M1 that this is a bike built by people who are passionate about riding. The thrill of riding a motorcycle has not been lost on the little electric two-wheeler. It’s planted enough to lean through the corners yet still light enough that its acceleration can put a smile under your helmet.
And yes, it can wheelie, too.
Who is Monday and what is an M1?
The M1 is an electric moped with modern styling and an array of high-tech features. Originally based on the late-1970s Puch Magnum moped, the M1 replaces the traditional 110 cc four-stroke gas engine with a fully sealed, air-cooled electric motor with a maximum output limited to 5,500 watts, which translates to a little more than seven horsepower.
The company was started out of a San Francisco apartment by Monday’s CTO and co-founder, Dr. Nathan Jautvis, who got his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering with a focus on alternative fluid testing. The original name was “Bolt Motorbikes,” but as Dr. Jauvtis puts it, “A certain keyboard and outboard motor company that shall remain nameless took issue with that.” So the company was renamed Monday Motorbikes.
After several years of R&D, the Monday team has refined the M1, which the company sells directly through its website. The company has also moved into a more appropriate warehouse-style factory with connected offices and now employs 12 full-time staff.
Jautvis expects 2017 to be a big growth year for the company. He plans to increase production to 20 bikes a month and begin selling outside the United States in 2018. Last week, Monday Motorbikes announced it is raising additional capital through StartEngine.com.
Features of the M1
Although legally classified as an electric bicycle in all but two states, the M1 feels and performs more like a 125 cc motorcycle, only with pedals in the place of rear-sets. Those pedals can also be used to power the bike or to recharge the batteries "manually." Set it up on the center stand and you can pedal the battery back to life, albeit slowly. But it does add another benefit to your workout.
Taking cues from current design trends, the M1 looks like a cafe racer, with its low handlebar, thin, flat seat and narrow “tank,” which houses the two batteries. The batteries are easily removable so they can be charged indoors. Battery life is expected to be 2,000 charges, or about five to eight years of regular use. Individual dead cells in a battery can be replaced instead of the traditionally wasteful and expensive replacement of the entire battery that likely has functioning cells within it.
The M1’s LCD display shows speed, battery life and other vital info. Immediately below the display is a USB outlet next to buttons that control the display and allow the rider to make changes, such as selecting one of the bike’s two riding modes.
Brakes are scooter-like, with a Mokik Professional front disk brake controlled by the standard right hand lever while the rear drum brake is activated by the left hand lever. The electric M1 doesn’t have gears, so doesn’t require a clutch or shifter pedal. It has two chain final drives: one from the electric motor and the other from the pedals.
Overall, the fit and finish on the M1 is really solid. Monday opted to use grips, hand levers and controls made by Domino on the M1. The use of premium parts for the components the rider interacts with the most makes the M1 feel like a high-end machine.
Riding the M1
The M1 is 100 percent keyless. You can start it several different ways: by programming a sequence of your choice, such as left hand lever, throttle, throttle, right hand lever; by pressing a sequence of the buttons; or via a smartphone app. (Plans for future app features include geofencing and remote parental features.)
I set off to try the M1 on some of the winding roads in the hills surrounding the company’s HQ. The first thing I noticed is the lack of vibration that comes with an internal combustion engine.
The M1 was surprisingly competent at climbing the steep hills near San Francisco with my 180 pounds on board. There’s not that much torque, but what’s there is instantly available at the twist of a throttle, thanks to the electric drivetrain. To me, the acceleration was comparable to the 150 cc scooter I cut my teeth on in the early days of my riding career.
The M1’s weight of 170 pounds makes throwing it through the corners plenty of fun, even coming from my mid-2000s Suzuki GSX-R600 that I use to commute. I quickly found myself having to plan my line going through turns, even when traveling uphill.
Of course all of that is true if you’re in Sport mode. The M1 offers Eco and Sport modes. In Eco, maximum speed is only about 20 mph and projected range is 50 miles. In Sport mode, top speed can exceed 40 mph but range drops to 30 miles.
The underlying thrill of riding a motorcycle hasn’t been lost on the M1, and according to the folks at Monday, the bike was intentionally engineered to be that way. The electric moped actually has the torque to get the front wheel off the ground. With a little pre-compressing of the fork, I was able to wheelie.
Who is the M1 for?
The M1’s target demographic is as unique as the bike itself. Monday’s debut bike has garnered more attention in the tech community than the motorcycle community, which speaks volumes as to who their client base will likely be.
The M1 offers a simple, motorcycle-esque platform that can comfortably be ridden by someone with no motorcycle experience. The absence of gears further diminishes the intimidation of learning to ride, as does the bike’s light weight.
It’s also built to be convenient. The removable batteries make recharging easy for apartment dwellers who don’t have a garage or an outlet near the street. Maintenance is minimal. Lube and adjust the chain, check the inflation of the tires and that’s about it. There's no dealing with oil changes, valve adjustments, timing chains, air filters or spark plugs. Or gas, naturally.
Then there’s the issue of licensing and insurance. Since the bike’s Eco Mode is limited to 20 mph, it is classified as an electric bicycle. For this reason, Monday says the M1 does not require the rider to have a driver's license, registration or insurance, as it’s legally classified as a “Class 2 Ebike” in all U.S. states other than New York and Texas, where it exceeds weight limit requirements. (Technically, if you want to ride in Sport mode on the street, the bike should be registered and insured and you should have a driver’s license with a motorcycle endorsement.)
Ultimately, the M1 is targeted at someone looking for a convenient, urban transportation option that's fun and environmentally friendly. Most of those people likely aren’t motorcyclists. Of course Monday also hopes to attract the segment of the motorcycle riding population that enjoys owning a scooter or small displacement bike to supplement the larger bikes in the garage.
When I first saw photos of the M1 and its price tag, I didn’t really get it. At the cost of a modern, entry-level motorcycle, the price seemed steep. But after learning more about what the bike actually had to offer and getting to take it out on the road, I began to see how a case can be made for the M1.
The M1 isn’t a motorcycle and probably shouldn’t be compared to one. It’s a cool, convenient, low-maintenance and easy-to-use urban transportation option. It's by far the best-looking electric bicycle option on the market for under $10,000 and Monday didn’t cut corners when designing and building the M1. Its performance surpassed my expectations.
Although riding the M1 made me fully appreciate gears and the roar of an engine, the small two-wheeler certainly has its place. I may not be the market demographic for this bike, but I still had fun on a small bike, even an electric one with pedals.