AMPLER STOUT E-BIKE REVIEW: IT’S NOT EASY BEING GREEN

“It’s not that easy being green,” a frog once crooned. “It seems you blend in with so many other ordinary things.”

Kermit’s ode to the mundane purred across my cortices as I bicycled through Amsterdam on an unassuming pine green Stout from electric bike startup Ampler.

The refreshed 2019 model looks just like the 2018 Stout, which is to say it’s a very ordinary-looking European commuter bike. It has a traditional aluminum frame, fenders, bell, kickstand, wide tires, high handlebar, and a rear carrier. It’s almost indistinguishable from the hundreds of thousands of city bikes you’ll find in cities like Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Antwerp, and Berlin. That’s exactly what makes this pedal-assisted e-bike with 70 kilometers (43.5 miles) of range so extraordinary.

Ampler’s anodized paint even made green — the ugliest of all colors — appealing.

8VERGE SCORE

AMPLER STOUT

GOOD STUFF

  • Excellent e-bike that looks like a regular bike
  • Silent operation
  • Anodized paint even makes green appealing

BAD STUFF

  • Expensive
  • That app
  • No chain guard
Buy for $2,800.00 from Ampler

The Ampler Stout doesn’t look like an ugly e-bike built from ready-made plans and off-the-shelf parts in Chinese factories. You know the ones; they sell for around $1,000 on Amazon or Indiegogo with large batteries bolted onto their frames like some aesthetic malignancy. Ampler deftly hides its 48V / 336Wh batteries inside the frame tubing. (The black bulge you see pictured on the frame near the crankset is a folding ABUS lock, sold separately.) The only hints that the Stout is electric are the slightly oversized, but silent, 250-watt hub motor on the rear wheel and a humble multifunction button and charger port on the frame.

The Ampler Stout blending in with bikes that don’t cost €2,490.

I’ve been testing a 10-speed Ampler Stout for the last few weeks. My review bike is the base model, which sells for €2,490 (about $2,800). Yes, that’s expensive for a bicycle. But for many users, modern pedal-assist bikes can serve as replacements for cars or public transportation by greatly extending the radius of what’s normally considered “bikeable.” By comparison, it’s a far less expensive means of travel that also promotes a healthier person and planet.

Ampler has locked down the software that previously allowed me to skirt around Europe’s plodding 25 km/h (15.5 mph) speed limit. While it was exciting to bump the power to 348W and 35 km/h (22 mph), it definitely wasn’t safe.

Like most e-bikes, the Ampler Stout can sense how hard you’re pedaling and automatically adjust the power output in support. I can confirm the improved power delivery claims of the 2019 models. It’s delivered more smoothly with each downstroke of the pedal, even when starting in sixth gear on a slight incline. It’s certainly more intuitive than the single-speed 2018 Ampler Curt I rode last summer. Nevertheless, starting on a hill or under a heavy load did sometimes require a standing start in order to generate enough leg power to mash down on the pedal. But this was usually only when I forgot to downshift.

For city riding, I prefer the automatic two-speed found on the VanMoof Electrified S2, which also features a powerful boost button to give you that extra jolt when needed. Away from the city, I was able to ride well over 25 km/h, but that was achieved by my own muscle and the Stout’s slick 10-speed shifter.

In my testing, under max power, I’ve been averaging around 55 km (34 miles) of range before needing to charge. I’m confident I could stretch that to Ampler’s 70 km estimated average if I ran the motor in its more frugal / boring mode. And yes, you can still ride it like a regular bike even with the motor off or the battery dead.

Recharging the Stout meant rolling the bike into my home since the non-removable battery is integrated into the tube. That’s easy for me with my street-level door, but it could be an issue for people who live on the upper floors of an apartment. It takes a bit more than two hours to fully charge.

I can also attest to the Stout being a better all-purpose commuter bike than the race-inspired Curt for bike-obsessed cities like Amsterdam. The same goes for the Stellar model, which is a step-through version of the diamond-framed Stout. The high handlebars also promote a more relaxed riding position. But I do miss bunny-hopping over Amsterdam’s numerous speed bumps on the Curt.

The Stout’s beefier assembly, rear carrier, and wider, puncture-resistant tires do bump the weight to 17.2 kg (37.9 lbs) compared to Curt’s 13.5 kg (29.8 lbs). But its build coupled with hydraulic disc brakes makes it more suitable for carrying heavier loads. The Stout feels solid even while riding with my 10-year-old daughter seated on my top tube or rear carrier. Once, I even carried another full-sized adult home in the time-honored Dutch practice of meerijden (ride together) after his bike was stolen. Stout is adaptable to whatever you throw at it.

Stout doesn’t ship with a chain-guard as standard equipment, putting riders at risk of oil stains or snags to their skirts or trousers, which is a strange choice for a commuter bike aimed at professionals.

The Ampler app still isn’t great, but thankfully, you can mostly avoid it. The on-bike button on the downward seat tube near the charging port makes it easy to switch between riding profiles (I configured it for frugal and max power) and toggle the front light and the rear light integrated neatly into the saddle stem. The glowing ring around the button changes color as the battery drains, which is a very useful feature.

The multifunction button and charging port. That bulge is a lock (sold separately), not the battery, which is hidden inside the tube.

Ampler, without question, makes excellent electric bikes that are sold exclusively in the European market. They’re so good that I have no reservation recommending them to anyone who asks.

But the new pricing lifts Ampler into the rarefied air of premium e-bike makers. Priced at €2,490, the new Ampler Stout is in direct competition with VanMoof’s Electrified S2, which lists for €3,398. Theoretically, that would make choosing the Stout a no-brainer by comparison. However, the Electrified S2 is still available for so-called “early bird pricing” months after release. At €2,598, or €100 more than the Stout, the VanMoof Electrified S2 would be my preference in this price range, because it’s a better bike with superior features giving you more value for the money.

For that much green, you don’t want to compromise.

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