Last Updated: Jan 11, 2021 Review and photos: Richard Peace Tested By: Richard Peace
Summary Review: ARCC Moulton TSR Electric
ARCC have been making the ARCC e2-pod Intelligent Power system for a number of years now. We have tried several versions of this lightweight and high-tech system before and liked it very much – but this time it is fitted to an absolute classic of bike design, the Moulton, which is also designed and manufactured in the UK. Both have a reputation for being lightweight and very well-made so we were keen to see how the two outstanding designs would work together.
There aren’t that many lightweight drive systems around so the ARCC e2-pod Intelligent Power system, adding around 4kg (including battery) to whatever design of bike it is installed on, is great to have as an option if lightweight is high up on your list of e-bike boxes to tick . Nor are there many road / touring bikes that feature suspension as the Moulton does. Put these two together and you have an e-bike that does what very few others can do.
Our bottom line ARCC Moulton TSR Electric review: ARCC have managed to blend superb quality with great practicality and long term sustainability with the Moulton TSR Electric.
eBike Category: Road/Commuting
Euro spec: Pedelec only, assist to 15.5mph
Fast and comfortable bike design
Sophisticated and lightweight electric assist system
Fully suspended with innovative elastomer system
Hub gear options for quick and easy shifting
Lots of alternative spec options available
Superb and innovative original engineering on bike and electric assist system
Powered by Bosch powertool batteries – relatively cheap and easily available
Extra battery holder
Removable handlebar-mounted bluetooth controller
Relatively easy to ride without motor power
Disassembles quite easily for packing down into a flight-friendly suitcase
5 year warranty on electrical system (2 years on the Bosch batteries warrantied by Bosch)
With the motor and battery at the front it is front heavy
Not the strongest hill climber
Not possible to fit front luggage due to electric system design (though rear luggage is possible)
V-brakes rather than disk brakes
No front mudguard flap
ARCC Moulton TSR Electric Electrical Specs & Features
Battery: Bosch powertool battery in 144Wh, 216Wh or 324Wh options (latter only available from third party sellers)
Control: Removable handlebar mounted control unit
Motor: Brushless 250W 36V 170 RPM front wheel drive.
Lights: No integrated lighting options but USB ports on the pod can be used to power compatible retrofit lights
Pedal Assist: Pedelec assist with six selectable power levels (12 levels if the iPhone app is used)
Range: Circa 20-30 mile range
Motor activation: Thun torque sensor. Pedals must be turned 1.5 rotations before motor activates, after which it responds to to pedal pressure. Launch control feature for fast accelerating start.
ARCC Moulton TSR Electric Components & Accessories
Brakes: Tektro M710 V-brakes
Fenders:Choice of Sports clip on style or SKS chromoplastic full length
Fork: Moulton Leading Link Suspension fork with adjustable damping and compression
Frame: Columbus Spirit and Reynolds 525 CrMo steels. Hairpin construction. Fillet brazed by hand.
Gearing: Shimano Alfine 8 speed hub gears on test bike (single speed, 2 speed SRAM Automatix hub, 4 speed with SRAM Automatix hub, 5 speed Sturmey Archer, 9 speed X5 SRAM derailleurs, 11 speed Shimano Alfine hub, 14 speed Rohloff hub and 22 speed Shimano 105 derailleur)
Grips and Saddle: Rubber moulded grips, Selle Royal Viper Saddle or Brooks B17 Leather
Handlebar: Kalloy AL-007 DB flat bar, 21” / 54 cm or drop style
Pedals: Alloy VP 607 or MKS Espirit EZY removable
Tires: Schwalbe Marathon with Green Guard puncture protection on test bike (Schwalbe Kojak slicks and extra tough Marathon Plus options available)
Total bike weight: 40.12 lbs / 18.2kg (includes single 216Wh battery)
Rider Height: To fit inside leg measurements 27-35″
Maximum rider weight: 264 lbs / 120kg (overall max including rider and luggage)
Carrying options: Optional rear rack designed for with Carradice Rack bag (13L) or special TSR rack bag (24L). Made from Reynolds 525 tube, with mount on rear for light. Weight limit 35.3lbs / 16kg with TSR Rack bag. Day bag carrier option also.
Dimensions: 62.2 x 21.7 x 40.9 in / 158 x 55 x 104 cm
Disassembled dimensions: 21.6 x 40.2 x 20.9” & 38.6 x 27.6 x 15.7” / 55 x 102 x 53 & 98 x 70 x 40 cm
Who the Moulton TSR Electric is Best Suited For
The Moulton TSR is a truly high quality system that may appeal to commuters or touring e-bikers – especially those who:
Want a comfortable and fast bike that can iron out poor quality roads and even gravel bike type fire roads and similar – the Moulton TSR is that very rare beast, a road bike with full suspension.
Want a lightweight, efficient and high quality Euro-spec electric assist system
Would find a ‘demountable’ useful – that is a bike that splits in two – for example for ease of packing into a suitcase for airline transit
Want a compact and relatively lightweight e-bike that is easier to store where space is limited
Value classic design and high quality, long lasting manufacture
Want plenty of different gearing options to choose from
Want the option of using their iPhone as a bike computer style display with the option to alter power delivered by the six power settings (12 in the iPhone app)
Like the idea of small, light, supertough and competitively priced batteries that recharge very quickly with a 4A charger, giving the option to go light with a single battery or to carry one or more extras for longer trips
Want to be able to charge devices whilst riding using three USB-C connection ports
Electric Assist Performance
The Bafang front hub motor delivers power smoothly yet pretty speedily and you are soon up the 15.5 mph European standard assist limit. The torque sensor doesn’t kick in straight away but if you want a quick start there is a clever ‘launch control’ feature which is activated by squeezing both brake levers when stopped to get maximum power from the system for a period of three seconds. This worked well at junctions though we felt at least the option to have full power delivery for a longer period would have been good.
There are six power levels (12 in the app) but in practice we tended to use only level one or two and set it to automatic. This clever setting uses the 3-axis accelerometer housed in the ‘pod’ component which is able to detect hills and effectively give the rider a boost before power backs off on the flat. We found this super-useful to avoid having to constantly toggle up and down the six power levels manually.
The motor is lightweight, the whole electric assist system adding only around 4kg including a 1.3kg battery, but for such a lightweight setup it gave an appreciable amount of assist up the UK’s Pennine hills. Don’t expect the equivalent of Bosch mid-motor power, but the ARCC system powered the Moulton TSR up our regular mile long test climb in about the same time as a Bosch, it just needed a bit more human pedal power to achieve the same time. This is confirmed by the assist levels of the ARCC system, which give between 88 and 176% extra assistance on top of the rider input (compare that to the 40%-250% of Bosch’s lower end Active Plus motor). We found it responded best to a highish cadence (ie good pedal speed) and keeping up a good amount of speed up hills – possibly a result of what ARCC say is the system calculating motor assistance level using torque on the left pedal as a key factor.
The pay off of the smaller lighter motor is a more ‘bike like’ ride and we were happy to turn the motor off altogether on flatter sections – something you are less likely to do with a Bosch drive.
Shifting & Gear Range
Our test model came with Shimano’s Alfine 8 speed hub gears. These give an impressive 307% range – in other words more than sufficient to tackle all but the steepest hills whilst giving a top gear that will power you along at well over 20mph.
One of the biggest pluses of hub gears is that they are much more ‘user friendly’ than derailleur gears and less prone to damage (the penalty being a little extra weight). You can shift several gears at a time for fast changes of speed and can also change through as many gears as you want whilst stationary. Whilst it’s always advisable to back off pedalling a little whilst changing, this is much less of an issue than it might be on a mid-drive where the motor puts more pressure on the gears’ ‘innards’ than on a front wheel drive system like the ARCC. The hub gears came into their own in town riding where we often wanted to change through several gears in ‘stop-start’ traffic conditions.
ARCC offer heaps of gear options as extras on the Moulton though, including two, four, five and 11 speed hub gear options and a racy 22 speed Shimano 105 derailleur setup.
Handling & Comfort
The Moulton was a revolutionary bike when designed by Englishman Alex Moulton in the 1960s; it combined small high pressure tyres with suspension to produce just what Moulton was aiming for, a bike that was both fast and comfortable. Those who had previously derided the ability of small-wheeled bikes were forced to eat their harsh words as Moultons took on and often beat professional racing bikes ridden by professional racers.
We found the modern TSR continues in that tradition; the front suspension is really smooth over roads in poor condition and means you can ride at speed without that fearful feeling of hitting a pothole you get on an unsuspended racer with skinny tyres. The front suspension is easily adjustable too, using a hex wrench to tighten or slacken four nuts on the linkages at the bottom of the forks – stiffen it right up if you know you are going to be on smooth roads and standing out of the saddle a lot or make it nice and soft for rougher conditions; Moultons have even been used for ‘off-road’ touring on unsealed roads precisely because of this wonderful invention. The compression in the front spring can also be adjusted whilst the rear rubber suspension block also helps soak jolts to your body from the back wheel.
It all gives confidence to go at a good, sporty pace on less than perfect roads and tracks. Despite the fact that the Moulton has 20” wheels the excellent geometry means the ride feels stable whilst swooping down into corners, but they also help weave tightly around town traffic.
There is a good degree of adjustment in the Uno handlebar stem by loosening it with a 5mm hex wrench – about 40mm by our estimation. Taking the bars forward also lowers them if you also want a sportier riding position, whilst bringing them fully back gave quite an upright riding position for the 5’8” test rider.
The Avid Single Digit brakes work effectively and give nice modulation and are used on many mountain bikes, testament their efficacy in all conditions. The levers and calipers are made of nice lightweight but strong looking alloy.
On such a premium priced bike you might expect hydraulic disk brakes and these certainly would be a step up in power. However, fitting them to the thin tubes of the Moulton’s complex front suspension would be a true technical challenge, should it be possible at all.
Splitting the Frame Down
The clever frame design continues in the way it splits down; after disconnecting the electric cable between torque sensor and pod and ‘splitting’ the gear and brake cables to the rear of the bike you can remove the centre ‘kingpin bolt’ and unscrew the lower frame joint before carefully unhooking the two halves.
This is not an operation you want to do too often and certainly doesn’t mean the bike can be quickly and easily split to go on your daily train commute for example. It does come into it’s own though if you want to pack it down though for a long car journey or for long haul air travel where the small size of the bikes helps it fit snugly into a manageable sized and protective case.
Our hilly test course provided miles of climbing and dropping and was a tough test on a cold, damp UK winter’s day. Given all this the 18.3 miles achieved from the relatively small capacity 217Wh battery was impressive. ARCC say the range of this capacity battery is up to around 30 miles so this is pretty much in line with their estimates too as in warmer and less hilly conditions that seems entirely feasible.
The bike was kept in automatic mode and left in level one or two for most of the way as it seemed to make the best use of the sophistication of the pod in providing an automatic boost when it sensed the hills. We would have liked to have seen the power on level one eased back even further on very moderate hills as it actually gave more assistance than we felt necessary – perhaps this could have been achieved with the settings available in the app but unfortunately we didn’t have an iPhone to hand and no android app is available. That would have eked out the battery even further.
We could have also tried for more range by setting to manual and toggling up and down the six power levels but these give relatively small increases in power on buttons set quite close together so the automatic option proved far easier.
At the end of the ride it felt like a ‘good’ workout – the test rider knew they had done a decent amount of exercise but certainly didn’t feel exhausted, rather refreshed.
With these small batteries there is plenty of scope to carry one or more spares (our test model came with an extra battery carried in ARCC’s bespoke, beautifully designed spare battery holder). With several spares long distance fully loaded touring is a certainly an option, though luggage space is somewhat limited on the bike itself so a trailer might be needed for anything other than ‘touring lite’.
Note also there are bigger capacity 324Wh Bosch batteries available from third party sellers (not ARCC) which would give even more impressive results.
18.3 miles 1839 feet of climbing
Smart Electronic Control
One aspect of the bike that stands out is the degree of unique electronic control integrated into ARCC’s e2-pod Intelligent Power system, a system designed and manufactured from scratch by ARCC’s own engineers.
The sheer quality of the various parts stand out at first glance with many parts CNC machined from aluminium alloy and anodised. From the ‘pod’ itself, a wiring nexus and control system mounted on the headtube, to the removable bluetooth button control on the handlebars, the quality of manufacture is just outstanding.
The pod acts as a battery mount and displays a battery capacity light indicator. We felt the pod’s colour -coded LED light system that indicates the level of battery capacity could be a bit more sophisticated as it seemed quite a short period of time from it becoming red to the battery going flat and providing no assistance; in other words unless you have an iPhone and choose to mount it on your bars to see the app it is a little tricky at first to keep a handle on battery capacity. With more riding experience it may be something a lot of riders can adjust to though.
We have already mentioned the wonderful automatic power delivery feature. The ARCC system is also one of the few electric assist systems that features a wireless bluetooth control unit on the handlebars. This worked faultlessly throughout and also doubles as an ‘electronic key’ with which to switch the pod on and off. It is also removable from its cradle on the handlebars as it is kept there by magnetic attachment – a useful theft deterrent feature.
The Bafang 250W rated motor is light and in tune with the lightness of the bike (which would weigh around 14kg without the electric assist system – not at all bad for a fully suspended bike). It made some noise which seemed to come and go depending on just how much assistance the motor was giving and at what speed, but nothing out of the ordinary for a geared hub motor.
All in all it gave nice ‘racy’ assistance – it’s not a bike for putting on full power to grind up hills at a low cadence but one that really comes into its own when ridden in a sporty fashion, especially as the Moulton itself is great fun to ride at speed as it just gives you so much confidence in its handling.
The front wheel is easily removable as there is a connector in the power lead to the motor on the front forks that can easily be unplugged, for example if you need to take the tyre off the rim to repair a flat.
The ARCC system uses standard Bosch powertool batteries with neoprene covers a nice additional touch.
There is a choice of chargers – a bulkier charger which would be fine for home charging (and probably a little kinder to the battery) and a more compact alternative that would be more suitable for those who need to regularly take it with them on the bike.
Capacity options are 144 or 216Wh (available direct from ARCC) and there is the option of buying an even larger 324Wh unit from third party sellers. There’s also the option of fitting the pod locking latch with a security key so the battery can be left on the bike if you leave it unattended (though it’s not recommended to do this for longer periods of time as it may start to drain the battery).
Components and Accessories and Options
Above all else the bike gets noticed for its ‘spaceframe’ design made of high quality CroMo steels; it’s not just for show as Alex Moulton designed it to be lighter and stiffer than conventional diamond frames of the day and the unique design also has the advantage of being step-over friendly and splittable.
We felt the Kalloy 540mm bars were about right on a bike with small wheeled lively handling, which they help stop being too lively with their narrow width. There is the option of 440mm wide drop handlebars if you are after something racier and livelier. The Selle Royal Viper saddle was nicely supportive and just added to the luxurious feel of the ride.
The Alloy VP pedals were the only real disappointment as they proved slippy once wet and muddy but that is of course an easy and relatively inexpensive fix. Talking of mud we’d also liked to have seen a mud flap on the front mudguard; although the SKS guards that were fitted were pretty generous in length the small wheel threw up some gunge onto the frame where the spare battery was housed. Again this is something that should be a relatively quick fix.
The Schwalbe Marathon tyres are a solid if relatively heavy choice; we’d have like to have tried the bike with the Schwalbe Kojak slicks that are an option just to see how fast it can go, though of course these would have been unsuitable for our off road riding. The good news is that there is a very wide choice of all kinds of design of 20″ (406mm) spec tyres widely available to suit whatever your style of riding is.
If you want to carry a load you are limited to a bespoke rear rack which can take a maximum of 16kg as the front rack option on the TSR is made unavailable by the presence of the pod unit. This may be enough for light touring of course, though there are an increasing number of very capable touring trailers on the market.
Moulton say the TSR will fit those with an inside leg of 27-35″. Whilst the frame remains one size the main adjustment for size is raising and lowering the seatpost and there is also a good amount of fore and aft adjustment on the handlebar stem as already described.
Summary Review / Where to Buy
The single speed ARCC Moulton TSR Electric starts at £3294 with a single 144Wh battery. Our test bike had 8 speed Shimano Alfine hub gears and a 216Wh battery which would bring the price to £3729.80. In fact there are plenty of other options too from spare batteries to high quality SKS mudguards. Our test bike came with both of these options and they are available as ‘extras’ for £260.80 (216Wh version) and £45 respectively.
Note ARCC only sell direct to UK addresses and are unable to ship to PO Boxes, British Forces Post Office (BFPO), Channel Islands or Isle of Man.
Clearly this is a premium priced e-bike but we feel the quality is such that it is essentially a lifetime purchase when you look at the extremely high standard of the design and manufacture. Even the consumables like the batteries and components that could get hard wear and tear like the motor are likely to be available as replacements for many years to come as they are so widely used and a pretty standard specification.
The small wheels and full suspension are a unique approach for a road bike but one that really works in giving a uniquely comfortable and practical ride that even extends to gravel bike territory. And don’t think small wheels means a slower ride or less efficient ride, as speed records, races won and world tours completed, all on Moultons, attest to.
The ARCC e2 Pod Intelligent Drive System is what is says – intelligent – and it’s lightweight and perky performance really complement the design attributes of the Moulton to make an outstanding e-bike. If you like the sound of the system but wouldn’t want it on a Moulton note that ARCC offer other ‘off-the-peg’ bikes with it and may also be able to retrofit the system to a bike you supply if it is compatible.