Harley’s tech-packed ‘Rush/Cty’ Series 1 e-bike makes the switch for you
In 2020, iconic American motorcycle manufacturer Harley-Davidson has made numerous changes in an effort to arrest a decline in sales and broaden appeal outside of its very loyal fan base.
Cut off by renewed competition with a resurgent Indian, and seeing market share and sales numbers slowly decline quarter after quarter, new CEO Jochen Zeitz and his team hatched or pursued several plans to turn the motorcycle maker into an operation more diverse and savvy in the market. . One such venture included the suddenly white-hot market launch of electricity Bikes.
Harley’s e-bikes 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 depths of an Oregon winter, so until recently my rides have been short jaunts between rainstorms and the occasional blowing snow. Thanks to generous loan extensions from Harley/Serial 1, I’ve been able to put in a few miles on the RUSH/CTY over the past few weeks.
Introducing RUSH/CTY Series 1 technology and design
the Series 1 RUSH/CTY I received is a class 1 e-bike with 20mph pedal assist 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 top speed of 28 mph under assist. It also has no accelerator. While the “no throttle” approach might seem a bit contrary for an e-bike from a motorcycle manufacturer, it’s more likely a business decision because not including the throttle means that RUSH bikes/ CTY are compliant with a wider range of e-bike regulations in international markets.
Otherwise, the RUSH/CTY has a long list of tech goodies: an aluminum frame that houses a Brose S MAG mid-drive motor that produces an impressive 66 lb-ft of torque (that’s more than many motorcycles) which is coupled to an Enviolo AUTOMATiQ. “intelligent automatic” hub drivetrain that changes gears based on engine output, pedal input and other factors. A robust 706 watt-hour battery sits inside the frame and is removable, and there’s a small storage compartment in the frame as well as for a lock or small items.
Up top, a 1.5-inch Brose Allround color LCD screen sits on the left helm module. Two 203mm four-piston disc brakes are hydraulic and an LED headlight comes standard, as do two red LED rear running 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.
Due to the automated rear hub, there are no external shifters or gears and power is sent rearward via a Gates carbon belt, much like Harley-Davidson motorcycles. The belt system is quiet and virtually maintenance free. The RUSH/CTY rolls on 27.5-inch wheels shod in 2.5-inch Schwalbe Super Moto tires best suited to the pavement. Full mudguards and small racks are standard and the racks accept most soft saddlebags.
Horse riding experience
Throwing a leg over 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-style bike. The pedals and handlebars are in the correct position and the handlebars are adjustable by rotation in the helmet if you need to adjust the fit. I requested a large frame size and for me it was a perfect fit as delivered. This is a big, substantial e-bike, so if you’re a big (6ft 1) rider like me, it should be just fine. However, adjusting the bar position and lowering the seat allowed my 5-foot-3 partner to comfortably control and ride the bike as well, so there is decent adjustability.
Initially pedaling the bike was a little frustrating as the start gear selected by the automated rear hub was too low (for my liking), but after a quick consultation with Serial 1 I downloaded the Eviolo app, paired to the rear hub and it allowed me to customize the gearing and assist behavior. It took a few experiments, but it was time well spent, and Serial 1 tells me that a dedicated bike app is in the works to better handle those details. The sealed Enviolo hub has a wide gear range, quiet operation and is virtually maintenance free.
Once the gears were set, the RUSH/CTY was a capable and comfortable urban cruiser. The bike has no suspension, so handling is concise and predictable, airing out the tires a bit can add some comfort if needed. Riding Portland’s many miles of bike paths, I found the torque of the Brose motor to be very powerful, including on hills. Two buttons on the left helm pod controller switch between four assist levels, including Eco, Tour, Sport and Boost. There’s also an “unassisted” mode that keeps the electronics active and the rear gear adjuster on task if you fancy pedaling unassisted on the 59-pound bike. In the flat it was a great way to get around while saving 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 from the belt drive and only a slight rumble from the engine, even in Boost mode. The rear hub has no clicker soundtrack and makes no other noise. If you have any doubts about the sturdiness of the RUSH/CTY bike, here is the infamous Vittorio Brumotti makes him do incredible stunts.
The RUSH/CTY accelerates quickly even in Eco mode and can hit the 20mph cut-off point without much pedaling effort, especially in the more powerful modes. You can of course pedal faster than 20 mph, but in the flat this requires strong pedaling from the rider. I revved it to over 35 mph on a decent grade and it felt stable, composed and confident at speed. Dual four-piston disc brakes allow quick downshifts with good feel and power.
I found that I was riding in Tour or Sport most of the time, while engaging Boost for hills or aggressive driving in traffic. As always, battery life will vary and the small but concise Brose LCD display gives updated range estimates based on drive mode and battery charge. Series 1 says the range can range from 25-115 miles of assist, but I’ve seen the range number drop to 17 on a full charge in Boost mode, but ultimately that was a conservative estimate and range generally read closer to 50 miles on a charge. At no time did I run out of battery and never saw a range estimate of less than 10 miles.
Pardon the pun, but one place the RUSH/CTY really shines is riding at night, which is pretty mandatory during Oregon’s winter months when it’s dark enough (and probably raining ) 17 hours. The LED headlight is massively bright, so much so that I got flashing car high beams while driving. I tweaked it a bit, but the headlight has a wide, even pool of light that extends far down the road as well. It’s the best e-bike headlight I’ve seen so far, and it automatically turns on when the daylight fades. At the rear, the two red LED taillights are axle-mounted, and while that looks cool, it can be a little also low, especially if saddlebags cover them. A seatpost turn signal would be a perfect addition. But as it is, RUSH/CTY night visibility is very good. A bicycle bell is also standard.
I enjoyed my miles on the Serial 1 RUSH/CTY, and never had a problem with this one outside of the initial gearing adjustment which I quickly remedied through the Enviolo app. If anything, that’s the weak point of the bike: the automatic transmission isn’t unique and riders will want to customize it to suit their tastes and riding conditions, so sooner a simplified and more comprehensive Serial 1 application can happen best. For now, the Enviolo app does the job with some experimentation.
Otherwise, the RUSH/CTY is a capable, comfortable and powerful e-bike that can work well as a commuter, a pleasure rider and a complete alternative to a car – or even a motorcycle. And while $5,000 might seem like a lot for an e-bike, you get what you pay for here with the high-performance motor, near-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 the technology built into the bike, it’s very easy to ride and enjoy. There’s no gears to manually change, no complicated touchscreen menus, no mystery buttons (except the blue button on the hub to initially pair it to your phone) and once dialed, it is comfortable commuting to work, the store, a distant park or across town. Even loaded with a heavy rider and a couple of saddlebags, the mighty engine had no trouble getting up to speed. Plus, the RUSH/CTY has sleek, low-profile styling with no cable clutter, an eye-catching curved frame, and that brightly lit “Serial 1” logo on the front of the frame. As befits a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, it’s costs. If you need more speed, the Speed version may be your ticket, but I found 20 mph on this bike felt very fast. Serial 1 also offers RUSH/CTY in a step by step model.
If you haven’t ridden a bike in a long time and are thinking of getting back in the saddle because you’ve seen and heard about e-bikes, the Series 1 RUSH/CTY is an excellent choice. It feels solid and well built. He can be as fast as you want or as docile as you want. Just make sure a bike tech works with you on setting up the rear hub engagement before you hit the bike trail.