Gadgetslab: California Eco Bike Malibu

 

During the course of your everyday, you’ll find that sometimes, you’re going to have to go places that are too close to drive, but a pain to have to walk. Quick trips to the grocery store, around campus, or down the street to your neighbor’s house can all be infuriatingly close. That’s okay. California Eco Bike has come up with its own take of the personal transporter in the Malibu: an electric two-wheeler that’s equal parts interesting and actually quite useful. We had the good fortune to put the thing to the test, and here’s what we think.

Design: 4/5

The Malibu is all business. It has one role in life, which is get you from point A to point B and back, so it wastes no effort on bells, whistles, or any other unnecessary accoutrements. Two, wide, tubeless rubber wheels flank a platform, the center of which is home to a tall steering stick that tilts left or right, depending on the whims of the rider. A fender keeps dirt and debris from messing your khakis up, and large tubular guards make sure you don’t inadvertently misstep and place your feet or legs near the tires while piloting the vehicle. There are no visible controls on the Malibu, save for a large power switch on the base, and a key to reset the vehicle’s controller.  It’s a nice combination of brushed metal and black, with just a splash of red thrown in for good measure.

Hardware: 3.5/5

The Malibu runs two, brushed 750W DC motors powered by three 12v, 12Ah lead-acid batteries. While we haven’t quite found a scale large enough to figure out how heavy the Malibu is, but suffice it to say you’re not likely to be doing anything except rolling this places.

There are no inputs on the device either, except for a single power plug that accepts a proprietary charger that comes with the unit. The other end of the charger goes straight into a wall outlet, giving you a full charge in under eight hours. To let you know how much power is left, the Malibu has a power indicator on the base of the steering stem, so you know roughly how much range you have left.

User experience: 5/5

The prospect of riding a vehicle such as the Malibu was a little scary at first. While I had tried similar vehicles in the past, putting my trust in what is, at the time of writing, a relatively new machine from a new-ish brand is another thing altogether. After an overnight charge and a deep breath, I flicked the power switch on, waited for the Malibu to balance, and stepped gingerly on the platform.

And nothing happened. I stood there, and the Malibu did the same. I didn’t have to balance, or really do anything at all. It was rock steady. It was very impressive; I was relieved.

Once my amusement over the auto-balancing magic had died down sufficiently, I leaned forward gingerly. Without any hesitation, the Malibu crept forwards ever so slightly. Straightening up stopped the motion, and I was back standing dead-still. I made my way to an barely-used road at BGC, and started to practice in earnest. Once you have a little courage built up, you can lean as far forward as you dare. The Malibu quickly picks up speed, but immediately dials it back when it senses you’re leaning a little too far forward, and going a bit too fast. Even at speed, I could very easily snap back, straightening my body and pulling back on the stick to stop almost on the spot.

Turning is just as simple. Hang on to the handlebars, and lean your body in the direction you want to turn, taking the stick with you, and it goes. You might want to take care when doing this at speed, as your body is naturally going to want to resist the change in direction. I found that the more I trusted the machine, the easier the ride was.

After one or two rounds around the block, I was confident enough to actually take the Malibu around. I went all the way from the SM Aura area to High Street, travelling along sidewalks, crossing streets, and dodging obstacles on the way. I was at no point in fear for my safety, and felt totally in control the whole time.

Before long, I was able to get very fine control over the Malibu. I could back up and stop just before touching a wall, move, slow and stop to pick something off a ledge, and even walk the dog without running it over (though you’d better not try that last one unless you have an exceptionally well-behaved dog).

I had no difficulty with the Malibu at all, though backing up while turning did take a little getting used to. As long as you make sure to go about it slowly, you should be just fine. It cen be disorienting, and you may have to step off, but keep at it, and it’ll cooperate. The first test unit sent over also had a problem, likely from some hard use by the previous reviewer. California Eco Bike was very quick to address the problem though, sending over technicians and a replacement unit with no delay. I was hoping for such great service, and I am quite happy to say I wasn’t disappointed.

I spent my time with the Malibu running various tasks, from going to get coffee a few blocks farther than usual, fetching takeout from a place we’d normally have to drive, and even volunteering to come along to take the dog out without feeling bad about it.

It’s able to handle reasonably high bumps and potholes, though you’re going to want to slow down a bit before you attack them. Also, be aware that once it starts to limit its speed (which happens at about 13kph) it’s going to slow down and straighten up. You might feel like you’re going to fall over, but you won’t, so don’t fight it or else you might end up jumping off as the Malibu tries to fight your own corrections.

Value: 3.5/5

There are other vehicles like this in the market, but none come at the price point the Malibu does. At PHP 68,000, it’s a fraction of the price of any other, similar machine. It does practically the same thing, and it’s so much fun. If you find yourself to be the kind of person to have to frequently make short, quick trips to nearby  places, it’s actually not a bad deal. Just make sure you have a place to park.

 

What’s hot:

So much fun

More usable than you might think

Easy to pick up and go

What’s not:

Takes some trust to ride

Going backwards is a new skill you have to learn

Bottomline:

Now waiting for my Christmas bonus.

 

 

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