PLAYING video games at home is great – it’s where the snacks and drinks are, after all – but given we’re now in spring heading to summer, there is a lot to be said for going outside at some point too – even if only to avoid a Vitamin D deficiency.
Gaming outside is an underrated activity and with the weather improving, now is an excellent time to explore its myriad possibilities even further.
While walking and driving are excellent ways to get to other places to play video games, cycling is a great way to enjoy some of the wonderful environment Australia has to offer, and see your local area at a more sedate pace.
This is the 1930s tourist poster version of cycling at least, and the one which exists in my mind – but I live in Queensland, where going outside in the summer is to subject oneself to the unrelenting heat of that lucky old sun and his good mate humidity.
Cycling is, therefore, not really a viable option for me for large chunks of the year, meaning I can’t take my Nintendo Switch to interesting new places without the car. An e-bike is a different kettle of fish entirely though, and the Mate X is a different species of fish within said kettle.
The Mate X is an e-bike – basically a bicycle with an electric motor in it (250w, in this case). The motor assists with pedalling, propelling the rider up to 25km/h before cutting out and leaving you to your own devices.
E-bikes aren’t new but the Mate X is quite unlike any other e-bike I’ve seen in that it’s built very solidly and ruggedly, with chunky wide tires and a distinct design aesthetic that got plenty of attention on the bikeway and made it easy to find at the shops too.
The actual construction quality of the bike is excellent; it felt very solid and secure to ride, nothing wobbled or wiggled or rattled, and the big tyres helped me a great deal too by providing a reassuring level of stability.
The bike is designed by Danish siblings Julie Kronstrøm Carton and Christian Adel Michael, who told me via e-mail they wanted to create a “cool, sexy, affordable product, sort of democratise it and make it attractive, accessible, and desirable”, explaining “we were on a mission to make the perfect eBike so cool that “normal” people (also the young urban crowd) would consider an eBike instead of commuting in a car”.
“We had a vision to create an e-bike that was appealing to a young urban audience who wouldn’t otherwise look twice at this mode of transport. Mate is for everyone who wants to experience a little fun and adventure in their everyday commute. It’s a bike that invites you to take a detour and go beyond the beaten path,” they said.
The designers are pitching the Mate as the “Tesla of Bikes” and while I’m not sure I’d go quite that far, it is certainly a distinctive vehicle that turned heads and generated plenty of discussion when I took it out for a ride – which is also part of the bike’s design philosophy, it turns out.
The review bike was lent to me for a few days via Mate.Bike and Ride Electric on the Gold Coast, and the pleasant south-east Queensland spring weather and mixture of terrain types within riding distance of my house gave me the perfect opportunity to put the bike through its paces.
To say I’m out of shape would be like saying the global passenger aviation industry is in a bit of a slump at the moment, so I was extremely interested in testing an e-bike for myself (not to mention I was reviewing a Fitbit Versa 3 at the time) and seeing how the riding experience differed from a conventional pushbike.
The major difference for me was the Mate X reduced hills to a trifle. Hills I’d previously cycled up and needed to stop at the top to catch my breath (or, in one case, given up and just pushed the bicycle up) were no problem at all with this e-bike; I just set the Mate X to maximum power assist and casually pedalled my way up them as if they weren’t there.
The second was speed. Maintaining a consistent speed around 25km/h is a bit of an effort for the unfit like myself, especially when the temperature starts to climb. With the Mate X, I could basically count on maintaining around a consistent 25km/h, regardless of terrain, without risking heat stroke or my lungs climbing out of my mouth and scuttling away going “Woopwoopwoopwoop!” like Dr Zoidberg.
The Mate X thus gave me the ability and an incentive to explore the region, and parks which I’d previously driven past with nary a second glance suddenly became viable destinations.
The Mate X complies not only with Australian laws on e-bike design, but also the laws of thermodynamics – which is a nerdy way of saying “The battery doesn’t run on magic”, and it needs to be plugged in to charge up.
On a full charge, the bike should go about 80km (depending on the assist level) and my time with the bike seemed to confirm that as likely; I put it on charge (via the included 240v wall charger) before I went to bed and it was ready to go the next morning.
Even if the battery goes flat, you can still ride the Mate X like a normal pushbike, although obviously you’re on your own as far as power assist.
The Mate X I reviewed had a colour LCD display about the same size as a smartphone, but sadly not touch-screen enabled, which was surprising (it had to be operated via dedicated buttons reachable with my left thumb). I was surprised there didn’t seem to be an option to just use my own smartphone connected to the Mate X system via USB-C or Bluetooth, but it wouldn’t surprise me to discover there was some legal reason for that – this is Australia, after all.
Despite having some excellent elements, I did have a few notable issues with the Mate X bike – the seat in particular.
I found the saddle on the Mate X to be incredibly hard and uncomfortable, to the point where it made extended riding sessions difficult or impractical. This is a shame, because the rest of the bike is excellent and given the AUD$2700 price tag on the review model, a comfortable saddle seems like one of the first things you’d make sure was there.
You can get aftermarket bike saddle cushions which would hopefully fix the problem, but given what the bike costs, you shouldn’t have to.
The Mate X is not small, either. I found its size (124cm high, 180cm long, and 65cm wide) made it stable, but it’s heavy, weighing in at 29kg. It’s not easy to pick up and turn around the way you would with a traditional bicycle, and the weight also means it’s a bit harder to stop than I was expecting – confound you, physics, and so forth.
The bike folds up for storage (measuring 78cm high, 103 cm long and 59cm wide in this state), which is great – especially if space is at a premium – but it’s not light and could be a pain in the neck (or your back) to get up stairs if you live on an upper floor in a townhouse or complex with no lift.
With a more comfortable seat, the Mate X could be a life-changer – it’s perfect for distances in the 5-10km range that are too far to walk to, but make you feel bad for getting in the car and driving.
If I lived closer to the CBD it’d make cycling to work a completely viable option, knowing I wouldn’t be drowning in my own sweat by the time I arrived, and that it wouldn’t take me all day to get there (or get home again).
For someone wanting to get more out of their cycling, bike to places they couldn’t reach before, and have a tech-powered transport option to match with their tech-powered gaming interest (not to mention get some exercise), the Mate X has a lot going for it – although it’s something I’d recommend taking for a test ride first to try for yourself.