EVFinder's test drive of the Viento
On Sunday February 16, 2003 Family business took me to San Diego County which gave me the opportunity to stop in Carlsbad and visit Dave Cutter of Pleiades Enterprises, the latest Viento dealer.
I had arranged to meet Dave at the local Starbucks and he arrived in style on his bright red Viento. This is an electric motorbike that seats two people and is registered as a moped here in California. It has very nice lines that reflect the dirt bike heritage of designer Ely Schless. The plastic covers over the three lead acid batteries give it a bright, sexy look. The bike appears to be well put together and had a nice solid feel to it.
The Viento is belt driven and comes equipped with front and rear disk brakes operated by hand controls. Flipping down the rear license plate reveals a small compartment that contains the charging cord. The motorbike has a built in charger which can be plugged in to any 110V outlet.
One interesting feature is the red kill switch mounted on the handlebars where it can be easily operated with the right thumb. The switch can disconnect power while sitting at a light so if you are used to blipping the throttle on an ICE you won't have any surprises.
Another interesting feature was the speedometer, it didn't have one. Instead, attached with Velcro where the speedometer would normally be, was a GPS unit. This will not only tell you how fast you are traveling but also how far you have traveled, and generally where you are on those occasions, numerous in my case, when you become totally lost. The use of Velcro to attach the GPS unit allows you to take it with you when you park the Viento. This is a good idea as the GPS unit probably won't be there when you get back if you leave it with the bike.
The ignition switch sits low down on the plastic battery cover and just above it is the battery state of charge indicator. This appears to me to work backwards. As the batteries are discharged bars light up from right to left. When the leftmost bar lights up it will flash to warn you that the batteries are nearly discharged.
I am only five feet six but I found that I could get on the bike quite comfortably and sit with both feet planted firmly on the floor. Its 200 pound weight was quite easy to control.
My test ride consisted of a quick trip around the parking lot so Dave switched the bike into economy mode which limits the top speed to about 15mph. I turned on the ignition, moved the kill switch to the run position and opened up the throttle. The bike accelerated quickly up to top speed; there appears to be lots of power. The suspension felt firm giving a comfortable ride and I didn't even notice the bumps in the parking lot. The ride is almost noise-free with just a low whine from the electric motor.
I ran down the hill to the bottom of the parking lot then turned around and gunned it back up the slope. The climb was fairly steep but the Viento handled it with no apparent loss of speed. I also got to find out how well the bike stops. Some Yuppie twit backed his gigantic SUV out in-front of me and I had to do an emergency stop. The dual disk brakes on the Viento brought the bike to a halt quickly with no fuss.
When I got back to Starbucks I found the kick stand difficult to located. I had to get of the bike to set the stand and I found it hard to get my leg over the slightly raised second seat when getting off the bike while holding it up..
What I liked about the Viento
The bikes fast acceleration
The quite ride
The disk brakes
The two seat configuration although carrying two people is going to have an impact on range
The use of a GPS unit as a speedometer
What I didn't like about the Viento
The position of the kickstand made it difficult to operate
The state of charge gage which seemed to me to work backwards.
Overall I think this is a terrific bike and I would have no problem merging into traffic or driving it around the busy streets here in Beverly Hills. It is very suitable for those with short commutes on city streets and for running the occasional errand. I would love to try it out on the road in performance mode, I'm sure it will be a blast.