The beautiful and warm weather we had in the last days of June were an excellent occasion for your servant to put the E-Solex through its paces in dramatic city traffic conditions: we drove it in the capital of Europe.
Belgian cobblestones, no separate protected tracks/lanes for bicycles whatsoever, tramway rails, all these dangers are lurking for you when driving on a two-wheeler in Brussels…
Hans Knol ten Bensel
Indeed, in Brussels one gets an expert menu at the wheel of a bicycle. High, unsurmountable kerbs which separate single lanes, long hills and fast boulevards, impatient taxi drivers, to name but a few hazards.
The E-Solex parks nicely before the Brussels Library at the Place de la Monnaie. With its 40 kg, it handles almost as a bike, and has a strong two-pronged stand for stability when parked.
Making life very difficult are the numerous delivery vans who constantly stop in the middle of the single road and laconically put on their warning lights, forcing you to veer around them and steer on the pavé, hit the lane separations and the tramrails all at once.
All well and good when the road is dry, but we would not be so courageous in wet conditions, let alone in winter of course.
This forces you to step off your bike and walk by past the van on the pedestrian pavement. Brussels police frequently turns away an eye from these stopping vans, as of course commerce must go on. But combined with the single lane layout policy, which are separated by high kerbs, it makes life difficult and dangerous indeed for the “green” driver on two wheels…who is blocked this way every few hundred metres, even on main through boulevards…
The optional luggage bin at the rear is very practical: you can stow away your helmet...
Smooth, easy to use
In these conditions, your appreciate fully the very gradual power delivery, the ease of use of the controls, and the potent electric claxon, which you have to use quite frantically to let you be noticed, as the Solex moves very silent indeed.
It took only a minute or so to get fully acquainted with the E-Solex when setting off for our tour to the Brussels Grand Place and Place de la Monnaie starting off from the premises of D’Ieteren at the Rue du Mail in Brussels.
Just putting the key in the contact switch, twisting the right hand lever on the steering wheel towards you and there you go, with the 400 Watt electric motor buzzing audibly only at very slow speeds, getting almost completely silent afterwards.
When starting off on flat streets, it is hardly necessary to assist the electric engine with your own pedal power, and the acceleration is quite satisfactory, without being brisk. Your cruising speed is between 25 end 30 km, with top speed limited at some 35 km. You hardly want to maintain this speed for any time in Brussels pavé or uneven tarmac, constantly avoiding nasty potholes, and you soon settle down to a speed of some 20-25 km. The suspension in the front wheel fork keeps the steering wheel from shaking in your hands on cobblestones or pavé, and lets you also enjoy a good degree of comfort.
The seating position is very good, with the Solex being very stable at higher speeds. The position of the saddle was a bit high for your servant, who does not have the longest of legs, and manoeuvring between cars was a bit difficult with only the tips of your toes reaching the tarmac.
Almost a scene from the '60s: the D'Ieteren main building then was built in that era, and the original Solex was then also a familiar sight on our roads... so ot was only fitting to take this picture, when I started of on my 2010 test drive with the e-Solex...
On steeper roads and hills, of which Brussels has many, getaway from standstill is rather slow, and some personal pedalling is required to help the engine a bit. Impatient van and taxi drivers start frantically using their horn behind you when you start away at some 5 kph, with the engine unable to gain any higher speed unless you throw in some personal pedal power. Drivers expect you to have the power of a small scooter given the looks of the E-Solex, which – with 400 Watts - of course you have not…
Besides being easy to use and comfortable, the E-Solex is also immensely practical with its three luggage bins. The one behind your back is lockable and ideal to stow away your obligatory helmet, the front one on the place where in the original Solex the tank was placed is can also be locked and is quite practical, with of course the usual steering wheel bin being placed right in front of you.
The Solex can be driven over a distance between 25 and 40 kms on a full charge, which is quite sufficient to please most users.
Remember that the battery charges in 4 hours to 70 %, and is fully charged in 8 hours.
The E-Solex is a most pleasing and a very mature proposition, eminently practical and of course having very low running costs.
Driving in the capital of Europe on a two-wheeler is another matter. Very little is done in terms of infrastructure, so utmost caution and restraint on behalf of the two-wheeled driver is therefore, literally, vital...
Hans Knol ten Bensel
The pictures were taken setting the small Sony 170W at a sensitivity of 80 ASA, so the shutter speed is slow enough to suggest motion, selecting "burst" mode to take the good picture. Audi PR-manager Thomas de Meûter took the talented shots "in motion", the portrait before the D'Ieteren Building was taken by PR team member Philippe Somers...