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Review: Priority E-Coast

This electric beach cruiser has a low-maintenance Gates carbon belt drive, but a few problems as well.
Priority ECoast Bike
Photograph: Priority Bicycles

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Affordable. Comfortable sit-up position. Comes with lights and kickstand. Cushy seat, big handlebars. Has a throttle. Has two different frame styles. Gates carbon belt drive! Can switch from a class 2 to class 3 ebike.
A few cut corners are obvious. Balance is off. Rack can't hold a passenger.

Overly technical outdoor sports are a little embarrassing. For example, I like biking, but I don’t want to misrepresent my interest or abilities—I have no desire to hobble around coffee shops in clip-in shoes and full-body stretch jerseys. That makes me the perfect customer for Priority Bicycles, a company that aims to make high-quality but not-so-technical, affordably priced bikes. (I also know I’m the perfect customer because, disclosure, I own a Priority gravel bike myself.)

Like all of its bikes, Priority’s electric beach cruiser has a retro appeal. It has some premium components, like a low-maintenance Gates carbon belt drive with a powerful rear hub motor, on a clean aluminum stand-up frame. This is appealing, especially since it comes with a wallet-friendly price tag (for an ebike). Sadly, Priority may have overshot the mark with the E-Coast. You’re just not going to find many cruisers with Gates belt drives at this price. But should you?

Figure It Out

The first sign I had that all might not be well was when the bike arrived. Priority is a direct-to-consumer company, which means that when you order a bike, it will arrive boxed at your house. The company does recommend having it assembled by a professional; it engaged a company to assemble it for me. (Here are the instructions, if you don’t want to spend an additional $200 and can assemble it yourself.)

However, once I received the bike, it did require troubleshooting. The front brake needed adjusting, and the included proprietary front fender moves whenever I turn the front wheel, no matter how many times I tighten the screw holding it on. Several weeks after receiving the bike, I still have to adjust the front brake or fender occasionally. It’s the kind of low-level annoyance where you don’t want to bother going to a shop.

Still, on one of the first beautiful spring days of the year, I happily threw on a jean jacket and hopped on the E-Coast to cruise around the park—unfortunately, it was buzzing nastily. I grouchily came home and fixed it, but it’s still a downer when you just want to run out the door in the sun.

My tester came in an extremely pretty mint-green step-through frame. You’re meant to ride it while sitting straight up. Priority states that the minimum inseam on the step-through is 26 inches, which happens to be my exact inseam. I could ride the bike pretty easily while pedaling, but I do have to stand on my tiptoes to stand on the ground when I'm at a stop.

That’s not a problem with a Trek Electra cruiser bike, which has a proprietary flat-foot geometry—the way the seat and pedals are positioned on an Electra frame, you get full extension while pedaling and still can place your feet flat on the ground. I didn’t find this to be uncomfortable on the E-Coast, but it’s a consideration when you’re pedaling around a 56-pound bike.

It has 26-inch wheels that are enormously wide, and a proprietary 500-watt rear hub motor, with a 576-watt-hour detachable battery that’s placed under the rear rack. This is a lot of weight to place on the back half of the bike, although I didn’t really notice it unless I was lifting the bike up onto a rack or up the stairs. It’s worth noting that neither the motor nor the battery has currently been UL certified, which is the safety standard for ebike electrical systems. However, Priority does say that it's on the horizon, in time to be compliant with New York's new law.

Not a Commuter
Photograph: Priority Bicycles

One of the E-Coast’s closest direct-to-consumer competitors is probably the Ride1Up Cafe Cruiser, a bike with which it has a lot in common. Like the Cafe Cruiser, the E-Coast has a nice kickstand. It has a rear rack, even if you can't carry passengers on it. And it’s a single-speed, which is actually OK. As I find with ebikes that don’t have a sophisticated computer, it’s often not worth the trouble of calibrating the correct assistance level with the right level of torque to feel natural while pedaling. Just use the throttle and be done (it also has a throttle).

It’s a class 2 ebike, which means it can get up to 20 miles per hour by pedaling. You can also switch it to a class 3 ebike, with a top speed of 28 mph, on the display. However, I didn’t feel great about trying to go too fast on the bike. I had to adjust the pressure on the front brake to stop it from making a lot of noise and catching, which made the front brake a little bit soft. I also have to occasionally tap the front fender into place with my foot as I ride. It's not a situation that makes me feel like it's safe to go almost 30 mph. However, it did get up the beastly 15 percent hill in my neighborhood remarkably fast.

There are two factors that the E-Coast has in its favor. The first, of course, is the belt drive. My own bike has a Gates drive, which I got after my chain dropped out on me as I was towing my children through a busy intersection. It's a game-changer. Oh, to never spill grease all over my pants and all over my hands! It’s pretty rare to see a bike at this price point with a Gates drive. (Trek's Electra bike doesn't have it.)

The second is that it’s just so pretty. All the components are internally routed, so it’s very clean-looking. All of Priority’s bikes are beautiful, but the mint green of the aluminum frame and the saddle brown of the cushy seat and handlebars is … so perfect. Priority bikes are the only bikes I've ever ridden where non-cyclists stop me to tell me they think the bike is pretty. The low price on comparable Electras also doesn’t include fenders or a rack like the Priority does.

However, a beach cruiser is made for pedaling daily by the water, not for tinkering and swearing in your driveway. So reluctantly, I have to say that my assembly troubles mean that the E-Coast probably isn’t worth it for someone looking for a no-fuss, entry-level fun bike. I like bikes, but even I don’t want to spend sunny afternoons grumping away with an Allen wrench when I’m supposed to be gliding in the sun.