The Corratec LifeS Ap4 is a hoot. It’s a fun, quirky bike for getting around town that’s also surprisingly practical, with good kit choices, an excellent motor and a decent range. It comes recommended provided you’ve got plenty of storage space and you don’t ever need to carry it anywhere.
The LifeS is more like a beach cruiser in its geometry than it is a city bike. You get super-slack 65° head and seat tube angles, and 20-inch wheels with enormous three-inch road tyres that are more like a moped tyre than a bike tyre.
The slackness of the seat angle means that when you have the seat extended to the right height for riding you can still put both feet on the floor, which is a bonus for stop-start city riding. It also means that the bike grows quite significantly in reach the higher the seat gose, which means that one size really does fit all. A lot of bikes say that, but here it’s a reality. I’m 1.89m and I can ride it with no trouble, and I’ve had everyone down to small teenagers on it, and everyone in between; one thing you’ll find about this bike is that pretty much everyone will want to have a go.
And when they do have a go, they’ll inevitably come back with a smile on their face, because this is a really fun bike to ride. It might look a bit unwieldy but the long wheelbase and the slack head angle combine to make it really stable and confident. It’s not the most agile bike, so it’s not necessarily the right choice if your commute is mostly diving through gaps in the traffic, but if you have the luxury of quieter roads or traffic-free options then you can cruise around to your heart’s content. The huge air chambers of the tyres soak up a lot of road chatter, and they’re perfectly happy heading onto unsurfaced fire roads and towpaths too.
It’s surprisingly practical, too. You get full metal mudguards, a kickstand that’s centrally mounted but doesn’t interfere with the pedals, and a rear rack that’s integral to the frame, with a sprung clip. You could fit panniers for your shopping, and there are low-rider mounts on the front fork too, if two bags at the back isn’t enough space. The lights are wired into the motor system, turned on and off by a long press on the Plus key on the Bosch Purion display. The Axa Compact Line 20 front light kicks out plenty of light for town riding, with a cutoff beam that directs all the light towards the ground. It’s bright enough to cope with unlit lanes too, if your riding requires it to.
Corratec has used the new Bosch Active Line Plus motor for the LifeS. We reviewed that motor recently and it’s fair to say it’s one of our current favourites. It’s powerful enough that getting the bulk of the LifeS – and this is not a light bike – up my commuting hill (1.5km at 5%, with a 12% section) was entirely straightforward. The Shimano Nexus 8-speed hub gear gives a range of gears that’s pretty much perfect for nearly anything you’d do on a bike like this. If the road gets /really/ steep you might struggle a bit as the LifeS is not a bike that likes to be bullied, and you certainly don’t want to be trying to stand up and pedal. But I’ve never been out of my comfort zone, and Bath is all hills.
Coming down again this bike is stable and carries a lot of momentum, and those big tyres roll well, so you can pick up a surprising amount of speed if you’re not paying attention. Or if you are, and you like that sort of thing. Corratec has specced good quality hydraulic discs with a big 180mm rotor on the front wheel, so stopping was never an issue; the massive levels of grip from the big contact patches of those tyres on the road help with that.
The LifeS is available in two specs, the only difference being the size of the battery. The Ap4 bike tested here has Bosch’s 400Wh PowerPack, and for £200 extra you can have the bigger 500Wh battery if you prefer. Whether you’ll need it depends on what your usage. My commute isn’t long, but it is hilly, with over 160m of vertical ascent over the 9km there and back again. I was getting 4 days of commuting out of a battery charge, which is par for the course for a 400Wh battery and a mid motor.
The Corratec is fairly heavy, and you wouldn’t want to be carrying it up any steps as it’s also quite cumbersome, but its range doesn’t seem to be affected unduly. On flatter terrain it’ll easily get me to Bristol and back, a round trip of about 35km, on about half a battery, so you’ll need a pretty long commute to really need the extra capacity of the more expensive Ap5. Going long on the Corratec isn’t bad, but it’s not the bike’s strong point: the position puts nearly all your weight on your sit bones rather than your hands, so you start to feel that after a while. The big, wide saddle is pretty comfy for short journeys but if you’re regularly riding for more than about half an hour you’ll probably be served better by something a bit narrower.
I’ve had a lot of fun on the LifeS. That’s the bottom line here, really: it’s a fun bike to ride, and it makes people smile, myself included. That’s partly down to the esoteric design and the huge tyres, but the joke would soon wear thin if the bike wasn’t also practical on a day-to-day basis. The fact that I’m still smiling as I write this is testament to the fact that Corratec has got the usability dialled as well as the design. This isn’t the cheapest way to get a Bosch-powered city bike – nor the most expensive, to be fair – but its unique looks and unexpected practicality go a long way to taking your eye off the price. There’s certainly a market for it.