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- May 30, 2022
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The conversion story from ICE two-wheelers to EVs in India has mainly been about scooters and as enjoyable as some of them are, a lot of us at heart are hardcore motorcyclists. So if you’ve also been letting the electric scooters just pass by, waiting for that one good beginner electric bike, this, the Matter Aera is the latest one in the market. And spoiler alert…it’s a fun one!
If you are an early adopter, you would but obviously want something that stands out and I think that the Aera does quite well. Yeah, I’m still not very sure the headlight goes well with the bike’s overall design but on the whole, it’s sharp, sporty and aggressive without being over the top or polarizing. In fact, it has a sense of elegance to it, something I really like.
The overall fit and finish levels are decent from a distance, but move closer and you'll see welding spots and even a few exposed wires, something you might not like to see on a bike for which you're paying more than 2 lakh rupees.
Now while those might be acceptable, what I definitely did not like was the charger cover. It feels flimsy and has too much play when closed. And the big panel gap on the top part of the cover is already giving me anxiety for it’ll only be too easy for rainwater to seep in. On the other hand, one thing I absolutely loved was the front storage compartment. Even with the charger in, there’s just enough room for it to accommodate a smartphone as well as the keyfob. Given that the bike has keyless entry, it gave my mind so much peace knowing that the keyfob was stored away in such a secure space instead of something like my jeans pocket, where I might keep a normal key but maybe not a chunky keyfob.
The highlight though, it has to be that motor. Of the three riding modes on offer, Eco is for proper hypermiling, for the days when you’re really on a battery crunch. But City mode will be good enough for most of the time. It feels decently punchy and you can nicely cruise at 50-60kmph, speeds that are pretty good for your everyday commutes.
But if you want something more than just easy commuting, Sport mode is the one for you. It has that electric pull from the word go and the acceleration till about 80kmph is nice and strong. Post that, it takes its own sweet time to reach the 105kmph claimed top speed, but even 80kmph isn’t bad for a back primarily meant to be a commuter.
The roads of Bhuj, where we rode the Aera, were smooth and devoid of traffic and while maintaining speeds of above 80kmph for about 15-20 kms, I did not see any kind of derating in the motor’s performance. So the Aera does feel more than adequate to handle your short highway jaunts as well.
10.5kW motor with 105kmph top speed
5kWh battery pack with a 125km real world range
0 - 80% charging time - 1.5 hours (fast charging) & 5 hours (normal charging)
0 - 100% charging time - 2 hours (fast charging) & 6 hours (normal charging)
The one thing that hampered my overall experience though…. Was the Aera’s gearbox. All of you guys, complaining about the lack of gears in electric bikes. Well, here's finally an electric bike with gears but this makes you wonder…do you really need one?
See, given the lack of an engine, there's obviously no engine braking while downshifting. So what the gearbox essentially does is unlock a higher top speed with each shift. So it goes to around 40kmph in 1st, post which you have to upshift and go up until about 60 in 2nd, 80-ish in 3rd and finally the top speed in 4th. My issue with it is that given the lack of engine noise, I've no idea when I'm reaching the top speed of that gear. So while the pull to about 38-39kmph in the first gear is really nice, the moment I hit 40kmph, it was like suddenly hitting a rev limiter and the interruption in the exciting acceleration was a bit annoying. One of the unique riding experiences of an EV is the fact that after you roll open the throttle, the pull to its top speed is uninterrupted, something that’s missing here. And sure, you do upshift in ICE bikes but the constant sound from the engine means you always know when you're approaching the redline and hence when to shift…something that's again missing here. And what that means, is that the Aera is left stranded somewhere in between the two pure experiences.
The solution, a lot of you might say, is to just slot it in fourth gear and ride it for that one uninterrupted pull, right? But the issue with that is that starting the bike in 4th gear doesn't have the same pull and excitement as the first gear. It only starts pulling post about 30kmph and that kind of defeats the purpose of an EV, which is exciting acceleration right off the bat.
Otherwise the entire package is quite likeable. We faced a couple of fast flowing corners and the bike handled quite well. Yes, the 169kg kerb weight make it quite a heavy bike. It’s not only a lot heavier than its ICE rivals, but that weight is almost KTM 390 Duke category. So yes, while it’s not as easy to flick around as something like a TVS Apache RTR 160 4V, it feels reasonably light on the go and once leaned over, feels nice and stable. We even faced some bad roads and the suspension felt quite plush over it, so I feel the Aera will make for a comfortable commuter.
The Aera has a 7-inch touchscreen that I quite liked as well. Of course, you won’t be able to operate it with gloves on unless your gloves are touch screen compatible. But what I really liked was the response time. Touch it and you’ll see that it’s not lightning quick, but also definitely not laggy. The response time is just enough for it to feel very natural and the overall experience is very similar to that of using a smartphone.
In terms of features, this 7-inch TFT has pretty much everything you want. Right from practical bits like storing your documents, vehicle health checkup and service reminders to the more nerdy stuff like your ride stats and even lean angles, this console has it all. What I really liked was the layout when you use the turn by turn navigation. It’s simple and very clean and while it does take up the entire screen, it keeps displaying your gear position, speed and ride mode at the bottom left, which are three things you want to glance at every now and then.
That said, I think the lack of hill hold is a bit of a miss. Given that slotting the bike in gear will not prevent it from rolling, managing this 169kg bike on an inclined surface could get a bit tricky. And having experienced a good hill hold system on our long termer Ather 450X, I have realised that it makes things just so much more convenient. So at this price point, I think the Aera should’ve gotten it as well.
The Aera is made on a very sweet platform and its motor and handling would be the standout bits for me. Even the feature loaded but easy to use TFT console is really nice. The gearbox though, would be my major complaint. It's clunky and makes the bike stand in the middle. It prevents the matter from having a seamless acceleration experience like EVs and the lack of an engine means it doesn't speak to you like an ICE. And yes, at Rs 1.74 lakh for the base variant, bikes like the TVS Apache RTR 160 4V (Rs 1,23,870 onwards) , Bajaj Pulsar N160 (Rs 1,30,560) and the Hero Xtreme 160R 4V (Rs 1,27,300 onwards) are all available for much lesser money. But given the lower upkeep costs of EVs does mean that the overall ownership costs of the Aera will be substantially lesser than its ICE rivals. What further helps the Aera justify its higher cost is the 7-inch TFT, something that none of its rivals can boast of.
Matter Aera 5000
Matter Aera 5000+
The 5000+ essentially gets a couple of colourways and features like Bluetooth connectivity to the app, call & music controls, USB charging, vehicle diagnostics, geo-fencing, etc over the 5000
After Gujarat, Matter will be taking the Aera all around India for test rides followed by the commencement of deliveries. So if the downsides that I talked about are okay with you, go and test ride this and see what you feel about India's first electric bike with a gearbox.
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