Bikes like no other, that’s the promise of Gorille Cycle, a manufacturer based in Landes, in a constant quest for perfection. We met with the company and tested several of its e-bikes.
If you have spent your holidays on the Landes coast, you have most likely come across original electric bikes. These “fatbikes” – the English name given to bicycles with big wheels – are abounding on the shores of the Atlantic, thanks to several brands including Maa, Woodee (formerly Buke) and Gorille.
To understand this phenomenon, we met Gorille Cycles, a local player between pines and the ocean.
Born in Paris, Californian spirit, Landes heart
Previously located in Capbreton, this small brand of electric bikes is now nestled in the neighboring town of Hossegor. Because the firm is growing, it wants to surf on private eBikes.
However, it was far from the ocean that founder Christophe Yvars had the idea for Gorille, but in Paris, where he began to build his first bikes. The person concerned had the ambition to sell separate, imposing objects whose position as a cyclist gave him the idea of the name Gorilla.
Very far from the city bike roaming the streets of the capital, they correspond more to the Californian “cruiser” spirit. Normal, therefore, that the leader has migrated to the paradise of surfers, and incidentally to the city of his grandfather, to Capbreton.
Thus was born the Mâle, the first model and still the brand’s livelihood. This bike with a long wheelbase and wide tires has won over everyone, from forty-year-olds to teenagers wanting to get around with their surfboard. More than a style, the Male Gorilla is a cultural object in the region, and becomes even more practical with its electrical assistance.
We meet Gorillas everywhere, like here in Capbreton // Source: M.Lauraux for CssTricks
The Cargorille adopted by a local bar // Source: M.Lauraux for CssTricks
Fat-bikes are also family friendly // Source: M.Lauraux for CssTricks
Because Gorille Cycles is only in the VAE, with today a whole family of models. After the Mâle, the Cargorille family, the moped-style Cadet or even the Athlete and Titus mountain bikes completed the offering. And we don’t count the array of colors and customizations (upholstery, paint, etc.), meaning that we never come across the same Gorilla in the streets or by the beach.
More original and French electric bikes
2023 is also the year of change. Not only for the new headquarters-workshop-boutique in Hossegor to meet demand, but also for the bicycles. No more generic frames – we can confuse the Gorilla with their local rivals Maa or Woodee – the new Male 2.0 is now designed in-house. Christophe presented us with the prototype of this second generation fatbike, of which we note the battery integrated into the frame and the more efficient motor.
Also, Gorilla aspires to be more local. The company, already assembling its bikes on site, aims to use batteries or saddlery made in France (in Seignosse, a few kilometers away), among others.
Another prototype caught our attention, with a wooden frame (eucalyptus) and a French engine, the Valeo Cyclee with Effigear automatic transmission. The Cadet will also receive vegan cork-based saddlery, and there are countless initiatives to design the most French bike possible, and at least European.
The HQ in Hossegor // Source: M.Lauraux for CssTricks
A new headquarters that serves as a showroom // Source: M.Lauraux for CssTricks
The Gorilla family with a trike, a recliner and a Cadet // Source: M.Lauraux for CssTricks
We touch wood for the future, ideas abound // Source: M.Lauraux for CssTricks
And we work on everything, even on cork upholstery, always made in France like the current ones // Source: M.Lauraux for CssTricks
The battery is also assembled in France // Source: M.Lauraux for CssTricks
Gorilla is growing, now with 2,500 bikes per year, but muscles do not equal antics. There is no question of losing track for Christophe who wants to keep in touch with customers, whether for feedback or to offer closer, high-end after-sales service.
Moreover, we learned that a player from the French Rugby team, training in Capbreton this summer, was seduced (no name, we won’t spill the beans!).
But that doesn’t stop Gorille from expanding its territory, with Christophe seizing opportunities to export electric bikes. He does not only want to work with rental companies on the Atlantic coast. We now find partners on the Côte d’Azur, in Occitanie, in the Paris region, and even in Belgium and the Ivory Coast.
We rode with the Gorille electric bikes
Obviously, we didn’t miss riding Gorillas. For a day, we tested the Mâle and Cadet, two models sharing the Californian cruiser and fatbike spirit, but nevertheless remaining very different on the road.
The Gorilla Mâle is the typical cruiser electric bike. Rigid, this does not deprive it of comfort thanks to its 26-inch wheels with a 4-inch (10 cm) section, absorbing road imperfections or even the pine branches littering the asphalt on the Vélodyssée cycle route.
In addition, the saddle is cushioned, providing a comfortable ride, aided by the upright position thanks to the high and curved handlebars. On the other hand, the tires hamper performance due to the footprint, but everything is compensated by the strong 80 Nm Bafang motor installed in the rear hub.
A big tire my new! // Source: M.Lauraux for CssTricks
On the handlebars, it’s heavier, but it remains agile to handle // Source: M.Lauraux for CssTricks
On the other hand, on fine sand, it’s no bueno // Source: M.Lauraux for CssTricks
Thus, you never feel a lack of power, and you can of course adjust the assistance according to several modes, and via a Shimano 9-speed derailleur. Riding the Male Gorilla therefore remains easy, with astonishing agility despite the geometry and the tires, after a small adaptation if you go from a classic bike to this fatbike. And yes, you don’t take turns as easily as a city pedelec.
Riding the Cadet, between motorcycle and bicycle
This is even truer for its cousin, the Gorilla Cadet. In the trend of the Super73 or the French Elwing, this electric bike which does not look like it borrows its style from the motorcycles of yesteryear and its huge front LED headlight.
Here with the 95 Nm central Bafang M510 engine, the Cadet sprints from 0 to 25 km/h in a short time, while the Tektro hydraulic brakes ensure a quick stop.
It is sportier than the Male, due to a torque sensor requiring pushing on the pedals, where its cousin has a rotation sensor, which is more passive in its use. Sporty, the Cadet is also sporty in its typical motorcycle driving despite the 20-inch tires, because you have to get used to leaning over and no longer turning the wheels, at the risk of crashing into the dunes or into a pine tree.
Obvious motorcycle inspiration // Source: M.Lauraux for CssTricks
A French saddle and for two // Source: M.Lauraux for CssTricks
A classic derailleur, but a Bafang motor sending 95 Nm! // Source: M.Lauraux for CssTricks
Another difference with the Male, the Gorille Cadet has a front suspension, compensating for the non-adjustable fixed saddle, hiding the battery. And yes, you have to move forward or backward to find your perfect position. With some limits, especially if you want to add a road partner behind you, the bike still allowing 200 kg in total.
What price for Gorilla electric bikes?
Finally, let’s talk about prices. The Male Gorilla starts at 2,290 euros, a very reasonable price, but which rises quickly if you choose options. We recommend in particular hydraulic brakes (239 euros) because those with cables are much less efficient, mudguards so as not to send sand to your pursuer, while you can customize the color of your tires or add a rack. luggage and a second saddle. The battery can range from 440 to 880 Wh, enough to provide 40 to 80 km per charge. Note, the Lady Gorille is identical with a low, more accessible frame.
For comparison, the rival Woodee Coastliner Classic starts at 2,990 euros with its Shimano 65Nm center block, 10-speed drivetrain and Shimano Deore brakes – standard hydraulic brakes – and a 504 Wh battery.
The Cadet, more upscale, is displayed at 3,890 euros, with its large engine, hydraulic brakes, a 672 Wh battery, front suspension and saddle made in France. You can also opt for a few options including an M600 motor offering 500 W/120 Nm with an acceleration trigger, in speedbike regulations of course.
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