We tested the Darkhorse Eclipse AL-D1 model. It is a drop bar configuration fitted with SRAM's Apex1 1x11 HRD groupset, Darkhorse alloy wheels, Kenda Flintridge 700x40c tyres and an Easton/RaceFace bar and stem combination.
The alloy frame is available in two sizes Small/Medium and Large/Extra-Large. The frame features sliding rear dropouts making it single-speed and belt-drive ready while cabling is internally routed.
And yes, it’s an e-bike. Darkhorse opted for the popular Mahle ebikemotion X35 system. The system uses a 250W rear hub motor and 248Wh battery which is tucked neatly away in the down tube.
If (like me) you turned your nose up at the idea of a rear hub drive, the X35 system is far more refined than anything you might have encountered on early ebikes. A quick look across the catalogues of the most major brands and you’ll notice the X35 on just about every road and gravel electric bike.
To power on the bike there is a single LED lined button on the top tube which also functions as the mode selector and battery level indicator. The X35 has three modes: green, orange, and red; from least to most motor assistance.
While riding, the LED remains illuminated, signalling battery levels and giving a subtle clue to others that you might be packing some assisted power. At the base of the seat tube, you’ll find the charge port for the battery when you need to top up or to attach a range extender.
Battery level indicator: White means 75% or more remaining, green 50-75%, orange 25-50%, red 15-25%, slow red flash 10 -15% and fast red flash is 10% or less remaining.
All in the motor, battery and other ebike bits add about 3.5 kilograms to the bike.
On the bike
Out on the road, the Eclipse feels largely like an ordinary bike with the motor off. You quickly forget about the extra few kilograms until the climbs in the road remind you, but there is no noticeable drag from the motor.
Powering up into the lowest assistance level, the extra push is subtle but enough to begin pulling away from your analogue riding mates. Moving up into the mid or high modes the assistance is obvious and the slight whine from the motor more audible.
The ebikemotion app lets you connect to the bike via Bluetooth to check battery levels, record rides or even customise the level of assistance in each mode. You can also connect up to your Garmin or other devices supporting Bluetooth 4.0 or higher.
The motor provides assistance up to 32 km/h after which it is all up to you. On a group road ride, this can be a little limiting for fast flat sections, if you had been relying on the extra watts to keep up.
On inclines, the Eclipse really comes into its own. Like any pedal-assist ebike you still need to put in effort but the 250W motor does well to take the edge off. Keeping up with my quicker mates was a lot less of an effort but still a workout.
The impact of the assistance is quite nicely illustrated by a very unscientific look at my average heart rate on a regular route. At roughly the same average speed my average heart rate was 20-24 beats per minute lower than on an analogue bike.
Taking things off-road the Eclipse soaks up the rolling gravel stretches with ease. The geometry is comfortable and there is room for up to 45 mm tyres. The motor's power delivery is steady and aside from the wind rushing by a little faster, you don’t really know that it is on.
Heading up longer, steeper climbs, I found the 250W motor began to strain and battery levels depleted faster. Below 10% gradient was no problem but in the 12-15% range both my power and the motors power were a little lacking.
When it comes to range, Darkhorse say you can expect up to 75 km depending on road conditions and rider behaviour. There are so many factors that will influence this but on a moderately hilly road ride, I found that the claim was easily achievable.
Extended use of the highest assistance mode on longer climbs will cut that down significantly though. You can purchase a ebikemotion range extender to add an extra 250Wh but it does come at a price (R 7,950) and occupies a bottle cage spot.
The Darkhorse Eclipse AL-D1 is a well equipped, versatile electric road and gravel bike. It feels at home on tar and gravel with some welcome assistance on any surface. Priced at R55,000 the Eclipse sits below the ebike entry point of many other brands while still offering a quality build.