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Silicon Valley Dispatch: We Test Drive the First Hybrid Motorbike

Olivia Sterns takes the world’s first hybrid motorbike for a test ride in Brisbane, California.

With the ease of a bicycle and the speed of a moped, the new M-1 motorized bike can power its rider up a hilly commute without the hassle of a motorcycle license or specialized training. The motorized bicycle was built by the scrappy eight-person team at Bolt Motorbikes and the first was delivered to customers just a few weeks ago.

Bolt Motorbikes, a startup based in Brisbane, California — just south of San Francisco — says they have already sold 76 of the 100 bikes they plan to sell for all of 2016.

"I was making these to solve my own challenges of getting around the city," said Bolt Motorbikes founder Nathan Jauvtis, 38, who moved to San Francisco from Lexington, Massachusetts.

"It has the motorcycle feel and thrill, but without the responsibility that comes with a 400-pound machine," said Jauvtis, who has doctorate in mechanical engineering and started building the first prototype bike six years ago.

With a top speed of 40 miles per hour in "Sport Mode" and a battery output of 5,500 watts, the M-1 is built to appeal to the commuter with a need for power, says 30-year-old co-founder Josh Rasmussen.

"A Bolt Bike is the most motorcycle-like experience and highest-performing electric bicycle on the market today," said Rasmussen in Bolt's Brisbane lab, which has bare concrete floors and floor-to-ceiling shelves stocked with parts.

Weighing in at 140 pounds and with a price tag of $5,495, it's a serious bike and investment. The battery lasts up to 35 miles on a single charge, but as a hybrid motorbike, it can also be pedaled. And, every time the rider slows down, regenerative brakes put energy back into the batteries.

The bike also has keyless entry and a USB port, plus a removable battery that can be plugged into a standard wall outlet and charged.

Jauvtis likes to say that Bolt bikes are "handmade by highly over-qualified individuals in Brisbane, California." And indeed, on NBC News' visit, the team was hand-folding plastic battery components and demonstrating how they wire circuitry themselves in-house. Some parts are also made overseas and bought off the shelf.

"We've designed these bikes because we're motorcycle riders and we wanted to make bikes that we wanted to ride, but also that anybody can ride," said Jauvtis.