E-Bike – Bicycles Network Australia https://www.bicycles.net.au The Top Australian Cycling Portal Wed, 23 May 2018 20:08:35 +0000 en-US hourly 1 E-bike Early Adopters and the Australian Potential – Interview with Dr. Bennini of Bosch eBike Systems https://www.bicycles.net.au/2016/10/e-bike-early-adopters-and-the-australian-potential-interview-with-dr-bennini-of-bosch-ebike-systems/ https://www.bicycles.net.au/2016/10/e-bike-early-adopters-and-the-australian-potential-interview-with-dr-bennini-of-bosch-ebike-systems/#comments Tue, 18 Oct 2016 06:41:48 +0000 https://www.bicycles.net.au/?p=16201 The future of cycling is electric and if you buy an e-bike in Australia today, you’re an early adopter. You get to tell everyone “I told you so” because the e-bike segment is the fastest growing segment in the bike world and rising global sales are proving that this is not just a trend, this […]]]>

The future of cycling is electric and if you buy an e-bike in Australia today, you’re an early adopter. You get to tell everyone “I told you so” because the e-bike segment is the fastest growing segment in the bike world and rising global sales are proving that this is not just a trend, this is the future of urban transport. I spoke with Dr. Fouad Bennini who has been charged with building the Asia Pacific market by Bosch eBike Systems – Bosch has solidified itself at the helm as the most popular e-bike motor for pedelecs.

Dr. Bennini has been in and out of Australia over the past month and I spoke to him over the phone to find out how strong the e-bike market is in Australia and where the journey e-bikes will take us. Bosch launched the eBike Systems business unit in 2009 and focused solely on Europe before opening a North American office in 2014. Last year, in 2015, Bosch eBike Systems formally launched in Asia Pacific with Australia locked in as their first target.

ebike sales australia
2015 launch of Bosch eBike Systems in Australia during the Bike Industry summit

 

While Australia is the focus, the Asia-Pacific office is located in Suzhou (near Shanghai) in China which you might guess was been selected because of the proximity to production. Bennini explains that the decision was “not for the production but simply because it is closer to the supply-chain and manufacturing – the center of the bicycle industry is there.” Suzhou is a pivot-point for distribution to the production facilities for most of the world’s bike brands.

But what about the potential of the massive Asian market? Considering the population alone, the Asian nations would appear to be a logical starting point. When queried about the potential for eBikes in the Chinese market, Dr. Bennini says “in Asia we discovered a different market. In China we are talking about 35 million e-bikes sold per year but these e-bikes are totally powered, they are not the style we know, they are not pedelecs.”

fouard bennini bosch
David Geen, Fiona Tao, Fouad Bennini and Cameron Burke of Bosch eBike Systems

 

Bosch eBike system is clearly defining itself as a pedelec brand which, in comparison, is a premium market. Currently, most Asian nations are not the right markets for pedelecs by virtue of their culture and laws. Japan however, the birthplace of the pedelec, is one of the worlds biggest markets, second only to Europe in terms of sales volume. Despite Japan trumping Australia in sales, Bennini notes that “Australia will be one of the main markets after Japan, we started with Australia because we are quite confident. This is the right time to be in this [Australian] market.”

Bosch has directed all of its attention to Australia and part of their strategy was establishing a local service center, they became the first e-bike brand in Australia to do this. Shimano is another player in the market and recently established local support for the Shimano STEPs e-bike system. Together, the two brands are the only brands who formally offer national service for their motors and batteries.

 

Australia verses Europe

There has been a boom in dedicated e-bike shops across Australia but the average Aussie bike shop serves customers who want sporting or recreational bikes. This explains the knowledge gap and even animosity against e-bikes within the bike industry in Australia. On a recent visit to a local bike shop, the owner showed me their first (and only) e-bike; a virtually unknown brand. I was told that it is “the best e-bike on the market” though the shop owner admitted he didn’t really know much about e-bikes except for what the brand rep told him.

Dr. Bennini confides that it is still early-days, “if we try to describe Australia, we are really in an early adopter phase. The early adopter phase means that you have a low volume and there is not much awareness. The dealers in the retail channel are not even aware of the definition of the pedelec and difference between e-bikes and pedelecs. We are still talking about basic things.”

“Awareness of what a pedelec is,” continues Bennini “is one of our biggest challenges in comparing with Europe.”

bosch ebike systems

 

The market is so young that Bennini’s team hasn’t yet gathered sufficient data to provide a reliable overview and outlook for the size of the Australian e-bike market. Bicycle Industries Australia estimates that 15,000 e-bikes were sold in Australia last year although this doesn’t distinguish between pedelecs and others bikes such as throttle-powered e-bikes or high-performance (off-road) bikes. “We see ourself currently, in terms of volume, as the brand who is supply the most pedelecs,” says Bennini. “When we started we had four [bike] brands, currently we have 20 brands in the market”.

Fouad Bennini continues, “The main differences that we see between Australia and Europe is how the markets are organised. In Australia it is more state related (based) and much more fragmented in comparison to Europe and this is a question of industry. What we are doing with our partners; the bicycle manufacturers and the industry in Australia in cooperation with BIA (Bicycle Industries Australia – the cycling trade body) is to get all of the industry partners together and have one voice for the bicycle. This is the main difference that I see with Europe.”

Dr. Bennini discussed the three pronged approach to building the Australian market; firstly the support and cooperation with bike brands and importers, second training and support for retailers and thirdly, marketing to consumers. Cameron Burke, previously with Sheppard Cycles managing Scott Bikes, joined the team as the Regional Technical Manager and a dedicated service center was established in Sydney which is managed by Eurocycles. The service center staff have the training and parts to support the bike brands and bike shops with Bosch powered pedelecs across Australia and recently a series of dealer camps have been conducted across Australia to educate shop staff.

 

eMTBs – a Trend or a Segment with Future

In Europe, cycling has traditionally dominated as a transport option rather than as sport. But electric mountain bikes (eMTB) have captured the imagination of the bike world and at the recent Eurobike (the world’s biggest bike expo), almost every brand had an eMTB. I asked Dr. Bennini about his view of eMTBs in Australia.

emtb e mountain bike

 

“To predict the future we have to understand this market. Currently what we see in Australia is that the MTB is highlighted and this is where people have emotion. For me this give me confidence as it tells me that in the future we have more opportunities. We don’t have this awareness in the city and urban bike target audiences.

“There are two views; that eMTB will grow and, that the city bikes continue to grow faster even though there is less awareness. eMTB is currently the main focus of every brand and it is a growing segment – it is growing faster than every other segment.”

 

Competing for E-bike Sales in Australia

Tax incentives for e-bikes used for work has made headlines (the e-bike leasing company E-stralian has sought a ruling on e-bikes with the Australian Tax Office) so I queried Dr. Bennini on incentives to create more interest in e-bikes, “We are aiming that the pedelec is a natural bicycle – we don’t need incentives, we don’t really need tax deductions you are just convinced that this is the right product,” says Bennini. “In Germany we have 2.5 million pedelecs on this roads, this happens without incentives. This is why we say that we are convinced that this product is consumer orientated and the customer wanted to have in the past and now they find it.”

Besides Bosch, Shimano Australia has increased their activity for the Shimano STEPs e-bike motor with dealer workshops and service center. Does this position Shimano STEPs as the main challenger to the Bosch motor? “I would not say today that we would see Shimano as the main competitor in the market. Currently there is no-one committed to this market as we are. If you say that Shimano is currently our main competitor, well we don’t see it”

“Of course, Shimano will become one of the main competitors if they are committed to the marketplace. In Europe we have other competitors and when the markets are much more attractive for them, they will be here in Australia. As Bosch, we took this opportunity and we are currently setting the pace in Australia and I hope that we will be successful in the long term. Our real competition is ‘how to generate awareness of the pedelec’.”

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Bosch Performance Line – There are No More Hills https://www.bicycles.net.au/2016/08/bosch-performance-line-there-are-no-more-hills/ https://www.bicycles.net.au/2016/08/bosch-performance-line-there-are-no-more-hills/#comments Mon, 29 Aug 2016 02:55:34 +0000 https://www.bicycles.net.au/?p=15942 The hill has a twenty percent grade. I can climb it with difficulty on my regular road bike and not at all on my fixie. I rode up the hill on a bike that weighed more than both of those bikes put together. I did it at double digit speeds, seated, wearing jeans, without breaking […]]]>

The hill has a twenty percent grade. I can climb it with difficulty on my regular road bike and not at all on my fixie. I rode up the hill on a bike that weighed more than both of those bikes put together. I did it at double digit speeds, seated, wearing jeans, without breaking a sweat, and I wasn’t even on the biggest sprocket. Was it training? No. Was it drugs? No. Was it the Bosch Performance Line motor? Maybe. OK, yes it was. I was turning the pedals, but it was the motor doing the heavy lifting, and it was wonderful.

The last time I rode a bike with a Bosch motor was the Gepida Alboin 1000 and it saw me waxing lyrical about the benefits of the mid-drive motor configuration on e-Bikes. In that review I rode with a Bosch Active Line motor delivering 250W of power (because that’s all you’re allowed in Australia) and 48 Nm of torque. For this review I rode with the bigger brother of that model, the Performance Line, which delivers the same 250W of power (curse you, regulations), but at up to 60 Nm of torque. That 25% increase makes a huge difference.

I’m confining this review to the Bosch motor itself, but that motor doesn’t work in isolation – it needs a bike to work with. The bike in this instance was a Riese and Muller Charger Mixte. I’m separating the reviews because (a) there are lots of bike models and brands that use the Bosch Performance Line motor and so it deserves its own review, and (b) the Riese and Muller Charger Mixte is a seriously sexy bike and also deserves its own review.

I won’t start this review with the technical details for the motor because you can find all of the information online. I’ll rather start by telling you about my kids. The biggest reason I chose to review this motor on a mixte was so my kids and wife could ride the bike as well. I didn’t manage to get my wife on it, but I did get my eldest two daughters riding the streets. Both of them have track racing experience and both of them, independently, said that riding with the Bosch motor was “like getting a push start”, referring to the handicap wheel races they’d competed in which begin with the rider being pushed for a few steps worth of initial acceleration. Of course, with the Bosch motor, rather than just an initial push it’s like having someone running beside you and pushing you, as long as you’re turning the pedals and travelling at less than 27 km/h.

That, in a nutshell, is the biggest and best reason for riding with the Bosch motor, regardless of what bike you buy it mounted on. It means teenage girls can keep up with their dad on the road, it means that non-cycling wives can ride with husbands (once they get over 30+ years of reluctance to ride), and it means that sons can probably ride with recently retired fathers with dodgy knees (stop being a wuss, Dad). Having a motor isn’t cheating, it’s an equaliser.

I suppose I should dedicate some of this review to talking about the details of the Bosch system, because a system is what it is. Bosch supply the motor, head unit, battery, connectors, and sensors – the bike manufacturers do the rest. Comparing the Performance Line system on the Riese and Muller to the Active Line on the Gepida is…well, there’s no obvious visual difference. “Huh”, I thought, “that’s rather disappointing”. I don’t know what I was expecting – maybe racing stripes or something, but the systems looked pretty much the same. Same head unit, same battery, same sort of motor.

bosch performance line

Bosch ebike battery

Bosch Controller

This is, of course, a good thing, once you get past the “new and improved” brainwashed consumer mindset. I could buy a Gepida Alboin with an Active Line or a Performance Line motor unit, or even a Performance CX (which has 75Nm of torque!). They all mount the same, so all bike manufacturers have to do is make a bike with the right mounting point and the customer can customise (which is one of the big selling points of the Riese and Muller line of bikes, which will be covered in that review).

The 400Wh battery I played with could be swapped out for a spare 300Wh battery or the longer lasting 500Wh battery – they’re the same form factor (which will probably continue into the future as batteries get better). The standard head unit can be replaced with another standard head unit, or with a more advanced head unit – they’re the same form factor.

Bosch ebike charge

Of course, there are differences in the models, but Bosch seem to be focussed on making sure your investment in their system pays you back in long use and reliability. They also seem focussed on making sensible improvements that aren’t just there for show – being able to run your lights off of the bike battery is one sensible improvement (it was always on the books, but needed changes in German law to make it happen), as is being able to charge your phone or Garmin or other device via a USB connection in the head unit. Your e-bike battery is now the centre of a your whole system.

supernova e3 ebike

On the practical side of things, if you’re going to be investing in a bike with this motor then you want to make sure that you won’t be left with a pile of scrap and wires before too long. Bosch have been making motors for well over a hundred years and have a solid reputation for reliability and innovation. I think the innovation aspect is evident in their whole e-bike system, but reliability is another matter.

The Bosch dealer and service centre I visited, Eurocycles, is obliged to have at least a three month supply of spare parts available at all times (they’ve got closer to a year’s worth on hand). Not that they seem to be using many of them since the Bosch motors appear to be extremely reliable from the reports I’ve read. There are thousands of these systems running everyday all over Europe and Eurocycles are selling fleets of e-bikes to resorts and tourist destinations, such as Bruny Island where these motors have seen seven day a week use for over a year without issue. A fleet of Gepida Asgards with Performance CX motors are on their way to Cape Tribulation for an eco-tourism operation to commence in the spring.

bosch wet controller

As promised, I didn’t go into a lot of technical or usage details in the review because, as noted, there isn’t much difference operation-wise between the Active Line and the Performance line motors, so head to the Gepida review and see what I wrote there. The torque difference between the two motors means you can go up hills faster, or with less effort from the rider, or up steeper hills. You can do all of this wearing regular street clothes and you won’t break a sweat. Actually, I recommend you take a jumper with you if it’s even a little cold because you won’t be increasing your body heat much. For the 20% hill I mentioned in the introduction, I wasn’t in the biggest rear sprocket and I wasn’t even on the highest motor power setting. Getting 13 km/h without hassle up that hill was a huge surprise for me.

Sometimes I think we’re living in a provincial backwater here in Australia, a third world country when it comes to e-bikes. In European countries between 20% and 50% of all new bike sales are e-bike sales. E-bikes are enabling technologies; they won’t replace cars but they can replace car trips, and the Bosch motors are the most efficient and reliable systems I’ve seen. Add more bike to your life by checking out e-bikes powered by the Bosch Active Line and Performance Line motors.

reise muller ebike

The Performance Line powered e-bike I rode for this review was supplied by Eurocycles and you will find the tech details about the motor at Bosch eBike Systems.

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Shimano Step Up the Energy for E-Bikes in Australia https://www.bicycles.net.au/2016/06/shimano-step-up-the-energy-for-e-bikes-in-australia/ https://www.bicycles.net.au/2016/06/shimano-step-up-the-energy-for-e-bikes-in-australia/#comments Wed, 22 Jun 2016 22:28:02 +0000 https://www.bicycles.net.au/?p=15722 The Australian e-bike market is getting serious; it’s no longer the domain of fringe dwellers. A growing number of dedicated e-bike stores across Australia now serve customers who want better transport. The early fears of the hardcore cyclists have also subsided; electric bikes are not a challenge or an insult to ‘regular’ cycling. Rather, a whole new […]]]>

The Australian e-bike market is getting serious; it’s no longer the domain of fringe dwellers. A growing number of dedicated e-bike stores across Australia now serve customers who want better transport. The early fears of the hardcore cyclists have also subsided; electric bikes are not a challenge or an insult to ‘regular’ cycling. Rather, a whole new breed of people are discovering the convenience, affordability and freedom of e-bikes over a second family car or public transport.

The e-bike market in Australia has changed and is now dominated by ‘complete e-bikes’ and the conversion kits (to upgrade a regular bike) have now taken a back seat. Mid-drive motors are also becoming common and may soon displace hub (wheel-drive) motors. Integrated inside the frame, a mid-drive motor powers the pedals (cranks) and offers better weight distribution. Bosch is the most popular brand of e-bike motor in Australia, followed by Shimano STEPS, while the Panasonic, Yamaha and the Derby Cycle Impulse e-bike motors trail far behind.

Shimano Ebike

The popularity of these two leading brands of e-bike motors has been assisted by establishing local support networks. Until recently an e-bike importer had the responsibility for warranty as the e-bike motor brands were not formally supported. Last year Bosch announced and set-up a national service center available to all dealers of Bosch equipped e-bikes. Shimano Australia followed suite with support for Shimano STEPS e-bike motors.

Both Shimano and Bosch are now actively reaching out to bike shops across Australia to inform and train staff on e-bike servicing. Both brands have hosted dealer workshops this year and Shimano Australia invited me to attend their Sydney dealer session to learn more about Shimano STEPS and for hands-on experience servicing the motor.

Shimano Service

The Shimano Australia headquarters in Sydney hosted the STEPS dealer event and a handful of bike shops were represented by store managers and mechanics. The event is both a sales pitch to highlight the global growth and potential of e-bikes as well as a practical guide to servicing the Shimano STEPS e-bike motor. Two take-home messages for attendees were that the maintenance and servicing is not quite as complex as you may anticipate and there is a lot of support for the STEPS system with extensive documentation and local staff available on the phone. The Shimano service includes environmentally responsible disposal of old e-bike batteries.

 

Under the Covers

The STEPS e-bike motor is  essentially a closed system and the first level of diagnosis or servicing are the warnings or alerts on the display or the flashing lights of the battery. Much of the diagnosis can be performed with the Shimano E-Tube diagnostic tool.

Access to the motor is typically required to access the ports to connect or upgrade accessories such as connectors to lights. Disassembly for motor access becomes time-intensive and the instructions needs to be followed precisely. An average bike mechanic with the ability to understand Di2 setup and MTB suspension setup will be able to grasp the Shimano STEPS maintenance fairly quickly.

Shimano Steps battery Mount

STEPs motor removal

Shimano Assembly

The entire motor can also be removed though, by intention, can’t be further disassembled. Shimano Australia note that the STEPS system is not error prone, but if a problem can’t be resolved, the motor can be shipped to Shimano Australia.

Shimano Steps Internal

 

Baby STEPS

Despite the publicity surrounding e-bikes, the entire segment is still in its early days. From a technology perspective, e-bikes need a lot of refinement to make them seamlessly integrated. In particular, smoother transitions when the power-assist cuts-in and out. In bike shops, basic laws of supply and demand will slowly drive the shops to commit to and stock e-bikes. And finally, it will take time for behaviour in society to change; from government responsibility to facilitate safe and convenient cycle access to people recognising bikes and e-bikes as an genuine transport alternative.

Shimano Australia is ready to support dealers who stock Shimano STEPS e-bikes which means bike shops and Aussie e-bike buyers can rely on better service and support.

Bicycle Mechanics

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Factory Tour – The brose motor for ‘premium’ e-bikes https://www.bicycles.net.au/2015/08/factory-tour-the-brose-motor-for-premium-e-bikes/ Thu, 20 Aug 2015 23:06:42 +0000 https://www.bicycles.net.au/?p=13981 Berlin is a magnet; centrally located in Europe, it teems with history, culture and innovation. The city is home to thousands of start-ups, though the company in focus in this article, brose, is over a century old. While they can’t be classified as a start-up, they are still innovating after all of this time. brose’s […]]]>

Berlin is a magnet; centrally located in Europe, it teems with history, culture and innovation. The city is home to thousands of start-ups, though the company in focus in this article, brose, is over a century old. While they can’t be classified as a start-up, they are still innovating after all of this time.

brose’s main business is in automotive parts; electric windows, seats, automatic doors, and other mechanical systems from brose are delivered to 80 automobile manufacturers and 30 automotive suppliers. Car companies and suppliers, however, are becoming increasingly interested in bicycles, particularly with the rapid growth of e-bike sales globally. As the cities become congested and society pushes for renewable energy, the automotive sector recognises the potential of alternative transport and personal mobility devices; e-bikes are a natural stepping stone.

At brose, they identified similarities between an existing motor they produce for cars and e-bike motors. From 2010, their exploration into e-bike motor production lead to prototypes and by 2013 product development of the brose e-bike motor was ramped up to begin manufacture directly in 2014 in Berlin.

I was welcomed into the Berlin factory by Tobias Bergmann and Cornelis Van Vliet, but only after passing security checks and a briefing that photography of the product was strictly verboten. The upstairs meeting room overlooks one of the halls with production lines. It isn’t as noisy as I expected; lots of diligent automated machines assembling parts, guided by humans who ensure that production runs smoothly. Tobias points out the area where the e-bike motors are being made and where later I will be able to observe them close-up.

Porsche ebike
Porsche premium e-bike with a brose motor

 

brose prototype ebike
Prototype e-bike with brose motor

 

brose prototype display
Display unit on the prototype brose e-bike

 

brose ebike motor frontplate
The brose e-bike motor front-plate can be customised

 

brose ebike motor
The brose e-bike motor from behind

 

What makes the brose motor so special?

If you are new to e-bikes, the e-bike you buy today will be far more advanced than e-bikes available two years ago. The motors and electronics are evolving to deliver riders a smoother and more natural ride. brose are a second mover in a market dominated by the Bosch mid-drive motor, and while the two motors are comparable in many ways, the brose has two significant competitive advantages.

Firstly, the motor unit is compact. For all mid-drive motors, the frame is built around the motor itself, and the brose’s smaller motor size allows the bike brand more freedom to design the frame to prioritise riders requirements (i.e. frame geometry). brose also let the bike brand create their own cover plates for the motor; the result is a better aesthetic integration and it’s no longer only a bike with a motor attached.

The second advantage is that once the maximum pedal assist speed of 25 kmh is reached, the motor is disengaged, like a freewheel. In comparison, other systems still have motor resistance above 25kmh when there is no power assistance.

If you analyse the technical specifications and compare the brose with Bosch and Shimano Steps, you could argue about the finer details and differences, but the real test is on the bike. I was able to take a Rotwild MTB for a test ride for some first hand experience. Before testing, however, I had the opportunity to go down to the assembly area to see the brose e-bike motors.

brose Berlin Tobias Bergmann
Tobias Bergmann at brose in Berlin

 

Just-In-Time production

brose looks after the complete assembly of their motor in Berlin, from wrapping the copper wires on the motor right through to quality assurance and testing. I counted ten main steps for the assembly of each unit; the workers select, check and position parts and control high tech equipment for automated tasks.

The entire brose production operates “Just In Time”, which means that motors are built and delivered as required to the bike companies, which saves stock-piling at both ends. The production can be scaled up or down and the workers are skilled to perform each of the steps (plus other assembly roles in the factory). During peak production periods, the assembly workers concentrate on single steps, while in slower periods one worker will guide the motor assembly across multiple steps.

brose Berlin ebike assembly
brose e-bike motor assembly (photo supplied)

 

Power me up

brose collaborates with another German company called BMZ who are the preferred partner to supply batteries to power the brose motor. While other batteries are compatible with the brose motor, the collaboration defines both companies as suppliers to the premium e-bike segment; the batteries and configuration can be customised to the needs of the bike brand.

Traditional battery packs for e-bikes are mounted onto a rear pannier rack or onto the downtube. It is becoming common place for bike brands to preserve the aesthetics of their bikes and conceal the batteries inside the downtube of the bike, though this also requires the designers to properly engineer the bike to ensure that this part remains structurally sound.

BMZ collaborate with the bike designers to create customised batteries, though Cornelis confirms that this option does come at a price. Smaller bike brands tend to opt for one of the standard solutions. One of the innovative battery integrations was undertaken by the German MTB brand Rotwild, who I also visited while in Germany and who have a completely removable down tube section housing the battery. You can read more about Rotwild here >

Cornelis Van Vliet BMZ batteries
Cornelis Van Vliet of BMZ works in collaboration with brose

 

brose display unit BMZ batteries
Cornelis shared their next generation prototypes for the display units

 

On the bike with brose

The simple way to explain the benefit of an e-bike is that it reduces the physical effort required to ride it and this makes cycling (with motor assistance) attractive for a much larger audiences. Providing the power to assist cycling is the easy part of the equation, the hard part is integrating it seamlessly so that bike riding feels natural, without the motor suddenly cutting in or out and making riding disjointed. The e-bike motor needs to provide power without detracting from the cycling experience.

E-bike motors are peppered with sensors which constantly analyse speed, cadence and torque. A good motor will evaluate the data and control the motor to create the effect of seamless pedaling.

brose Rotwild BMZ battery
Rotwild with integrated brose motor and custom BMZ battery

 

I was able to test-ride a Rotwild MTB with the brose motor, first in the factory car park and then along some of the bike paths. It was a pedelec with a maximum of 250 watts and power assistance while pedaling, up to 25 km/h. On a MTB it is easy to reach 25km/h on the bike paths, more-so with power assistance. I tested the three different power modes as well as the acceleration and performance of the motor at very slow speeds.

The Cruise, Tour and Sport modes each provide an increasing amount of power assistance. Cruise and Tour are rather smooth; the power assistance is noticeable while pedaling, though it is gentle rather than abrupt. The Sport mode however is a real booster and quickly fires into action propelling you forward. The Sport mode is obviously tuned to mountain bikers who need the raw power to get them back up the hills. The powerful Sport mode is not as seamless as the Cruise and Tour mode, for a city bike however it would still be a welcome boost for riders who want to power along.

To put the motor on trial, I tried cycling very slowly and having an irregular cadence. At low speeds the motor struggled to understand what I (as the rider) want to do – did I want to start or stop? It became more noticeable when the motor was kicking in or stopping. In context, however, it is also unrealistic that a rider would ride less that 5 kmh and pedal in such a fashion.

I had trouble detecting the typical whine of the electric motor usually associated with e-bikes and electric cars. This is good news of course, the brose is a quiet motor.

 

A growing market

As a second mover, brose has to compete against mid-drive e-bike motors from Bosch, Shimano Steps, Panasonic and Impulse. The challenge is getting bike brands on board. Specialized recently announced that brose was spec’ed for their premium e-bikes, which confirms brose as a premium solution. Other brands, such as the German BULLS and Spanish BH Bikes, now spec the brose on their high end MTBs while a number of smaller brands are turning to brose for commuter bikes.

Specialized e-mtb
Specialized have a range of full-suspension and hardtail e-mtbs  (photo supplied)

specialized ebike battery
Battery removed from the Specialized Levo FSR  (photo supplied)

Specialized brose ebike motor
Custom and individual brose motor integration in the Specialized Levo MTBs  (photo supplied)

 

For German speakers, further information about brose is on their website: brose-ebike.com. If you prefer English, you can use the google website translator tool for fairly good results: brose-ebike.com (translated to English).

For information on BMZ and their battery solutions visit: bmz-gmbh.de (English)

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Factory Tour – Rotwild in Germany define Bike Innovation https://www.bicycles.net.au/2015/08/factory-tour-rotwild-in-germany-define-bike-innovation/ Wed, 05 Aug 2015 03:59:01 +0000 https://www.bicycles.net.au/?p=13904 “We are just a small bike brand,” says Ole Wittrock of Rotwild. With 25 employees producing 5000 bikes a year, they are small, but significant, and they have a connection with Australia; in 1996, the company’s first year, they scored their first competitive success when Stefan Herrmann won the Downhill Mountain Bike World Cup in Cairns. While […]]]>

“We are just a small bike brand,” says Ole Wittrock of Rotwild. With 25 employees producing 5000 bikes a year, they are small, but significant, and they have a connection with Australia; in 1996, the company’s first year, they scored their first competitive success when Stefan Herrmann won the Downhill Mountain Bike World Cup in Cairns. While they’re relatively unknown in Australia, there’s a lot to this German brand that’s worth taking the time to get to know. 

On my recent trip to Germany, I received an enthusiastic reception on my factory tour when I visited Rotwild. Located 40km south of Frankfurt in Germany, the company is housed in two large buildings in the industrial area of the small town of Dieburg. The buildings appear modern, but the warehouse and assembly building is older than it looks and was carefully restored by Rotwild to retain some of the original character, such as the wooden structural beams.

Rotwild production dieburg Germany

Rotwild Warehouse Germany
The original wooden beams were retained during warehouse modernisation

 

Ground breaking innovation

Rotwild was born out of innovation, the company founders, Peter Schlitt and Peter Böhm, began making carbon fiber brake boosters for mountain bike suspension in 1994 under the name ADP.

Peter Schlitt Rotwild MTB
ADP Engineering (and Rotwild) co-founder Peter Schlitt

 

In 1996 they were asked to build a complete bike to show at the popular Riva del Garda bike festival in northern Italy. The prototype they presented was ground breaking, it included electronic shifting, a belt drive with an internally geared rear hub, and a disc brake on the front. The bike turned a lot of heads as it was years ahead of its time, and it became the catalyst for Rotwild to launch as a bike brand.

Innovative Mountain Bike Design
The original Rotwild concept bike from 1996

Mountain Bike Brake Booster Belt Drive
ADP brake boosters with electronic shifting (carbon fiber box) and belt drive

 

Rotwild are a well known brand across Europe for mountain biking and, following the European MTB categorisation scheme, they cover Race, Cross Country, All Mountain, and Enduro/Gravity. The MTB range takes you from hardtails and low (120mm) travel MTB bikes right through to tough as nuts full suspension downhill bikes with 200mm travel. Even with carbon fiber frames, aluminium frames, and various wheelsets from from 26”, 27.5”, and 29ers in their lineup, the range is still quite compact with a focus on creating fewer, but better, models tailored to each style of mountain biking.

Rotwild P2 Downhill MTB
The RHD P2 downhill bike from 2006 went against the grain with a carbon fiber rear triangle

 

German Cycling Device

The tagline “German Cycling Device” is used by Rotwild to represent the brand. While it sounds awkward to an English speaker, it is quite apt in defining the “Made in Germany” bikes, while “device” suggests technology and performance.

The carbon fiber and aluminium frames are manufactured in Taiwan and the complete assembly takes place in Germany. I was escorted through the assembly area with 12 workstations where the turnaround can be ramped up or down to match customer demand. Their “Made in Germany” quality means that the bikes are ready to go ‘out of the box’ and don’t require the complete setup and check necessary for many brands shipped directly from Taiwan.

Rotwild MTB Assembly
Assembly stations for the Rotwild MTB’s 

 

The WOW! effect

While “Made in Germany” is well regarded, the real ‘wow’ effect for this brand is their bigger picture. Rotwild are part of ADP Engineering, and this team also make the exclusive bicycles for car brands including Mercedes Benz, AMG, Audi and Porsche. You have probably seen these ‘car brand’ bikes in a car dealership; each bike is unique, designed specifically for the automotive brand. The Porsche bikes are a good example; they feature a top tube/seat tube curve which matches the roof of the Porsche 911, and of course carrying the name Porsche, these bikes are very exclusive.

This engineering and design skill has car companies knocking at their door. Rotwild is very much ‘mountain biking’, but the design and engineering team are proficient in road and urban bike design.

Exclusive Porsche ebike
The Porsche bike top tube design matches the roof profile of the Porsche 911

 

Bikes with purpose

As Ole leads me through the engineering department, I get the feeling that bike design is driven by ‘purpose’. The shelves are decked with prototypes and sections from bikes. Both a mountain bike and a road bike in the office are covered in strain gauges. The strain gauges measure frame flex and movement and this data is collected and compiled to understand the frame movement.

Strain Guage bike testing
An early frame-flex test bike next to a cabinet of prototype and sample parts

Straign Guage Bicycle
‘Old School’ strain guages delivered valuable data on frame flex

 

A Porsche bike headset is handed to me and I am asked to inspect the carbon fiber weave. A cross hatch (woven) carbon fiber weave is used around the headset while a uni-directional carbon fiber weave is used along the tube. Ole explains that some bikes brands use the cross hatch weave on the entire frame but this is just for the ‘carbon fiber look’ as opposed to selecting the best suited carbon fiber for each part of the frame.

In plain text, Ole is demonstrating that marketing is not the deciding factor in their bike design, rather the engineers draw from the results of testing and genuine performance benefits. This can result in more complex requirements for bicycle frame production, for example welding internal splines on a MTB to increase strength. This affects the cost of production and in turn, the retail price. But just like Mercedes Benz, Audi, and Porsche, the emphasis is on quality and not ‘lowest price’.

Porsche bicycle design
Rotwild and Porsche headset sections, behind are hydroformed tubes

 

And now for something completely different

Having lived in Germany for over a decade, Rotwild was already a familiar bike brand to me, but my motivation to reach out and visit was their innovation in eMTBs. Purists will rant at the thought of motorising a bike, and skeptics will argue about the logic. When the first eMTBs were presented at Eurobike years ago, I found it tough to imagine a real market for eMTBs, but in Europe electric Mountain Bikes are booming. During this visit to Germany I was surprised by the number of encounters with lycra clad eMTB riders scooting through the parks and forests.

Rotwild eMTB
Rotwild tackle the exploding eMTB segment with a bang

 

Ole Wittrock explained that with the 250 watt capacity motor, they are still classified as a bicycle and legally allowed on the trails. Technically they are labeled a pedelec which means that there is only motor assistance while you pedal. You can only get assistance up to 25 kmh, after which any motor assistance cuts out.

Considering the size and the weight of the motor and battery, ‘electrifying’ a bike requires a lot of compromises. In contrast to leisure or commuting cycling, an electric motor on a mountain bike becomes even more challenging because, as a sports bicycle, the rider position and performance is more significantly impacted by the changing frame geometry and weight. For good weight distribution, a bottom bracket motor is preferred (as opposed to a front or rear hub drive), however the available electric motors required changes in the frame geometry – it was a compromise.

E-MTB Motor Integration
The shell of the Brose e-bike motor which Rotwild use for their mountain bikes

 

Rotwild are no stranger to innovation and teamed up with a brand new entrant into the electric bike motor market. Brose have a long history manufacturing motors such as electric car windows or electric car seats for all the big German car brands including Mercedes Benz, BMW and Audi. In 2010 Brose started development of their e-bike motor and in 2014 began production. The appeal of this e-bike motor is that it allows Rotwild to integrate it into the mountain bike frame while retaining the frame geometry (including suspension pivot points), something which was not possible with the current generation Bosch or Shimano Steps e-bike motors. Working closely with Brose is BMZ who supply batteries and who created a custom battery for Rotwild.

E-MTB Battery integration
Seamless motor and battery integration into the frame

 

The battery integration by Rotwild is impressive; hardly recognisable as an e-bike, the battery is integrated into the downtube. The idea of integrating the e-bike battery in the downtube is hardly new, on the Rotwild MTB the battery becomes structural, the battery is the downtube.

You can expect more details on the Brose motor and BMZ in future articles as I have also visited the Brose e-bike motor production facility in Berlin.

MTB Geometry Pivot Point
The Brose motor allows the optimal frame geometry and pivot points to be retained

Rotwild Research & Development
Inside Research and Development, a Rotwild without the battery downtube

 

How does it ride… is an eMTB right for me?

I took a short on-road test in Berlin, though I didn’t get to do a trail test. The motor assist has three settings: Cruise, Tour and Sport. The Cruise setting is subtle, hardly noticeable, though provides a comforting extra push. In Tour the assistance remains smooth, but the additional power is more noticeable, while in Sport mode the motor assistance becomes a little twitchy and the boost of the motor is powerful.

Brose MTB display
Sport mode provides powerful motor assistance

 

On the flats it was easy to exceed 25kmh, so it is obvious that the motor assistance makes sense on longer cross country tours and uphills. For technical trails however, such as Australian single trails, the additional bike weight (motor and battery) and necessary bike handling skills would mean that the motor assist would probably be out of place. The real advantages would be for long MTB tours with smoother, predictable terrain.

For eMTB’s in general, there are three audiences who I foresee as getting the most benefit from the pedal assistance. The first are the extremely active mountain bikers who view the motor assistance as ‘range extenders’, a way to ride further than before. The next group are Downhill lovers who want the power to get back to the summit. This group will have the heaviest demands on the battery and will likely have to wait a few generations for batteries which can last all day.

The final and largest group are the riders who need the power to ‘keep up’ and enjoy. This includes senior riders or riders who don’t have the same condition as their riding partners and for whom the eMTB is a way to limit overexertion and increase their joy; they become empowered to be more active.

 

Where to get your Rotwild

Rotwild’s reputation in Europe is partly because of their focus on Europe. While there has always been interest in Rotwild from further abroad, Ole suggests that the advantage of ‘staying local’ is that administration, service, and marketing remains more concentrated.

Rotwild Prototype Concept Bike

 

For Australians’, getting Rotwild is a little harder as they are not appointing importers or dealers in this part of the world however Ole assures me that some of their German Rotwild dealers will ship to Australia, so check out their dealer locator. Discerning riders can also get a slice of cycling innovation and exclusivity from premium car dealers; Mercedes Benz, AMG, Porsche and Audi occasionally feature the brand’s bicycles in their show rooms.

UPDATE: The Electric Bike Centre in Kawana, Queensland is importing Rotwild eMTB’s and the 2016 models will be available from December 2015. They are already anticipating demand so it is recommended to get in early.

For more information on Rotwild, visit rotwild.de and for ADP Engineering visit adp-engineering.de (German only)

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Interview – Shimano Steps is Ripe for Australian E-Bikes https://www.bicycles.net.au/2015/07/interview-shimano-steps-is-ripe-for-australian-e-bikes/ Sat, 11 Jul 2015 17:03:37 +0000 https://www.bicycles.net.au/?p=13781 Following my first-hand look at the new Shimano Australia warehouse and office facility in Sydney’s south, I took the opportunity to quiz Shimano on their e-bike system called Steps. The first generation of Steps was launched in 2010, and the second announced in 2013 for trial release in European in 2014. The Steps platform now supports Di2 […]]]>

Following my first-hand look at the new Shimano Australia warehouse and office facility in Sydney’s south, I took the opportunity to quiz Shimano on their e-bike system called Steps. The first generation of Steps was launched in 2010, and the second announced in 2013 for trial release in European in 2014. The Steps platform now supports Di2 electronic shifting capability, and the integration of Shimano Nexus and Alfine internally geared hubs. Shimano Australia is now gearing up their support for the Steps e-bike system in Australia and I spoke with Shimano Brand Manager Tony Shingleton to find out more.

 

Christopher Jones: Shimano components are found on the majority of the World’s bikes and though Shimano is now in its second generation of e-bike systems with Steps, Bosch seem to have the upper-hand in the market.

Toby Shingleton: The first thing that I would say is that competition is always healthy and in this field there is a really strong competitive feel with these two products really standing out. Probably Derby Cycles, who are developing their own system, will come to the table as well. They’ve launched their system just recently and, with the number of brands that they have as part of their portfolio, they will have a strong product and it will be in the Australian market shortly.

In terms of our position within this market, Shimano is always quite conservative about the amount of testing and the amount of development that they will do on a product before they bring it to market. With the Steps system we’ve done a slower roll-out compared to Bosch. The test market was Europe and we have had some really great feedback from our test activity and that has allowed us to make some changes to the first generation system which has improved what we will now see rolled out into other test markets. One of those test markets will be Australia, and we will see the first models coming to the Australian market in the second half of this year.

In terms of where that positions us for the future, it puts us in good stead because what we have been able to do is ensure that we support the product in the correct way when it does come to market. This is something that is really important for our customers, the dealers and the bike brands.

It’s very difficult to stop people buying a bike in Europe and bringing it to Australia and that is something that Bosch has found in Australia. There have been a lot of people importing bikes and there has been very little way for them to support those bikes when they arrive because they weren’t ready or they didn’t have a system in place. Similarly with us, there are some STEPS bikes arriving, or in the process of arriving, and we have designated the second half of the year as the time when we are going to launch the product here. We are certainly confident that we are in a position where we can grow it quickly in Australia and, because of the centralised support system we have, I think it is going to work pretty well.


What is the actual role of Shimano Australia when bike brands and importers start bringing in Steps e-bikes? Is it providing dealers with information and providing warranty support?

Well I think it is not just warranty support, what is actually more important is technical support. Obviously e-bikes are more complicated than a Di2 [electronic shifting] system. The good thing is that our network and our training resources are already setup for Di2. We’ve gone through a number of generations of Di2 and have been able to educate our dealers and we have very few calls during the week with people having technical problems, so we have a lot of experience in this area.

In terms of the issues that we will see where we will act as a point of contact, probably initially there will be people contacting us in terms of setting the bike up. There are a number of modes, if you look at just the screens [displays], there are a number of ways to set up the screens, they are customisable. Certainly the warranty will be there as well, but if you look at the products that we have brought to market, they are very well developed and we spend a lot of time before we release products to ensure that they are operating in the way that they are meant to. I have confidence with the Steps products that they will be the same as we have seen with Di2; there won’t be a lot of warranty requirements.

Shimano Australia Steps E-Bike
Toby Shingleton talks Shimano Steps

 

How will Shimano introduce this and make e-bike attractives for the traditional retailer without experience in this segment? What activities will you undertake?

Certainly our demo-bikes will play a big role in that. We have four demo-bikes going around the country as part of our dealer tour which has just commenced. We have also taken on a person who is dedicated to technical support. He has come out of our sales area, so he already has a good relationship with many of the dealers with whom he will be working with. The other big side is that we are now on top of the rules and regulations.

There is a lot that goes on behind the scenes in terms of transportation of batteries and regulations about recycling of batteries. So we began the process of exploration and employed an external consultant to make some recommendations to us in terms of what we need to do to set up on that side. We have employed the services of a contractor to make sure that we are complying with all of the regulations.

Again, we did have some experience as we have been doing this with the Di2 batteries for some years. Shipping batteries are [classified as] a hazardous material so you can’t treat the shipment as you would a derailleur or a crankset, it has to be labeled differently. If you are airfreighting you have to fill out different manifests as batteries have the dangers associated with them. There is some benefit as we have done some of those thing already, but not on the scale we expect with this [the e-bikes] so there is a process of changing some of the internal policies and ensuring we are meeting all of the regulations.


Did you need to speak with any of the brands importing with regard to regulations and compliance?

It’s good because we do have a close working relationship with many brands, with all of the big brands. Where is gets complicated with the e-bike market in particular is that you get a lot of smaller non-mainstream brands that are already big [in sales] so the complicated process is finding out who is intending to bring these in. Some of them have made contact with us. The good thing is that we are represented at all of the major trade shows, so whether it is Taipei, Taichung or Eurobike or wherever, we’ve got people on the ground and they are usually the ones who get approached by these brands so they can filter that information back to us and let us know that these guys are intending to bring this system in on their bikes. We are able to ensure they are part of the information flow. We include them in on training and the sorts of things that we are doing.

 

Shimano have some information on their e-bike system online (shimano-steps.com). Australian bike shops and importers can contact Shimano Australia for more information, as well as for support and training requests.

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Review – Gepida Alboin 1000 electric sports bike https://www.bicycles.net.au/2014/12/gepida-alboin-1000-electric-sports-bike/ https://www.bicycles.net.au/2014/12/gepida-alboin-1000-electric-sports-bike/#comments Tue, 02 Dec 2014 23:16:23 +0000 https://www.bicycles.net.au/?p=12776 There are two ways to build an e-bike; the first is to take a bike and add a motor to it, the second is to take a motor and add a bike to it. Most of the e-bikes you’ve seen have been of the first variety, but Hungarian firm Gepida starts with a powerful Bosch […]]]>

There are two ways to build an e-bike; the first is to take a bike and add a motor to it, the second is to take a motor and add a bike to it. Most of the e-bikes you’ve seen have been of the first variety, but Hungarian firm Gepida starts with a powerful Bosch electric motor and builds a bike frame around it. It sounds strange, I know, but it works brilliantly. So much so, in fact, that I think this may actually be the better way to build e-bikes.

The Gepida Alboin 1000 e-bike, with its 250W Bosch motor, caused me to cheat on my significant other. The significant other, for the purposes of this review, was the Cell Akuna carbon fiber road bike that I was riding for an extended bike review. I had promised to do all my road riding on the Akuna for the length of the review, so I was surprised when BNA’s publisher, Christopher, told me he wanted me to test ride this bike. He said it was “different”, so my curiosity was piqued.

Christopher also told me that the review would only be for a week, which is also rather unusual; we like to do longer reviews here at BNA because we want to report on what it’s like to actually live with the bike, not just ride it. The review period was only a week because the demo bike was in high demand at e-bike shows and industry demo events, and there was no other bike available since they’d all been pre-sold – I had to take my chance when I could. As Calvin Candie in Django Unchained said “Gentlemen, you had my curiosity, but now you have my attention.”

I have written a few e-bike reviews for BNA (The bakfiets Dutch cargo bike and the Gazelle Orange Plus Innergy XT), ridden a few other e-bikes, and contributed to an e-book on the subject (E-Bike Buyers Guide). All of the bikes I’ve ridden have been of the “adapted bike” variety where the motor has been in either the front hub, the rear hub, or connected to the frame and powered the bike via a secondary chain. I hadn’t even considered the possibility of having an “integrated bike” with the motor actually part of the bike, which is the path that Gepida have taken with their e-bikes. They’re not the only ones to be taking this approach; Gazelle, another large European e-bike manufacturer, is now also producing these mid-drive bikes, and also using Bosch motors.

Gepida start with a motor, in the case of the the Alboin it’s the Bosch Active Line motor (there is also a Performance Line motor which I’ll discuss later), and they put it at the lowest point of the frame, the bottom bracket. This makes sense because it’s the heaviest component on the bike and having a low center of gravity offsets some of the effects of that weight (hub motors are at a similar height for the same reason). The motor directly drives the bottom bracket axle and chain ring, which means that when they say pedal assist, it actually is pedal assist; I’ll talk about this more in a little while. The rest of the bike is then built around this motor and the result is something that looks a bit weird at first glance, but isn’t horribly ugly at all. The bulky (but very powerful) motor doesn’t make the bike feel weird to ride at all; the pedals are still the same distance apart as any other bike, so you don’t even notice you’re riding anything different.

The aluminium framed Alboin, aside from the motor, is a pretty standard “upper-end” commuter 29er. It has a Shimano group set (mainly Deore), hydraulic disc brakes, Schwalbe Energizer 700C x 35 tyres, SKS mud guards, a pannier rack, kick stand (which is one of the nicer ones I’ve used, a Pletscher ESGE), and a Selle Royal Ariel saddle. The model I trialled had a front wheel hub dynamo powering front and rear LEDs which were suitable as “be seen” lighting, and as such suitable for city/suburban riding. I can’t comment too much on the Suntour suspension forks with the 50mm travel since I have a severe allergy to suspension forks for road riding and always lock them out for commuting, which these ones handled nicely.

The electronics on the bike consist of the 250W Bosch Active Line motor, which can produce up to 48 Nm of torque, the 400WH (11.0 Ah) Lithium ion battery, which mounts on the down tube, and the display unit, which mounts in the middle of the handlebars where the stem and bars meet. All of these components can be removed and replaced or upgraded separately, which I’ll discuss more later, and only take a little bit of adjustment to get used to; you will have to mount your Garmin a little differently, and you lose your primary bottle cage mount position. The e-bikes I’ve ridden before have had the battery mounted on the rear rack due to the battery size, but mounting the battery on the down tube does make a kind of sense (i.e. you can get rid of the rack for sportier model bikes) and you have the seat tube to mount a bottle cage on anyway.

Gepida Ebike Battery

Gepida ebike Bosch Motor

The battery clips in to a custom mount and locks in with a key. You can keep the key safely at home since you won’t have to remove the battery very often, if at all, since you can charge it while it’s on the bike. I had to only charge it once during the week I had it and it only took just over 3 hours to get to a full charge, which is quite impressive given the amount of work you get out of that. Battery life can be seen through the display unit and also as a series of LEDs on the side of the battery itself.

The head unit displays typical trip computer information, such as your current speed, the distance traveled, and so on, plus it also displays the mode your bike is currently in (more on that later) and how much distance there is until the battery is drained. This will depend on how you’re riding and how much assistance you’re getting. The controls are intuitive and straight forward, required no instruction (though an instruction manual is provided), and only took a few seconds of experimentation to master.

ebike controller shifting

Gepida Ebike Bosch Controller Display

I began this review by comparing Gepida’s build philosophy with the standard method of e-bike construction, and the difference deserves a bit of discussion. If you read my previous e-bike reviews, or if you read the e-book on e-bikes (see links at the top of the article), you’ll notice that two recurring concerns I have with e-bikes are the transportability of the bikes and the repair of tyres if they go flat. Both of these issues stem from difficulties in removing the wheels, or more precisely removing and reattaching the electronics on the hub motors. I’m told it’s easy once you have practiced it a few times, but frankly it’s one more thing I don’t want to worry about. With the Gepida, you don’t have to worry.

One of the main things I like about this bike, and this build style, is that everything save the cranks are normal bike parts. The wheels come off like normal bike wheels, because they are normal bike wheels. That means changing a flat is as easy as it is with any other bike. Granted, the model I rode had a dynamo hub, but that’s not necessary for the e-bike to work; I could have put any 29er disc wheel on the Alboin and it would work. So when your mate is selling his set of super-light magic wheels, you can buy them and use them on the Alboin. If the handlebar grips aren’t to your liking, you can change them. Want to upgrade to an 11/12/whatever speed group set you can change it. Don’t like the brakes, change them. Actually, if you buy this bike from the Australian distributor, Eurocycles, you’ll already have upgraded brakes since the importer, Rick, didn’t like the stock brakes, so when they were changing the brakes to the Australian configuration (right hand lever = front brake) they changed the brakes completely.

ebike commuting Australia

Having a mid-line drive also makes a difference to the transportability of the bike. This was driven home to me when I actually drove home with the bike; wheels off of the bike, into the back of the van, wheels back on the bike, ready for riding. Sounds easy, doesn’t it? Well it was, but I’m glad it was do-able because trying to mount this bike on a rooftop would have been a bit of a challenge. The bike, with battery, weighs just over 25 kg, which is more than my roof mounted rack can handle, and getting it on top of my van wouldn’t have been fun even if I could carry it in that location.

Gepida Alboin Ebike Australia

My first ride on the bike was around Lane Cove National Park because I wanted to have a go at a good long-ish climb that I was familiar with. I tested the bike at the bottom of the valley and it was as easy to use as Rick from Eurocycles said it would be. Turn the display on, wait a couple of seconds for the system to calibrate, and when the 0.0 km/h popped up on the head unit, I was ready to go. The head unit is very simple to use and I put it into Turbo mode and took off.

I was told before I rode the bike that you had to leverage the gears, and this was very obvious when I started climbing. The motor is very quiet, but there is a hum and its pitch changes as the motor strains. It’s a bit like driving a manual car in that I was listening for the right place to change gears, but it didn’t take me long to work it out. It was an exercise in maintaining cadence and pressure. Anytime I felt my cadence drop or I had to do more work with my legs, I changed the gear. I did 3 repeats up the climb and by the second one I was pedaling and changing gears very smoothly and able to maintain a pretty consistent rhythm and intensity without dropping lots of speed. I was impressed.

ebike leisure recreation

The Alboin is not a motorbike; like all well constructed e-bikes it is designed to respond to the effort that you put in. The Bosch motor uses sensors on the cranks and wheels to determine the amount of assistance to give and helps you to pedal by driving the chain ring while you do. I don’t want you to get the impression that the motor turns the chain ring by itself, because it doesn’t, rather the location of the motor means that it’s in a position to directly assist your pedaling. Some numbers will help explain this.

The Alboin has 4 pedal assist modes; Eco will give you an extra 40% power when you’re going at your maximum, Tour mode will double your power output (i.e. 100% extra), Sport will give 150% of your power, while Turbo will give you up to 225% of your power. You’ll notice there that I have written “of your power” several times, and that’s exactly how it works; the more you put it, the more you get out. If you want more assistance from the motor, you pedal harder, or to state it more obviously, when you need to pedal harder (e.g. going up hills), you’ll have more help. As I said before, it’s not a motorbike, it’s a pedal assist e-bike.

Having this variability and selection of modes means you can customise your ride. The Turbo mode will, with a full battery and giving maximum assistance, give you around 50km worth of work. Switch that to the Eco mode and your battery life extends to over 100 km. Obviously you get a lot less assistance on Eco mode compared to Turbo mode, but it means that you can conserve your battery life. The display unit will keep updating your distance to “empty” based on your current riding profile since the battery life is only relevant if the motor is actually being used; in Australia the motor has to cut out at a speed of 27 km/h, which the Alboin does. This means that if you ride over that speed the motor won’t be assisting you.

I tend to ride at about that speed on average on my commutes, and this is how I used the Alboin for the week I had it. When I was on the flats, the motor helped me to get up to the cut-out speed and then kept me there if I fell below it. Despite the weight of the bike, it rides very well without the motor operating and exceeding 27 km/h was quite easy for me since I didn’t have to use a lot of my own effort to get there, I only had to maintain it. The Alboin is geared in a 1 x 10 configuration and has enough low gearing to get you up hills without the motor if required. The only place where it’s lacking is at the higher end; I found myself riding a lot on the smallest cog and wishing for a few more teeth on the front.

As I found out on my first ride, it’s when it came to the hills that the motor made a huge difference, and that’s probably the best reason to ride an e-bike. The Alboin doesn’t do all the work for you, but it does iron the hills out. I can probably explain that better by explaining the cognitive dissonance I felt when I was riding it. When you’ve been riding for a while you get to know the relationship between your gears, your cadence, and your terrain. When you’re riding the Alboin, however, that relationship is all messed up. You know from long experience that you are putting in the effort to do a certain speed, but you look at the speedometer and you’re going 5, 7, 10 km/h more than what you thought. It’s like one of those days on the bike where everything feels great and it’s all working for you and you can’t believe how well it’s all going, except that with the Alboin you have it every time you ride.

Urban Ebike Australia

In the week I had the Alboin I had two thoughts for improving the experience. The first was that there should be a dropbar version of the bike, simply because I prefer drop bars. The second thought was that, since the motor is getting power information from the cranks, I’d really like to see that on the display, then the bike can be used for training and you could, for example, compare motor power to leg power on various parts of your trip. Rick from Eurocycles smiled slyly as he gave me an information package on the Gepida bikes. Yes, the Alboin is available in a dropbar version. Yes, you can get power information from the motor, and so much more.

The Alboin uses the Bosch Active Line group set (motor, battery, head unit), but some models use the Performance Line group set and the performance line group set has the Nyon head unit, which will display everything you need on your ride (power, speed, maps, etc.) and will automatically sync with your smart phone or to your home network via wi-fi. I don’t have enough space here to explain the coolness of this system, so have a look for yourself. And the best part is that this system will fit onto any of the Gepida e-bikes.

I’ll make a final comment about e-bikes in Australia before I conclude this review because Rick did a very subversive thing and gave me a Gepida brochure that was printed in German and written for the German market. My German is a little rusty, but one thing I did understand is that, in Germany, the Bosch motor cuts out at 45 km/h. That’s forty-five kilometers an hour! In Australia the motor has to cut out at 27 km/h. I’ll let you decide whether that’s good or not. (Publisher’s Note: The distributor, Euro Cycles points out that regular 250w e-bikes in Europe also cut-out at 27km/h. Speed-pedelecs (s-pedelecs) which are limited to 45 km/h also require registration as well as equipment such as a rear-vision mirror, kickstand and more).

If you’re going to buy an e-bike, either adapted or integrated, or you’re just thinking about it, I would advise to only look at the bikes from the countries where e-bikes have gone through multiple generations and where there is an active and competitive market. If you’re going to buy, buy from a company with a solid reputation, that uses the best parts, and that has a commitment to their customers. Any of the Gepida bikes are well worth looking at, and the Alboin 1000 is an excellent all-round commuter that won’t disappoint.

The Alboin 1000 retails for $3950 and the Gepida range are distributed in Australia by Eurocycles. Gepida e-bikes are available from specialist e-bike retailers and local bike shops throughout Australia; if you don’t have a Gepida stockist nearby, give Eurocycles a call and tell Rick that BNA sent you.

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Shimano Releases STEPS, A Complete Ebike System (again) https://www.bicycles.net.au/2013/11/shimano-releases-steps-2014-complete-ebike-system/ https://www.bicycles.net.au/2013/11/shimano-releases-steps-2014-complete-ebike-system/#comments Tue, 26 Nov 2013 11:33:54 +0000 https://www.bicycles.net.au/?p=9608 In 2010 Shimano released STEPS, the Shimano Total Electric Power System, for the first time, as the e-bike market started to blossom in Europe, but little happened; it was not widely adopted. The main idea of STEPS was for a more holistic approach to the e-bike and in 2014 Shimano is releasing STEPS again, with […]]]>

In 2010 Shimano released STEPS, the Shimano Total Electric Power System, for the first time, as the e-bike market started to blossom in Europe, but little happened; it was not widely adopted. The main idea of STEPS was for a more holistic approach to the e-bike and in 2014 Shimano is releasing STEPS again, with no reference to its predecessor – it is completely new.

The obvious difference between this incarnation and the previous one is the move away from the hub motor to a drive unit on the bottom bracket. It is compact and seems smaller than the Bosch system and, weighing 3.1 kg, it is lighter than the Bosch, which is sub 4kg. Considering that Shimano are pretty much the default in bike group sets, a feature included in STEPS is the seamless integration with Di2 internal geared hub, making both power and shifting electronic.

Other features include E-Tube (that’s right, E-Tube) which allows STEPS to be connected to a PC to modify the controllers, firmware updates and diagnosis.

Shimano certainly need to ensure that they get the bike brands on board and, with the worldwide popularity of e-bikes, are likely to make a big push to ensure that big name brands are building with their system. The Australian market is comparatively young so it will probably take longer before we see these on our shores.

If you are thinking of taking the plunge, be sure to checkout our E-Bike Buyers Guide Special and our E-bike Buyers Guide App which provide a comprehensive guide so that you can get the best e-bike for you.

Shimano STEPS ebike Motor

Shimano STEPS ebike cranks

Shimano STEPS ebike Controller

Shimano STEPS ebike control shifter

Shimano STEPS ebike Battery

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Expert Round Table – Buying an E-Bike Part 3 https://www.bicycles.net.au/2013/05/expert-table-buying-e-bike-part-3/ https://www.bicycles.net.au/2013/05/expert-table-buying-e-bike-part-3/#comments Wed, 29 May 2013 06:15:34 +0000 https://www.bicycles.net.au/?p=8164 In France in 2012, the e-bike segment of the bike market was the only segment to see any growth, and that growth was around 15% over the previous year. Germany showed surprisingly similar numbers for e-bike growth. Market research predicts that e-bike sales world-wide will come close to 500 million between 2010 and 2016. What all of […]]]>

In France in 2012, the e-bike segment of the bike market was the only segment to see any growth, and that growth was around 15% over the previous year. Germany showed surprisingly similar numbers for e-bike growth. Market research predicts that e-bike sales world-wide will come close to 500 million between 2010 and 2016. What all of this adds up to is a major boom in e-bike production and sales in Europe and Asia, but what about Australia? We’re far away from cycling inclusive cultures on our little island and we don’t have the population in the whole country that some major overseas cities have. What is the e-bike culture really like in Australia, and how can we improve it? As in Part 1 and Part 2 of this e-bike Round Table series, we asked our expert panel for their opinions.

 

The complete e-bike buyers guide is also available as an App for iPad for free.
Visit iTunes to view and download the e-bike buyers guide.
Free ebike buyers guide app

 

BNA: At the moment, who are your e-bike customers? What types of e-bikes are selling, and who are you selling them to? Why are they buying them?

Martin@MREBikes: Locally our brands are being purchased by a broad age group. Globally the trend is baby boomers, skewed female.

Maurice@GlowWorm: We’re in an area with a lot of commuting cyclists, so many of our customers are buying e-bikes to ride to work. The reasons for wanting to be on a bicycle are well known – exercise, fresh air, fun, cheap, convenient and the electric assist has made it more practical for many people as you can go a little quicker, wear what you want and not be put off by hills. Another big segment for us are families carrying young kids around – many people become car-bound once they have kids and they really miss the freedom and fun of a bike. Again, you could do this on a non-powered bike, but the assist makes it easier to carry loads and children around.

Luke@EBikeCentral: We have all sorts of customers these days, but the most popular demographic would be both men and women between 45 and 70. We mainly sell European style commuting bikes and folding bikes. Step throughs are always more popular.

Why are they buying them? A few examples are:
– sick of traffic
– driving is too expensive
– physical issues
– efficient form of commuting
– sweat free riding
– loss of licence
– lack of fitness
– interested in technology
– cheap/ sustainable

Electric Bike Leisure City
Baby Boomers are a significant consumer audience for e-bikes

Paul@Gazelle: Our main selling e-bike is the Gazelle Orange Plus XT. It is a classic Dutch City bike with an extra high power motor for hills. ‘Non cyclist’ (i.e. car drivers/regular people) types of people are our typical customer. People who are not so much interested in bikes, but rather a more sensible way to move in their local neighbourhood. Why are they buying them? They are buying the bike as a car replacement, mostly for shorter trips.

George@ReefBikes: The market demographics include people that love getting out on a bike but can’t last the distance, people that need help getting up hills, and being able to feel free again, not worrying about getting worn out. Also, people that want to ride to work, commute hassle free, zipping through peak hour traffic, without breaking a sweat when arriving at work, and getting there faster than a regular bicycle. Eco friendly, no emissions alternative method of transport, no costly drivers license, rego, or petrol needed.

All types are selling, from 700C road commuting bicycles, mountain e-bikes for fun, and folding e-bikes for travelers.

 

BNA: Who should be buying e-bikes? What is the gap in the e-bike market and how do you think it can be plugged (pun unintended)?

Martin@MREBikes: e-Bikes offer different advantages to different people. As the products develop, so will the demographics. I think a big gap in the e-bike market is the reluctance for traditional bike shops to offer the product. They are missing out on a new untapped customer base.

Maurice@GlowWorm: Anyone who wants to leave the house from time to time should consider using an electric bicycle. It’s just another way to get around and almost everyone has some trips that could be done more happily for them and their community by electric bicycle that they’re currently doing another way.

I think the gap in the e-bike market at the moment is awareness among the public that e-bikes are for them. There seems to be a general assumption that e-bikes are for a particular type of person, but once people test ride them and talk to friends who are using them, that starts to change and that’s what I’m looking forward to.

Maurice Wells ebike Sydney
E-Bikes are convenient, though many people are unaware of the potential

Luke@EBikeCentral: If you commute alone, and only commute between 10 to 25 km, I think an e-bike would be ideal. There are endless reasons why people should buy electric bikes.

I think more than ever there is a great variety of e-bikes in Australia. Maybe as technology gets better and more brands appear the prices will come down making the e-bike more of a household item.

PowerPed ebike Pedalec bicycle
PowerPed leisure bikes available in Australia through E-Bike Central

George@ReefBikes: It’s not about “should”, anyone should buy an e-bike because they want one. It gives you the option to ride as a regular bicycle too, so it’s like buying a regular bicycle, with the added option of switching on electric if you want to.

I think the major gap is the price; an average normal bicycle is about $500, so anyone can afford one. Average electric bicycle cost is about $2000. So I think those numbers speak for themselves. If electric bikes could be made to sell under $500, then you would see a million of them sold. But that’s not going to happen, because quality electric parts are worth more than that.

We have seen a huge boom in the market from about 2 years ago. Back then, a lot of people didn’t really know what an electric bike actually was, but now a new market has emerged, and most Australians know what an electric bike is. There has been huge interest for those people that just don’t have what it takes to ride a regular bicycle, but they still want to get out on a bike, have fun, exercise at their own pace, and go longer distances, faster with less effort.

Paul@Gazelle: Anyone who does car trips of less than 10km (i.e. everybody). Anybody who likes riding bikes but is put off by the hills. I think there is a good mix of product on the market now to satisfy most requirements.

 

BNA: How does Australia compare to the rest of the world in terms of e-bike usage and culture? 

Maurice@GlowWorm: In most markets, e-bike usage reflects bicycle usage in terms of numbers. This is basically because if there is good, safe bicycle infrastructure, then there is good, safe e-bike infrastructure, which is crucial to bike usage becoming mainstream.

Therefore, you’d have to concede that at least at this point in time, e-bike usage in Australia is very low compared to many other places because bicycle usage in Australia is very low. Sport cycling in Australia is relatively strong but they’re not typically the target market for e-bikes.

If I may generalise, I would make a distinction between those places that have strong city cycling infrastructure and those that don’t. Those that do tend to sell e-bikes through bicycle shops and market them as a bicycle with advantages for those who want a bit of help. They’re unlikely to focus on the things we’ve been talking about in previous questions, such as saving money on petrol, not getting stuck in traffic, getting there quicker etc., because all these things are obvious and, if you already ride a bike and are switching to an e-bike, you’re not going to save any money on petrol or park any easier than before. I’d include Japan, the Netherlands and most of Germany in these countries and they’re also the highest users of e-bikes among developed countries.

Sydney City Cycle paths
Cycling infrastructue in Australia is a comparatively new concept

The countries where cycling isn’t a big part of the city transport mix tend to sell e-bikes through specialised electric bike shops that aren’t part of the traditional bicycle industry. They use the selling points above about the advantages of bicycle travel (powered or otherwise) over car travel as their main pitch, and in some cases the advantage of e-bike travel over non-powered bicycle travel such as not arriving to work sweaty etc.

You could go into the many reasons why the e-bikes aren’t selling through bike shops in these countries, but a big factor is that with so few city riders, there aren’t very many suitable bicycle shops to cater to electric bicycles, and it’s hard for a sports cycling shop to understand and effectively sell electric bicycles.

Australia is definitely in the second category, and while that means our immediate market is small compared to our population, it also makes it’s a really exciting place to sell an electric bicycle as so many customers are just over the moon – they’re rediscovering the bicycle in their adult life, they’re seeing their city for the first time even after living in it for decades, and they’re getting regular exercise again. We’re often told with all earnestness that the e-bike was the best thing they’d ever bought (and Australians buy a lot of stuff!). Interestingly enough, saving money on petrol and parking is quite far from their minds after the sale – they’re mainly happy with the freedom and fun that the bike has brought them, not the financial gains.

Paul@Gazelle: Great response Maurice… your words match my thoughts exactly.

Luke@EBikeCentral: I would agree with everything Maurice has said. I haven’t yet had the chance to experience e-bike culture outside of Australia. One day!

Cycling Infrastructure Europe
Cycling in many European cities is integrated in society

Martin@MREBikes: Australia is a long way behind Europe, and to a lesser extent the US, in e-bike usage and culture. As Maurice has noted, therein lies the opportunity. There is substantial investment occurring in e-bike technology by the major brands. This can only be a good for product quality and innovation.

e-Bikes are still regarded as a niche product in Australia. At the opposite end of the spectrum, a recent article in Bike Europe states that 1 in 8 bikes sold in the Netherlands is an e-bike!

George@ReefBikes: Australia does have an increase bicycle culture, as councils have been extending bike paths and infrastructure for our population to get onto bikes more. Australia’s population however is very small compared to other countries, such as the USA, China, Germany, France, Italy, and other European countries, so the cycling culture is only small in comparison, and therefore the electric bicycle sub-culture is in turn even smaller. European countries have had bicycling as a tradition embedded in their culture for over a hundred years, where as most cities in Australia have not been built up with bicycles in mind, until recent efforts in changing that. So Australia is way behind in cycling culture in general. Electric bicycle usage follows as a percentage of regular bicycle usage.

The good parts of the electric bicycle market in the USA is that they are not limited as much as we are, the USA can use 350W motors on roads with hand twist throttles, really giving the rider a load of power and acceleration, which would be useful in commuting.

The bad parts in Europe, they are only allowed a 250W motor, and they are not allowed a hand twist throttle, which means riders have to pedal at all times. If they don’t pedal, they don’t move. This forces riders to keep pedaling as a regular bicycle, and does not let them use it as a motorised ride without pedaling.

 

BNA: What can be done immediately, and also in the next 5 years, to change the e-bike culture in Australia?

Maurice@GlowWorm: Safe cycling infrastructure is the key for me.

Martin@MREBike: Better infrastructure and more publicity.

Cafe Culture Europe Cycling
The barriers to cycle drop with improved cycling infrastructure and transport routes

George@ReefBikes: There has been good progress from the major Australian cities in the past 3 years to introduce more cycling infrastructure, bike paths and public awareness in general. For e-bikes in particular, bicycle stores have to become more educated and trained in fixing and replacing the electrical parts. Particularly, they should be trained in troubleshooting and solving a problem, which is, most of the time, something very simple. Bicycle shops are the ones actually dealing with the public, so they are at the front of promoting e-bikes and awareness of e-bikes. I’d also love to see city councils install auto e-bike rental machine systems, as  seen in Europe.

Paris ebike scheme hire
Paris public e-bike hire scheme

Luke@EBikeCentral: I think the e-bike industry is on the right track at the moment. The market is growing more than ever. More and more companies are investing in e-bike technology, for example: Sram, Bosch and so on. Dedicated e-bike stores are popping up around Australia. With all this hype and exposure, the e-bike culture in Australia is bound to take off. It’s now up to government and local councils to help change the infrastructure for bikes. Most e-bike customers I talk to are scared of riding on the roads for many reasons. Australia needs to encourage people to ride. What better way to do that than to build a series of safe bike lanes and bike paths. As long as they’re not tolled!

Paul@Gazelle: The best way to promote electric bikes will be the development of a professional network of e-bike dealers. This phenomenon is starting to take shape now and will continue to improve rapidly over the coming years. Within 5 years we foresee many more e-bike specific retailers, and traditional bike shops will be involved to a much bigger degree than they are today.

As has been discussed before in previous questions, any improvements in cycling infrastructure is directly tied in with e-bike sales. I often tell people that trying to sell a city e-bike in Australia is like trying to sell a car without a road. You only sell normal city cars when you have a road network that links your home, shops, work and leisure destinations.

Read: E-Bike Round Table Part 1
Read: E-Bike Round Table Part 2

 

The complete e-bike buyers guide is also available as an App for iPad for free.
Visit iTunes to view and download the e-bike buyers guide.
Free ebike buyers guide app


Photo Credits:

Bicycles Network Australia (1, 3, 4, 6 )
E-Bike Central (2, 5)
Gazelle Bicycles Australia (7)

MR Ebikes / BionX (8)

Ambernectar 13 (9)

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Expert Round Table – Buying an E-Bike Part 2 https://www.bicycles.net.au/2013/05/australian-expert-roundtable-buying-e-bike-part-2/ https://www.bicycles.net.au/2013/05/australian-expert-roundtable-buying-e-bike-part-2/#comments Thu, 23 May 2013 00:50:32 +0000 https://www.bicycles.net.au/?p=8064 In Part 1 of our Expert Round Table, our experts talked about what to look for when buying an e-bike. The expert opinion was to buy a dedicated e-bike, if possible, and always buy brand name products with good after sales service and availability of spare parts. But when you invest your money in a […]]]>

In Part 1 of our Expert Round Table, our experts talked about what to look for when buying an e-bike. The expert opinion was to buy a dedicated e-bike, if possible, and always buy brand name products with good after sales service and availability of spare parts. But when you invest your money in a vehicle, and that’s really what an e-bike is, how do you go about getting that after sales service and support. We begin Part 2 of our round table by asking our experts about what happens once you’ve taken the plunge.

The complete e-bike buyers guide is also available as an App for iPad for free.
Visit iTunes to view and download the e-bike buyers guide.
Free ebike buyers guide app


BNA: So the consensus seems to be to buy local and make sure you have good after sales service, but how realistic is the availability of that service?

Paul@Gazelle: Well depending on the brand, all the major cities are serviced by shops that sell e-bikes. There is still a long way to go before the e-bike is dealt with as a main stream product by the traditional bike shops.

Buying an ebike guide tips
An e-bike demands reliable after sales service

Maurice@GlowWorm: I’d say that it’s good to have after sales service nearby, if that’s an option. If it’s not an option, it’s still worth owning an e-bike, but it will be less convenient if something needs attention. I would still prefer to own a good e-bike in a town with no e-bike shops than a bad e-bike next door to an e-bike shop.

Having said that, if you’re conveniently located to an e-bike store with a particular brand then that should be a big part of the decision – if all other factors are equal, get the one that they have.

George@ReefBikes: After sales service is very important for an electric bicycle, as you don’t only have the regular bicycle parts to deal with, but double that, you also have the electrical parts to service.

 

BNA: Does this limit e-bike sales to a certain radius around the store you bought them from?

Paul@Gazelle: To a degree yes, although we have had customers who have bought our bikes who live far away and are willing to travel back in their car to get them serviced. It certainly would be ideal if the customer had a service dealer close to their home.

Maurice@GlowWorm: No, I don’t think so. I think you’re fortunate if you’re near a good e-bike store. If you’re not, too bad, but you can still buy and use an e-bike and if it’s a good one, you’re unlikely to regret it.

We have regional customers in areas where there aren’t even any bike shops. Cobar, Margaret River, Kununurra etc and they’ll all tell you the same thing – buy an e-bike it’s great.

ebike bicycle shop
E-Bike retailer Glow Worm Bicycles in Sydney attracts customers from near and far

 

BNA: Can you get good e-bike service from any bike shop, or from any e-bike shop, or do you have to “return home” to get you servicing done?

Martin@MREBikes: Most bike shops will be able to service the bicycle components on an e-bike, however there can be a reluctance to service the electrical components. Realistically, as with any product, if there is a problem the consumer will return the product to the point of purchase. Spare parts should be available locally from the brand distributor.

ebike bionx controller
E-Bike electronics and motors require specialist knowledge and parts for servicing and repairs

George@ReefBikes: We have found that most regular bicycle stores around Australia do not have the technical ability or education to be able to fix every electrical problem. This has been the major limiting factor for the e-bike market to go mainstream through regular bike shops. Slowly, over the past couple of years, some stores have trained themselves in e-bike repairs, and some are more willing than others to learn. But realistically we need all regular bicycle shops to be educated and learn, as the market is growing rapidly. That’s why it is important that Reef Bikes has set up service centers in most major locations around Australia, so if there is a problem that occurs in another region of Australia, we have a store that will fix your problems locally. Reef Bikes has committed a lot of time into training regular bicycle stores, and is looking to setup training programs.

Paul@Gazelle: Any dealer that sells a Gazelle E-Bike has the capability to service a Gazelle E-Bike. We won’t sell the bikes to a bike shop unless they are willing to learn how to do the service.

Maurice@GlowWorm: No to both questions. You won’t get good e-bike service from every bike shop (you won’t even get good bike service from some), some are outright rude, some are just choosing not to skill up in e-bikes at this point in time. However, you don’t necessarily have to go back to the store you bought the e-bike from, you might find a good store closer to home that is happy to service your e-bike. If it’s a good e-bike and if the original supplier knows them inside and out and is willing to work with other stores for tech support and supply of parts then it can all go smoothly. That last point is crucial – in our e-bike store we won’t work on other brands of e-bikes unless the importer keeps stock of spare parts and can provide phone support for their product.

 

BNA: How does a customer know which brand/retailer is good?

George@ReefBikes: Customers should so some research on the brand and company they are looking at, see how long they have been around, have a look at the general quality of their marketing ads and websites, see if there are any product reviews on other websites.

Paul@Gazelle: I think a good start is to see how the brand is represented overseas. Is it a successful brand in other markets? Can you find much information about the brand online in other countries?

ebike motor
Gazelle are Hollands biggest bike brand and an early adopter of e-bike technology

Maurice@GlowWorm: I agree with Paul here – work out if they’re really selling a brand or not. If they are, there will be an international website with details of the distributors/retailers in other countries. See how they’re going, are they active in other markets? Have they been selling under the same name for some time?

 

BNA: Are there tell-tales signs of a good/bad e-bike brand & retailer?

Maurice@GlowWorm: It’s hard to know just by walking into a shop. Most new business owners will be energetic, enthusiastic and not intending to go broke. It’s also clear to me that not all customers can tell a good bike from a ‘questionable’ bike by looking at it and all suppliers will be able to rattle off points that the public thinks defines a good bike that virtually all bikes have (full alloy, designed for Australian conditions, latest technology, lithium batteries, Shimano gears…).

Probably a new challenge that will surface is bicycle shops having a go at electric bikes (which we encourage them to do) but perhaps deciding that it’s not working for them. Then you’ll have customers who are disappointed with after sales service. So even when buying from a bike shop, check that you’re buying a brand that’s bigger than just that shop.

Paul@Gazelle: As for the retailers, as a wholesaler I have a pretty good idea who is good or not by who is paying their bills on time! To the consumer I would say ask around in your local bike shops for advice… if they are not to ignorant of the e-bike market, they should be able to point you in the right direction.

George@ReefBikes: Look out for the components that make up the product. Make sure they only use high quality Shimano gears, bottom brackets, shifters or similar, make sure they state what brand battery is being used, is it a high quality brand like Panasonic or Samsung Batteries. By looking at the detailed component specifications, you can tell the quality of an electric bike.

 

BNA: So if I buy an e-bike, what will be the total cost of ownership over the next, say, 5 years? Let’s assume I ride it 5000km per year, using maximum power for 50% of the distance and carrying a total load of 100kg (rider + gear). Further, let’s say that half the riding is at night requiring lights. I’m not looking for any sort of exact number here, but given these conditions, how many services will I need? How many tyres and other consumables will I likely need? And, probably most importantly, how many batteries will I need to go through over the distance? Let’s just take it as written now that you don’t have to pay rego, fuel or parking etc., but in your calculations you should try to guesstimate how many charges are required and how much that would cost as well.

[Note: We set out experts this task and they went away and independently worked on the figures, which were surprisingly similar.]

Paul@Gazelle: Ok, well over 5 years & 5000kms , I would expect the bike to be serviced 5 – 10 times. Typical cost per service $99-$149. So lets say $1000 in service costs.

Then there’s parts (tyres, brake pads, etc). Say $150 a year. $750 over 5 years.

The big one would be battery cost. There’s a good chance you would have to replace the e-bike battery after 5 years. This cost would be around $700.

So adding these 3 up brings us to around $2500 over 5 years, or $500 a year.

The electricity component is negligible. The electricity cost at today’s rates to charge a Gazelle Innergy is around 6-7 cents. This gets you around 50kms. Therefore the electricity cost per 5000kms would be $7. Pretty amazing.

Sevicing gazelle ebike battery
AJ of Gazelle Australia servicing an ebike

Luke@EBikeCentral: The initial cost of the bike will cost anywhere from $1000 to $3000 so lets say $2000.

If you ride 5000km in 5 years, the chances are you’ll need a new battery by the fifth year. So lets say another $700.

If you’re riding your bike every day I’d say you will need to spend at least $100 – $300 a year on parts, ie tyres, tubes, brake pads, cables etc. This all depend on how well you look after the bike.

If electricity costs 6c per kilowatt hour and a 14 ah battery uses 500 watt hours to fully charge then it will cost 3 cents per charge. This is a rough estimate based on several assumptions but gives you an idea of how it works. It’s barely worth counting this cost.

Keep in mind that costs will change rider to rider.

Baby Boomer ebike Melbourne
Electricity costs are marginal while servicing and up-keep add to the cost of e-bike ownership

George@ReefBikes: On average it will only cost about 7 cents to fully charge up your bicycle. During the 5 year period you will need to replace the battery probably once, costing about $550 on average. Servicing the bike about once per year will cost about $150 per service.

So the main cost is only the replacement battery. Charging is not much at all, and the servicing part is similar to a regular bicycle.

Maurice@GlowWorm: 5000km per year (100km per week) is a pretty common figure for our customers, it would probably sit at a little above average.

A rough estimate for initial purchase cost would be $3000 for say an eZee Torq with 36V 14Ah battery, 1000 lumen front light upgrade, plug in chain to go with the wheel lock, helmet and a bag to carry things in. First year of servicing is free and subsequently you’d probably want at least 1 service each 5000km ($100), disc brake pads every 5000km ($40 for two pairs) and new tyres (Schwalbe Marathon Plus, $160) every 10,000km. So in those 5 years or 25,000km then that’s an extra $1000 all up. Electricity will be very little, I’d say around $50-100 over that distance at today’s prices.

Our batteries have 2 year warranty. You’re a good chance of buying another at some point in 5 years and 25000km and the 36V 14Ah size costs $800.

Grand total of $4900 for 25000km = 20c/km.

However, if you’ve bought a new battery and new tyres and serviced your bike every 5000km, then it will still have good resale value after this time if you sell it and if you don’t, it will still have a lot of life left on it, so the c/km goes lower and lower the longer you keep your bike.

Another thing to keep in mind is you’ll probably discover other bike stuff that you want to buy for yourself. Everything from rain jackets, car racks, changing colour of pannier bag, etc.

Martin@MREBikes: I concur with the numbers quoted by my colleagues.

 

BNA: Having ridden a few different e-bikes, both kits and dedicated builds, I’ve noticed that when things are going well, they go very well, but when they’re not working, they really don’t work. It’s hard to change tyres due to the electronics and internal hubs, they’re hard to transport in a normal car and, as bikes, some of them are really not a lot of fun to ride without a motor. In some respects, they’re a lot like cars or motorbikes, but you can’t simply call the NRMA to come along and try to fix it for you. How does the non-technical e-bike owner manage when things go wrong, either at home or out on the road? What support is there when you’re 20km from home, you’re stranded and your bike won’t fit in the boot of your partner’s car?

George@ReefBikes: Just like any other market, if you buy a cheap non branded electric bike, you are looking for trouble and breakdowns. Reliability is very important, and only a good brand can give you that reliability. As mentioned before, Reef Bikes produce its e-bikes with only Panasonic and Samsung batteries and electronics, which are the most reliable. The battery and controller is the heart and life of an e-bike, so if these parts are reliable, then your bike won’t fail.

As you mention, some cheap electric bikes are chunky and heavy to ride, so when riding them without power, they are a little heavier in performance. That’s why Reef Bikes has designed our frames and batteries to be lightweight. We focus on making our products to perform just like a regular bicycle when the power is off. So if an e-bike is manufactured with each component to be the most efficient, electrical and mechanical, then you won’t feel this issue in performance. A lot of cheap e-bikes use really bad bottom brackets, cranks, hubs, gears and groupsets. So look out for the finer specifications, and watch out for the type of Shimano gears, bottom brackets and parts that are actually used. So if your battery runs flat, you can still ride home.

Martin@MREBikes: The Bionx conversion kit and Promovec e-bikes are electric assist, so the rider has the choice to ride with assist or not. With no assist you still have a normal bicycle.

With both products, changing a tyre is like a traditional bicycle plus 2 extra steps. Unplug a power lead before you remove the wheel from the frame and rejoin the connection when the wheel is back in the frame.

Both products also have a throttle only function which can be useful if you snap a pedal or break a chain.

ebike cable repair
Neat power cable in the BionX ebike system

Luke@EBikeCentral: I give my customers the option of signing up with RACV bike assist. They can help with basic mechanics, e.g. fixing a puncture, and if they can’t fix it, they’ll drop you home or to the store where it can be fixed.

I also offer in house servicing. This solves the transporting of the bike issue. I’ve ridden about 2500 km in the last 6 months on my e-bike and I’ve only been stuck once, and that was because of a flat tyre. If you buy a good quality e-bike you shouldn’t have too many problems with the electrics, just general bike issues. Most people can patch a tube.

holland bike ebike step over
Luke Ebert of E-Bike Central proactively supports his customers with servicing options

Paul@Gazelle: Some of them are really not a lot of fun to ride without a motor. This is true and potential e-bike owners should test ride different brands and see what they are like to ride without the motor assistance. They will notice some big differences in performance.

How does the non-technical eBike owner manage when things go wrong? Compared to road racing bikes, the instances of flat tyres is less likely because the tyres on e-bikes are thicker and wider. If you do get a flat tyre,  then I often tell our customers to attempt to patch the tube rather than attempt to take the wheel off. The majority of times a patch will get you home and beyond, and is much easier to do than trying to get wheels off, especially on a hub gear e-bike. There really is no reason to change a tube when you have a pin prick hole in your tube and you have a good patch kit at your disposal. This culture of tube changing has been handed down from the road and mountain bike world.

As for technical aspects of e-bikes, we always recommend you take your Gazelle e-bike back to an authorised Gazelle Innergy Service Centre.
What support is there when you’re 20km from home, you’re stranded? If it was me that was stranded in this situation, I would call a friend with a ute or call a Taxi van.

internal geared hub gazelle
Front wheel motor and rear wheel internal geared hub makes DIY ebike repair a daunting task

Maurice@GlowWorm: This is a fair question, though it’s not in reality much different to the lot of a non-powered cyclist. I’d agree with Paul’s comments more so than the responses that it will all be fine to just keep riding. Many of our customers are unable to use their e-bikes without the power assistance, especially as many have chosen e-bikes to allow them to go further. If you have to ride 30km to work over big hills and, 5km in, your battery fails or your tyre pops and in one hour you’re supposed to be teaching a class at a school, your options are not good. A taxi won’t get you there on time in Sydney whether or not it can fit your bike and your significant other might already be on the way to work in a train.

We encourage all cyclists to take the reliability and quality of their chosen bikes seriously, which means puncture proof tyres, spokes that won’t snap, brakes you can rely on, lights that work etc. Same goes with the e-bikes, adding good quality electronics to the wish list. A good bike lock and cash in your pocket also increases your options. Properly prepared with a good e-bike, you could still have a breakdown at a bad time, but trains and buses can be late, cars can breakdown and the NRMA won’t get you to work on time. It doesn’t have to be your car that breaks down to cause gridlock – just one on the harbour bridge and then tens of thousands of motorists are late to work. Overall, I’d say the e-bike is a much more reliable way to travel than car or public transport. I know this because I’m always waiting for people who are late for appointments due to traffic or parking problems.

To answer the question directly, if I were 20km from home and stranded (and my SO doesn’t have a car), I would take a train or hire a GoGet van or a Sydney Ute Hire from a servo or I’d call a station wagon taxi. If the stranding was avoidable (eg flat tyre), I’d upgrade my tyres later.

Glow Worm Bicycles ebike shop
Glow Worm Bicycles staff are trained to service e-bikes though concentrate on well supported brands

 

BNA: I’m wearing my environment hat now; if we do have to replace our batteries, what happens to the old ones?

Paul@Gazelle: We recommend on our website to visit http://recyclingnearyou.com.au/ to recycle their batteries.

Martin@MREBikes: We will take back any spent Bionx or Promovec batteries.

Luke@EBikeCentral: Our batteries are picked up and recycled free of charge. We encourage customers to leave they batteries with us so we can dispose of them the correct way.

 

Finally, in Part 3 of this article, our experts talk about bike and e-bike culture in Australia and what can be done to improve it. 

Read: E-Bike Round Table – E-Bike Buyers Guide Part 1
Read: E-Bike Round Table – E-Bike Buyers Guide Part 3

The complete e-bike buyers guide is also available as an App for iPad for free.
Visit iTunes to view and download the e-bike buyers guide.
Free ebike buyers guide app



Photo Credits:

Bicycles Network Australia (1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 8, 10, 11)
MR Ebikes / BionX (4)
E-Bike Central (7, 9)

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