HomeReviews & TechAre Electric Road bikes coming? Testing the Storck e:nario with compact Fazua...

Are Electric Road bikes coming? Testing the Storck e:nario with compact Fazua ebike motor

Without any doubt, the Fazua is the best ebike motor I have ridden to date, but there are a few things you need to know before jumping into the deep end. The reason I like ebikes is because they provide accessibility for people who may not otherwise ride or can’t cycle as far as they would like on a conventional bike. Electric bicycles tick a lot of boxes; they are great for easing the burden on transport systems, they are cleaner than cars and they are healthy for people. While I don’t own (or need) an ebike for my travels, I test and promote ebikes and associated tech. When I saw the Storck e:nario eRoad bike, it was the first I asked, could this be for me?

Ebike sales have been booming for years. It took a while for the big brands to realise that this market segment was more than just a fad, they had to take ebikes seriously. The commuter and recreational cycling markets are the big movers, in Europe eMTB is particularly strong. Now that the sales potential has been recognised, the cycling industry is pushing into every other segment so eRoad bikes and eGravel bikes are burgeoning.

bianchi ebike road bike polini
Bianchi Impulso with polini E-P# motor and 15.8kg

eRoad bikes have captured my interest, not because I feel I need an extra boost, but because there are a lot of mature-aged road cyclists who loose strength as they grow older and ebike power could give them the opportunity to keep up with the bunch, particularly on climbs. Some road cyclists have taken a negative view of ebikes, but this blanket rejection is fairly ignorant because ebikes are not a competitive threat, rather they give more people the ability to join in and enjoy cycling.

Putting an electric motor on a road bike is however not the same as building a commuting or leisure bike, these type of bikes easily accommodate a larger and heavier motor and battery. There have been some pretty ugly attempts by ‘cheap and nasty’ brands in the past to attach motors to road bikes, but these were nothing more than a novelty. Keeping up with the times means that road cyclists want to keep the bicycle frame clear of chunky accessories, it is best when the entire motor is invisible, and the bike is as light as possible.

mahle ebikemotion hub motor road bike
Orbea with the Mahle ebikemotion rear hub drive motor
bafang eroad bike
The Bafang M800 integration appears chunky on this awkward road bike

Hub drive motors on the front or rear wheel are an easy way to add motor power to a bike but they tend to change the handling and still need to incorporate batteries, so keeping the motor centered is preferable for road bikes. Mid-drive motors from Bosch, Shimano, Brose, Panasonic, Polini and Bafang tend to be fairly chunky and this opened up an opportunity for the compact evation shaft-drive motor from the young German brand Fazua. The motor and drive system along with battery fit within the bottom bracket and downtube and most people won’t realise there is a motor at all.

There are two crucial factors to be aware of if you are considering an eRoad bike and I will keep you in suspense and address these later, but if you have fundamental questions about eRoad bikes already, keep these in mind and see if they are the same as mine. Let’s test-ride the Storck e:nario first.

Storck e:nario Test Ride

Located close to Frankfurt in Germany, Storck became well known for premium road and mountain bikes. You can pay a pretty penny for a Storck bicycle, the Fascenario.3 Aston Martin road bike has a starting price of roughly $28,500 (AUD), an investment that could also get you a Toyota Corolla packed with goodies. But at the other end of the scale, the retail prices for their entry level road bikes start at $3,200 (AUD) and the eRoad bikes retail from $7,700 (AUD). The catch is that Storck don’t have an importer for Australia though a few other well-known brands such as Pinarellio and Focus have also adopted Fazua electric motor.

storck ebike road review

The Storck e:nario is built with the compact Fazua evation and the result is a very clean integration. Some eRoad bikes tend to look a bit weird, not the Storck, it has the right proportions that make it look and feel right. You may notice that the downtube section is fairly big but as there are plenty of road bikes on the market featuring large tubing, particularly aerobikes, it isn’t out of place. If you spot the knobbly tyres and question whether this is a road bike, it would be a fair question. Many of the eRoad bikes appear to be keeping their options open so that you can use slicks but also crossover into Gravel.

eGravel bike storck

As with most German brands, this bike is well-built, and you can see that there has been a lot of attention to detail. I tested a demo-bike that already had its fair share of paint chips and scratches. The two details which I feel can be improved for better aesthetics is a nicer integration of the control unit on the handlebars ,which feels like a clunky add-on, as well as a nicer integration of the steer tube from the headset.

ebike controller road bike

Storck have a legacy of making bikes that handle well and this is no exception. The extra weight (which I will talk about soon) makes it sit tight on the road, but it still remains agile. I would summarise the e:nario as delightful and beautiful, but this is before detailing the pedal assistance from the ebike motor.

stork enario display

My expectation for a good ebike motor is that the feeling of the power assist is unnoticeable. I have tested a range of different ebike motors, some of which that perform well, but the 250W Fazua evation motor is smoothest and most natural of them all. It is no easy feat to develop a good ebike motor because there is more than simply engaging or disengaging power, it needs to taper the power so that the effect of pedal assistance is seamless otherwise it creates the disconcerting or annoying effect of suddenly gaining or losing power.

storck road bikecarbon fiber

Typically, at very low speeds (just as you start to pedal), the smart controller has a more difficult task of judging how much power assist to deliver. This is where riders can experience fast surges or drops in the power assist with some ebike drives. The poorest ebike motors are just start/stop and have a particularly unnatural ride feel.

The Fazua evation in contrast delivers quite a natural feeling of power-assistance. Although you know you are getting a boost while riding, it feels more like riding a regular bike than using throttle. When you reach the 25km/h cut-off limit for power assist (which will be discussed further), the power assistance tapers out nicely so there is a relatively smooth transition to pedalling just with human power. A technical attribute worth highlighting is when you exceed the 25km/h limit for pedal assist, the motor disengages. A number of ebike motors don’t disengage so when you ride faster than 25km/h, you have extra motor resistance so the Fazua gets bonus points for this feature.

fazua motor roadbike
The motor is almost invisible

On paper, the technical capabilities of the Fazua evation are similar to the Bosch Active Line Plus although the 3.2kg Bosch motor tends to be paired with a larger capacity battery which gives you more range, but with a heavier battery. In comparison, Fazua is comparatively small and incorporates a 252Wh Li Battery weighing 1.38kg. This means that it has less range, in practice you may need to limit the pedal assistance to the hills. Fazua suggest that the evation will deliver a 50km range with constant power.

fazua evation motor
Key components of the Fazua evation motor

Hill-climbing is where the pedal assistance shines and adds to ride enjoyment. Heavy riders and senior riders have a natural disadvantage over younger and lighter riders when ascending – ebike capabilities now allow you to keep up and even overtake. Of course it doesn’t replace pedalling, but you can switch from the BreezeMode to RiverMode and to RocketMode to increase the level of assistance with a press of the button and will never again be the last rider to the summit ever again.

The Storck e:nario eRoad bike with Shimano Ultegra or Ultegra Di2 is priced in the same league as typical performance road bike with Shimano Dura-Ace and good aero-wheels. As Storck bikes are not available in Australia, other eRoad bikes with the Fazua evation motor and battery include the Focus Paralane range ($6,200 – $16,700 AUD), the Pinarello Nytro ($10,800 AUD), the Cube Agree ($8,000 AUD) and the Wilier Centro 1 Hybrid ($7,500 AUD).

Weight just one moment…

The fazua evation ebike drive system includes the controller, battery, motor and bottom bracket and weighs 5.99kg. If you do some fast math and add the typical weight of a road bike together with the ebike hardware, you may get a shock. Forget about UCI compliant 6.8 kg road bikes, the eRoad bike is in a class of its own. The Storck e:nario I tested with DT Swiss aluminium disc brake wheels weighs 13.4kg. If the motor was removed, it would drop to a very respectable 7.4kg.

Crucial Factor 1: The ebike motor, battery and parts add 6kg of ballast. The pedal assistance (up to 25kmh) will counter this but when there is no pedal assistance, you will have to push harder. Added weight also comes with some benefits, when you are riding downhill it can give flyweight riders a chance to keep up with the Heavyweights on the descent. Bike marketing departments have told us time after time that lighter is always better but even if we remove the competitive factor and say that road riding is about the enjoyment… not the victory, 6kg is still hefty added load.

olmo polini ebike road bike
Olmo E-BRO with the Italian Polini E-P3 and weight of 14.8 – 15.3kg, depending on the model

Life starts at 25

According to the regulations for 250-watt ebikes (EN 15194: 2009 or EN 15194:2009+A1:2009), at speeds above 25km/h there is no further pedal assist. On the Storck e:nario there is a seamless transition, so it tapers nicely, but there is still a problem.

Crucial Factor 2: The average speed of a reasonably experienced road cyclist exceeds 25km. With this in mind, on the flats and downhill it means that the ebike assistance is not required and is really only for the hills. I would be fine with that if it were not for the extra 6kg of deadweight that I now have to push for most of the ride. In other words, above 25km/h I have a weight penalty.

While testing, the extra 6kg didn’t worry me too much but I could still feel it while riding with the motor off. My test ride was relatively short, so I didn’t get the long-distance fatigue or tired legs where every additional gram or kilogram takes a toll.

Riders who are considering an eRoad bike need to do a few calculations. In my case, weighing up the extra 6kg I have to push across typical 30-35kmh average speeds against the advantage of riding up hills faster. The reality is that I am not really the ‘target audience’ so it would be a vanity purchase. Seasoned riders know that hill-climbs are just part of cycling, not always the favourite part, but completing a hill-climb is an earned accomplishment.

de rosa eroad bike bafang m800
De Rosa E-Bike with Bafang M800 motor weighing 12kg

Despite this perspective, I would still argue that eRoad bike can makes sense for some cyclists. Not those that just get sore legs, rather riders who have already enjoyed and passed their peak physical abilities years ago and an eRoad bike can help them keep the flame alive. The assisted pedalling opens an opportunity to keep cycling alongside riding buddies and to tackle cycling routes or hills that would otherwise be off-limits.

In Gravel we Believe

The Gravel Grinding trend is in full swing and I would argue that eGravel bikes make even more sense than eRoad bikes and could enjoy a broader appeal. The nature of Gravel Grinding is that the adventure of cycling takes priority over speed and competitive performance. The weight of a Gravel bike is not necessarily irrelevant, but practical modifications such as wider and grippy tyres prioritise comfort and performance on the varying terrain over teeny tiny ‘weight weenie’ savings. The uncertain riding terrain also means riders are less likely to maintain perfect cadence and speed as on the road bike. As a result, ebike pedal assistance can be more viable for Gravel as it is a means to extend the adventure.

eGravel bike bosch motor
Aluminium concept eGravel bike with the Bosch Performance Line motor.

A number of eRoad bikes already available would be more accurately labeled as eGravel bikes because of the wider tyres with deeper tread. Like the Storck e:nario, the bike brands are probably keeping their options open, particularly as they already know that adoption by pure-blood road racers will be influenced by the total weight and cut-out at 25km/h.

greyp emtb electric mountain bike
High powered greyp eMTB

eMTBs are already popular overseas and accommodate the larger mid-drive motors such as Brose Drive S or Bosch Performance Line CX. In comparison to MTB, Gravel riding is usually not as technically demanding and while it some bike brands will adopt the larger mid-drive motors, the agile Gravel dropbar bikes combine kindly with the compact Fazua motor.

Bridging the Illicit Gap

Back onto the tarmac and amongst the road cyclists, how can you satisfy road cyclists who want an eRoadbike that is capable of delivering power assistance above 25km/h?

In Europe, the Speed Pedelecs (S-Pedelec) deliver pedal assistance up to 45km/h. However, the rider requires a suitable drivers license first, the S-Pedelec also needs to be insured and registered and display a number plate. Furthermore, an approved helmet is required and S-Pedelecs are not permitted to use regular bike lanes or paths. In the context of road cycling, S-Pedelecs are a world-apart and these are typically suited for commuters.

speed pedelec helmet

Australia doesn’t have any provision for the Speed Pedelec class of ebikes yet. Riders occasionally modify their ebikes illegally to circumnavigate the 25k/h limit or even add throttle. While instances of tuning are still few and far between, it is foreseeable that if there is a serious accident involving an illegally modified ebike, it will spark massive public debate.

The existing Australian laws (based on European Standards) create a safe foundation for recreational and commuter ebike riders where lower average speeds are typical and the 25km/h cut-off limit for pedal assistance makes sense.

Road cyclists seeking pedal assistance face a major hurdle, specifically the 25km/h cut-off. There is no legal work-around and as a result, the market for eRoad bikes could be smaller than the bike brands hope. In addition to the wealthy impulse buyers the real audience for eRoad bikes are senior-aged and heavier riders who want a boost to keep up with friends.

Christopher Jones
Christopher Joneshttps://www.bicycles.net.au
Christopher Jones is a recreational cyclist and runs a design agency, Signale. As the driving force behind Bicycles.net.au he has one of each 'types' of bicycles.
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