My Visit to Kalkhoff USA Headquarters & Kalkhoff Electric Bike Test Ride

The Kalkhoff Showroom in Portland OR

Last week when I was in Portland Oregon, my wife and I stopped by the Kalkhoff USA headquarters. We were able to meet up with Geoff Wagner who is head of Kalkhoff USA and chat about their electric bikes and take a pair of Kalkhoff’s for a spin.

Geoff is very excited about e-bikes and shares a similar passion of mine which is getting more people out of their cars and on to bikes. He has a great store front set up in Portland’s popular
Pearl district where he runs the USA division.

Geoff set my wife and I up on a pair of their Pro Connect model bikes. We got all geared up and headed out into a rainy winter day in Portland!

I like Portland for many reasons, particularly the tough bike commuting culture! There are so many bike riders there that don’t let the rain stop them ๐Ÿ™‚

Before I get into our test ride experience I want to give you a run down on what makes Kalkhoff unique.

Kalkhoff Electric Bike Features

The Panasonic mid drive motor & front chainring from the Kalkhoff Electric Bike.

First of all these e-bikes use a mid motor drive system that adds electric assist through the drivetrain or gears of the bike. You can see that the motor on the Kalkhoff is near the cranks on the bike. A lot of e-bikes have the motor in either the front or rear hub of the bike. The cool thing about the mid drive motor system is that it allows the motor to operate efficiently by being geared up or down through the gears of the bike. This system is great for the hills because you can use the low gears on the bike to help you and the motor tackle the hills. Some of the hub motors struggle a little on the really steep stuff.

Kalkhoff Tasman Wave Electric Bike

All of the Kalkhoffs use a pedal assist (pedelec) only system which means that the electric assist only kicks in when you are pedaling. There is no throttle to turn, you just pedal and it gives you some help! You can set how much help you want on the display on the handlebars. The system also senses how much work you are doing and adjusts it self accordingly to give you more or less of a boost.

Kalkhoff Sahel Pro Disc Electric Bike

The Kalkhoffs are high end electric bikes. In other words these bikes are not cheap. They have solid frames, quality components, are decked out with all sorts of accessories, and hey; they look cool! If you plan on riding an electric bike a lot or you want a bike that will be less of a maintenance headache compared to a cheaper bike, then you should consider these bikes. All that said, these bike do come with a health price tag.

Test Riding the Kalkhoff Electric Bikes

The Kalkhoff Pro Connect Electric Bike that I test rode.

Pedal assisted ebikes are cool because you set the assistance you want and forget about it. The Kalkhoff’s definitely provide a lot of assistance and they are fun to just get on and ride!

One thing to be aware of is that from a stop these things can get up and go if you have them in a high assist setting. My wife was caught off guard at how quickly they accelerated at first. Once she got used to it she really liked the confidence it gave her when accelerating from a stop through a busy intersection.

We also noticed how durable the Kalkhoff electric bikes felt. That is typical of the aluminum frame and quality components that they are using.

The electrical components seemed to be of good quality but it is hard to tell from just a short test ride what the long term durability would be like. If you have experience with many miles on a Kalkhoff please leave your comments below.

The Kalkhoff Pro Connect Wave that my wife test rode.

I really like the electric bikes that come equipped with a lot of accessories that make e-biking more fun and convenient. It seems that most of the Kalkhoffs come with lights, fenders, racks, kickstands, etc. And they seems to be of good quality. This is another factor to consider when comparing ebikes and their prices.

The one thing that was not so perfect was shifting the gears on a hill. The bikes we rode came with the Shimano Alfine 8 internally geared hub system that requires that you back off your pedaling pressure to shift to a lower gear. What we noticed was that we would reduce our pedaling pressure but the electric assist system continued to assist for a second or two. This lag caused us to loose some momentum as we shifted to a lower gear. That is not exactly what you want on a hill. One solution would be to find a gear that you think is right for the hill and stick with it because the electric assist really does help! You can always just deal with the lag too. This is not a factor on a traditional derailleur and cog system (offered on some Kalkhoff’s) because that system will shift well under pressure.

What Do I Think of the Kalkhoff E-Bikes?

Overall I give the Kalkhoffs a thumbs up because they are a quality, good looking bike. I like the solid frame combined with a good selection of components and the mid drive motor system. Just remember that quality comes with a price! Also; please keep in mind that this was a short test ride and not an in depth review.

What do you think? If you have long term experience riding a Kalkhoff we (the Electric Bike Report community) would love to hear from you! And if you have any other comments or questions about my experience with the Kalkhoff please leave them below.

Thanks!

-Pete

P.S. Donโ€™t forget to join the Electric Bike Report community for updates from the electric bike world, plus ebike riding and maintenance tips! (upper right hand corner of this site)

Comments

  1. Don says

    The vast majority of U.S. consumers, when given the opportunity to try pedal assist and throttle controlled, will choose throttle more than 99% of the time. I base this on my retail store experience with hundred of sales of electric bikes.

    • Bert says

      This is not 100% true in our case. It depends on the bike and the presentation in the shop. If the sales person is a daily bike rider and succeeds in explaining the advantages of riding a bicycle correctly, a test ride will confirm that pedal activated makes more sense. However, mostly the torque sensing types like the BionX, Gepida, IF Reach DC, Dahon Boost. These bikes are lighter and therefore superior in handling and efficiency, and feel more like real bicycles. I guess the downside is that this technology is much more sophisticated and therefore costs more than a simple, cheaper throttled bike. True we sell a good amount of heavy, moped like A2B’s with SUV size motors and batteries but those are entirely different consumers, not really looking for a bicycle but rather for a toy. Our eZee bikes are popular as well and are offered in throttle or pedal activation (motion), but we also sell 70% of those with pedal activation.
      I would think that each market is different, NYC is not a big market for the beach cruiser type Pedego’s – i guess CA, FL would make a great home for those. Light weight bikes with small batteries and small motors and proportional assist is the way to go over here.

      Bert, NYCeWheels

  2. says

    The majority of my electric bike tour customers want to ride electric bikes that will carry them up hills without pedaling. Since pedelecs require pedaling and give only intermittant assistance on hills, they would prefer e-bikes with throttles over pedelecs.
    More experience e-bike riders, though, prefer to ride bicycles that include both options. They use throttles to ascend hills and for the pure thrill
    of speed. In order to save battery power, the ability to switch into pedelec mode and glide easily along monotonous flat stretches is a desireable option.
    My understanding is that pedelecs are more popular in Europe and Asia due to laws that prohibit motors from being stonger than200-250 watts. In the U.S. (or Oregon at least) electric bikes are popular for commuting and for older folks who haven’t used a bike in many years. Both of these groups want hill climbing power.

    Hope that’s helpful.

    – Nora (Singing Planet eBikes)

  3. says

    The majority of my electric bike tour customers want to ride electric bikes that will carry them up hills without pedaling. Since pedelecs require pedaling and give only intermittant assistance on hills, they would prefer e-bikes with throttles over pedelecs.
    More experience e-bike riders, though, prefer to ride bicycles that include both options. They use throttles to ascend hills and for the pure thrill
    of speed. In order to save battery power, the ability to switch into pedelec mode and glide easily along monotonous flat stretches is a desireable option.
    My understanding is that pedelecs are more popular in Europe and Asia due to laws that prohibit motors from being stonger than200-250 watts. In the U.S. (or Oregon at least) electric bikes are popular for commuting and for older folks who haven’t used a bike in many years. Both of these groups want hill climbing power.

    Hope that’s helpful.

    – Nora (Singing Planet eBikes)

  4. says

    Two thirds of the bikes we sell are pedal assist. Some people may have a little guilt about owing a powered bike in the first place but knowing they have to pedal helps to rationalize their purchase. It could also be price, as our throttle bikes are much more expensive.
    We recently introduced a model with both throttle and pedal assist that is getting a lot of attention. I think this may be the trend but time will tell.

    Gary, Hybrid Cycles

  5. says

    The Kalkhoff customer definitely does NOT want a throttle e-bike. Our customers love that ours don’t have a throttle and that they are always getting some exercise.
    It is a real selling point of ours. I also think that our customers wouldn’t classify themselves “e-bikers”. I think the typical Kalkhoff customer would say that they are riding a really awesome bike as transportation, without which they wouldn’t be on a bike at all.
    Todd Peres
    Kalkhoff USA

  6. Brett says

    I’m not sure what the vast majority of Americans think about throttle versus pedelec. One thing I can say is that most Americans do not have access to quality pedelec systems to try. The majority of ebikes on the market in the U.S. are throttle operated. Throttle technology is less complex and cheaper to implement than pedelec technology and so most ebike manufacturers have opted for it.
    From my experience selling high quality ebikes with the intuitive bionx motor system with both throttle and pedal assistance, I can say that most customers come to me thinking that throttles are the only way to operate an ebike. Once they try my bikes, however, they are much happier using pedal assistance, finding it to be much more seamless to operate and more fun. From what I hear from customers, they generally use the throttle very rarely and rely almost exclusively on pedal assistance.
    Personally, I am not a fan of throttle ebikes, especially for city riding. Stop and go riding is much easier with a pedelec. Another important point for city ebike riding: not pedaling while in the bike lanes can invite the ire of other cyclists.
    -Brett, The New Wheel, San Francisco

  7. Brian O'Brien says

    I was in Portland over Thanksgiving 2010 visiting family and walked by the Kalkhoff showroom and stopped in. At first glance I thought is was a regular retail bike shop. I have been selling bikes for REI in Colorado and am always interested in what the competition is doing. Geoff set me up for a test drive after I did some very thorough inspection of the whole line-up of models they had. Admittedly, I was skeptical about the whole idea of being assisted. Snob purist mentality. But, I am very open to anything new that is worthy. So, I went on my ride on a very rainy and cold day. Wow! These things are phenomenal. I was completely blown away with every aspect of the bike. I am a total convert. Riding will never be the same. Took it over to the REI store a few blocks away where my brother is a master mechanic and showed him and the other guys in the shop what I had found. They were VERY impressed. All of them rode it and everyone came away with the same “this thing is freaking cool” commentary. These guys are not really believers in electric as REI apparently carried a line that was a huge money loser in the past. Buyers were constantly in there shop wanting repairs and ultimately just returned the bikes in frustration. Their biggest observation was the use of the mid motor drive system and the associated benefits they could see on maintenance vs what they had experienced prior.

    Hated to take the unit back to Geoff! One thing is for sure, these bikes have some serious get up and go acceleration. Had to turn it down to eco mode to lessen the assist. At least on the flats of downtown Portland. The price tag was a great value when you connect it with the audience the bike is designed for. Lots more good stuff to say… will post a follow-up another time.

  8. Spadesladder says

    I have made my first commute with a Kalkhoff bike with the gearing system you talked about. while there is a learning curve to back off the pressure a bit, the pro’s of being able to select 1st gear while being stopped out weigh the cons for me.

    I read this post and headed down the next day to this bike store.

  9. Dan says

    Pete,

    How does the Kalkhoff acceleration, ride and power feel compared to the Bosch System, Emotion Mid drives? How about compared to an Optibike?

    Dan

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