New Electric Bikes from the Birmingham UK Cycle Show
By Richard Peace
Having been to the trade and press day of the UK’s Birmingham Cycle Show for the past three years it was interesting to see an explosion in the number of electric bikes present.
There were more European firms especially keen to get in on the action of an apparently burgeoning e-bike scene.
Taking centre stage were the e-bike motor manufacturers, namely Bosch and Shimano, each with their own stand, making it clear the resources they were putting into a nascent UK market.
The Bosch e-MTB test track apparently involved moving several hundred tons of earth.
I could imagine it being extremely popular with families on the forthcoming consumer days.
Meanwhile over at the other end of exhibition hall Shimano had sponsored a rather more sedate e-bike test track.
But what about the bikes? Not surprisingly given the size of e-MTB track there were plenty of e-MTBs, several from brands I not been aware who appeared to be coming to the UK for the first time.
Megamo are a Spanish firm with a factory in Girona in north Spain and their two Shimano and Bosch designs bike showed how much sleeker e-MTB designs are getting compared to the first e-MTBs of only a couple of years ago.
German MTB specialists Mondraker were also there in force with several e-MTBs such as this e-Crafty with distinctive trail geometry and Bosch power.
Cube made a particular impression with the size and range of their Bosch-powered e-MTBs. I noticed these couple of female-specific e-MTBs taking pride of place by the Cube coffee bar.
And this model with drop casting frame to house the battery.
A brand new to the UK Chinese brand was Aima, but EBR had actually done a factory tour of them. From a quick inspection I was impressed with the quality and the UK prices were intended to undercut current Bosch and Shimano type prices whilst maintaining some of the same design characteristics such as powerful mid-motors (from Bafang), frame integrated battery and frame routed cables.
I got the impression there were fewer fat bikes around than last year though this electric example, again from Cube, also caught my eye.
And for fans of the really wayout how about a bamboo-framed e-fat bike?
That’s not say that there weren’t some impressive city bikes too. I was particularly struck with Austrian firm Simplon’s very lightweight carbon fibre city models. Pride of place went to the Chenoa, a sub-20kg city bike (and yes that includes the lights, rack and muguard).
Also at the show were the UK’s own Momentum Electric who make supremely practical city bikes I have always rated highly in tests. They were there with their new VIT-S as mentioned in a recent EBR news post. We are hoping to have more on the VIT-S and the new crank drive motor behind it shortly.
I never knew BMW were actually a bike manufacturer as well as a car maker; apparently so and they had a Bosch-powered machine that is apparently their best seller in Germany and is now available in the UK via BMW dealers.
Nor were traditional Dutch designs overlooked as this fine example from Royal Dutch Gazelle demonstrates.
The UK seems to be a particular haven for some very neat lightweight retrofittable kits.
Newly launched at the show was the sleek looking Cytronex, designed and manufactured in the UK with a unique bottle battery and rear-wheel sensor that made for a smooth and powerful, though brief ride on the test track.
Cytronex say it adds only 3.6 kg to the weight of the converted bike and the front hub motor comes ready spoked into your front wheel, with Cytronex offering the commonest rim sizes. They are taking orders now for delivery of bikes in 2017. PICS 15-17
I also spoke to two companies specialising in conversions of classic English bike designs, Brompton and Moulton – ARCC and Nano Electric Bikes. EBR actually has a full report on the ARCC Moulton here but they are also now offering Brompton conversions with their Bosch battery powered kit.
The battery has increased in size to 216Wh and they also showed me their very handy and beautifully-produced bluetooth removalbe handlebar control. There is also a luggage conversion system available meaning the bespoke Brompton front luggage options are available with the battery housed inside the luggage.
Whilst not at the show I also paid a visit to the production facility for nearby Nano. Nano use a remarkably narrow and light friction drive motor, specialising in either supplying kits or workshop fitting of their Nano 2.0 to the world-famous (and also designed and made in the UK) Brompton folding bikes. Nano says they have also just established a production line for that other iconic British design the Moulton. One recent development is the standardising of their manufacture and design around a Bosch power tool battery (as also used by ARCC) that fits into a range of Brompton luggage and so is quickly removable, meaning the motor and controller add a little over 2kg to the folded bike.
There are twist grip, thumb throttle and pure pedelec options available, with assistance up to 15mph (Nano have added a motion pedal sensor to all three versions for UK customers to keep the bikes legally compliant). Whilst Nano realise the US has a higher legal e-bike speed limit, they say the bike motors are geared for hill climbing and so top speed is not a major concern for many of their buyers.
I have trialled and owned several of the kits and found the unique technology and clever design a real boon if you want a quick folding bike with remarkable hill climbing ability. Kits start at £710 (around US$920) with new Nano Bromptons from around £1900 (US$2455) plus delivery. Nano have demo models and fitting facilities available at several UK locations including London, Manchester and Leamington Spa.
Note that the kits require Brompton front forks to be spread slightly and so will not work with titanium fork models, but you don’t want to widen the forks yourself Nano can provide them ready prepared in all the Brompton colours.
Thanks to Richard Peace for this eBike report!
P.S. Don’t forget to join the Electric Bike Report community for updates from the electric bike world, plus ebike riding and maintenance tips!
[…] the recent EBR report from the Birmingham UK Cycle Show suggested, electric bike companies are flocking to the UK. […]
Brian Bassett says
As an American bike rider new to electric propulsion, I want to thank the Europeans specifically for forging the way and discovering most all of the worst ways to harness that propulsion. Dating all the way back to 1881, when Gustave Trouvé (from France) conducted experiments with electric drive. He used a British tricycle called a Starley Coventry Lever Tricycle. And apparently they still can’t get it right today. 1st let me assure you that any ebike with less than a 750W motor is underpowered. I know that 90% of the owners of bikes with smaller motors would admittedly disagree, the other 10% have ridden with a 1hp motor and know I’m right. Hell, most non-electric riders still can’t understand why ebikes exist or why we want to ride them. It’s simple, ride one, you’ll see. Let me say this now, I am referring to Center-Motor ebikes at the moment. Even Gustave Trouvé got that part correct. If you use a hub motor just go buy an electric moped you will get better speed and mileage. Back to the Europeans, why does every company want to mount the motor “in” the frame? I understand when a company has no innovation left they just slap hub motors on and sell away, but, why do they all change the bike to hold the motor? Hell I couldn’t stay married to a single wife, why would I want to be stuck with just one manufacturer? Any kid knows that a bike is a magical thing that gives it’s own type of freedom and independence. You don’t want to screw that up by adding a motor, thats for sure. Find the perfect bike, quality, build, style, manufacturer everything and then add a 1hp motor to your bike. Better yet, go pull your old friend out of the garage, take it to a good bike shop and have them resurrect her into something that you can now ride 50 miles without breaking a sweat. It’s still magical. Next, manufacturers, stop all the bullshit distance lies and gimmicks with batteries. If you want to get your money’s worth out of the third most expensive part of the bike then you are going to have to study up, invest in a Great charger, and understand that a 20 Ah (Amp Hour) battery is big, heavy and almost a necessity for adults. Anything smaller and you will be burning a very expensive candle at both ends. You see it’s necessary, even vital, that you not deplete the battery. To be more precise you have to leave 20% of the batteries capacity untouched. Then adding insult to injury you also can’t top the battery off past 80% either. Doing this and using a great programmable charger could double the life of your battery. Double it. So stop showing us cute little 10 Ah batteries that are designed more for looks than function. Minimum 15 Ah batteries until they can make 40 Ah that will fit in the triangle. Europe! AND America! Get with one of Elon Musk’s people and make a deal for the “standard” 1.5 Kw battery. They should be used in ebikes, lawnmowers, go-karts, power tools, snowmobiles, chainsaws, pitching machines, sea-sleds, and on and on. A standard that can be easily recycled and quickly recharged. That brings up to Hydroforming aluminum. It’s cool, it’s strong, but slow down gizmo. Don’t go wild, it’s the simplicity of the bike that makes it so beautiful. The new bikes look like DARPA and the U.S. Navy formed them for stealth or something. When you stop and think of all the “old time” bike riders dragging their feet to all of these changes just remember that not long ago putting disc brakes on bikes with a sin too. Now it’s the standard as it should be. But why has it taken so long?
Frank Johnston says
There’s a multitude of senior citizens with cash to spend looking for an e-recumbent bike. I’m still looking.
Kelvin Rusling says
Has a keen cyclist before my stroke , 20 months ago leaving a near useless left arm and weak left leg, I bought a recumbent trike and had a 500w e- conversion fitted. It was great a first but now beginning to loath being so low down. My recovery is slow but I’m hoping to buy a electric bike next year. I agree with Brian’s comments , even my trike with 500w struggles up hill with and needs a fair amount of assistance , although the trike is still framed and quite heavy. Having had the ecu fail going up hill, that was fun! The hub conversion took away three of the lower gears so it made it it extra you hard work especially with my right good leg was doing most of the work.
So when you see some manufacturers like Gtech advertise their electric bikes with a single gear and belt drive, it assumes you live in a flat area and the battery will be have enough power in it to overcome any hills. It’s purely a town bike. Would be largely useless in my area. A £1000 for a bike with limited practical use is not good value.
I thought I should highlight this issue with anyone who is considering this type of design. I think the crank mounted motors are a better idea , allowing a full set of gears to be used and keeping the weight central. The problem is that they cost far more than hub motors deigns. I have seen a clip on motor design from some crowd funded company its roller that drives the rear wheel purling by friction. , looks good for a some assistance ,but how it appears performs on the promotional video is a little suspect – good weather and low gradient hills. What happens when it rains and – will it just slip.
Riding home from work when it’s very wet and a strong head wind up a hill for example.
However $500 is far to much to take a chance.
Brian Bassett says
Stick with the mid-drive, couple it to a Rohloff Speedhub or a Nuvinci Drive. I own a Panamericana frame because I wanted a full suspension touring bike that can handle many thousands of miles. I am not young, have my own health issues and have not had to walk my bike up any hill ever. I also just ordered the 1st triangle battery pack from EM3ev that is using the LG MJ1 cells. It is 12 lbs. and can store over 31Ah. I can now ride over 60 miles using a 24.8Ah EM3ev battery. Study up on mid drives and Li-ion battery tech.