This year’s Sea Otter Classic was the year of the center drive (mid drive) motor.
Not that there wasn’t strong representation of hub motors by Bionx, BESV, IZIP, Specialized, and others. It seems that the focus of this year’s Sea Otter Classic was companies introducing new models with center drive motors.
I believe that there are three main reasons center drive motor bikes outnumbered hub drive motors this year at the Sea Otter Classic:
First, the Sea Otter venue caters to bike riders who are used to riding non-electric bikes on all terrains. For non-electric bike riders thinking of buying an electric bike for road or mountain riding, the center drive motor, most with no throttle, simulates the bicycle riding experience closer than a hub motor with a throttle.
Second, the venue draws more manufacturers who sell or hope to sell through independent bike dealer (IBD) channels. The IBD channel, for the most part, prefer electric bikes which ride more like traditional bikes then electric bikes, meaning; smaller motors, no throttles, and center balanced, to simulate the ride of conventional bikes.
Third, there are now more manufacturers offering center drive motors, giving bicycle companies more options to choose from.
Of the four center drive manufacturers, Bosch and Shimano had their own booths at the show. Bosch was at last year’s Sea Otter and showed strong representation by being used on Felt, Lapierre, Haibike, and Xtracycle electric bicycles.
Bosch announced their that eShift system, which integrates with drivetrains from NuVinci, SRAM, and Shimano, will be available in the U.S. market soon.
Shimano introduced their STePS System at this year’s Sea Otter. Shimano STePS is a system which incorporates a center drive motor, battery, as well as an electronic shifter. Most of the electronics are built into the weatherproof drive unit.
The Raleigh Misceo iE I tested incorporated the Di2 internal gear hub, with electronic shifting that seamlessly integrated with the drive unit. Unlike some other center drive motors that seem to have a noticeable clunk when shifting, the Di2 internal hub briefly reduced power as shifts are made, changing gear is so smooth is was almost unnoticeable. The Raleigh also shifted down automatically when I came to a stop which made the system very easy to use.
The 250 watt Shimano STePS powered Raleigh could climb hills with very little effort. According to the Shimano Tech, I spoke with, he said it is the pairing of the motor and internal hub that allows the Raleigh to climb steep hills with the apparent power of bicycles with twice the power.
CurrieTech showed off a number of new models with the Currie Electro Drive 350 watt mid drive systems, including the Peak DS with rear suspension, the E3 Sumo fat tire bike, and the joint project Spicy Curry cargo bike by Yuba.
Later in the year (or early next year) they plan on replacing the hub motor on the Dash with the Currie Electro Drive 350 watt mid drive and adding the Shimano STePS System to the Path Plus.
MPF Drive was another center drive system, which was represented at Sea Otter. The MPF Drive allows the use of a conventional front derailleur and incorporates three sensors to record crank torque and speed as well as bicycle speed. The battery paired with the motor uses Panasonic Li-lon cells, and incorporates a CAN Bus to communicate with the motor.
CAN Bus will probably become standard on most high-end electric bikes in the future because it allows direct communication to the rider, allowing the rider to receive real-time information on the state of the bicycle as well as to customize the bike to meet his or her riding requirements.
Not only does the CAN Bus system allow the electric system to gather accurate vehicle range and diagnostic information, but it also provides diagnostic trouble code information for better serviceability. It also allows the service center to troubleshoot problems or even to do predictive maintenance to avoid problems altogether.
Two companies that exhibited at Sea Otter for the first time with MPF Drives were Tempo Bike and iGo. Tempo, a start-up electric bike company located in the south end of Silicon Valley introduced three new models of commuter and street bikes. iGo introduced three models of mountain and Fat tire bikes, demonstrating the versatility of the MPF Drive System.
Some of the highlights of the Tempo Bikes were its simplicity and ease of riding. The Tempo Bike gets rid of all the hassle and brings on many possibilities. From the Gates Carbon Drive belt system that allows you to commute to work without the worry of getting your pants or skirt grease or stuck in the chain, to the automatic transmission in the rear hub from Nuvinci that allows the rider to pedal at a constant speed regardless of their speed or incline. The Tempo Bike helps make electric bike riding as simple as can be.
The iGO fat tire bikes are high-quality off-road bikes with the MPF center drive system. Despite having a fat tire, the pedal assist can power the rider beyond 20 mph. The iGo has no cutoff point for the pedal-assist and will assist the rider, as long as they are putting in effort.
The following are a few of the hub motor bikes that were on display.
BESV had their futuristic looking electric bikes on display.
OHM Cycles had their XU700 on display. It features the high torque BionX D Series motor system.
This is the Bike Friday Haul-a-Day cargo bike with the BionX system. It’s a cargo bike that fits a wide range of riders from 4′ to 6′-4″ with a low step over to make it easy to get on and ride.
Here is a video of e-bike test rides and the rider’s impressions of riding these bikes:
Thanks to Doug Schwartz from ELV Motors for this report from the Sea Otter Classic!