Did you go to the Cycle Show at the NEC at the weekend? If not you missed a trick: there was lots to see, and the opportunity to test ride electric city and mountain bikes too. We had a nose around, of course, and when we weren't spending our press beer tokens at the Tour of Britain bar or feeling the heft of Jo Rowsell-Shand's Rio gold medal (CLANG – that's for the name drop, not the medal) we were busy looking at all things motor-assisted. And here are some of the things we saw along the way...
Cube were one of the big manufacturers we didn't see at Eurobike (or before) so it was great to see the highlights of their range for 2017. They've been doing a bit of work...
One of the bikes that epitomises where e-MTB design is going is the Cube Reaction hardtail. Above is the SL build; the SLT is shown at the top. The motor, cover, battery mount and cable routing are produced by a process called gravity casting, that uses molten alloy to produce complex shapes; they're all cast as a single, hollow unit.
That casting process means the battery can sit half-hidden in the frame, and that means there's space for a bottle cage on the seat tube. All cables run internally for a nice clean look, and Cube's e-MTBs are all moving to the smaller Purion display to make things even cleaner.
Cube are a big buyer of Bosch motors, and they get the benefits that economies of scale afford: custom power profiles and, in this bike, a custom housing that's designed to angle the motor and reduce the chainstay length for better handling.
Cube told us that there's an increasing demand for diamond-framed city bikes. That's not to say they're not making any low-step bikes, just that the demographic is widening: city e-bikes have been low-step because they've been aimed at more elderly and less able riders, but now the e-bike is becoming a desirable object in its own right and that means younger city-dwellers with plenty of disposable income are a growing market.
A case in point is the Hybrid SUV – it has sleek black looks and minimal kit, along with a top-spec build including a Gates carbon belt drive and an electronically-controlled Nuvinci rear hub.
This Cube Touring Pro, with rack, chaincase and suspension fork is more traditional, but it's still cocking a leg to the more performance-oriented rider with a top-spec Bosch Performance Line CX motor.
Kalkhoff were showing off this Integrale Custom at the show, and if we'd had a handy four grand in loose change knocking about in our pockets we might well have taken it home. It's a classy-looking thing indeed, with a Brooks Cambium saddle and matching grips.
Kalkhoff use their own motor system, the Impulse. This bike has the Evo version; we recently tested the city-friendly Sahel Compact (http://ebiketips.co.uk/content/reviews/electric-bikes/kalkhoff-sahel-compact-391#) with the slightly lower spec 2.0 motor and found that an excellent mid-drive unit.
The bike on show was pre-production but still looked smashing, especially the two-tone wooden mudguards.
You'll never guess what the selling point of the KwikFold bikes is. Go on, guess.
Yes, they fold quickly! Really quickly: just pull the central handle and the whole thing sort of concertinas inwards until the wheels are almost touching. You can wheel it around like that, and if you need to make it smaller (well, shorter) you can collapse the seatpost and bars too. KwikFold claim it's the fastest-folding bike out there. Certainly you'll not be wasting too much time fiddling with hinges.
KwikFold do powered and non-powered versions of the bike, and it's available with 16” and 12” wheels. They're not expensive, with the alloy Pro retailing at £999 and the steel Xite £100 less than that. KwikFold claim a range of 20 miles, and realistically you'll not be setting out on any epic rides on 12-inch wheels, but that should get you from house to station and station to office, or across town. We haven't ridden one yet, so we can't comment on the ride...
The ARCC e2-pod e-bike system is an interesting add-on that's small and neat. The main market is Brompton conversions, although ARCC can also fit to a Moulton or a Cinelli urban bike. The system's USP is that it uses readily-available and reasonably cheap Bosch power tool batteries. The 36V, 4Ah battery at 144Wh isn't going to give you a huge range but it'll be enough for a city commute and the batteries are easily swappable; ARCC make a spare battery holder you can fix to your bike to double the range, or you can just sling one in your bag.
The system can be controlled from the battery mount via two chunky selector switches but it's also Bluetooth-enabled, so you can either run a small Bluetooth remote or use your phone with the ARCC app. The control unit also has a 4-axis accelerometer to detect gradients and give you an bit of extra help on the steep stuff. Power comes from a Bafang hub motor and there's a torque sensor in the bottom bracket. The whole system, with battery, weighs just 4.5kg.
ARCC are doing some clever stuff with Brompton bags too: using the battery mount in place of the bag mount you can fit a front bag to your Brompton with the battery neatly tucked away inside. You'd barely even notice the electrics in this configuration.
The system costs from £1,795 – you'll need to supply a bike, or pay ARCC to get you one. Complete bikes start at £2,599.
Aima are a brand new British e-bike brand, coming to market with a range of eight bikes between £1000 and £2000. They were taking pre-orders at the show, and generating plenty of interest.
They're using Bafang motors for their bikes; we see a lot of the Bafang hub motors over here in the UK but very few bikes using the mid motor, which is a well-developed unit now with an output comparable to the bigger players.
We were quite taken with this bike, the CT16010 (we reckon it'll get a better name for production runs). It's a semi-low-stepthrough city bike with Bafang's mid motor and a Shimano derailleur transmission. The battery is well-integrated into the down tube and overall the look is very classy. You even get a riveted leather saddle.
The most unlikely electric conversion we saw was this e-Chopper. Practical a Chopper ain't but there's nothing you can't make more practical by slapping a motor on it, right? It's got mudguards and a chaincase already.
Afficionados will note that this is the re-release Chopper, missing the banana seat and the stick-shift gears. Even so, it's a great-looking bike. The motor is a Sunstar 24V unit, with the battery deliberately kept small so as not to ruin the lines of the bike too much.
BMW had a range of bikes at the show, of which the Cruise was their only e-bike, sporting a Bosch Active Line motor. Unlike Audi, whose €15,000 e-MTB was really just a rebadged Haibike, BMW have designed the bike themselves in conjunction with the DesignworksUSA team. Although ironically, it still looks a bit like a Haibike.
Unlike the Audi it isn't prohibitively expensive, coming in at £2,500 in a Deore/XT build with a Suntour NCX fork. With the motor, that's not much of a premium for the badge.
Mondraker dipped their toe in the water with e-MTBs last year in the UK, but for 2017 they're getting fully behind them, bringing significantly more bikes in. One that they expect to sell well is the e-Prime R, a £3,400 trail hardtail that uses Mondraker's Forward Geometry and 27.5+ tyres.
The battery is kept as low as possible to give the bike a low centre of gravity, and the bike gets a Bosch Performance Line motor, not the CX version you might normally see on an e-MTB at this price.
Heard of Radon? Possibly no, we hadn't. But they're a big deal over in Germany. They're a brand of the big online store bike-discount.de (think German Wiggle) and they specialise in direct sales, although they're building up a support network in the UK for servicing and demos.
This ZR Race 29er was the only e-bike they had at the show (the first time they've made the trip over), but the range includes hardtails, full suspension bikes and city bikes for 2017. And it looks like a proper bargain: XT drivetrain, Fox 32 fork and Bosch Performance Line CX motor for £2,349. You'd be paying three grand and upwards for that spec from other manufacturers we could name. What it rides like we coudn't
Ghost are a big deal over on the continent too, with a big presence each year at the Eurobike show. They don't have a high profile in the UK at the moment, but they do have a broad range of e-bikes and we'll hopefully be seeing more of them on these shores in the next year.
One that caught the eye on the Ghost stand at the Cycle Show was this Hybride Kato FS 6 AL. Like a lot of the new brood of e-MTBs it's running on wide rims and 27.5+ tyres, and Ghost have specced Shimano's STEPS MTB motor; we didn't see many bikes there built up with it, but we know it'll be a big force in off-road e-bikes in the years to come.
You get a Shimano XT build here on a 140mm full travel platform; the show bike had Rockshox shock and forks although the Ghost website suggests the stock build is with a Fox 34 fork and a Float Performance 3-position shock. List price for this one is £4,099.