If there was any one thing to take home from Eurobike, it would be just how much of a thing electric bikes continue to be over on the continent. Electric bike technology has come a long way in the past decade, and now it's at a point where it feels fairly mature. There are a wealth of different systems available and many of them have been refined over the years. With half a million e-bikes sold in Germany in 2015 , and almost one new bike in every three an e-bike in the Netherlands, it's big. And growing. We spent last week trawling the halls of the world's biggest bike show to get a handle on all the trends. And we're starting with a round-up of city bikes. Let's go!
A key theme is integration. Ten years ago you got a plethora of visible wires connecting an obvious motor, battery and control unit. Some bikes manage to hide these additions better than others, but the best of them are now almost indistinguishable at first glance from a non-powered bike.
One of the nicest big-brand bikes we saw at the show in terms of integration was the Scott e-Silence (top). It's available in a range of builds and uses the Brose mid motor which, due its belt drive internals, is a lot quieter than most mid motors. The 508Wh battery is fully integrated into the down tube.
The integrated lighting is handled very well, with the front light extending from the handlebar stem. The e-Silence uses Brose's small format display which sits by the grip and doubles as a remote to change assistance mode.
The Faraday Cortland ($3,499) is a good example of how clean an electric bike can look. With a 290Wh battery it's not designed for a huge range, but the small hub motor and battery don't dominate the bike at all. If you need a bigger range then Faraday offer an auxiliary battery that's hidden in a leather saddle bag, which doubles the bike's capacity.
The rear-mounted battery incorporates an LED rear light and there's an integrated light at the front too.
The bike can be fitted with a Porteur rack or a rear pannier rack, and Faraday also offer a leather carry handle which fits into the main triangle. The bike weighs about 18kg.
Also going for the minimal look is the BH Easy Go Race. It's a slightly different minimal look though, an urban singlespeed.
At €1,499 the Easy Go Race isn't expensive: there's no gear shifters to worry about, the bike has a simple alloy frame and steel fork and the battery is a compact 200Wh unit that sits where you'd normally put a saddlebag. It's a full-power e-bike though, with a 250W hub motor. It just won't have the range of something a bit chunkier.
BH claim a range of up to 45km for the Easy Go Race, so if you have a shorter commute you want a bit of help with, and you're after the hipster look rather than something more pedestrian, it's one of a very select group of bikes you might consider.
The Winora Manto is one of quite a few bikes at the show to use the new TranzX Integra motor system. It's a new offering from TranzX and designed to be integrated into the bike, hence the name.
The 400Wh battery sits in the down tube and there's a choice of motors: this Manto M8 Disc (€1,999) uses the M16 mid motor but there's also a hub motor available for cheaper builds.
Winora were also showing off the purposeful-looking Radar Tour (€2,999) which also uses a TranzX drive system. This time it's the M25GTS motor and a bigger 500Wh battery in the beefy frame. The Radar is also available in stripped-down Plain and Urban builds, as well as a 45km/h Speed version.
Commuting in the UK is often undertaken as sport, it seems, and the bikes that people buy to do it are oriented towards faster riding. In major part that's down to the road environment: sharing the road with motor traffic is common, and that means fitter riders are more heavily represented, and faster bikes that can more easily keep up with traffic flow.
There's an emerging trend in e-bikes towards more performance-oriented commuting too. It's not so much the speed of the bikes – all of the EU-standard bikes are limited to 25km/h anyway – but more to do with a more aggressive riding position and a sleeker look.
The Stevens e-Carpo is a good example of one of the newer breed of performance commuter bikes. This is a top-dollar (€3,999) build with a Bosch Performance Line motor, Nuvinci Harmony auto-shifting hub and a Gates Carbon belt drive.
It's a fully-specced commuter, though. While some brands have stripped back their bikes, the e-Carpo sports full mudguards and a rack and still manages to look very sporty and purposeful. That's helped by the interesting frame design and clean graphics.
Benelli's e-Misano (£1,649) isn't bothered with mudguards and such, though. It's fully dedicated to the speedy look, so much so that it's got a deep-section alloy frame and an aero seatpost. We're not sure you'll be going that fast, but anyway.
The 316Wh battery is semi-integrated into the down tube, and it drives an 8Fun rear hub motor. There are five levels of assistance available.
The bike uses Shimano Claris 8-speed gearing, with a double chainset at the front, and you get deep-section alloy wheels and hydraulic discs.
The eFlow UM-2 is a stripped-back commuter, with a 454Wh battery in the seat tube. It uses the Continental mid motor system.
The fork is a twin-crown affair with a thru-axle front hub. It doesn't really look like you'll be fitting a mudguard any time soon, although there's the requisite holes at the back.
Continental's mid motor doesn't have as many advocates as Bosch, Brose, Yahama or TranzX but there were a fair number of manufacturers using the system, which is well-regarded.
Simplon's Sengo 275 is an urbanised version of one of their mountain bikes, with a carbon frame and fork and Schwalbe Super Moto street tyres. It looks like it'd probably manage off road just fine too, so long as it wasn't too muddy.
The Carbon frameset is a very tidy thing indeed. It uses a Hot Melt Nano process; we don't know what that is, but we liked the name a lot, maybe because it was lunchtime.
The fork is tall to keep the bike's geometry correct, as the frame is also designed to accept a mountain bike suspension fork for off-road duties.
We've got a whole story on cargo bikes yet to come but for some people a cargo bike is too much: you just need a city e-bike with cargo options. Many city bikes will take a normal rack and panniers, but there are other options too.
Heard of Walleräng? Possibly not: they're a Swedish brand, based in Gothenburg, and they build their bikes up there. This is the new M.02 low step through bike, which uses a Shimano STEPS motor and an Alfine Di2 hub gear. There's a suspension fork version too.
One of Walleräng's selling points is the modular luggage system. You can add pannier racks, baskets and porteur racks to the bike according to your preference, and they're easily removable too.
Up until now Walleräng haven't had a UK distributor but we spotted the chaps from Volt Bikes on their stand and they'll be bringing them into the UK in the future. We're lined up for a test soon.
Sort of similar to the Walleräng was this BH Revo Cargo Pro. Apologies for the dodgy pic, it was kind of buried in the middle of the stand!
The Revo Cargo costs €3,299, but it's packing a 600Wh battery and uses BH's Revo drive that's based around the excellent Brose mid motor. The rear rack is built into the frame for maximum strength; the front porteur rack is removable.
Ariel Rider's C-Class gets the flowing lines of a cruiser with an efficient Brose mid motor, a big 500Wh battery and lots of luggage space. It's a nice compromise between looking good and managing to do stuff.
The bamboo porteur rack has a cup holder for your morning Macchiato. Actually, a Macchiato might fall through that. Best go for an Americano.
The integrated lights are a nice touch and complement the look. Everything runs from the rack battery. One interesting thing that Ariel Rider have is a massive 900Wh battery option for many of their bikes. That's the biggest single battery we saw, although you can go up to 1,000 with a Bosch dual battery system.
In the German hall
Germany shifts more electric bikes than any other country in Europe, so it's not surprising that pretty much every German brand is getting on board with motors. Even the small-scale and boutique manufacturers are offering assisted cycling these days.
Tout Terrain are fairly well known in touring circles for their go-anywhere bikes, and now you can go anywhere with a bit of a helping hand with the Chiyoda Express.
There was a lot of people on Pinion's stand all week, looking at their new, cheaper, C series bottom bracket gearboxes. And there was a lot of them around the show, too: on production bikes from bigger manufacturers such as Rose and Stevens as well as smaller makers. Tout Terrain have been using the gearboxes from the outset, and this bike pairs the gearbox with a Go SwissDrive rear hub motor.
MTB Cycletech were at it too: they had a couple of electric bikes on their stand, and we liked this low step Libre Luz very much with its dual-tube main frame and Shimano STEPS mid motor.
Velotraum's FD1 is really a rigid-forked mountain bike, but the FD1-e is repurposed as a sort of heavy duty urban machine, with big-volume slick tyres and a Shimano STEPS E8000 mountain bike motor.
The frame is designed to accommodate a fairly long travel fork if need be, so the supplied rigid fork is quite long and has a mudguard bridge for fitting 'guards. There's enough braze-ons for a world tour if you decide the commute is not enough...
Carbon is coming
Mostly, the city e-bikes on show were alloy-framed. Aluminium alloy is easy to work with, making a motor mount is simple if you're using a mid motor, and the weight of a frame isn't really a major concern when you're bolting 7kg of motor and battery onto it.
There were some carbon bikes out there though, and very nice some of them were too. Simplon have a whole range: this is the Chenoa HS, which Simplon range as a touring bike but we think would be ideal for your commute, assuming you have a bit of money to throw at a commuting bike and somewhere safe to stash it.
The frame mounts the battery on the down tube, so Simplon have come up with this neat little bottle cage holder if you want a bottle for your ride.
The Chenoa is also available as a step-through, which Simplon reckon is the first carbon low-step-through frame with a Bosch motor. Certainly we didn't see any others.
Diavelo make some pretty e-bikes and they've been working with designer Pininfarina to come up with the Evoluzione. It's still a concept bike and not in production but we thought you'd like to see it. It's certainly striking.
That extended top tube section is designed to be a small glove compartment where you can stow your Ray-Bans, or whatever sunglass brand it is that people that can afford this sort of bike would wear. We wouldn't know.
There's lots of nice stylistic touches. Will city e-bikes look like this in the future? Some might, in places where everyone's loaded and it doesn't rain much.
Cruisers are fun to lark about on, although the heavy weight and not-exactly-efficient ride position means they're restricted to shorter stuff, preferably on a beachfront. Add a motor, though, and you can cruise more easily, for longer.
Electra's Townie is a cruiser staple, and now they offer an e-bike version. The Townie GO! 8i (€2,699) has a Bosch Performance Line motor and a Shimano Nexus 8-speed hub gear
Gepida's Nedao 1000 (€2,199) gets big, 2.35” street rubber and a steel-sprung saddle. The Shimano Nexus 3-speed hub has a coaster brake, and there's a disc at the front too. Bosch's Active Line motor adds the power.
Swiss brand YouMo's One cruiser will cost from €3,250 to €4,990 depending on which build you opt for. That top-dollar one is a speed pedelec. 45Km/h on a cruiser! Where do we sign up?
YouMo use the Go SwissDrive rear hub motor and the bikes feature integrated lighting; more money gets you more equipment, better gears and in the end the more powerful drivetrain.
French brand Moustache have the Friday 26, which isn't really a cruiser but does have nice big balloon tyres, so it's got a bit of the look. It's a practical town bike really, more in line with big-tyred Dutch city bikes. This build, the Black 3, gets a Bosch Performance Line motor and some nice finishing kit including a Brooks leather saddle.
Want something a bit special? This is the first year at Eurobike that we've seen custom builders really embrace the electric bike. Rabbit Cycles were one outfit that had mid-motor bikes on show; this titanium e-commuter was a work of art.
We're not sure where you buy a titanium Bosch motor mount from, but Rabbit have either found a supplier, or made their own.
The finishing on the bike is exceptional; this build included a Nuvinci Harmony auto-shifting rear hub, titanium bars, a 3T fork and Magura Trail carbon brakes. We didn't ask how much it cost, because there wasn't a handy chair to sit down on...