In the wake of the mechanical doping revelation at the 2016 Cyclocross World Championships, there’s been a lot of debate and speculation about the exact details of the hidden motor that the UCI detected in the bike apparently belonging to Femke Van Den Driessche.
The revelations have cast into the spotlight the availability of off-the-shelf power assist products. The choice is limited and the best known is the Vivax Assist. But there is another company producing carbon road bikes with concealed motors, and it's the Typhoon E-assist.
Typhoon is a relatively new company based in Monte Carlo. It has been founded by Harry Gibbings with Formula One engineering expertise from former Jordan F1 technical director Gary Anderson. The company has found interest in its early prototypes from high-profile customers like Prince Albert of Monaco and former F1 driver David Coulthard.
From the outside, the Typhoon E-Assist road bike looks like any regular road bike, it wouldn’t look out of place outside the cafe on a Sunday morning club run. The frames are manufactured by Italian bespoke frame builder Sarto and can be specced with Shimano Dura-Ace or Campagnolo Record drivetrains and Black Inc. carbon fibre aero wheels. It's all high-quality, but readily available kit.
Inside the frame, things get a bit different. The company has developed a patented e-assist motor. It provides three modes of power assistance - 50-70 Watts, 130-160 Watts and 250 Watts. The motor is controlled using a remote handlebar button via Bluetooth, so no wires are needed between the motor and the control unit. The battery can be hidden inside a water bottle.
Typhoon fits its custom motor to the frame - this is no retrofitting service - and it apparently adds just 1.7kg to the complete bike weight. Typhoon claims a 1.3kg size medium frame weight, so with a top-end build kit, it’s perfectly reasonable, we would imagine, to build a bike that is sub-8kg.
The bike has a top-end price tag as well. A Shimano Ultegra or Campagnolo Chorus build costs €8,000 while Dura-Ace or Record increases that figure to €10,000. Bikes are supplied with Black Inc. wheels, Ritchey or Shimano handlebars, stem and seatposts. The e-Assist Motor comes with a 3-year warranty.
We chat to Typhoon CEO Harry Gibbings:
What has your response/reaction been to the mechanical doping events and the reaction in the media to the unfolding events?
I’d like to say surprise but sadly that’s not the case. For this reason Typhoon have been working closely with the UCI for some time in trying to help them develop a detection system to find hidden motors in competition bikes. I’m hugely satisfied that Typhoon’s contribution helped in some way to this end.
Is the Typhoon bike in production yet and have you sold many bikes?
We’re just about to start series production. We’ve invested a lot of time and money with Formula 1 know-how and technology to make sure our system is as light and strong as possible. It had to be right. Of course, we have a number of prototypes currently on the road, one in fact belongs to David Coulthard
How big do you think the market is for this sort of bike?
If you mean small, lightweight, powerful motors packaged in beautiful bikes for city, road and mountain….huge! If you mean cheating? I hope the events of the weekend will nip this is in the bud. There is no place in our sport for this form of cheating.
Eddy Merckx said it best yesterday when he was quoted as saying... “I also have an electric bike, but not for racing. It’s for climbing, for my health, but for racing, I would never use something like that,” he added. “That’s very bad.”
Have you had a lot of interest in the bike since launching? And anymore since last weekend?
We’ve actually been keeping the project under wraps as we wanted to hit the ground running with a great first offering. Having said that, there has been a huge amount of interest since the weekend.
Can you reveal any details about the inner workings of the motor?
I can tell you the motors we have developed specifically for our purpose have close similarities to ones used currently in the aerospace industry and F1, in fact that was our starting point. It’s a very efficient and lightweight system offering up to 250 watts
Can the battery be hidden inside the frame, and what is the battery duration?
Yes, you could hide the battery inside the frame but this would drastically reduce to range of the motor as the battery would be much smaller than the one we have developed which fits into a ‘water bottle’ shape. Our battery can give you up to two hours of assisted cycling, that’s a lot of helping time up a hill.
You see, we never wanted to make a motor scooter, we wanted to; 1) get more people on bikes and 2) these bikes had to be beautiful. Our system is there to assist you when you need it then cycle normally when you don’t. Our bikes can be under 10kgs with battery and motor so it’s still a lightweight bike you can enjoy.