Your opinion of e-bikes will undoubtedly differ, depending on where you are reading this.
Although the market for e-bikes is growing exponentially, worldwide, in many countries, e-bikes are perceived as being for the old or inactive. Or both. This perception does exist in Europe, second only to China in the uptake of e-bikes, but less so. In Germany, one in four new bikes is electric. In Belgium, it’s as high as fifty per cent. And, in Dutch and Scandinavian cities, e-bikes are everyday and totally unremarkable.
The difference in attitude and adoption is governed, to a large extent, by the investment in cycle travel in different locations. For example, in London, cycling is quite popular but also quite dangerous and inconvenient due to lack of good cycle lanes and facilities.
Although Amsterdam is top of mind when it comes to cycling cities, Copenhagen is not only the capital city of Denmark but the global capital of advanced, two wheeled travel. Here, in a city destined to be carbon neutral by 2025, a concrete link has been made between sustainable, effective urban mobilty and the bike. So, millions of Kroner have been invested in creating a cycling infrastructure that is the envy of the world, attracting more cyclists daily – including award winning bridges and underpasses.
Observe what is the longest cycle lane in the world at rush hour and you will see thousands of e-bikes, lots of them made by us and bought from our flagship store.
When you adopt a Copenhagen perspective, you suddenly see that e-bikes are actually commuter vehicles, not fitness machines. They actually compete with buses and cars, not bikes. And, since commuters are rarely called lazy for taking the bus, why should they be when they ride an e-bike?
When we speak to Biomega e-bike converts, this turns out to be one of the most powerful arguments of them all.
So called ‘pedelec’ or ‘pedal assisted’ bikes like the Biomega OKO and new AMS still need to be pedaled. And you have a choice of power levels, so you decide how much physical work you want to do.
All e-bikes like this have a built-in speed limiter, which means the motor will give assistance up to a maximum of 25 km/hr. Exceed this speed and the motor will, temporarily, cut out. Then it will cut back in again when it senses you would like a bit of help – on a hill, for example. Sophisticated algorithms inside Biomega e-bike operating systems can detect how hard you are pressing on the pedals and assist accordingly.
You will notice that e-bikes can look a little different, side by side. This is because the designers have made different choices about where to put the battery and the motor.
The Biomega OKO and AMS are both 100% purpose-designed e-bikes, rather than motorized or modified standard bikes – which is often the case. Instead of having the battery bolted to a parcel shelf behind the saddle, they both feature batteries discretely integrated within the frame. And the frame itself is made from aerospace grade carbon fibre to cut weight dramatically – after all, adding motors and batteries always makes bikes heavier.
They are both also front wheel drive, which is actually quite unusual. In other words, the motor is built into the front wheel, rather than incorporated into the bottom bracket and pedal assembly. Biomega designers believe this leads to a better distribution of balance, with the battery in the middle and the rider’s weight tending to be located over the rear of the bike.
A cycling commuter has a lot of things to be aware of, and there are already brakes and gears to adjust, so Biomega decided to make the control panel as simple as humanly possible: there is an on/off switch for the motor, an LED battery level monitor and a similar row of lights indicating power level. Nothing more.
As cities get ever busier and ever more congested it will be interesting to see how e-bikes become part of the new norm. And how their advantages will attract customers who, until now, have not existed in the cycling industry: non-cyclists.