E-Bikes are here to stay


Posted on January 13th

The E-Bike debate is been going on for a long time all over the world. After an initial kick back from riders it is now being embraced. With proper education and trail etiquette there are now becoming acceptable in North America. You know when two of the biggest Bicycle Companies in the World are releasing them they are here to stay. At Steed Cycles we have had a Specialized Levo in our Demo fleet for a year now and the remarks from riders after trying it out on the trails are all very positive. Is it for everybody? Probably not but it is helping riders cover more terrain or keep up with faster friends on the climbs. Anything that gets more riders on the trails is a good thing. Especially if they use them for their right intent and in a safe and sustainable manner. Check out the review below from Electric Bike Review on the Levo.

 

This was the second time I’ve been able to test ride a Specialized Turbo Levo model and thankfully I got some help from Garret at Rock N’ Road Cyclery in Laguna Niguel California. This shop has some demo models and in addition to the footage shown in the video review above, Garret has gone off-road and spent time attending the Specialized ebike clinic. His guidance in the video review really digs in deep with all of the high end hardware. My takeaways as someone who focuses purely on electric bikes were that the Levo models, which rely on the Brose mid-drive motor, are extremely quiet and responsive. I didn’t feel the same powerful zip and pull that some other drive systems produce (namely Bosch, Bafang and Yamaha) but the integration was much cleaner. This is one of the few trail or mountain ready electric bikes around that actually blends in… all the way up to the bars.

One downside of the clean integration is that display interface and interaction points are limited or cut out all together. To turn on the bike and switch between assist levels you use a rubberized button pad near the top of the downtube on the left side. Ten LED lights come on indicating how full the battery is and you can arrow up or down to choose from three assist levels. If you change your mind about this setting once the ride has begun… you either have to pull over and reach down or try to do it while riding one handed. I missed the up/down button pad that Bosch, Impulse and other ebike makers offer which you can click easily with your thumb without taking your hands completely off the grips. I also missed the LCD display panel showing speed, distance, assist level, time, temperature etc. but Specialized has delivered a sort of solution through their Mission Control smart phone app. Frankly, I haven’t used it enough to have an opinion yet but the GPS trip planning (with battery monitor) and Strava integration seems cool. As someone with a fablet (extra large smart phone) I’d be a little concerned about damage if the bike crashed and also just wearing down my battery and exposing the display to the sun which I believe can be harmful to it. The upside to Specialized’s approach is that the bike doesn’t look electric, has fewer distractions and less parts that could get damaged.

The motor and battery are completely built into the frame which looks cool and they don’t rattle which is nice for an off-road model like the Levo FSR Comp. One potential complaint about the battery however, is that the thru-axle mounting point that is used to secure it to the frame doesn’t seem to lock… So anyone with a hex wrench could steal your $800 battery if you left the bike unattended for a few minutes. Probably not much of an issue, hopefully people will play nice but this concerns me about eating lunch in a mountain lodge with the bike “locked up” out front. The frame and wheels might stay but the battery could walk off. Anyway, you also get thru-axles on the front and rear wheels for improved stiffness. Quality suspension fork and for bar suspension rear to reduce bobbing. Incremental suspension adjust on the fork and Fox CTD (climb trail descend) at the rear. It performs much like a traditional Specialized full suspension trail bike but weighs more at ~50 lbs.

One thing I’ve been concerned about with the Brose motor system is chain, sprocket and derailleur wear because there’s no shift sensing mechanism. If you pedal hard and shift, gears mash (and that’s true on non-electric bikes as well) but when your pedal power is multiplied, even doubled, this damage can be more pronounced. Because the Brose motor listens for both cadence and torque to operate and cuts out extremely quickly when you stop pedaling, I found that easing off a bit during shifts worked very well. I haven’t spent enough time with this ebike to comment on long term wear but I trust Specialized and am so impressed that they not only offer four sizes in the Comp level but also have an Expert and several other off-road electric models for 2016. The larger tires offset some of the heavier weight and smooth the ride (which might last longer and deliver a higher average speed thanks to the electric assist). This is an electric bike that will take you further and ease the pain in your knees like the rest but won’t stick out so much visually or audibly.

Pros:

  • The motor and battery are truly integrated into the frame which improves the aesthetic and sort of hides the fact that they offer assist, the battery is rated at IP67 against water and dirt
  • Motor activation is very smooth and fluid (both powering up and cutting out), it’s much less noticeable than on some of the other mid-drive ebikes and it rides more like a bicycle in this sense but it also feels less powerful sometimes (at least to me)
  • Tight tolerance on the battery pack alignment and locking system, you don’t hear it rattling around at higher speeds off-road, the sturdy thru-axle pin holds it in securely, can be charged on or off the bike
  • The frame looks beautiful in part because the cables and wires are all internally routed but maintenance is still relatively easy because the wires can be accessed directly in the downtube once the battery is removed
  • Available in two distinct frame colors (matte black and gloss green) as well as four sizes to accommodate different body types
  • The Gx derailleur utilizes a stiffer spring to reduce slap, this is important given the 11 sprockets (wider range of chain lengths during operation)
  • Built around the four bar Horst Link suspension arm to reduce bobbing when pedaling, the frame is made with light weight but sturdy mountain bike specific M5 Aluminum
  • The Mission Control App works with iOS and Android, it offers turn by turn GPS, trip planning (to arrive with a set power level remaining) and has Strava integration for the electric bike section of the app, the app also monitors battery health and provides traditional ride stats
  • The bike is extremely well balanced, we weighed it using a hook that connected just above the motor and it stayed straight, note that the wider tires help to distribute some of the extra weight of this bike given that it’s ~50 lbs (depending on size) and may be ridden over soft terrain
  • Extremely responsive motor, since it measures cadence and torque I noticed that the chainring wasn’t spinning after I stopped pedaling and this is very important given that there are no brake lever inhibitors and you may be riding the Levo off-road in some precarious conditions with hazards like cliffs, trees and large rocks
  • Proprietary M5 Aluminum alloy is sturdy and light, sloped top tube lowers standover height which makes the bike easier to hold given the extra weight
  • Unique “6Fattie” 650b wheelset with 3? diameter tires offers increased traction, reduced deflection (flex in the fork) and improved rolling momentum, floatation and gap spanning
  • Fully enclosed cable routing, everything from shift wires, brake cables, electrical and the seat post dropper wires are hidden and protected from snags
  • Autosag feature on the Fox Float rear suspension makes setup easy… pump it up with air then sit on the bike and let the pressure equalize using Autosag
  • While many electric bikes forgo bottle cage bosses (and nearly every full suspension ebike) this one offers them! Specialized managed to work in bottle cage bosses right where you’d expect them on the downtube and they toss in a right mount Zee Cage

Cons:

  • While the battery does lock in securely with the unique thru-axle pin, it does not rely on a locking core and key so in that sense it could be stolen more easily
  • Limited display options without the app, you get 10 LED’s that show your power level and assist level (1-3) as you click up or down, to change levels you have to take your hand off the bar and reach down which isn’t as convenient as an independent button pad up on the bars but does reduce bar clutter and keeps the bike stealth while reducing potential for damage during crashes or tips
  • Considering how minimal the integrated LED console is and how cool the advanced Mission Control App is, I think a USB charging port that feeds off of the main battery port would be a cool addition to help maintain your phone battery, this could be mounted near the head tube or top side of the downtube out of the way for pedaling but close enough for a short power cable to reach
  • There’s no shift sensing built into the software or hardware (shift cables) as I’ve found on Bosch and Impulse drive systems, this could lead to more chain, sprocket and derailleur wear unless you’re conscious about how you ride (ease off when shifting gears)
  • The included battery charger is very fast but also a bit large and heavy making it less pleasant to stow in your pack, Specialized offers a small light weight travel charger for ~$120 but it won’t charge as quickly

Resources:

 

We also carry the new Giant Full-E. Check out the review below from ebike-mtb

At an exclusive site visit a few weeks ago, product manager Joost Bakker proudly introduced E-MOUNTAINBIKE magazine to the new Full-E+.
At an exclusive site visit a few weeks ago, product manager Joost Bakker proudly introduced E-MOUNTAINBIKE magazine to the new Full-E+.

Our first impression of the Giant Full-E+

Right now we’re still at the official Giant launch for their all-new Full-E+ and we’ve just had the opportunity for a proper one-on-one with the new top-of-the-range Full-E+0 SX, taking it out for a route with 1,200 metres of climbing and descending. Our test rider, 180 cm tall, gave his seal of approval for the comfortable riding position on the size L frame, declaring it more than suited for long days in the saddle. On climbs the SyncDrive system is a force of power, although you’ve got to have a decent cadence of around 75 pedal strokes per minute to ensure it dishes out full power. The front wheel kept glued to the ground no matter how steep the gradient got, and the rear proved it was capable of soaking up everything from small trail chatter to bigger hits.

Giant-Full-E+-1

The suspension was smooth and consistent with ample traction and stability thanks to the 2.6? tires as well. The bike handled really well, without showing any twitchiness at high speeds. And despite our high expectations from the well chosen spec, it didn’t let us down. Our sole complaint would go to the brakes, which lacked a bit of strength. Plus, while the new control unit is a substantial improvement on its former model, we still think there’s room for improvement with its ergonomics – it’s just too far from the bars.

Giant-Full-E+-2

Our take on the new Giant Full-E+

A bike that screams up-to-date, the new Giant Full-E+ has nailed the balance of agility and smoothness to ensure it rides superbly. The rear suspension design and well considered spec list can’t be faulted either. However, when it comes to the computer and control unit, we’d love to see Giant invest as much thought here as they have done to the rest of the bike and there’s definitely scope for them to innovate. We’d also love to see the Yamaha motor with a broader cadence frequency. If you’re on the hunt for a high quality E-MTB for essentially any riding situation then the Full-E+ will definitely satisfy.

 

Currently we have 2 Specialized Levo Demo bikes (M & L) in store that are available to hit the trails on. We also hope to have some Giant Full E+ bikes in the coming months. Stop by and talk to any of the staff at Steed for more information.