BikeExchange recently went on down to Reid Cycles' Australian release of the new range of Corratec e-bikes powered by Bosch Drive Systems. While we were there we had chat with Cameron Burke, the regional technical manager for Bosch e-bikes in Australia to find out a bit more about this exciting new technology that we are seeing more and more on Australian roads and trails.
It seems that a lot of people are a little bit confused as to what an e-bike actually is, and how they work. Many people seem to think that they are like electric-powered motorcycles; that they have a throttle and basically do all the work for you. But, as Cameron explained to us, this is not really the case. More and more mad keen cyclists are reaping the benefits of "riding with a tailwind" and covering greater distances powered by Bosch e-bike systems.
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How do they work?
Without getting too technical on ourselves (that's what the new service centre in Sydney is for...) the way an e-bike drive system works is by effectively taking the power that you put to the pedal and multiplying it, enabling you to accelerate faster, and to climb hills that would otherwise defeat you with ease. As Cameron explains, for every turn of the crank, the chain wheel rotates 2.5 times. That means, when you have the drive system running on 'Turbo Mode' (more on various modes in a second), at 100% effort, the motor is taking that up to 250%(!).
Bosch Drive Systems
There are currently three drive systems powering Corratec e-bikes; we got to try two, the Active Line and the Performance Line. We were lucky enough to try each system configured for both hub and chain gear setups on cruiser bikes and on a mountain bike. The third system, the Performance Line CX will be coming out new in 2016, and it's set to pack a punch in terms of power, so we can't wait to try that one out on the not-so-beaten trails next year.
Intuvia – Bosch’s Intuitive Cycle Computer
While Bosch may have created a complex electronic drive system, you don't need to know that. Intuvia is Bosch's very simple interface between you and all that tech stuff down between your feet. Intuvia provides you with real-time information regarding your ride, and also allows you to change drive modes on the fly. You can keep track of your battery packs energy levels ensuring you hook up to a power source before it runs dry.
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Power packs come in three different models based on their capacity: 300, 400 and 500 Wh (Watt hour) versions are available. The main difference between each battery is how much energy they can store and provide to you out on the road or the trail. They can be fitted to the down tube or to a gear rack on cruiser bike models. If you're looking for performance, the down tube is the way to go, keeping your bike's centre of gravity low and your turns tight.
The Active Line (for Commuters and Cruisers)
Powering Corratec’s (and many other brands’) line of commuter and cruiser bikes, the Active Line Drive system is perfect for anyone who wants to commute to work but who hates it when they arrive and feel like they need to take a shower again before starting the day.
The Active line produces up to 48 N-m of torque in Turbo mode. Every Bosch system comes set with four modes: Turbo, Sport, Tour, and Eco. Turbo mode gives you the most torque, but will also drain your battery supply the quickest. Sport provides a good balance between power and efficiency while Tour is ideal for long haul rides where you want a base level of constant assistance. Eco is for the energy conscious, providing you with the longest ride times possible with a decent level of support throughout your ride.
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That extra pulling power is instantly noticeable as soon as you turn the crank, and if you've never ridden one before it can feel a little strange at first. We’re excited about the applications of this technology for people who might not think they are capable of riding a bike, either because they just aren’t the athlete they used to be, or who have perhaps suffered a debilitating injury. The Active Line can enable anyone to get out there and turn the pedals…and get along at a tidy pace, the Active Line supporting riders up to speeds of 25kph.
The Performance Line (for Mountain Bikes and getting to work, fast)
It’s fairly obvious really – Performance means more power. With 60 N-m of torque available in Turbo, Corratec’s line of e-Bikes with Performance Line Bosch drive systems make you feel superhuman.
The system really shows its true potential on the hills where it’s not so much about speed as it is about acceleration. You can be slugging it up tight single track and come face to face with a fallen tree branch on a tight bend that would normally stop you in your tracks and comfortably lift the front end and power over it.
The drive system is immediately responsive. If you put all your weight on the pedal you will take off straight away, but in saying that, as soon as you back off the system does too, meaning you never feel like the bike is trying to run away from you – it works with your natural rhythm and abilities.
We see the performance line as a serious tool for those of us who love to get out on the trails on the weekend. You can greatly extend your trips, covering more kms, spending the same amount of energy you would on your regular ride. You can accelerate faster, and eat hill climbs for breakfast. On the downhill you might not notice it so much, the system has been programmed to taper off at 25kph in line with Australian road regulations, but the speed with which the engine reengages will never leave you wondering where the power is gone coming out of the switchbacks.
What do these systems mean for the world of cycling? There are plenty of riders out there who would never use one, preferring to ride under their own power. But there are also plenty of riders who might see the benefits of covering more distance on their regular rides, spending more time on perfecting their technique and less time sweating it up the hills.
But we are also looking forward to seeing a whole new bunch of riders out there on the streets, those who perhaps thought their cycling days were behind them.