There is no shortage of choices in the electric bicycle market. However, manufacturers could still do better.
If you ride an electrically assisted bicycle, whether to work, just for a ride or to keep fit (which is not incompatible with the other two uses), you have certainly spent some time choosing your bike.
It must be said that although the choice is vast and the offer is very wide, the manufacturers, with a few exceptions, remain rather conservative in their approach to the market and the range of products offered.
Generally speaking, apart from a few start-ups that are trying to shake up the sector, not without some success, such as Ride1Up, Addmotor, and Rad Power in the US, or VanMoof, Angell, and Cowboy in Europe, the e-bike offer does not really innovate and essentially consists of putting traditional bicycles on the market on which an electric engine and a battery have been installed, and not machines really designed and thought out from a blank sheet of paper for electro-mobility.
This is reminiscent of the electric car market, where incumbent manufacturers have been slow to build real dedicated platforms and have been content to transform existing internal combustion engines into electric ones.
However, on the side of the innovators, like the brands mentioned above, the offer is not satisfactory either. It is essentially aimed at young, well-to-do urbanites, and the models on offer, while rather attractive on paper and the screen thanks to their aesthetically pleasing presentations, are not free of defects and shortcomings that do not stand up to “real-life” use.
Among these are the lack of mudguards at Angell, for example, which is barely compensated by an expensive option of wooden slats that should not provide much protection and whose design is frankly questionable. Or the absence of shock absorbers on many newly introduced e-bikes is painfully noticeable as soon as the surface becomes a little hostile, for example, on urban cobblestones, which is the favorite terrain of these machines.
Not to mention the lack of a derailleur and gears, which makes using these bikes incompatible, or at the very least very physical or uncomfortable, with the strong declivities found in certain cities. Choices guided by the concern for lightness and therefore urban agility are understandable, but probably also a bit under the dictatorship of designers, marked for life by decades of Apple aesthetics, for whom the watchword always seems to be the same: Less is more.
In a market that is growing rapidly like the e-bike market, there is probably still a lot to imagine and invent. Far be it from us to claim to reinvent the wheel and kill the game, but in this little exercise of perspective based on our own experience of using electric bikes and certain frustrations encountered.
Or, to be more positive, there are a few ideas that have emerged from using various e-bike models for quite some time. Here is our little inventory of what we would like to have on our ideal e-bike. Most of these elements have been taken from the best of what already exists and put together in one machine, which could become the ultimate e-bike.
(Hydraulic) disc brakes
On any modern vehicle, good braking must be reassuring and efficient without being brutal, durable, reliable, and safe. When you ride daily on routes with steep slopes, you need to be able to move at your own pace without fearing failure or the unpleasant surprises of an inadequate braking system, especially in wet weather.
This pleads for disc brakes and, if possible, hydraulics. It is even surprising that this system is not imposed by regulation, and that the good old brake pads are not definitively relegated to the bicycle museum.
This topic could contribute to increased safety in emergency brake situations related to the previous one. How could this be done? with a fork that stiffens, blocks its damping, or even expands in travel when the brakes are applied at a certain level of power and velocity.
An anti-dive fork prevents the front of the bike from being crushed in the event of sudden braking, thus limiting the risk of tipping forward. This is a familiar feature on motorcycles; although it was discontinued after a decade, it could well make a comeback with greater intelligence.
Again in the area of braking, electric cars recharge their batteries when braking or when going downhill. Why shouldn’t e-bikes offer a similar feature, to increase their range a little?
Some manufacturers offer models with regenerative braking, such as Rayvolt on its Exxite XS and XXS, but they are still rare.
Unavoidable when we talk about braking, ABS remains one of the great absentees of the e-bikes, whereas it is becoming widespread on motorbikes. This is probably due to weight issues and the fact that the technology is expensive and complicated to install on a bike, whose weight is a major constraint, for a questionable safety result.
However, Bosch is working on the subject and guarantees that a good ABS would greatly reduce the number of bicycle accidents, as many falls occur due to poorly controlled braking, especially on the front with a wheel that slips, and even before a collision.
Electronic anti-theft system
There is nothing very new in this respect, as some manufacturers already offer this type of devices, such as Angell, Vanmoof, or Cowboy, for example.
However, it would be nice if connectivity and GPS tracking were no longer the exclusive preserve of bicycle start-ups, and if such devices became commonplace and extended to all brands, including the more traditional ones, such as Peugeot and others.
Rather than grafting various separate elements onto the handlebars in an anarchic and haphazard manner with no real ergonomic reflection, why not rethink the handlebars as a true dashboard with each instrument integrated and having its function and logical location: screen, horn, gear controls, indicators, and even mirrors?
In addition, as in the case of audio integration into the dashboard, which has put an end to the theft of car radios, such integration would secure all accessories against theft. Some rare e-bike manufacturers start to offer this approach.
Another safety feature that should be compulsory for an electric bike as well as on any vehicle. Turning around to look behind when changing direction can be quite acrobatic on an e-bike and can even cause the less experienced to lose their balance or trajectory.
But a quick look in the rearview mirror is so simple and safe that you can watch your back even in a straight line.
Turn signals and brake lights
Here again, Angell is leading the way with its rear indicators integrated into the battery and its rear brake light, which is triggered by the integrated accelerometer as soon as you brake. Turn signals on an e-bike would be far from a gimmick, as long as you remember to use them, of course (which presupposes that you also remembered to look in your mirrors just before)…
Dash Cam (which also doubles as a rearview mirror)
Cameras that film and record the vehicle’s environment are becoming increasingly common in cars, and are even fitted as standard on certain models (Tesla, etc.).
The American start-up Streetlogic is proving that it is possible and relatively easy and inexpensive to install such a device on a bicycle, which, when coupled with artificial intelligence, can significantly improve the safety of the cyclist.
Better still, a rear camera could even send the image live to the rider’s smartphone or e-bike screen, thus providing a wider view and eliminating the need for mirrors.
No, this is not a Valeo advert, but frankly, since the Effigear system was presented, it has intrigued and enticed thousands of e-bike riders. What is it? Unprecedented in the electrically-assisted bicycle market, Valeo’s technology comes directly from the automotive world.
Operating at 48 volts, the equipment manufacturer’s block integrates an electric engine and an adaptive 7-speed automatic gearbox developed with Effigear into a single module integrated into the pedal assembly. In short, an engine and an intelligent gearbox in a single block.
No more derailleur, but something likely to be much more efficient and powerful than any of the current models. There are a few newly introduced automatic gearbox models, such as those from the Swiss Stromer brand, but there are not many.
They exist on some electric scooters and will soon be on some cars. Why not imagine an e-bike delivered with robust puncture-proof tires?
Of course, this would probably be at the expense of weight and comfort, but with a good front suspension fork and a shock-absorbing seat, the question would be quickly answered, wouldn’t it?
As far as comfort is concerned, a good gel saddle mounted on a real shock absorber or suspension stem is a great way to feel good, especially for longer rides, in addition to a telescopic fork. The comfort gain is so remarkable that it should be generalized.
The front light is integrated into the handlebar and not on the front fender
I’ve never understood why bike manufacturers don’t take inspiration from the best practices of motorcycling when these are easily transposable without additional cost or weight.
This is the case with the headlight, which is most of the time attached to the front fender with fragile-looking devices. The result is that it moves, vibrates, takes up space, does not light up well, or even stops working altogether due to the vibrations.
When it would be so simple to fix this light in the center of the handlebars or on the stem, just below the latter, or, of course, to integrate it into the handlebars, as mentioned above. In addition, such an installation would provide better front lighting.
Read also: Selection of our favorite e-bike accessories to help you find the right gear for your needs.
I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but most e-bikes, well, those that do have a kickstand, have a side stand. It’s a bit more convenient to deploy, but much less relevant than a central stand, which allows you to park your electric bike more easily because of a much smaller footprint. Moreover, a central stand is often more robust.
The ultimate e-bike
This is the set of equipment that one could wish for in an ideal e-bike. There are surely other features that we have not included. After all, it is also a question of use and affinities and, finally, a rather subjective question.
So, of course, most of these elements are quite technological, but it’s a safe bet that their implementation would not just satisfy the geeks. Another approach would be to offer them as an option, as their cost would greatly increase the overall cost of an e-bike. In this case, some of those features will not be well-integrated.
So is the ideal e-bike a dream or a near reality? We shall see…
Read also: Complete Global List of Electric Bike Brands (550+), Models & Countries – in this article.