Short review: Bosch assist on Haibike MTB (Summer 2011)
We take a first ride of the new Bosch power-assist system, fitted on a Haibike mountain bike, at the beach near Felixtowe, courtesy of importers Justebikes.
Posted by Peter Eland on Thursday 6 Oct 2011
This review appeared in Electric Bike magazine Issue 3. Click the viewer below to read the review with the original print layout - or scroll down for the full text and images online!
Bosch at the beach
We take a first ride of the new Bosch power-assist system, fitted on a Haibike mountain bike, at the beach near Felixtowe, courtesy of importers Justebikes. Read this short review in full.
We mentioned the Bosch e-bike crank drive system last issue in our Eurobike report, but all the indications were then that it would take a year or so to reach the UK. Not so: it’s here already! Justebikes in Leiston (near Ipswich) in Suffolk, who also import European brands Koga, Sparta and Hercules, already have bikes with the Bosch system in stock – specifically two models from German company Haibike. They kindly let us test-ride the first to arrive, the off-road eQ Xduro FS (£2759). Since our visit they have added another model, the on-road eQ Trekking (£2395).
We were keen to get a proper ride on the Bosch system: the credibility of a household brand name like Bosch entering the electric bike field is a welcome move. But how does their drive system measure up?
Justebikes dropped me and the Haibike just north of Aldeburgh on the Suffolk coast, and I rode the machine over a mixture of road and beach to the Martello tower a few miles south of the town.
The battery is a 288 Wh (36 V, 8Ah) unit, mounted to the downtube above the crank motor – both have chunky, power-tool-style looks. The display console is smart and clear, and quickly removable as an anti-theft measure. As for most crank-drive machines, there’s no throttle, although you can set varying power assist levels. The bike instead senses your pedalling effort and adds to it.
With the Bosch drive unit mounted within the main frame triangle there’s plenty of ground clearance.
The Haibike it’s fitted to is a serious mountain bike, with long-travel suspension front and rear. I’m no MTB expert but can say that it all looks like top quality stuff, as it should be for the price…
I set off on sandy, gravely beach – unassisted a real chore to ride through, with the bike bogging down easily and requiring low gears, reminding me why I’m not really fit enough for full-on mountain biking! Switch on the Bosch system, though, and the experience is transformed. The motor drive gets your speed up without excessive effort, so that you can ride through the terrain and really take advantage of that suspension travel. And in contrast to electric cycling on the road, where the 15 mph assist speed limit often seems frustratingly low, off-road it was just fine: at my skill level at least I wouldn’t have wanted to go any faster through the bumps…
A spoke-mounted magnet on the rear wheel lets this sensor feed back your riding speed to the control electronics.
I was too busy steering and balancing, and enjoying the novel feeling of off-roading without the effort, to really gauge the Bosch system’s responsiveness until the beach section ended and a road began. Some experimenting with starting off, low-speed riding etc. proved that the system is well-behaved: it responds pretty much instantly to your pedalling (from the very first moment as you set off) and also cuts out well. At high power levels it does kick in powerfully enough to really make the bike feel alive.
The drive isn’t silent: it has a mechanical-sounding buzz which is low-pitched enough not to be annoying, but it is just loud enough to be audible to passers-by.
Bosch’s smartly-designed display unit, easily removable when you park the bike.
My conclusions? First, that mountain bikes and electric assist are a fantastic combination: it can only be a matter of time before it really catches on. Second, that the Bosch system is a good performer. I felt it was noticeably more lively/powerful than the widely-used Panasonic or Yamaha crank drive systems, but possibly a tad noisier. It certainly looks well made and appealing.
It’ll be interesting to see, though, whether it eventually appears on sub-£2000 bikes. At the moment it seems to be fitted to machines only at the top end of the range, while the other crank drive systems I mentioned are rather more affordable. Justebikes do say there is a £2099 model coming for 2012.
As far as I can judge from the test ride, it has the edge in terms of lively performance, certainly in styling, but at a price. It’s early days yet of course, with the Bosch system in its first year on the market, and it’ll be fascinating to see how it develops. We’ll doubtless have a full review in due course.
Justebikes: Tel 01728 830 817 or see www.justebikes.co.uk
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