Roland Dürre
Wednesday December 27th, 2017

The “Mercedes Benz“ among my E-Bikes!

Today I will tell you about my third electric bike – my Utopia London. On top of normal bikes (meaning bikes with no electric drive, which I still like using occasionally), I already told you about the electric bikes I use: the familiy eCargo (our “VW Bus“) and my electric Mountain-Bike (my “Jeep“). Now, I added an electronic long-distance and travelling bike to my collection: the Utopia. I will tell you about it today!

This is how the electronic London looks on the Utopia website.

On the left, you see the London with its special frame. The one I have at home is almost identical. I only got it this autumn – and still it already shows considerably more than 2,000 kilometres.

Among other things, that is because, thanks to the electric drive, I now also go long distances by bike. I mean distances for which I used to take public transportation (of course, if a distance is less than 10 kilometres in Munich, I do not use my electronic bike, but the normal one…).

I enjoy taking the “electronic” bike instead of using public transportation if either my destination is a rather long distance away or/and if the return trip is late at night. A short time ago (mid-December), for instance, I went to Garching to attend an evening event at TUM. Without my e-bike, I would have used the S- and U-Bahn trains from Neubiberg to Garching, because by bike it is more than 30 kilometres one way and that distance used to be a little too far for me.

After my return, my tachometer actually read “relaxed” 65 kilometres. Especially during the late return trip from Garching that started around 8.30 p.m., it was definitely very convenient to roll the approximately 70 metres of altitude and more than 30 kilometres back home to Neubiberg with electronic support.

But back to my Utopia London. The specialty about this bike is that it has a front drive. As far as I know, Utopia is the only German producer that makes electronic bikes with lots of comfort and high loading capacity that have a high-quality front drive.

Front drives suffer a little from a bad reputation, because this technology is often used for the cheap(est) bikes. The disadvantages people usually associate with such bikes are not at all present at my London. On the contrary.

To the left of the picture, you can see the front drive VR1F of my London. After having covered almost 3,000 kilometres, I am now an absolute front drive fanatic. Especially on the wet and slippery autumnal roads, it is simply fantastic how the front drive holds track even on difficult roads.

Whenever my bike travel companions got stuck on difficult roads or even gave up, my front motor bike continued to carry me where I wanted to go. It also does so in the “push mode”, which, basically, if you have front drive, should be named “pull mode”.

The VR1F is a drive with permanently activated synchronization (DirectDrive without gearing mechanism) that is integrated into the front tyre. 90% of the electricity that goes from the battery to the motor is thus brought onto the street via the front tyre for movement. As always, the back tyre is pushed by the physical power of the human. With my bike, this happens through the use of the well-established Rohloff-14-Gear-Hub-Drive. You cannot get much more comfortable than that.

This is how the bike becomes the “vehicle with two-wheel drive” – on top of having an optimal weight balance (the motor is in front, the Rohloff is at the rear). Naturally, this is not possible with the motor in the rear tyre as our eCargo has it. As opposed to the mid-bike motor, you also suffer no loss through the hub or because of having to transfer the power to the rear wheel via the chain.

The bike is absolutely silent. You cannot hear anything of the electronic workings. Currently, there are seven different programs for motor control that perfectly support the person who rides the bike. The Rohloff feels soft as butter when you change gears – and I do it really often in order to maintain the optimal pedalling frequency. This is far easier with an e-bike than with a bike that has no additional push.

I rely on very competent service people at Dully’s BIKESTATION – unfortunately, they do not sell the Utopia brand – and when they tried my bike, they were really impressed by this drive. Consequently, I can really recommend both the drive and the motor (as well as the entire bike) with a very good conscience.

On our driveway shortly before starting.

If you see it from the side, the wonderfully classical cross frame of the London is obvious. It is made in Aalten (Netherlands) by a small manufacturing firm. You can also see the left hand battery. The second, right hand, battery is symmetrical to it. I find two batteries ideal, because they mean I will never have stress. If a trip is longer than I had anticipated or if I have used up more electricity than I was going to and one battery is empty, then I just push one lever at the control panel and can continue with another full battery.

The (electronic) control:
The control panel is connected to an app. The app recognizes the bike and contains all the relevant data. Through the app, you can quickly load or activate a new program at any time. Thus, you can use the cell-phone you applied to your handlebar as a convenient display – which means you will no longer need your tachometer or GPS system.

The range:
What I said earlier in my mountain bike article is also true with this bike: the range depends on many factors. What altitude profile does your route cover? Which program have you activated? What is your pedalling frequency? Do you have headwind or tailwind? How difficult is the terrain? Do you save energy? What is your weight and that of your luggage? And similar factors.

Based on my experience so far, I assume that I will always manage more than 100 kilometres, even if conditions are difficult, with my two batteries. Normally, I am sure day trips of around 150 kilometres will not be a problem.
I also noticed that I now ride far higher average speeds than with my good old Roadster (also from Utopia) without electricity. In the city, my average electronically supported speed was almost 50% faster (regardless of traffic lights). In other words, now I can also cover long distances in 75% of the time they used to take.

This experience really makes me look forward to many nice trips through Germany, Austria, Italy, perhaps even France and other countries, in 2018!

RMD
(Translated by EG)

🙂 Well, I remember my promise to write more about sex and electric bikes. Consequently, I will now relate my experiences with my eWMe 627 from CONWAY.

I already told you about our eCargo. Not only is the car no longer at all an option when we go shopping; for the grandchildren and for leisure activities, too, the cargo has turned into the absolute favourite means of transportation for the entire family. And for me personally, the eCargo triggered the “electric bike preference”.

My E-Enduro with a 160-mm drive, the Conway eWME 627 as the second E-Bike in our family.

Formerly, I often went into the mountains with the Mountain Bike. Uphill, I was never very fast. And, naturally, I did not become faster in the last few years.

Which made it more of a challenge for me to go on bike tours in the mountains as a couple or in small groups. My younger and more athletic travelling companions always had to wait for quite some time sitting on top of the mountain until they finally saw me push my bike up. I was not the only one who found this unnerving.

Then came the summer – and consequently the yearly Peloponnesus mountain bike tour (near Gythio and Mani). So I decided to test an electric mountain bike at our familiar bike salesman (Dully’s BIKESTATION).

To say it in a nutshell: I was absolutely fascinated. Consequently, I bought one and now mountain biking is again something I truly enjoy. In 2017 in Greece, I covered about twice the distance (and altitude) from the years before.

About the bike and its technology:

As you know, my eCargo has a rear motor (GoSwissDrive), a simple ladder network and a hub dynamo at the front tyre. I find that rear motors are only ideal for a Cargo bike, the chain is not too strained and, thanks to the hub dynamo, it can also be used at night, even if the battery is empty or you do not carry it with you.

My mountain bike has a different system. It has a Shimano mid-bike motor at the crank. SHIMANO Steps-System is a system of e-bike components (motor, battery, control, range calculator, …) that was designed exclusively for mountain bikes. The same bikes are also available with Bosch technology. When I tested them, I liked the Shimano system better because of the interval-free support and the better coordination.

As with Bosch, the heart of the Steps-System is the mid-bike motor. It weighs 2.8 kg and is perhaps one of the lightest motors on the market. The mid-bike motor sits in the crank; as opposed to front or rear drivers, it is not a direct drive. Instead, it has a gearing mechanism. You can also easily ride without electricity, the motor will not slow you down. You only have some additional weight because of the motor and the electric gadgets.

That is probably the reason why mid-bike motors will always make a slightly grating noise. The only relatively soundless motors are those from Impulse and Brose, all other motors (by now, many companies along with Bosch, especially from Asia, offer them) are far noisier than direct drives – which you really cannot hear at all. You also always get a slight push when the motor turns itself on for support, which is not what you get with the direct drives that sit in the front or rear tyre.

Regardless, I believe that the mid-bike motor is the best for mountain bikes. The weight of the motor and battery are close to the crank. Whenever you go up or down steep hills, this is definitely an advantage.

Most of the electric mountain bikes have a simple ladder network (one gear-wheel at the front and quite a few at the rear), it is the mechanic Shimano XT for the Conway. It might be a disadvantage that, if you have a mid-bike motor, the entire power (both from the human and from the motor) is transferred to the chain and the gear. But, as I see it, that can be ignored for the mountain bike, because everyone knows you have to change the chain and the pinion at regular intervals.

Range

I am always asked: “How far can you go with one full battery?”. This question is not easy to answer. Naturally, the range depends on such parameters as the incline of the course a biker selected. For long inclines in one row, you need more electricity than if you go up and down the hills alternatively all the time. The frequency of pedalling is also important (If I am correct, the ideal frequency is considerably higher than 60 per minute). And, of course, it also depends on the mode you chose.

STEPS has three modes: ECO, TRAIL and BOOST. If you save electricity by using ECO and if you cut down the motor when you go downhill (due to the mid-bike motor principle, STEP cannot recuperate, so it makes sense to switch the entire drive off whenever you do not pedal – and if you do not pedal, there is, naturally, also ZERO motor-caused resistance), then the range is generally more than 100 kilometres, i.e. in the three-digit area.

If you use the mode TRAIL, I would assume that you can always easily go around 70 kilometres with 700 metres of altitude. However, if I use BOOST and really force the bike up the mountain, then I can easily imagine that the power is low after 20 kilometres. That never happened to me. I assume it would be more like a fun-ride.

For travel bikes, I would not recommend the mid-bike motor. But I will tell you more about this when I describe my Utopia London.

For me, my e-mountain-bike is a constant source of delight. If I go downhill, I no longer have to accept the high speed of former times (I always wanted to make up a little time when I went downhill, because I had always lost so much time going uphill). And above all, the electric day trips now take less time – which means I no longer need to get up so early and I also return home earlier than I used to. If, formerly, the entire Sunday was “wasted”, I now have time left for other interests.

On my trips with Barbara, I now had to wait for her at the top of the mountain. That was also true in Greece. I went with electricity, Barbara without. Circumstances were now reversed.

Barbara’s electric mountain donkey, the Conway 327.

Later, she also bought a Conway 327 – and now we have great fun together. Our day trips to the Bavarian Alps no longer take too much time and we no longer have the burdensome long inclines we used to have. And I truly look forward to the spring and am absolutely sure that, in 2018, we will often spend time in the Alps. And I also truly look forward to the two weeks of biking and swimming in August/September on the Peloponnesus!

My next article will be about my Utopia London with front drive. For me, it is the perfect travel and everyday bike. If I see similarities between the eCargo with and a VW transporter, then the eBike is more like a jeep and my London would be something like the Mercedes S-Class Limousine.

So “my Mercedes” (of Utopia) will feature prominently in my next e-bike article.

RMD
(Translated by EG)

P.S.
I took both pictures from the Conway Website – you will find several links to this site.

Roland Dürre
Sunday November 26th, 2017

My First Electric Bike – A Cargo Bike.

In the spring of this year, electro mobility made its appearance in our household.

With a cargo bike for shopping and for the grandchildren.

Our decision was finally made in favour of a CARGO-bike by i:SY. In Germany, the bike is produced by the well-established Hermann Hartje KG of Hoya/Weser“.

Our cargo bike is the type “long john. The alternative would have been a “Christiania“. It has two front tyres so that you would even be able to remain sitting when you are waiting at a red traffic light. The name is derived from “christiania bikes“, which is used for all bikes of this type, even if other firms have produced it.

The cargo bikes of the “long john“ type are available from various producers. Mostly, they have different dimensions, which means their cargo areas length varies (and consequently also the distance between the tyres). The producer of our model, too, is currently working on a version with increased dimensions. However, for our household with currently only three persons and the grandchildren, the shortest model is more than enough. If I need to carry particularly heavy or voluptuous cargo, I still have my trailer.

Our cargo bike is called “i:SY eCAR:GO“. Our home retailer (Dully’s BIKESTATION) in Ottobrunn recommended it most warmly. We chose it because it is a very flexible, almost sportsman-like cargo bike. Consequently, we mostly also manage getting through critically narrow passages quite easily.

I will not give you the measures and technical data – you can find them in the links. In our model, the cargo is at the front, just as you see it on the picture (the picture is also from the ISY website).

As an alternative for transports, you have a simple cargo plank. For us, this extra (a wooden box with a folding seat and children’s safety belt) was particularly important, because on the (folding) children’s seat, two kids can easily sit side by side.

This was also an important reason for us to choose the cargo bike. After all, as grandparents, we occasionally have to pick the children up from their day-care centres. And for them, it is certainly most enjoyable if they can sit up front, feel the wind blow through their hair and know that “grandpa” or “grandma” is sitting right behind them.

You can also get the bike without electronic support. Even then, the characteristics of the bike are excellent. Basically, it is simply heavier than a normal bike, but in the hill-less city of Munich, that is not really a problem. The non-electric model will be quite sufficient. But if you want to remain up front during a family outing with the other (younger) family members on their fast bikes, then the c-bike version is certainly helpful. For instance if you go east towards the Alps.

The motor of our eCAR:GO is a GoSwissDrive. It is a back drive, which, to me, seems optimal for a cargo bike. As we all know, the drive of an e-bike is something like a religion. Some favour the back drive, many use the mid-bike drive, and I am basically fascinated by all three of them. That is especially true for the front drive of my travelling bike, a London by Utopia.

But I will write about that later – just like I will also write a separate article about the differences in drives. After all, by now I have everything in my stable – the cargo bike with back drive, the Conway-Mountain-Bike with mid-bike drive and the touring bike with a fantastic front drive.

Naturally, I also did a lot of googling on the GoSwissDrive of our cargo bike. They sell it in very noble (and consequently expensive) bikes. If you talk about back drive, you are not really being precise. Basically, an e-bike is always a complete electronic system. The components are: sensors, cables, the control device, the accumulator, the drive motor and the loading device.

Unfortunately, (also due to EU regulations) no two electronic systems are identical. And I cannot load the battery of another system with the loading device of one system. As I see it, this is nonsense, because they could easily have defined standards and solved safety problems in another way. But then, this is another example for the EU regulation mania, where technological competence and the technologic development often play no role at all. It is more about the big manufacturers. Although they, too, will, eventually, have harmed themselves with their interest in proprietorial solutions.

One of the things that make the GoSwissDrive so attractive is the magnet charging plug that links the accumulator to the loading device and to the bike with the motor. We of the IT sector know this from our Apples, where I was also immediately fascinated by the magnetic charging plug. To be sure, this is only a small matter, but it is a very convenient thing.

What I like is the short battery loading time, the easy and well-structured control and display of the drive at the bike and, of course, especially the total noiselessness of the motor with its perfectly adapted support on the different levels. Along with and thanks to the Shimano Acera 9-Gangman gear, you never feel any unpleasantness of the drive, you have a great pedalling frequency – and all of a sudden you are much faster, especially uphill. Of course, you also get push support.

One of the advantages of the GoSwissDrive is that it recuperates. That means the drive can retrieve energy when you go downhill, and you can even set this process at different levels. To be sure, this will not bring a lot of energy, but after a long uphill drive, you will probably appreciate it if the accumulator fills up a little bit. After all, you will want a little power for the last hill before you arrive at your final destination.

For me, the important thing is that the recuperation works like a motor brake and you have to brake less. This saves both the brakes and your hands from harm. The front hub dynamo is also a great thing – it makes it possible to ride the bike at night and without accumulator.

Our cargo bike has only one accumulator. It is plugged in at the upper rear end of the transport box. It is very easy – and the same is true for the unplugging. Then the magnet plug is pulled in and that was it. On the opposite side of the rear end, there is also room for a second accumulator. But since we only use the bike in hill-less Munich, this is totally unnecessary. After all, the range – especially if you ride considerately – is easily more than 100 kilometres.

Matters are probably different if you live in a hilly area and use the bike professionally all day long. But if you use two accumulators, you will certainly not have a problem there, either. And if one accumulator is empty, you only move the magnet plug from the one bike to the other and the bike will roll again.

Barbara equipped our cargo bike with a hand-sewn cover she herself professionally designed to fit. So now we can transport everything in the rain and it remains dry. In practice, it has been shown that, especially when we go shopping (and when we transport children), the cargo bike has gained prime position in our household. It is nice to simply pack whatever you bought and then deliver everything directly to your front door. You will never again even think of using a car if you go shopping. That is far too complicated.

Yes, I find it is a pity that we did not have such a vehicle when we were parents. But to make up for it, the grandchildren are ever so happy with it!

RMD
(Translated by EG)

Roland Dürre
Saturday November 11th, 2017

Electricity on the Bike.

Time flies. Only one year ago, I was sceptical about electro-mobility for the bike. At least in Munich. Because here, everything (with the exception of the Isar banks) is rather flat land.

My e-Bike London from Utopia during its first train trip in the 
IC 2304 from Munich to Naumburg with the final destination Magdeburg.

Now, our household has 4 (four) electro bikes. And the electric support given to my bike absolutely fascinates me.

Basically, the bike itself was already a stroke of genius by combining humans and mechanics. But the e-bike combines this exciting combination with a motor. In doing so, it realizes a unique symbiosis between humans and machines. It is such a great thing that it was the last and determining factor that blew away any lingering fascination of mine for driving a car.

What a pitiful way of moving from one place to another is the car if compared with the bike!

For me, the physical activity has always been an important reason why I rode a bike. So there was the fear that said physical activity might suffer a little under the e-bike influence. But that is not so. After a long e-bike tour, I am just as exhausted – if in a different way – as I used to be with the conventional bike. After fifty kilometres on the e-bike, I would actually like to continue. And only after a few minutes of rest, I notice how exhausting it actually was.

Well, it is easy to find out the secret. On the e-bike, my pedalling frequency is much higher. It is easy going and does not harm the joints. On average, I ride about one third more than “without electricity”. In other words: I have the battery support, but I am going much faster. And I often get the impression that, physically, I actually achieve as much as before, if not more. And that the power from the battery mainly gives the higher speed – and yet I do not work less than without the electrical power.

If I go distances of 10 kilometres and less, I only take my conventional bikes. I keep the considerably higher pedal frequency I got used to on the e-bike. And, surprise, surprise, I am now faster than I used to be with my good old bikes. Which I find quite fascinating.

All my electric bikes are true e-bikes, i.e., the electricity only supports me when I pedal myself. It turns off at 25 km/h. Which is totally ok by me. Using my e-bikes in the economy mode, I do an average of 18 kilometres. Which means I need half an hour for 9 kilometres. And in Munich, this means quite a distance. For instance from my home in Neubiberg to the Isartor. Or from the Marienplatz to Riem. Munich becomes a small town. And all the advantages of the bike, for instance parking without a problem, remain the same for the e-bike.

If I am in a hurry, I can also do an average of more than 20 kilometres. It only requires a higher program. That means I ride ten kilometres in half an hour. And with the e-bike, just like with the bike, distances are mostly considerably shorter than with the car.

Consequently, the so-called S-pedelecs are not an issue in my book. I rather like speeds of around 25 km/h and they are absolutely sufficient for my purposes. I feel absolutely well and safe – and I definitely need no more speed.

Among my initial concerns were the range and the handling. Both are not at all something I need to worry about. It is quite remarkable how many kilometres and how much altitude modern batteries can go. And the handling is also quite easy. But I will tell you more and in more detail about this when I introduce the three bike types of our household.

It all started with an e-cargo bike. Then I purchased two “electronic mountain bikes”. And eventually a wonderful touring bike. I will introduce all three of them next week in the IF blog. They all have their individual technology and specialties. And I love them all.

RMD
(Translated by EG)