We went to Eurobike in Friedrichshafen again this year. As you would expect this is a huge event with an immense amount of attractions to be seen.
One can easily be caught up in all the media propaganda, and crazy stunts, but we were there with a goal. To find out what is happening with the latest bio-mechanical cycling sensors and e-bike solutions to tie in with our research into the stability of cycling behaviour.
Thus we will show you the following categories in this post:
- E-bike innovations.
- Bio-mechanics, bicycle analysis and ergonomics.
- Smartphone integration.
- Other innovations and interesting things.
So lets get down to the nitty gritty.
The e-bike market is still growing if you look at the number of companies and solutions available. The old players are still there, such as Bosch, Bionx and TransX. But now some of the new big players are entering the marker. Most notably AEG presented their system with a new center mounted motor.
The enclosed bottom bracket system can be added to any bicycle. Unfortunately I was not able to get a ride on one of the bikes, but it looks clean and simple. Smart was also aggressively marketing their new heavily designed E-bike. But it was only a nice looking packaged Bionx system. Their promotional video:
As you can see the big names are jumping into this growing market, making it harder for the small companies to compete.
Speaking to most of the manufacturers most of the control systems for the bikes either use a magnetic reed sensor at the crank or a torque sensor, which still leads to some jerky behaviour amongst many of the rides.
The one outstanding, but sadly lacking the marketing capacity of the big players, was the Safeway bicycle system designed by an innovative French company.
The e-bike that uses a patented system of measuring the difference between rotational position of the front cog and rear sprockets and then adjusts the power that the motor delivers to the bicycle. With 96 measurements positions and an obviously well designed control system this bicycle gave an incredible riding experience, unfortunately the design is not eye-catching and it has a great possibility of falling into obscurity.
In stark contrast, the overly designed and award winning Go-Cycle bicycle did wow the industry.
I also managed to take one of these for a ride and it performed well, amongst the best, except that my back got sprayed with mud and water in the rain, because the mud guard was not big enough. This on a £3000 plus style icon.
Bio-mechanics, bicycle analysis and ergonomics.
I have an interest in finding a good pedaling power meter, because we would like to measure this information as part of our bicycle stability test bench. Here is a brief synopsis of what I saw:
The quarq team were at Eurobike again. They now have added an accelerometer to the crank and use it to estimate the left and right leg power. The system is fully ANT+ compliant, and should fit a huge variety of bicycles. The price tag is still high at over €1500. They say that it has +-2% accuracy.
The similar system from the small German manufacturer has the same specs (now also with an accelerometer) but comes in a lot cheaper. Both systems only update the power output once a second so are probably not quick enough for proper bio-mechanical research.
The Shimano guru’s from Japan provided the benchmark system. A test bench with accurate 3D measurements on both the left and right cranks. Of course this is not a consumer product and only used to help in the development of better shoes, pedals and cranks for the Shimano R&D team.
Note the beautiful Panasonic toughbook driving the sensor logic and screen… I had one of those once, superb Japanese quality.
The Polar stall was also showcasing their Polar Kea power measurement system which they say also has +-2% accuracy. Unfortunately Polar uses a propriety closed-source communication protocol, thus one has to buy their display unit as well. One could get the information from the Polar display unit, but the other systems seem more appealing for research because one can get the raw measurement data instead.
The much anticipated Garmin Vector pedal based power measurement system does not even appear to be making it to production. There was nothing shown at the Garmin store about this product. Last year it was the most taunted product, this year its not even there.
The BodyScanningCRM team were providing a system that can measure the dimensions of your body and then through propriety software determine the correct bicycle setup for you using this data. They also have a research wing that can measure the power in each foot using the TEKSCAN foot scanning system. There is no dynamic setup of the bicycling occurring or easy evaluation of bicycle behaviour.
This company provides advanced bio-mechanical services for the rider. Varying from foot pressure output and seat pressure output to bicycle setup and ergonomic evaluation. Their systems are expensive but are a good solution for research projects where you need high frequency measurements and accurate results. Definitely not for the consumer market though, there clients are mostly research institutes, universities and professional cycling teams.
Ergon creates a range of ergonomic products for bicycles. The PC2 pedal looks very interesting and it would be good to see how it performs in our research about elderly cyclists.
I am quite surprised how slow this is happening. The new e-bikes have batteries, power and loads of juicy data that the consumer would like to see. Very few companies are providing systems to access this information from the Smartphone, let alone using the smartphone to control the bicycle.
Garmin seems to be seeing the potential of the smartphone and the bicycle with a Smartphone App.
A good step in the right direction. A small group from www.sitael.com were the only people I saw who were able to access information from the ebike with their Smartphone. The information was accessed via Bluetooth and they were expecting users to start using the system by creating an ‘Eco’ app to make it fun to use the software. This would then allow the engineers to get information about the usage of the system. But its a closed system connected to a limited amount of E-bike controller manufacturers, so I do not expect it to be much of a success.
The Go-Cycle system had a method to access information about the e-bike from an Android smartphone, but this is only used for diagnostics and servicing of the bicycle. The bicycle also logs telemetry data about the bicycle’s use which the technicians can then use to help repair the bicycle or also see abuse of the bicycle. (The power control system for the bicycle can also be tweaked for different laws in different countries. In the EU a e-bike can only go to 25km/h and one has to pedal to get assistance. In the UK the bike can act like a scooter and just give power up to 25km/h. It was even possible to put the Go-Cycle bike in unlimited mode where you can go 45km/h plus for about 10 minutes which is illegal on the streets of Europe and the UK!)
Even the smart e-bike is not smart enough to connect the smart phone up to the control system of the bike. They provide a method to mount the smartphone on the handle bar, but nothing else.
Other innovations and interesting things.
Last year, one of the most interesting things I saw was the Braid industrial process to create Carbon fibre frames. Unfortunately I did not see this here again. This year I think the most outstanding thing I saw was the Pinion gearbox system that sits in the bottom bracket of the bicycle. From my experience of riding rear wheel driven, bottom bracket driven and front wheel driven E-bikes, I find the bottom bracket mounted systems to have the best handling due to the good position of the center of mass, thus I expect this bicycle to have a great ride.
This exceptional gearbox with a huge gear range reportably gives excellent reliability that should rival the renowned Rohloff system. Lets see what happens with this company, at the moment they are unable to fulfill their orders due to high demand.
The trend that seems to be growing more popular is the belt drive system. Last year it was only found on high end tourers but now the belt drives are found on city bikes to fixies and childrens bikes. They offer an oil free reliable transmission in all conditions. Combined with the Pinion or Rohloff and you can ride around the world with hopefully zero transmission problems.
Its also great to see simple solutions to age old problems. Where do you put your delicate bicycle when its raining through the dark winters? Why not display it on your wall with this simple bicycle mount from cycloc.
I am becoming a Titanium bicycle junkie after purchasing an old Basso race bike in Italy. Moots from the US make some beautiful, simple bicycles with a sand-blasted matte titanium finish. Then of course I am a cycle touring fan and Surley provides another minimalist method to achieve this, with small bags tucked away on different parts of the frame:
Then the chopper, modification buzz is starting to filter through to the bicycle world. This downhill Santa Cruz bike has been modfied with a set of huge Surley wheels, to create a downhilling demon that can also ride on the beach.
Lastly there is one thing I do not understand about modern cycling. I have spent hours, months and years on bicycles in my life, and the seat has never been an issue. Nowadays, seats like this,
have become the rage. And if they are not bare bones like this then they have a minimal amount of padding. On the beautiful Titanium bike I bought, there was one of these saddles, and it was incredibly uncomfortable. I then bought my self a nice plush ladies saddle and now have no issues.
I wondered if this is just me and asked Lloyd Thomas from cyclefit.de about this phenomenon. He says that the professionals do not even use these light saddles. Its just a weird masochist market driven trend. So do not feel obligated to get one of these painful experiences, go out and buy a plush saddle and enjoy the ride much more.