Our favourite two-wheeler is getting a makeover as assisted cycling tech continues to break new ground.
You can’t beat a bike for a low-emission (and fun) way to tackle that short distance commute. But for the less-than-fit among us, puffing our way up hilly terrain can be quite the deal-breaker.
Thankfully pedal-assist bikes – or e-bikes as they are now more commonly known – are coming to our rescue.
This reinvention of cycling is bringing new advancements to bring down costs of pedal-assisted technology, and even expanding pedal-assisted cycling into the water for the first time (yep, read on).
The classic e-bike uses battery-assisted pedal technology, so you still get the fitness benefits of pedalling, minus all that additional effort on steeper inclines.
In a recent report, research company Deloitte predicted Between 2020 and 2023, more than 130 million e-bikes (using all battery technologies) are expected to be sold, and in 2023, e-bike sales are expected to top 40 million units worldwide.
It says this growth in urban bicycle use could drive profound societal changes, reduce traffic and pollution and improve public health.
“The need for more effective transportation is particularly acute in cities… bikes can pick up some of the slack for shorter journeys.”
Dan Bryan, founder of danbikes.com.au says he’s seen the popularity of e-bikes grow sharply. “As the name suggests, it assists the cyclist while still allowing them to get a varying degree of exercise depending on their fitness level,” he says.
“Most of my e-bike customers say that returning to cycling is much less daunting, especially after many years of sedentary life, using pedal-assist tech, and that they’re able to slowly reduce the amount of electrical assistance needed over time.”
Growth in urban bicycle use can drive profound societal changes... and improvements in public health
While e-bikes are not a new concept, improvements in lithium-ion battery technology have finally made them viable as a mass-market product.
Because e-bike batteries do need recharging, they are not completely carbon neutral, but they still use far less energy than other forms for those keen to downsize their carbon footprint.
However the cost of e-bikes can still be prohibitive for many, which has prompted Bryan to roll out a motor and battery conversion kit for everyday road or mountain bikes, which he says is a popular alternative for his Australian customers.
Ride the waves
But if water cycling sounds more your thing, then the Hydrofoil XE-1 e-bike (pictured above) developed by New Zealand-based Manta5 is all about exploring ocean coastlines, lakes and other waterways.
According to Manta5, the XE-1 pedelec water bike applies hydrofoil technology developed for America’s Cup racing boats, with a carbon-fibre frame and front tiller that helps to ride through choppy water, and an ability to reach a top speed of just over 19km/h (12mph).
The company is now scaling up production beyond New Zealand to US, UK and Europe, with other locations to follow.
To fill the need for a carbon-neutral alternative to the pedelec bike comes SuperWheel, the brainchild of Simon Chan, an inventor based in Ireland.
His wheel aims to provide assisted cycling technology without battery power or speed control and is best suited to bikes with no shock absorbers.
Designed to retrofit to a wide range of cycles, developers say it can deliver more than 30% improvement in efficiency by using a weight (mass) to energy conversion technology from the cyclist’s bodyweight that transforms into turning power as the wheel rotates.
It comprises two mechanisms – an external spring and an internal drive, both powered by the reactive force of weight.
Chan says that recent modifications have “improved the system efficiency substantially” with the 2021 model due for release in Japan, Hong Kong, Canada, France and Ireland in the next few weeks.
Source: Super Wheel
A pedal-assist electric (pedelec) bike generally still requires pedal power but has a motor and battery to assist with this, to be deployed when wanted such as when cycling up hills or in windy conditions, to reduce the strain on the cyclist.
The level of assistance can be selected via a console, offering cyclists the correct degree of assistance when required, so they can more gradually build up their fitness. The pedelec power will cut out once a certain top speed is reached.