When Bosch announced that it would be bringing its eBike drive system to the US in 2014, the buzz was palpable. After all, the mighty German brand tows around an honorable reputation that’s been building for more than 125 years. So, when it established its eBike Systems Product Division in 2009, success seemed guaranteed. Fast forward to the present and Bosch’s ebike drive units have been so successful in fact, that the U.S. may have to wait a bit longer while backorders in Europe get filled. That got me wondering if it was worth the wait for a Bosch-equipped eBike when so many other e-bikes are ready to ride out the door.
Of its three drive unit product lines, Bosch will introduce its Performance Speed model, its most robust unit, which has been tweaked to comply with US rules and regulations. The unit boasts 350 watts and can reach a maximum speed of 20 mph, depending upon terrain and rider weight. Speed — while attractive — may lose its selling sexiness to power in the future as more consumers view e-bikes as the family “car” for hauling loads and transporting people.
This is where the extra 100 watts that the Performance Speed unit has over its closest competitors could come in handy. However the Bosch-equipped bikes to be sold in the US are designed for sport performance. Skeptics resisting the idea of an electric mountain bike should know that Trek’s Powerfly electric mtb scored a hit with European hikers who were looking for a more efficient way to reach remote, alpine trailheads.
Things to know about Bosch’s Performance Speed ebike drive unit:
• the Bosch system consists of a drive unit, a battery back, a display/HMI with remote control and a charger, plus a assembly kit.
• Haibike, BH Bikes’ Easy Motion, Cycle Union’s Kreidler brand, Felt, and Cannondale will be the first brands to sell bikes with the Bosch drive system in the US
• There are no current plans to sell the Performance Speed unit separately
• Bosch expects the eBikes to be available through retailers in May 2014
If however, you live in e-bikes’ hotbed — Germany, where Bosch already roosts comfortably as the market leader, you’ll have another option once challenger Shimano introduces its STEPS (Shimano Total Electric Power System) groupset for e-bikes in August 2014. This is take two for Shimano, which failed to gain a foothold for its first version of the STEPS drive system back in 2010 because it was deemed too complicated and expensive at the time. This new version will work with Shimano’s external and internal rear hubs, but is initiating the launch by focusing on the Di2 internal hub.
Things to know about Shimano’s STEPS:
• STEPS consists of a battery, front gear set, mid-motor drive unit, cycle computer, and dedicated eBike chain.
• At 3.1 kg. (6.8 lbs.), the drive unit claims to be one of the lightest units on the market.
• The system engages only when a rider is pedaling and cuts out once 25 km./hour (15.5/mph.) is reached.
• STEPS can be used in temperatures ranging from -10C – 50C (14F – 122F)
Germany will serve as a test market for the initial product rollout in August 2014. Bikes developed specifically to accommodate STEPS will be manufactured by BIKE&CO and ZEG and sold through their respective dealers.