Originally posted from Brett Thurber of the New Wheel electric bike shop in San Francisco.
Derby Cycles throws one hell of a party. From morning to night, for two weeks, Derby Cycle Werke, the factory and headquarter’s of Germany’s largest bicycle producer and Europe’s largest electric bike manufacturer is transformed from a workaday plant in a tiny town in middle of nowhere Lower Saxony into the second largest bicycle expo in Germany after Eurobike. Thousands of retailers, distributors, and suppliers from around the world make the pilgrimage to Cloppenburg for bottomless beer, spit roasted steer on an open barbecue, and to dance the night away to the music of an ABBA tribute band. They also come to be wowed by the latest and greatest from Derby’s growing roster of bicycle brands including Kalkhoff, Focus, Rixe, Gazelle, Raleigh, Univega, and Cervélo.
Bicycle Beer Garden
Derby did not disappoint this year. The beer flowed, the steer was very tasty – especially with the obligatory side of thoroughly mayonnaised potatoes and veggies – and the ebike offerings from the most sophisticated manufacturer in Europe continued to impress.
Pit Roasted Steer
Focus, Derby’s performance oriented brand, has gone from offering 7 ebike models in 2013, to 15 models ranging from high performance trekking bikes to full suspension mid-drive mountain bikes and speed bikes. A new in-house developed Impulse middle motor built for mountain bikes has allowed Focus to enter the growing electric full suspension segment with three 29er models and three 650B models. Judged just by the test ride track, these Focus electric mountain bikes were the big hit at the show. It was hard to get a hold of one, as eager dealers lined up to take these machines on the off-road course that was adorned with dirt jumps, obstacle courses, and bridges.
The Kalkhoff line-up, already Derby’s unofficial ebike brand just by sheer number of models available, continued to grow and evolve to appeal to a demographic that’s both young and old through a new color palette and new retro models. A new compact and center mounted LCD console together with a glowing thumb controller will come standard across the Impulse equipped bike line-up, with a large display option available on higher price point models. Another welcome addition is a new 36V / 17-Ah battery option for Impulse, bringing with it a riding range of up to 120 miles.
Kalkhoff’s Urban Line-Up
All of this innovation can be attributed to a big investment made over the last few years in bringing ebike drive system development to an in-house team. Derby owns a 50% stake in Daum Electronic Gmbh, the inventor and manufacturer of the Impulse drive. They are also working closely with Alber Gmbh, the manufacturer of Xion, a direct-drive hub motor system with impressive efficiency, range and performance found on at least a quarter of Derby’s ebike offerings.
Inside Derby’s Impulse Middle Motor. Made in Germany.
To develop this technology, it required a new skill set not readily available in the bicycle industry… but common in automobiles. While the automobile industry has never had much success bringing an electric vehicle to market, the bicycle industry’s new bread and butter is E-power. If you can’t beat’em, join’em is the moto, and it appears to be happening at Derby: Pon Holdings, a multi-billion Euro Dutch firm with deep roots in the automobile industry purchased Derby in 2011. The R & D department was beefed up with automotive engineers and Derby’s new head of production and logistics, Detlef Glimm, was an executive at Johnson Controls.
All of these developments made for a bullish outlook amongst those in attendance. Even as the bicycle industry in Europe struggles to grow, hampered by bad weather and the Euro crisis, ebikes are booming as never before. The vision for the future of European cities is one in which cars disappear from the urban core, and everyone recognizes that ebikes are going to make that happen. The race is on to appeal to an ever younger demographic of ebike buyers, with faster, higher performance, more aesthetically minded bicycles. Derby appears to be in an ideal position to take advantage of these trends and help define the future of human scale e-mobility. Mama Mia!, as ABBA would say.
ABBA’s Back in Cloppenburg!
Kalkhoff Ergo i360
This bike may look like your standard European city bike, but there’s more than meets the eye. The Kalkhoff Ergo i360 is an auto-shifting ebike that is controlled…by your heart rate! Yes, this is the perfect workout and recovery ebike. Set a target heart rate and start riding and this bike will adjust power and gear shifting – through an ingenious use of a Nuvinci electronic hub – to keep you within your cardio zone. Be still, my beating heart.
Kalkhoff Endeavor BS10
This bike is fast thanks to the brand new Bosch speed drive. Bosch went back to the drawing board and completely re-designed their motor to be smaller, lighter, and more reliable. Paired with Kalkhoff quality, you get one dreamy two-wheeler.
Focus Aventura i10
Perhaps my favorite bike at the show, the Aventura i10 is quality through and through. Featuring the Impulse drive and an outstanding 612-WH battery, the Aventura is a bike with stunning performance and a great aesthetic.
Focus Thron i10 S
Derby Cycle’s first full suspension bike, and a speed one at that. This bike is wicked fast, but feels nice and stable thanks to quality components and huge Schwalbe Super Moto 650B balloon tires.