Written by Ron/Spinningmagnets, May 2013
BH is a European bike company that was founded in 1909, and this last year we have been stumbling across various E-bikes that they have started to carry as part of their “Easy Motion” (or E-Motion) line.
The “Neo” group of BH E-Motion models have purpose-built E-bike frames with the base battery built into the down tube. This is a very professional looking and slick design. Oddly, the many non-hub models (that we will describe here) do not currently have a Neo-frame as an option.
BH is not yet well-known in North America, but based on what I am seeing…they are here to stay, and are very serious about becoming a major player in the global E-bike market. We have not been very impressed by 250W hub motors. They certainly have their place as a mild-assist system that can be very stealthy, light, and easy-to-install…if you are looking for that. But…once you have ridden a 750W-1,500W E-bike, it’s hard to not embrace that as your new minimum acceptable power level…it’s just so much fun.
However, even though hub-motor E-bikes of all sizes have gotten better, frequent readers of electricbike.com know that we have been very impressed by how much of an improvement there is in an E-bikes hill-climbing ability when you give the motor some gears. If you have significant hills, you definitely want to give your motor some gears, since down-shifting allows the motor to stay in its higher RPMs…while hub-motor kits essentially have a “one speed” motor.
So far BH E-motion has only been offering their mid drives by one distributor in the United States (Pete’s Bikes). We hope that Petes steps up its game, and we also see these mid-drive bikes offered by more dealers in the USA.
I would suggest that 3 gears is the minimum to get the full effect of this benefit, and for higher powered systems, a common external 7-speed sprocket-cluster with a derailleur is my maximum recommended gear-count to reduce any un-necessary frequent shifting. Since the models I’m about to describe are mild-assist E-bikes, the 7-to-10 speed systems (and IGH options) that they offer are very appropriate.
Features to choose from:
All frames listed are aluminum hydroformed (except for the single carbon-fiber frame).
All systems can be had as a diamond-frame or a step-through (except for the only carbon-fiber frame, which is a diamond…and the small 20-inch folder, which is a step-through).
You can choose a Nexus-8 Internally-Geared-Hub (IGH), or external derailleur systems with 7, 8, 9, or 10-speeds on the rear wheel. All models have a single chainring on the bottom-bracket, and we actually approve of that…based on our experience.
Each frame selection can be had with an IBS-Bosch drive, 36V/11-Ah battery, using Samsung cells (a couple of models have a smaller down-tube battery)…or…an IBS-Panasonic drive, seat-post battery (36V/either 8-Ah or 12-Ah using Panasonic cells)
The 650 designated models have a slightly shorter frame for smaller riders.
700c or 26-inch tires
The Panasonic drive systems have the option of an 8-Ah battery or a larger 12-Ah. Personally, I would consider the 12-Ah to be the minimum battery size for the health of the battery, even with the stock controller limiting the peak amps that can be drawn by the motor.
Here are the current BH E-Motion NON-HUB models:
Panasonic-drive Diamond frames (seat-post battery, 36V/8 or 12-Ah):
Panasonic-drive step-through frames (seat-post battery, 36V/8 or 12-Ah):
7-sp derailleur, front suspension, V-brakes, 26-inch tires. 26V/8-Ah battery. This is their “affordable” model, which is only good for a fairly flat commute (due to the lower system voltage). This frame does not allow for the larger upgraded factory drop-in 12-Ah battery.
Xenion City, and Xenion Epoque, Bosch-drive (rear rack battery, 36V/11-Ah)
We like the welded cargo-rack, but placing the battery back there shifts some weight from the bike’s center (like the other models) to the rear of the bike, which negatively affects the bikes handling and balance. These two step-through models both have a front suspension fork, along with fenders and lights, and 700c tires. Both of them have V-brakes front and rear. The stylish “Epoque” model shown has a Brookes saddle and matching leather hand-grips
Xenion 650, and the 700, Bosch-drive (down-tube battery, 36V/8.4-Ah)
The main differences between these two diamond-frame / suspension-fork / dual disc-brake selections are whether you want a 9-sp with 26-inch wheels, or a 10-sp with 700c wheels.
Carbon-Fiber road bike, Panasonic-drive (seat-post battery, 36V/8 or 12-Ah)
The weight of 15.9-kg (35.1-lbs) says it all.
“Volt” Folding 20-inch
Sometimes a buyer needs a small folding bike, regardless of all the compromises that it may impose on their selections. This handy aluminum-framed model weighs only 21.4-kg/47.2-lbs. As soon as I saw that it was only a 26V system, I was immediately skeptical, but…after some thought, I realized that this bike gives the motor some gears (unlike BH’s similar “Smart” model with only a rear geared-hub motor). And since it also does have 20-inch wheels, it should climb better than its modest voltage level might suggest.
I noticed that the BH Smart 20-inch folder with a hub-motor is using a 36V system to make up for the fact that the motor is a “one-speed”. I suspect that if you ask the retailer, you could pay the difference and have the 36V controller and 36V battery mounted to the non-hub model shown here…but test-ride that upgrade before buying it, to ensure that the factory configuration will allow that (and also if the retailer will honor the warrantee after the mod…in writing!)