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Interbike 2015, ElectricBike.com in Las Vegas again!

September 30, 2015
2,994 Views

The three biggest bicycle conventions each year are the Taipei Cycle Show in Taiwan (held in March), Eurobike in Germany (August), and Interbike in Las Vegas Nevada (September). These are the trade shows where bicycle parts manufacturers show off their new stuff to bike shop owners in the hopes of securing sales contracts. Take a quick scan of the pics from last years interbike, here.

It is a huge convention, but…only about 10% of Interbike has anything to do with electric bikes. Even so, every year there is something new to see, and this year was no exception.

 

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6:00 AM on the first day. While the gamblers and tourists sleep in, the bicycle folks are up early and eating a healthy breakfast to get ready for the day! Las Vegas is truly open  for business 24/7

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The Overall Impression

Some of what I’m about to say is just opinion, so take that for what it’s worth. I’ve been wrong on occasion before, but…here goes.

Electric bikes have grown in North America over the last year, but…the growth has been slow, and it was definitely slower than projections from last year. In my humble opinion, this is due to the fact that gasoline prices have not only been lower this last year (I paid $1.95/gallon when I passed through Oklahoma, $2.05 in New Mexico, and $2.59 in Arizona), and…projections are that they will likely remain near their current state for at least until summer of 2016. Compare that to $8/gallon gasoline in many European countries, where E-bikes are huge.

We can debate the reasons for slow E-bike growth, but pretending that things are booming for E-bikes in North America will just make you sound like a desperate politician. There is some good news, though! Every E-bike I test-rode this year was quieter…whether it was a hubmotor or a mid-drive. Also, there are more choices than ever for consumers, regarding the frames and drive systems.

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Outdoor Demo

The first two days are called the “outdoor demo”, and are held in a rough desert hillside that is located at Bootleg Canyon Park. This park is about thirty minutes’ drive south of the Mandalay Bay convention center, and free shuttle busses are provided all day.

 

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Pic courtesy of Google Earth

 

Although there were some paved pedestrian paths that could be ridden on with street ebikes, the reason for the outdoor demo is to allow riders to take the demo bikes and ride them on a real hillside with lots of rough terrain to see what the off-road bicycles and ebikes can really do. In the pic, the squigglely shape in the bottom right is a BMX track for everyone to use.

 

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This is what the Scott Bicycles booth looked like, if you just got off the first bus on Monday Morning.

 

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And…this is that same Scott booth just a short time later. They were by far the most popular booth during the entire event, but…I didn’t see any electric models there.

 

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Raleigh had models with any one of three different mid drives available. This is the Shimano STEPs system. This is also the first time I had used an Alfine-8 IGH, and this one was equipped with their optional Di2 electric shifter. Shifting up and down through the gears was quite easy and pleasant by pressing an UP/DOWN control on the handlebars with my thumb.

 

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The Spicy Curry longtail cargobike with mid drive is an awesome ebike solution. If you wanted to actually replace one of your cars, this model should definitely be on your short list of options.

 

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The whole event is “dog friendly”, and this passenger got lots of attention whenever his Chauffeur  stopped.

 

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Prodeco Tech adapted one of their existing frames to an affordable model of integrated downtube-mounted battery and mid drive. They seem to have kept  their various models priced just a little below comparable offerings from other companies, so they are serious about competing in this market.

 

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The Spitzing is very expensive, and every part of it just oozes quality. It is very light, and provides an impressive amount of wheel torque from a modest amount of watts, which indicates the drive system is very efficient, so…you’ll get very long rides from a smaller and fairly light battery. One interesting feature is that instead of using a common 13S nominal 48V pack, they are using a 14S nominal 52V pack.

 

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The Izip E3 Vibe has gotten a complete makeover for the 2016 model. I normally don’t like the battery on the rear, but with the motor weight moved to the middle, the weight of the rear battery pack was not a problem. I liked how the cargo rack was welded instead of bolted on. This model is slated to retail for less than $1999, so I think that it will do well.

 

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The Surface 604 Boar has a modest-sized Bafang geared hub motor, which typically wouldn’t shed excess heat well when used on a very long uphill, but…I was very pleasantly surprised at how torquey this system was. It should do just fine on occasional mild hills.

 

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I also had to try out the Xtracycle Edgerunner mid drive. Mid drives and longtail cargobikes go together very well.  The smaller tire on the rear allows cargo to sit lower, making the ebike easier to handle when you’re on the move.

 

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Flaunt is a new company, and the designer of this colorful single-speed model went to extensive efforts to make the mild-assist electric-drive system very stealthy.

 

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An Electra Townie from Lectric Cycles. They use the popular Bafang BBS02 mid drive. I personally like the “feet forward” posture of these frames, and my favorite Townie has a Thudbuster suspension seat-post.

 

You may not ride the same way that I ride, but the Townie from Lectric Cycles (in Arizona) ended up being one of my favorites, since most of my riding is on street commuters. The aluminum frame is the popular Electra Townie. The BBS02 mid drive that they use has custom programming in the firmware that eliminates the power lag in the speed sensors used by the pedal-assist, with a smooth ramp-up in power. This kit can apply  power by only pedaling if you want, and you also have the option to apply power by a left-side thumb throttle. I liked the combination very much.

 

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The vertical flags in the far center is the Outdoor Demo, and this pic was taken through the bus window in the parking lot. Its funny that…at any other outdoor convention where the weather started to sprinkle a little, everyone would immediately go home. But, bicycle folk?…the light rain didn’t seem to slow them down at all!

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Bosch and Yamaha mid-drives

One of the few things that I absolutely had to do at this interbike, was to ride several different frames that had the new Yamaha mid drive system. I had ridden the impressive Bosch mid drive last year, and they were still just as awesome now as when I rode them before. The large Haibike booth had several models of ebikes with both the Bosch and Yamaha drives, so I began riding and swapping Haibikes to evaluate and compare their “feel”. I had read that the Yamaha drive provides about 8% more torque than the Bosch, but…it will actually cost less than the Bosch unit.

 

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The “Sduro “name means this Haibike uses the Yamaha mid drive. This particular model is a street commuter, and I tried this one first  because I wanted the full traction of asphalt on a steep uphill to see what it can do. Here I asked the rep to show how the battery pack swings to the left to remove it. I like it! They have the future option of providing an extended range battery in a triangle shape without changing the factory interface.

 

Both of the Bosch and Yamaha drives performed flawlessly, and I couldn’t tell them apart unless I looked at them. If there will be a significant price benefit to the Yamaha, then I think they will do very well, since North American customers have a high opinion of both of these marques. Both used sophisticated torque-sensors in the crankset, and the power application was smooth and seamless, not jerky at all.

Of course I immediately raised the power assist on the small control panel to the maximum setting on all the ebikes I tested. I rode hardtails and full-suspension frames (the Germans called them “fullys”) with both the Bosch and Yamaha drives. I wish I could say to you that I could tell the difference, but they were both so wonderful, their performance would not be an issue when deciding between the two of them.

 

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This hybrid frame was a delightful street commuter, but I felt it needed a suspension seat-post like the Suntour NCX. The hydro-formed aluminum tubing is light and attractive.

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The Convention

The one big difference this year is that there was an indoor test track (instead of the loop provided in the outdoor parking lot from last year), and I think the biggest reason for this was to make it easier to provide security for the companies that were loaning out their precious prototypes for test-rides.

 

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I was warned several times to slow down (just like this enthusiast), but the thing I most wanted to see was…how hard could the demo ebikes accelerate?

 

It would be rude of me to suggest that Interbike is crawling with industrial spies that want to copy any new and clever product, but lets just say that…many new products are presented fairly suddenly at the three big bicycle conventions, so they can be tested by potential corporate customers “just before” they are already slated for full production.

 

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The elusive Eric is the head honcho at Luna Cycles, and here he is flying under the radar in incognito mode. He was taking the Bafang demo bike to the track for a test ride on their new BBSHD mid drive. He was all smiles on the return trip!…

 

After signing a liability waiver and getting my test-track wrist-band…I was free to ride any demo bike that was unoccupied and in the test track corral.

 

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The Vintage Electric Bikes “Cruz” model. Sorry for the fuzzy pic, but my heart was beating pretty fast when I was trying to hold the camera steady.

 

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Court Rye from Electric Bike Review, and as you can imagine, he was VERY busy this week!

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Bafang, and the new 1000W BBSHD mid drive kit

The star of the show this year is the new big brother to the popular Bafang 750W BBS02 mid drive (which actually can use 48V X 25A = 1200 peak watts when de-restricted). Some customers have been asking for even more power, so…this new drive is factory-rated as being 30% more powerful than the BBS02 (the factory rates it for 1000W continuous, and 1600W peaks).

Also, since the first BBSHD version will be a drop-in to fit the 100mm wide bottom brackets, that is good news for owners of fatbikes and the higher-end off-road mountain bikes that have a 100mm BB.

 

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The 68mm wide bottom bracket (BB) version has long unsupported spindles on the crankset in order to clear the motor. However, if this drive is on its intended 100mm wide BB (shown), it drops right in and works quite well.

 

Lectric Cycles of Arizona had two of these, a company called Bat Bike had one (shown), and there was a green fatbike at the Bafang booth that had one. The BBSHD name means Bottom Bracket [location], Speed [sensor], Heavy Duty. If you have been using a BBS02, and it has been getting very hot on your commute…this drive would run cooler under the same loads.

 

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I didn’t find anyone who liked the style of the stock sprocket, but the reps at the Bafang booth sounded very receptive to developing an attractive aluminum spider that would accept chainrings, right from the factory.

 

In June of 2015, Bafang began shipping its popular BBS02 with upgraded FETs (Field Effect Transistors). These are the ON/OFF switches in the controller that allow the motor phases to work. Paul (from em3ev.com) was a vendor for the BBS02, and his biggest complaints from customers were heat-failures of the controller. Paul was already experienced at upgrading his other controllers to the more efficient IRFB 3077 FET, and their improved efficiency allowed them to use the same power while running much cooler.

 

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The stock drive sprocket has a lot of inset to help with the chainline issues that customers have complained about on the BBS02. Also, the wider drop-outs on the rear of the fatbikes helps to give the chainline a straight shot.

 

Paul initially supplied the Bafang factory with 3077 FETs at his cost, for the BBS02 controllers that were being assembled for his monthly orders. The factory was so impressed by the performance improvement, they now ship all BBS02 controllers with the 3077’s. The new 1,000W BBSHD uses twelve of the 3077 FETs, instead of the 9 FETs that its 750W little brother uses, so I fully expect this new drive to actually be capable of using 1500W without overheating. Even so, we still recommend adding an inexpensive temperature sensor to the drives case. The Bafang controllers with 3077 FETs have an “N” as the third digit in the serial number.

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EM3EV.com Double Wide MAC geared hubmotor

Paul at em3ev.com is one of our favorite vendors. Over the last few years, he has continuously added new products to his catalog of E-bike kits and parts. Paul is a native English-speaker who lives in China to ensure he can keep a close eye on quality control, and this also allows him to be very innovative. He was the first vendor that I can remember who began carrying a triangle-shaped battery pack, and after a few other vendors also started carrying a triangle pack, Paul began carrying two different sizes of triangle pack.

This Interbike, he was introducing two products. A double-wide geared hubmotor, and he has also become a dealer for an off-road frame-kit. There have been several new frame-kits introduced over the last few years. Paul felt that there was room for one more off-road E-bike frame-kit that was made with his quality-control ability (because of his location near the factory), and with a price that he felt was more reasonable compared to what’s been available.

 

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The off-road frame kit and 2WD  power system using “double wide” MAC geared hubmotors.

 

The new “double wide” MAC motor is very innovative. It is based on some of the existing parts used to produce the conventional and popular MAC geared hub-motor. It would have been more expensive and heavier to make a geared hub-motor that is larger in diameter, plus doing that would require shorter spokes that result in a harsher nipple angle. So, if you decide you won’t be redesigning it to be larger in diameter, that leaves making it wider in order to get more power.

 

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This demonstrator has a “quick disconnect” axle.

 

The standard stator on the popular MAC motor is 22mm wide, so…how wide could it be made, with some artful design changes? (while still fitting between the common 130mm wide drop-outs?) The most immediately obvious change is that the standard MAC has some airspace between the left side-plate and the brake disc. For any significant width to be added to the stator, the conventional style disc has to be eliminated. If you then widen the motor case on the left side as far as it would go, that provides enough added stator-width to make the extensive mods worthwhile, but…could there still be a way to have a disc brake as an option?

For the new model of MAC to have a disc brake on the left, it would require a proprietary disc and caliper set, so…that is exactly what Paul designed next.

There is more to this than meets the eye. Paul designed-in a larger side-plate bearing on the left side, and the most obvious benefit is that the motor phase cable can now exit the case inside the drop-outs (instead of through a hollow axle). However, this was also an engineering opportunity that Paul didn’t miss. Rather than use the smallest possible bearing, he chose one large enough that he could insert a thick aluminum bushing between the axle and the inner race of the side-plate bearing.

This accomplishes something very interesting. One of the issues with the popular geared hub motors is that the heat that builds up in the stator has a poor heat-shedding path to the outside. It would only take a small improvement in a geared hubmotors’ heat shedding ability to access a lot more power potential. Oil-cooling and ventilating the sideplates have been tried, but…oil inside the motor often finds a way to leak out, and some builders have expressed concerns about dirt and grit getting inside the motors from the ventilation holes.

Since the axle and motor-stator are stationary, the added aluminum bushing is able to easily connect the hot stator core to a thick aluminum disc brake caliper mount that is on the outside. While he was at it, Paul also added an integral torque arm to increase the aluminum thermal mass even more.

 

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This demo sample has a freehub cassette, and the front motor on the 2WD demo ebike had a beefy through-axle.

 

The prototypes shown have steel gears in order to be able to handle the power, and Paul is still developing methods to make it run as quiet as possible. They still use the common 5:1 ratio, meaning the motor will spin 5 times for every time the wheel turns once. The running prototype had a stock-width stator in it, but once the other development issues are settled, the stator can be widened up to twice as much. Even while still using the stock stator, the improvement in the prototype motors’ heat-shedding ability dramatically improved how many amps the motor can use without overheating.

Many upgraded product developers are happy to introduce one or two innovations, but…while Paul was busy designing this new motor, he also machined the prototypes with a “through axle”, which is much stronger than the common 10mm axle-flats in an open drop-out, while trying to fit a custom torque arm to many different frames.

For the rare ebike builder that wants to use 2WD, I always recommend a geared hub for the front wheel, and this new motor is by far the most powerful geared hub available.

I know I have written a lot more on this than any other Interbike subject, but…this is a truly new development.

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Plus-Size Tires, 2.8-3.2 inches wide

There was a noticeable increase of fatbikes a couple of years ago, with most of them using 4-inch wide tires in 26-inch wheels. Last year, the big news was that you could also get the fat wheels and tires in 24-inch and 20-inch.

This year? there has been a huge increase in tires that are halfway between the common 2.5-inch and the fat 4.0-inch. I have seen them called “Plus Sized“, and also semi-fat, or mid-fat. There are not many versions in a street tire yet, but there was a surprising variety in off-road tires.

Duro 26 X 3

Sunlite 26 X 3.5…(plus the tube)

Kenda 20 X 3.0

(On the other end of the scale, I also saw new tire widths between 4.5 to 5.0-inches wide!)

 

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This tire is on a craptastic “Bike Shaped Object” (BSO) in a Walmart. Last year I had a hard time finding tires in this width range, and now there are so many available from the major brands, the generic models are already showing up in the big box stores.

 

I casually polled Interbike attendees at every chance (over 90% were NOT there for the electric bikes), and every person I had talked to had tried the 4.0-inch fat tires fairly soon after they had been introduced years ago, and appreciated the benefits, but…wanted something a little less fat. I now saw 2.8 to 3.2-inch wide tires in 26, 27.5, and 29-inch wheels.

I can appreciate that there is a constant pressure for bikes and their components to be as light as possible, but I am 6-foot tall, and 200-lbs, and I always felt just a little out of proportion on the average bicycle. The 27.5 and 29’r wheels with 3.0-inch tires just look right to me (in spite of the extra weight). And whether you like street E-bikes or off-road…you will be seeing a lot more of these.

Concerning rim widths, an off-road expert insisted that the rim should be about 30% narrower than the tire width, to allow to tire to deform properly and get the maximum amount of footprint and grip.

 

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2WD and Through-Axles

I was surprised that more companies didn’t have a 2WD ebike at their Interbike booth, even if it wasn’t intended for production, but was just there for publicity. I did see two ebikes with 2WD. Doctor Bass from the endless-sphere chat forum (who was at the NYX booth) had one, and also Paul at the em3ev.com booth.

 

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This version of the double wide MAC has a very strong through-axle, and also an integrated torque-arm and brake caliper mount  that doubles as  a heat-sink for the stator.

 

Paul is now marketing an off-road frame kit, and the demonstrator had two of his new double-wide MAC motors, which are geared hub-motors. This allows the motor to spin about 5 times for every wheel rotation, which helps efficiency and allows a smaller and lighter motor to have the same torque as a larger direct drive motor.

 

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From left to right: Hemdan Dizon, Stephane Melancon (Dr Bass) , and Corbin Keegan (from Corbin Fiber Electric Bikes) at the NYX booth. Dr Bass’ 2WD ebike has dual ventilated MXUS direct drive hubmotors, and they were mounted so that he could spin both of them for anyone who was interested.

 

NYX is getting a lot of buzz this year because they are marketing an off-road frame kit that has a lot of carbon fiber in it, to reduce the frames’ weight. Doctor Bass (Stephane Melancon, from Canada) built his up NYX frame with dual MXUS direct drive motors, which are rated for 3000W each, if used in the stock form. Stephane ventilated the side plates, which allows heat to escape. Doing this raises the continuous and peak power capabilities of each motor. He also increased the gauge of the motor phase wires to handle the extra amp-heat.

 

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This is a MXUS 205/H45 V2 direct drive hubmotor. The factory rating is 3000W, but when ventilated to let excess heat out, the contiuous and also temporary peak amps can easily be doubled. Dr Bass had a custom “through axle” machined, and from this angle you can also see the anti-rotation bolt.

 

Another feature that both of these 2WD examples had was…custom machined axles to test a “through-axle” configuration. This style of axle is much stronger than the common type, and this last year they were being seen a lot more often on high-end pedal-only downhill bicycles.

 

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Here is the custom through-axle from Dr Bass’s MXUS front hub motor. The stock axle is on the right. Stronger? Yeah…I think so.

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Bafang Max

Last year, Bafang introduced prototypes of a mid drive that is similar in size and interface as the famous Bosch mid-drive. I don’t think anyone will attempt to claim that the Bafang Max is as good as the Bosch, but…I have ridden it, and it performs very well.

 

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The Bafang Max mid drive.

 

This drive unit also uses a proprietary interface, where the drive unit bolts up to an oval half-shell that must be welded into a frame from the factory. I think this drive will quietly “shake up” the factory turn-key electric bike markets, because…even though the Bosch is widely recognized as higher-quality product that performs seamlessly, lets face it: the Bafang Max performs well enough for most customers, and it is less expensive.

The client that will likely soon benefit quite a bit is Prodeco Tech, but…there are also others that I saw with the Max drive.

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Prodeco Tech

This company gets my vote for “most improved” product line over this last year. Three years ago, I didn’t know if Prodeco Tech was going to be able to grow or not. I didn’t want to publicly say anything negative about any company that was trying to sell electric bikes, but…if someone had told me they had announced that they were struggling, I would not have been surprised.

To be fair, they did seem to be expanding and doing OK at that time, but I chalked that up to the fact that they do spend money on advertising, at a time when very few ebike companies are doing that. Plus, we live in an age in North America where many new customers have only recently realized that ebikes even exist.

 

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Prodeco Tech has been making some good choices, and I expect to see good things from them.

 

last year, their product line seemed a little over-priced, and their biggest seller was a simple beach cruiser frame with a 500W rear hub-motor, and the battery was located in a rear cargo rack that was bolted-on (instead of welded). This year they displayed several models that had the removable battery located in the downtube, and they even had a mid-drive. And not just any mid drive, they contracted with the Bafang Max system. This suggests to me that they understand how price sensitive their customers have been, and I think this choice will work out well for them.

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Miscellaneous Pics and Thoughts

The pic below is a custom board-tracker with the faux gas tank opened up to show a selection of liquors, and if you look closely…you’ll even see a sampler-sized whiskey bottle on the air-fill stem.

 

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A custom Boardtracker.

 

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The HPC Revolution is well-designed and well-made. A year ago I would have criticised the battery box as being too small for an adequate size of pack, but this year, cell capacities have dramatically improved.

 

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MHL from Taiwan makes leather cargo cases, seats, and handle-bar grips.

 

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The BionX D-series hubmotor is powerful and silent. This year they had a demo model with clear sides to show how  empty the insides are, since it looks heavy, but really isn’t.

 

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The BESV bikes are stunningly beautiful, and have very sophisticated electronics. However, their power systems are designed for the low-power European market, and the rep didn’t know if they would produce a US-legal 750W system in the future.

 

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The Miele eVox is a beautiful ebike from Canada. The mid-mount motor drives a silent toothed belt on the left side. The motor doesn’t have the use of the bikes gears, and uses a fairly low-powered 500W legal system.

 

 

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This company is supplying a downtube interface so bicycle companies can easily add an integrated battery to their existing frame assembly line. This looks a LOT like the downtube battery interface that Prodeco Tech and Surface 604 is now using…don’t you think?

 

 

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The Copenhagen Wheel has generated a lot of  publicity and excitement the last two years. It is an “all in one” system, where even the batteries are mounted inside the large red hub. The red part spins, and the central white part does not. The flip-out cover with a gray “S” is the charge port.

 

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The eProdigy company from Canada has been making a factory integrated mid drive that provided 500W of power, very similar to the Bofeili drive. They are now making a slightly larger version that is designed to attach to any common bottom bracket, and is based on their “Achiever” brand components. I would expect the performance to be very similar to the popular 750W Bafang BBS02.

 

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This is not an electric bike. The Coast Cycles’ Quinn can hold a laptop computer, a briefcase, or…maybe a HUGE battery pack? Notice how the elevated chainstay allows the designer to use a Gates carbon belt, without having a breakable joint in the frame.

 

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Gotta keep the smart-phone charged up. Even the indoor Interbike is dog-friendly!

 

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After the last day of the convention, there was a group-ride through the streets of Las Vegas, and there ended up being hundreds of riders. If you want to come to the group ride next year, bring a headlight and tail-lights, because it goes on far into the night…

 

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On the left is Matteo Spaggiari, CEO of Bikee, and…on the right is Dave Kaufmann from (*squints eyes) what does his shirt say?

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Written by Ron/spinningmagnets, September 2015

Grew up in Los Angeles California, US Navy submarine mechanic from 1977-81/SanDiego. Hydraulic mechanic in the 1980's/Los Angeles. Heavy equipment operator in the 1990's/traveled to various locations. Dump truck driver in the 2000's/SW Utah. Currently a water plant operator since 2010/NW Kansas

  • Great article, it looks like lots of innovation all around in the ebike world. Thanks for making the journey.

  • Todd Dragomir

    thanks Ron that was a good read, looks like you had fun.

  • passerby

    Awesome coverage, looking forward to hearing more about that new MAC motor for sure. Did you happen to see a booth for those nanofoam tires from Tannus? I love the idea of a well performing ‘solid’ tire for an ebike but it is a heck of an investment to find out if it actually lives up to the hype.

  • Bob

    Hey Ron,
    Was bummed that I didn’t get to go this year, but your article more than made up for it. Don’t think I would have seen as much as you “printed”.

  • I wish you guys woould show us how to mount a large mtor on longtail cargo bike driving the wheel directly, not throught the bicycles whimpy human owered chain.