I was recently scanning cyclurba.fr, an electric bicycle forum from France (thanks, Google translate!). I came across a name that I hadn’t seen before, Matra electric bicycles (E-bikes there are called vélo à assistance électrique, or VAE). These are likely only available in Europe, but three of their models were interesting enough that I thought our readers would enjoy seeing them.
The first E-bike of interest is a step-through frame with a BionX rear hub. It is the Matra i-flow XP D8. It uses an 8-speed derailleur with a single chainring out front. I showed it to my wife, and she liked the relaxed riders posture, and also the roomy space above the downtube. I’d like the battery to be bigger than the optional largest 48V / 8.8-Ah pack (there is also a smaller 6.3-Ah pack). At least they are using 48V, and the battery is located centrally, and very low.
BionX is known for running exceptionally quietly (perhaps they employ a sine-wave controller?). If Matra had mounted a de-spoked BionX hub as a mid-drive and given it the use of the bikes 8 gears, it would be transformed into an exceptional hill-climber, especially in light of the street-legal power limits in France and most of the EU.
Here is a link to a variety of accessories for this model, which broaden it’s capabilities.
The second E-bike I found interesting is their Matra CX AGT. It’s a simple front hub on a frame with Scwalbe “Big Apple” 20-inch tires. I immediately liked the cast spokes, but after looking closer, the most interesting feature is the TranzX “auto shifting” electronics shifting controller that operates a Nexus 7-speed rear hub.
The front motor is geared, and the battery is a 36V / 11-Ah.
Last is the Matra i-step Runner X480. The “Sport” and the “Off-road” hardtail models use the same frame. The sport models use 700c wheels and have fenders for street use, and the off-road models have no fenders and use 26-inch wheels.
I don’t think a small-diameter direct-drive hub will work well when off-road, so I am using the picture of the street model (listed under “sport”). These BionX hubs run very quietly, and if your commute is over fairly flat terrain, a DD hub will work fine. I would recommend adding a suspension seat-post to any hardtail, they are the single biggest improvement you can add to any bike that does not have rear suspension.
This model might be a fairly common configuration, but I wanted to include it to show that some E-bike manufacturers are trying to move their battery packs to the triangle, which is a big benefit to the feel of the bikes handling. The battery shown here is 48V / 8.8-Ah.