Design & Innovation Award 2018 Trends: E-Mountainbike

What will the e-bikes of the future look like? What are the key trends and biggest challenges of the upcoming year? The team of the Design & Innovation Award not only reviews the most exciting new products, but also deals extensively with the trends and developments of the future. Here are the highlights!

Safety is key

E-bikes democratize cycling, allowing access to an ever-larger group of riders. However, as the number of riders increases, so does the potential for danger, so rider safety is paramount. Bosch proves its pioneering spirit with the first production-ready e-bike ABS. But bicycle manufacturers also have to take responsibility. The pursuit of lightweight construction is out of place in the e-bike market. The CENTURION E-Fire Country shows how it’s done: a step-through e-bike that, thanks to mountain bike tires, a suspension fork and a dropper seat post, provides significantly more safety. The GHOST HYBRID LECTOR S6.7 + LC marks the future of e-mountain bike hardtails with its long and slack trail geometry and mixed wheel sizes. Compared to hardtails with classic cross-country geometry, the bike offers a significantly higher level of comfort and an increase in riding stability, which benefits all riders.

With the first production-standard e-bike ABS, Bosch is setting the standards in terms of safety.

The GHOST HYBRID LECTOR S6.7 + LC isn’t only great fun on the trail, it also inspires less experienced riders with confidence. This is how we like E-MTB hardtails!

But there are improvements in the area of ​​product safety also. More and more components are specially developed for e-bikes, designed for increased loads and e-bike specific demands. These include more powerful brakes, reinforced suspension forks, and also special saddles such as the Selle Royal eZone.

Systems integration

Integration is a hot topic in current e-mtb development. Not only the aesthetic aspect of integrating the motor and battery into the frame, but also the associated technical advantages are gaining importance. The integration of the battery, for example, frees up space for a bottle holder or even a second battery in the front triangle (Haibike Modular Rail System). Also, the battery is becoming more and more important as a central energy source for other components. For example, the bike lights, as well as the drivetrain, can draw their electricity from the central power system. Manufacturers are getting creative with the implementation of systems integration. While many rely on special in-tube batteries, others manage to integrate the external battery into the frame (e.g. Pivot Shuttle).

Thanks to integrated batteries, full suspension models increasingly have room for a water bottle in the front triangle.

The end of categorisation as we know it

So far, the categories and norms of e-bikes were based on and transferred from known categories in the non-motorised bicycle industry. However, these, mostly efficiency-based, standards have little meaningful value in the e-bike sector. New concepts such as the CENTURION E-Fire Country underline this development impressively. A step-through bike with a dropper seat post, a suspension fork and mountain bike tires – unthinkable outside of the e-bike world!

Bikes like the CENTURION E-Fire Country were unthinkable a few years ago, now they present a new era in cycling!

E-Bikes for the masses!

The high purchase price of an e-bike is still the biggest hurdle for many potential buyers. Cheap bikes from discounters are not a solution here because they can’t offer the quality or rider safety of current high-end models. Rear hub motors, such as those used in the Orbea Gain electric road bike, will be used on entry-level mountain bikes in 2018/19. Although they can’t quite compete with mid-engines regarding weight distribution or handling, they are cheaper and easier to integrate, which will significantly lower the prices of these bikes.

E-MTB diversification

E-MTB’s will be even more versatile in the coming year! While in the past, an increase in range and engine power was the maxim of development, new players such as the German motor manufacturer FAZUA are breaking new ground. A compact and lightweight engine makes e-bikes much more agile. This development also laid the foundation for the all-new e-road segment, which will become ever more important in 2018.

The FOCUS Raven2 is the first E-MTB featuring the lightweight FAZUA drive.

There is also increased specialisation amongst some manufacturers. While e-mtb’s are very versatile per se, extreme concepts like the NICOLAI ION E-BOXX or the Rocky Mountain Powerplay are aimed at very specific niches. Despite having similar amounts of travel, they appeal to different types of riders with completely different concepts. The customers, therefore, have to rely more heavily on bike reviews and test rides than before.

Despite having similar amounts of travel, these two bikes couldn’t be more different! The handling of the Nicolai and the Rocky Mountain is worlds apart!

New players enter the stage

The boom in the e-bike industry hasn’t escaped the attention of many new brands in the industry. Several companies have announced their debut for the new year, including manufacturers with motorsport experience such as Husqvarna, Fantic or Ducati. Often the companies rely on employees with a lot of experience in the bike industry. Husqvarna is headed by PEXCO, led by Susanne Puello and her husband Felix, both of whom have previously written the success story of Haibike.
In addition to new bike manufacturers, there are also a large number of new motor manufacturers with backgrounds in the automotive industry: Rheinmetall, ZF and Ebikemotion are just a few examples. Who of them manage to prevail in an increasingly competitive market, however, that not only offer customers a powerful motor but reliable service also, remains to be seen.

Neben neuen Bikeherstellern gibt es aber auch eine Vielzahl neuer Motorenhersteller, die ihren Background in der Automobilindustrie haben: Rheinmetall, ZF und Ebikemotion sind nur ein paar Beispiele. Wer sich in dem immer härter umkämpften Markt am Ende durchsetzen kann und dem Kunden neben einem kraftvollen Aggregat auch einen zuverlässigen Service bietet, bleibt jedoch abzuwarten.

Ever more players are entering the e-bike market. One of the most exciting brands new to the e-bike market in 2018: Husqvarna.

More important than the motor: the right software!

Already during the past year, apps have become more and more important for e-bikes. With the arrival of an onboard battery that powers the electrical system, the once-analogue bike has evolved into a complex networked vehicle. Apps already allow you to track your ride, to adjust the levels of pedal assistance, or to help you navigate. In future, expect to see the range of functions expand. The subject of security (e.g. automatic emergency call in case of a crash) and theft protection will begin to play bigger roles. And the community aspect is also gaining importance. Platforms like Strava and Co. are adapting their products more and more to the needs of e-bikers and offer a wider range of functions.

With special apps, e-bikes can now be configured specifically to the rider. In future, digital networking will play an increasingly important role!

Text & Foto: Christoph Bayer

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