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Cycle Show, Birmingham Offers Key to Progress of E-bikes in UK

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Cycle Show, Birmingham Offers Key to Progress of E-bikes in UK
Despite Brexit uncertainty UK industry is pushing e-bike message as strongly as ever. – Photo Richard Peace

BIRMINGHAM, UK – The 2019 Cycle Show had a new layout – presumably to take in a larger number of exhibitors – and whilst attending at the trade day it struck Bike Europe that the number of e-bike exhibitors seemed greater than ever.

Hardly surprising as, according to government import figures (which admittedly are far from perfect) e-bikes alone now account for more than 10% of the UK bike market by value, a figure that grows every year.

Lightweight crank or mid-motors were much in evidence, most notably the new Bosch Performance Line CX motor which was appearing on many brands’ new e-MTBs, from the likes of established Euro brands like Focus as well as UK designed brands like Whyte (the latter producing their first e-MTBs due to the appearance of the 2020 Bosch Gen 4 motor).

Many brands will no doubt be making much marketing capital of the new credentials of the motor, most notably the huge weight reduction of 1.3kg allied with the 25% increase in battery capacity of the new Bosch Powertube batteries.

Also notable was the growth in models sporting the removable Fazua mid-drive. For example niche UK brand Kinesis, who have always had an emphasis on good value for money, with an avid off-road and gravel bike following, chose to venture into the e-bike world with a relatively unusual design for the UK market, a Fazua-powered hardtail e-MTB. More premium priced brands were also expanding their Fazua range, for example Pinarello introducing the GBP 6000 (6,750 euro) Fazua-powered Nytro Gravel to the market.

The lightweight Bafang M800 was also to be seen around on the likes of e-folders from MiRider, on gravel bikes on the test track and the motor itself featured prominently on the wall display near the entrance to the Bafang commuter test track.

Lightweight hub motors were also in evidence. UK designed EBCO e-bikes were using a very small and neat looking rear Bafang H600 rear motor to start off their range of Urban e-bikes at GBP 1,395 (1,570 euro).

UK manufacturers Cytronex have made incremental improvements to their retrofit system over the years and the show saw them announce a new even lighter version especially made for a Brompton’s narrow front forks; total weight of the kit 2.3kg! Starting at GBP 995 (1,120 euro) it looks to have great potential.

GoCycle announced the arrival of a premium version of their GX folding model, the GXi at the show, highlighting their unique technology such as stub-axle mounting ‘pitstop’ wheels and their ‘cockpit’ LED lighting display. The GoCycle range also features their own design of a small yet powerful hub motor.

Try out element huge

The increase in the number of test tracks also represented the greater variety of bike genres and technology now available and the fact the industry can see the very strong link between potential customers trying out bikes and buying them.

Most notable was the addition of the Bosch ABS test track in addition to their regular sponsorship of the off-road track. As ever, the Bafang sponsored commuter test track was extremely popular. UK sports-orientated cycling magazine Cycling Plus sponsored the road track whilst UK manufacturer Hope sponsored the Kid’s test track.

More big retailers following e-bike road

Go Outdoors bill themselves as the UK’s biggest outdoor stores and their 60 or so very roomy out of town style stores attest to the fact. As their name suggests, they major in outdoor equipment, but recent years have seen them steadily grow their own bike brand, Calibre (in particular their Calibre Bossnut mtb model garnered excellent reviews for such a modestly priced bike). They used the show to launch their first e-MTB, also very modestly priced at GBP 950 (1,070 euro). It uses Denmark’s Promovec rear hub motor and a frame mounted battery system and shows they are keen to emulate the e-bike success of the UK’s major cycle retailer, Halfords, who also offer a range of very keenly priced own brand and bike athlete endorsed e-bikes.

Future Question Marks

Will such great strides in miniaturisation be enough to sail the e-bike ship through the dark clouds on the horizon – the dark clouds of hard Brexit uncertainty and currency devaluation? And of course the new lighter and more sophisticated e-bike technology comes with a price premium so it will be interesting to see if the market where GBP 2000 (2,250 euro) for an e-bike is now ‘normal’ continues to go upmarket; GBP 4000 – GBP 5000 (4,500 – 5,600 euro) was a common price bracket for many of the e-bikes on show at Birmingham 2019. It will also certainly be interesting to see if and when newer motor system suppliers like BMZ and Sachs follow established ones like Bosch and Shimano over the English Channel.

Of course, only time will tell, but the message from Birmingham is that the industry is pushing the e-bike message as strongly as ever – and some.

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