GARDA BIKE FESTIVAL 2012 – PART 3: PEDELEC 29″ER BIKES- by c_g

And on we go with the finds from the BIKE Festival in Riva.

• Who rides to work with the bike a lot and is struggling with the daily strenuous exercise?
• Who has a „weaker“ partner / friend who is struggling to keep up?
• Who often rides with children in the trailer and notices how the strain on their muscles finishes them off too quickly?
• Who of you is forced to realize that he/she is not as strong a rider as years ago?

Whoever answers even one of the above questions with a YES, may find interesting the following post, because it is about 29″er MTB pedelecs!

Never heard of Pedelecs before? These are the bikes often referred to as E-Bikes, but with the electric motor supporting only during active pedal pressure and intervening only to 25 km/h (beyond that it is all your legs ). Such bikes are getting increasingly popular here in Europe (because they don´t require any license or special insurance), but the fact that there are now even 29″er mountain bikes pedelecs, shows that the 29″ers are not understood as a niche anymore. This was reason enough for us to take a look at these bikes at the show.

Dont worry, we will not bother with wattage, battery capacity, yield, or the intricacies of the various technologies – there are specialists in the field and we sure are NOT. What we wanted to find out was, quite simply, the answers to the following questions:

How do these bikes ride, uphill and downhill on the road and on the trail?

How do the extra weight and construction related often much longer wheelbase affect handling?

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One of the earliest 29″er MTB pedelecs that we know, the ROTWILD R.C1 HT29 Hybrid unfortunately was not for test at the fair (the photo is from Eurobike). The bike is similar to the bikes featured in that it runs by a Bosch central engine that provides up to 250 watts and allows for only one chain ring. As with all, the degree of support is variably selectable via an easily accessible display on the bar. The battery is like most such systems fixed somewhere within the main triangle. The ROTWILD R.C1 HT29 Hybrid is probably one of the 29″ers most aesthetically pleasing pedelecs, but at € 3999.- it may well be one of the more expensive ones, too.

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The first 29″er Pedelc, we’ve had a go on, was the recently introduced HAIBIKE eQ XDURO 29″. The elaborately manufactured frame (triple-butted 6061 aluminum) is designed to act as protective cage for the low-sitting assist motor but creates a optically “unusual” silhouette.

The components are all MTB worthy: The drive train consists of a mix of Shimano´s Deore and XT (in this case because of the Bosch drive in a 1×10 setting) and the MAGURA MT brakes with 203 mm front and 180 rear rotors are well adapted for the higher total weight. The front shock is a Rock Shox Reba RL with 100mm of travel.

On a tour of Mt. Brione (some may know it) the eQ XDURO 29″ showed us what it is about. The assist motor is really potent, and allowed even the weakest rider in the group to pull away from all of us. We noticed positively how sensitive the drive acted so that even in steep loose gravel sections we always had enough control to ride safely and never loose traction. Logically, we had to ride a little careful in technical terrain as ground clearance was a bit compromised, but overall, the bike behaved with quite a good-natured attitude. The total weight of approximately 19.6 kg (43.2 lbs) showed up less negatively than expected, however the central motor, required the bike to have an extremely long rear end (500 mm chain stay length!). Combined with the 69 ° steering angle and high front (135mm head tube) this made for a rather unflattering ride down. Too slow and stable in the rear and almost nervously on the front. At € 2699.- the XDURO ist he least expensive of the bunch.

All experiences from the brief ride put together we think of the HAIBIKE eQ XDURO 29“ more of tame tourer and off road commuter than an actual MTB pedelec, but given a few geometry tweaks there is quite some potential for a real trail worthy steed.

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The second pedelec we tried was the CUBE EPO 29″er (EPO stands for “E-Power”, though the general connotation may lead down different paths). We have already introduced this 29″er briefly during our Eurobike’11 coverage (here).

With this bike the drive is completely integrated into the rear hub, a system that is called DYNAMIC E-Assist. The rechargeable battery is also integrated and acts as a seat post … actually a quite charming approach. The EPO comes with a 3×10 mix by Shimano, a Reba RL 100 fork and costs a fair € 2999.-.

The test bike weighed 20.5 kg (45,2 lbs) with the weight concentrated on the rear. When climbing one feels little of this and with the neutral yet not too relaxed postion, one feels just like with any other MTB. Even on the technical downhill sections the EPO rode pleasantly and with a good-natured handling. The only downside of the extreme imbalanced weight distribution was how the rear side had a tendency to suddenly break free on loose surfaces if you were not extremely careful with the brake fingers. We believe it is possible to lift the rear wheel in a controlled way, but for us (given the short time on the bike, we never managed.

Still we find the claim of a true off-road mountain bike 29″er with the CUBE EPO closely met – which we contribute mostly to the trail worthy geometry. For MTB applications we actually see that the rear engine (and weight associated) compromise the balance and ultimately the handling more than we had wished.

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The last rig for this the short pedelec test was the all new CENTURION Backfire Ultimate e29. Like the HAIBIKE e29, this pedelec also is based on a BOSCH-drive, but in a 110 ° rotated position, so that the assist drive actually is quite a bit exposed and at risk of impact – ground clearance is limited to 260 mm. The function and operation was also very efficient and pleasant, and even more difficult climbs with loose surfaces were a breeze. Very good. As far as the handling goes, we found the CENTURION to be the most coherent and most good-natured of the trio – not least because of the compact geometry and central/low weight. Even small jumps and technical sections were no problem with the CENTURION e29 – the exposed drive never gave us any trouble during the short testing round up Pobale road, but ground clearance was always present in our minds – we would expect that sooner or later in technical terrain, we would have some unwanted ground contact. All components of the bike, the 100 mm Fox fork, to the powerful brakes, or 1×10 drive train seemed very well adapted. At 18.3 kg the Backfire Ultimate e29 also was the lightest bike tried.

Although we do have our concerns because of the location of the BOSCH drive, the CENTURION Backfire e29 felt like the most balanced and trail worthy pedelec 29″ers we tried. Unfortunately the bike was so new that CENTURION was unable to give us any details on availability, pricing or the geometry of the bike so all we have is our driving impression for this assessment – but these were rather promising.

* It was also interesting to see how the 1×10 driven bikes with the BOSCH engine allowed as steep climbs, as the 3×10 on the CUBE, whose transmission in theory should be even better suited for mountain biking. Instead, we even noticed a tendency for a slightly uneven pedal stroke in the lowest gear with the CUBE, that we never observed among other bikes.

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FIRST CONTACT CONCLUSIONS: After the three trips with these three 29″ers pedelecs we understand how, even for experienced bikers there is some fun factor in such bikes. Although two of the bikes could not convince us completely in terms of handling – the HAIBIKE suffered from the unusual geometry, the CUBE from the rear weight distribution – we were positively surprised to see that the high weight and somewhat slower handling have not been as dominant as we expected . CENTURION caused us some mental discomfort by the exposure of the engine, but could otherwise infatuate us most – whether on- or off-road and even in difficult terrain, it ran almost like a normal (really heavy ;) ) 29″er mountain bike.

Ultimately, we see the pedelecs based on 29″er mountain bikes to be quite exciting concepts that as tested grant access for easy to moderate MTB tours to a wide audience. From the perspective of a real „performance“ mountain bike, the CENTURION provided the best compromise of off-road handling and riding pleasure. However, since some of us answered more than just one of the initial questions with YES, we will continue to keep half an eye on 29″er pedelecs and report more on them if necessary.

Tomorrow we will commence with “normal” 29″er MTB matters.

RIDE ON
c_g