assist kicks in via a torque sensor and
it’s seamless. The pedal-assist programming is at the same level or better
than many complete high-end e-bikes.
You will soon see why some brands
use BionX as an OEM system. Getting
pedal assist this smooth, intuitive and
usable is not easy. There are four levels
of assist, and the highest level will scare
you the first time. It rockets you to 20
mph (the limit) in a few seconds. Once
you get the hang of it, you’ll actually
love coming to a stop next to a car at a
stoplight. We wanted to mount a GoPro
to the left handlebar to record the reaction of people in cars next to us; from
what we heard, people were really surprised. We passed a few quite surprised
roadies at the beach too.
At over 20 mph, the system provides
no assist, so you really feel it when you
hit that speed. Also, if you turn it off, the
drag of the magnets passing across the
stator fights against you. You almost
always want to have it on level 1. There
are four regenerative levels. These put
a scant amount of energy back in the
battery on descents, but what it’s really
useful for is scrubbing speed on long,
downhill stretches. You can use your
brakes far less, keep a consistent speed
and put a little power back in.
On fast, downhill singletracks, we
made the mistake of having it at level 2
the first time to allow for easier climbing
on several abrupt, short climbs. The
problem with that is it puts too much
power into regular pedaling downhill,
so you’re actually on the brakes more.
Keeping the assist off and just using the
thumb throttle to add assist for climbs
worked well for us.
On a couple of steep, 12-mile loops
in the mountains using heavy assist,
we used around half of the battery
each time. Granted, this was charging
up fire roads in as high a gear as we
could pedal with and climbing sections
we normally don’t want to take. It has
enough torque to spin the tire a little at
times on tall climbs, but nothing to get
out from under you. The battery would
easily handle 20 miles of mountain biking even with heavy assist, and on the
street it’ll go 50-plus miles with moderate assist.
THE BOTTOM LINE
At $2499, it costs as much as some
complete electric bikes, but the amount
of torque is unmatched, and your bike
will still ride just like it did before. To
take the sting off of the price, some
dealers are offering to take care of the
tax and shipping for free. ■
The BionX battery mounts on bottle cage bosses on the downtube.
The plug under the X is for charging, and the lock at the top makes it
easy to remove/replace for charging in the house.
The rear hub is truly huge, but the design is intelligent. The size allows for lots of
torque, making this thing capable of powering up any normal hill. The fact that it’s all
inside the spokes allows the spokes to flex and feel like a normal wheel, and that composite shell is about 2 pounds lighter than metal.
The console is removable and mounts in such a way as to be very easy
to read. You can see the battery level, assist/regen level and distance, as
well as power output and diagnostics.