Posted on: 10th March
Gone are the days of jumping on your bike without some sort of digital device hanging off your bike. For me, I tried to remember the last time. I think even before my Nokia 3310, we would call our mate's family home, landline to landline, ask to speak to our buddy and then tee up a ride/track build for a certain time. We would spend hours at our local, building trails, riding and just being kids. If we weren't home by dark, our parents would come searching for us. The next day, we would head to the photo shop and drop off our disposable camera to get developed. I couldn't wait to get off the school bus and pick up the photos. It was pure riding and sharing it with your closest friends. No strings attached. No Gram, no Facey, no Strava.
Nowadays, you need a checklist and half an hour prep to make sure all of your devices are charged, connected, paired, sync'd etc. Besides all the tech, I still enjoy how simple an E-Bike ride can be. Charge the bike and go out for a hard hour of power.
Usually, if I'm going for a 2-3 hour mission, that's when I will prepare my devices. Everyone is different and I guess that's always been the beauty of mountain biking. You can be different and set your own style of riding. You can head out with a full battery and nothing else or you can choose to connect to multiple devices and totally geek out on the data afterwards. It's all cool.
For me the technology that I am most excited about are tyre pressure sensors, motor temperature and battery temperature sensors as well as wireless shifting and dropper posts. As for E-Bikes, I thought this was a good opportunity to break down how E-Bikes work in simple terms, in a way that I hope is relatable to everyone, even if you have never ridden an E-Bike before.
All E-Bikes run different control systems. What I’m writing is not the bible, but I hope it can give you a way to relate E-bikes to your own body.
*For this purpose we talk about the TCU as the (Turbo Control Unit)-Featured on the 2019 Specialized Turbo Levo. For car lovers, this is like your ECU (Engine Control Unit) or for human body lovers, the TCU is like your brain. TCU’s, ECU’s, and the human brain all share one thing in common… They calculate inputs and turn them into outputs.
An Input can be the signal from a wheel speed or cadence sensor.
An output can be the signal to the motor power to produce power.
⁃ TCU’s are the brain of the E-bike
The TCU constantly calculates INPUTS like wheel speed, cadence, your selected power mode, battery level etc and convert these into OUTPUTS like torque, and motor power.
Below I have compared the 3 main E-bike components to your human body:
The BATTERY is like the food you feed yourself to give you energy.
⁃ No battery charge, no E-bike ride.
The MOTOR/DRIVE UNIT are like the muscles in your body
⁃ Outputs are sent from the TCU to the motor to produce motor power.
The WIRING on the bike is like the nerves in your body.
⁃ The wiring harness is used to transmit inputs and outputs across the E-bike.
System monitoring is something that is easily accessible these days. Smart phones are a very powerful way to monitor data and much more. For traditional bikes, when it comes to mapping, and data monitoring, like power, cadence, speed, heart rate etc, there are loads of devices to choose from, with varying channels of communication. ANT+, WIFI, Bluetooth, GPS. I’m not an expert on all the devices, YouTube is your friend for this, however, now that we have E-bikes, it adds another level of connectivity. There are iPhone apps that connect directly to the bike, with extra features like, motor efficiency, battery and motor temperatures, human power output vs motor output, the list goes on.
Below are just some of the apps currently available.
- Giant/Yamaha have ‘Ridecontrol’
- Specialized/Brose have ‘Mission Control’ and other after market apps.
- Shimano Steps have ‘E-tube project’
- Rocky Mountain have ‘Ebikemotion’
- Haibike have ‘eConnect’
- Bosch have a new app to be released in Australia soon
With these apps, we have to talk about the elephant in the room. It is important to remember that if an app gives you the ability to change wheel size and the top speed limit. For the sake of a number of things like warranty and battery life, but most importantly for the sake of future trails and greater access for everyone, not just E-bikers, just don’t change the top speed limit. 25kmph is the legal limit.
We are talking E-Mountain bikes here not electric motorbikes. E-Mountain bikes are made to climb at a high tempo, they are not made to idle along a flat trail at 40kmph.
“If you want more of a rush, ride up a steeper more technical climb in power mode with linking switch backs and uphill doubles, otherwise you may be more suited to an electric motorbike on an enduro moto track.”
On top of the apps, some bikes have head unit displays which are fitted at factory, like the Giant Evo display. This screen came stock on 2018 Giant Hybrid models and can now be customised using the new RideControl app, but this app is still in early stages of development.
As the 2019 Giant E-bikes came without a display, you can connect the app to the bike and monitor data like battery percentage, heart rate, simple mapping, and more.
Specialized have an aftermarket display unit out called TCD (Turbo Control Display) this unit communicates with 2018 and 2019 Specialized Turbo Levos and Kenevos. It is a small stealth display that connects to your heart rate monitor and other data fields. It also displays battery level, and your current power mode. Super cool. You no longer have to look down the left side to check your battery level.
Shimano steps have a basic display that is tucked under the bar to prevent it being broken off on a crash. It displays the very basics.
Rocky Mountain have no display, just an app, but the E-Bike does have a remote that vibrates and flashes when you change between power modes.
Just like your phone, updates are coming out regularly, so keep your app updated as well as your E-Bike software.
Nutty professor signing out!
Words by Will Rischbieth, photos by Kane Naaraat. Originally published in Revolution MTB magazine.