Monday, June 3, 2013

Stromer ST1 - Something More Than A Bicycle

Stromer ST1 - Something More Than A Bicycle

This spring Papa Wheelies became a Stromer dealer. Stromer is a Swiss brand of electric pedal-assisted bike making headway in America. This type of machine is an idea that has been evolving for the last decade or so and has been getting more and more refined as the technological constraints involved have advanced.

For the past 5 or 6 years we have struggled with how to best tackle this niche. We have sold a few - special orders mostly - and helped a number of individuals tinker with the bike mechanic aspects of bolting a two-stroke gas-powered engine onto a variety of bicycles not designed for the job. We have stocked a battery-powered, pedal-assisted three-speed steel cruiser or two and searched out inexpensive options for a number of customers, but it has never been something that has caught on enough, and the last Torker pedal-assist electric bike we stocked sat around for well over a year before finding a home.

That Torker was fun to ride around town, especially uphill, where you could push a hand-throttle, and as long as you were at least soft-pedaling, it would pull you up the hill. But it was clunky. The mechanism to turn on the electric assist was essentially a cadence magnet, so you needed to pedal a full pedal-stroke before the assist abruptly kicked on. And the front-hub-mounted motor meant that the assist would pull you from the front wheel while your pedaling forces were driving you from the rear, which would be a little disconcerting.

Enter the Stromer. It, and the new Specialized Turbo (which is starting to be available in the US in very limited numbers this year), are a new generation of this genre. The Stromer is very seemless, with a torque measuring device located at the rear hub that not only immediately powers up when you first put pressure on the pedals, it also adjusts power based on rider input. So, if you soft-pedal it adds a gentle push, and when you really push it really moves!

It feels like riding a bike, but with extra power in your legs. The 500-watt brushless motor in the rear hub and the large Lithium-Ion battery integrated into the downtube mean the bike weighs close to 60 pounds, but the weight is so well distributed and the power coming from the motor, well, overpowers the weight.

From a stop at a traffic light or stop sign within 2-3 pedal strokes you are moving along at 20mph, keeping up with cars and trucks and outpacing them at times! The Stromer has four power settings: Power, City, Tour & Eco. For the first few weeks we had Stromers in stock they never left the Power mode, and I took a Stromer ST1 Platinum on the local 8-mile New Castle Island road loop and blew up most of the Segment KOM's on Strava on a quick lunch trip.

It wasn't until I took an extended 15-mile ride on a Stromer with a battery that wasn't fully charged and got worried that I would run out of juice that I started playing around with the other modes. Eco mode is really how a Stromer is meant to be ridden. It gives you the least amount of power assist. It doesn't accelerate off the line and doesn't really feel any different than just riding a bike, until you realize that with a moderate effort you are ticking along at 20+ mph! For extended commuting or extending your typical range on a bike, you can get 50-65 miles on a charge. Regenerative breaking, like in a Toyota Prius, refunds up to 10% of battery power.

Even so, we'll probably keep the demo Stromers in Power Mode for zipping around town, feeling like a kid again, and outpacing cars without breaking a sweat!

Stromer ST1 Elite $3499.99
Stromer Platinum Carbon Fork $3999.99
Stromer Rental/Demo $100/day (applicable to purchase)