Sunday, April 24, 2016

Electric Assist Trikes in the Recumbent World, Part I

My first experience with electric assist was somewhat of an epiphany. At the Recumbent Cycle-Con in Pomona, California in 2013, HP Velotechnik was showing their new Scorpion FS26 S-Pedelec. This trike has a fully-integrated 500w electric assist system by GoSwiss Drive built into the bike. I was ambivalent - I have two legs that work quite well - why would I need electric assist? Then I took it for a spin!

That trike came back to the shop with me. The switch had been flipped in my head and I realized that e-assist didn't mean you wouldn't get a workout, it just meant you could go farther and faster. I spent the next year putting 1100 miles on that trike in a variety of settings and loved every mile of it!

At Bent Up Cycles, we now offer three different e-assist systems to meet the needs of all different types of customers. Shown is the Scorpion FS26 S-Pedelec, a Catrike 559 with an Ecospeed kit, and an HP Velotechnik Gekko with a Falco system. I would like to spend the next three posts highlighting each of them and then end with a wrap-up comparison of all three.

Before I do, I think it is important for people to understand how e-assist systems work. The biggest question we get is "how many miles can it go?" The best article I have read on this subject makes Watts, Amps, and Voltage really easy to understand. Ultimately, nobody can tell you how far you will go because the human engine and terrain will differ with every rider. But understanding the basic math behind each system can give you valuable data in making your choice.

The HP Velotechnik Scorpion FS26 S-Pedelec is built on the chassis of the Scorpion FS26, the most popular trike made by the company. It incorporates a GoSwiss Drive rear hub motor with a 500W, BMZ 36v Li-Ion 558Wh battery, controller with a color display and easy-to-use controls, a USB port for charging small devices, front and rear lights and regenerative braking. A second battery can be purchased and it easily mounts on the left side of the bike. On their current 2nd generation system, the battery does not need to be moved when changing batteries - you can easily reach under the seat, disconnect the cable from one battery and connect it to the other.

The ride of this trike is sublime - the full suspension soaks up all of the bumps, the seat is exceptionally comfortable and available in five different varieties, and the build-quality and component specifications are exceptional.

I rode this trike everywhere! With five levels of assist, it could provide just a touch of assistance at level one to a full-throttle sports-car feel at level five! The hub has some drag to it, so you will want to always run it at level one to make up for this drag. In level five, I had no problem accelerating and maintaining the top speed of about 28mph. This trike allows you to become traffic, and it needs to be ridden accordingly.

The trike had no problem climbing hills and I frequently rode it to meetings knowing that I would not show up all sweaty. The only downside I found was the linked front brakes and large rear wheel did not handle technical descents on bad roads well. The large wheel skipped around when hitting repeated bumps, and I couldn't modulate the brakes well in turns because they were linked. In fact, I had to take my left hand off the brake lever to ensure that I did not hit the rear brake, causing an accident. Due to German law, the trike is not available with independent front brakes, but we frequently swap out the brakes for Shimano XT (but you lose the brake light).

We have been an HP Velotechnik dealer for 13 years. Anyone who knows me knows that I love their bikes and trikes! So I am delighted that they were the first company to turn me on to the e-assist trike world with another wonderful product!