It’s been a busy summer of sales at the www.CampfireCycling.com and the JOYBAG ® project stalled out of the gates a bit as our team got sidetracked from blogging with fulfilling all of those nagging orders that kept coming in. But like a caterpillar into its cocoon our collective JOYBAG ® mind has been weaving away and preparing for a beautiful unveiling of JOYBAG ® wings.
So to get back on the horse, I decided I would start writing some shorter posts about the electric bikes that we’ve been testing. To kick things off, here are some thoughts on the Kalkhoff Pro Connect Sport 250 E-Bike.
Kalkhoff of Germany:
The German company Kalkhoff, like many European based cycling companies, has put a strong effort into ebike development. Conversely this has not been the case with most US based bicycle companies with only some relatively feeble efforts here and there.
The way American companies have emphasized electric bikes has been like McDonald’s emphasis on “healthy” Happy Meals. Not blaming anyone though.
While in Europe, ebike sales are up to around 20% of all bikes and more than 40% when it comes to dollars. I’m guessing that we’d be lucky if ebike sales were even measurable at the 1% level. But jealous bickering aside, let me get back to what the Germans have done well with their ebike focus.
The Panasonic Crank Drive:
A standout aspect of many top European electric bikes is the use of a crank drive system rather than a hub drive system. In the US, front and rear hub motors have been the dominant motor drive. This has also been the case in China as the crank drives are quite a bit more expensive. But Europe has embraced the crank drive system, and the Panasonic crank drive used on the Kalkhoff Pro Connect has been the market leader.
Of the five bikes that we are reviewing in the JOYBAG ® project, the Kalkhoff is the only one of the bunch utilizing a crank drive motor.
A crank drive system requires a frame designed to position the motor and battery behind the bicycle’s bottom bracket. This integrated positioning of the Panasonic system, makes for an overall longer rear end of the bike. This laid out frame design works together with having all of the weight of the battery and motor centered and low at the bottom bracket, resulting in a very stable ride.
I really like how almost all of the bikes that I’ve seen with the Panasonic drive look. While the casual observer might not even notice the battery and motor, an acute observer often states how integrated and unobtrusive the system appears to be.
Electric Bike Drive Harmony:
The Panasonic crank drive is a pedal assist, meaning the motor is triggered to assist while pedaling. Driving the chain rather than the hub is very effective because the motor can spin at its most efficient speed through its range of gears just like the cyclist.
The beauty of the Panasonic crank drive is the natural transmission of power that it yields. The smooth transmission of power subtly surges you forward as if the source of the power were your own legs. The classic, harmonious connection of man and machine, bicyclist and bicycle, is seemingly synthesized into even greater harmony through the electric motor.
Say what you will about what place electric bikes should hold in cycling culture, the feel of a riding a well executed electric bike like the Kalkhoff is compelling.