UPDATE Fall 2015:
Over the last few years we’ve built hundreds of bikes with electric assist, mostly Fr8’s and Kr8’s, also a few Gr8’s and classic city bikes. We’ve tried different components and developed a reliable, effective system that we now sell worldwide. These bikes are still individually built and tested in our Amsterdam workshop, thus not yet factory options that can be purchased via WorkCycles dealers. We now ship our E-bikes all over the world though. The development is ongoing and we expect to replace the current front hub motor with a mid motor in early 2016.
About the current electric assist system:
The front hub motor is 36V x 225W with 30Nm torque. It is powerful enough to easily ride into Dutch winds and up moderate hills. This system would not be suitable for cranking, for example, a heavily loaded Kr8 up San Francisco hills.
The rear hub gearing with Shimano Nexus 8sp or NuVinci remains unaffected. The brakes are replaced by powerful and reliable Magura hydraulic rim brakes front and rear. The excellent standard B&M LED headlamp and taillights are powered by the motor battery.
Our system is not as sophisticated as the Bosch but it’s effective, smooth, durable and reliable, and (unlike the Bosch) it’s quite “future proof”. Parts can be replaced individually if needed and it won’t be obsoleted and unsupported in a couple years either.
The 13Ah battery is under the bench in the box. Though slightly less convenient than the battery in the rear carrier it makes the “E” part of the bike almost invisible and the battery is kept warm in the winter by young occupants. A passenger can sit on the rear as well.
The 13Ah battery is custom built into a sturdy wooden crate on the front carrier making the entire system almost invisible. The rear carrier retains its full functionality.
Original artikle, as posted in 2011:
Yes, we are asked constantly whether we’ll build a Fr8 or other Workcycles bike with electric assist. The answer is basically yes and no. By no means are we philosophically opposed to the idea of adding a motor to our bikes. We are however very much aware of the many downsides so we generally advise against it unless the need is clear.
For handyman firm Buurtklusser in hilly Nijmegen the need for some help was very obvious. This particular Fr8 will have its Massive Rack frequently loaded up with 100+ kg of cargo and the giant newspaper panniers filled with packages. How would you like to pedal uphill with a total weight of 250kg? In case you’re curious check out their blog at Trapkracht.nl (“Pedal Power”)
Further these bikes will be operated by professionals so we’ve a pretty good chance they’ll be used appropriately and maintained properly. That’s very different from sending special bikes out into the wild with customers who may not have the skills for (or interest in) maintaining them, nor a suitable workshop in the area to turn to when necessary.
Advantages of electric assist:
Economic disadvantages of electric assist:
Subjective disadvantages of electric assist:
A similar bike was built for landscaping firm Gaia Hoveniers, also in Nijmegen. This bike will tow a huge and heavily loaded Surly trailer.
The assist system in these bikes uses a heavy-duty, torque oriented, Crystalite motor in the front wheel fed by a hefty set of 36 volt Lithium Ion batteries. The motor’s operation characteristics can be tuned via a computer which is necessary for such a specialized application. A mini transformer allows the bike’s standard B&M LED lighting system to run from the motor’s battery and the battery and wiring harness have been neatly tucked away. Aside from the giant front hub the system is essentially invisible. Our electric systems are powerful, as robust as can be and no, not at all cheap. Just for reference these systems added about €1800 (including VAT) to the cost of these bikes and each few years a fresh battery pack of at least several hundred euro will be required.
Our usual favorite Shimano rollerbrakes have been replaced on these bikes by the very powerful and reliable Magura HS33 hydraulic rim brakes. Why no disks? A rim is essentially a very, very big disk.
The gearing is via a NuVinci infinitely variable hub which are proving to be very tough and pleasant to ride. It’s great in combination with the electric assist. I’ve had one in my own Fr8 for about half a year and really like it. In fact gear hubs just feel kind of weird to me now.
All of Workcycles electric assist systems are custom installations. Because regular, specialized maintenance is necessary as well as the not infrequent tuning or warranty issue we only offer these systems to customers within the Netherlands.