Aside from the Red, which from a roadie’s point of view was the most interesting thing on the giant SRAM stand (no disc brakes on display; I repeat, no discs), the company’s big news was its launch of a new e-bike systemm, the E-matic. Stick with me on this, it’s pretty interesting.
It’s taken SRAM a while to get into the e-bike game, and what they’ve come up with is, essentially, a 135mm OLD hub and battery pack combo. The E-matic electric assist system, to give it its full title, will fit on to any normal frame that has rack mounts, and runs any normal single-speed drivetrain (the company recommends a 44/17 gear ratio, but it’s really up to you). Then the SRAM-designed rack and battery pack unit attaches to the bike like any ordinary rack, and the battery connects to a hub via a single wire. And that’s it. No gears or handlebar controls; no unsightly bulbous ‘design’ bits on the frame; nothing.
The hub houses a processor, automatic transmission and motor, and power delivery is controlled by a ’sophisticated algorithm’. Which means, claims the company, that power is delivered intelligently, when you need it, and doesn’t take away from the bike-y feel of the bike. It also tails off the power gently, to prevent you hitting the wall when the maximum assisted speed is reached. In Europe, that’s 25km/h; in the States, that’s 20mph. Who likes hitting the wall at 25km/h? And who knew that Americans were allowed to go faster?
There are three battery pack options, weighing between 1 and 1.5kg, which give a claimed 60-95km maximum range - the largest pack being the top end. And you can run either rim or disc brakes.
So why is this significant? Well, it seems to me that SRAM have thought about the e-bike from a road cyclist’s perspective. If we want electric assistance, we don’t want a whole new bike for it: we want it designed around our existing bikes - or at least something that looks and feels a lot like it. OK, you’re not going to put this on your best road bike, but it can be retro-fitted to any normal frame with rack mounts. So your commuter hack, your dad’s old bike, that nice steel frame in the garage - anything could potentially become an e-bike. The freedom to make something you actually want to ride is very appealing: it’s a lot more attractive a proposition than the numerous other options on show in Taipei, which would, were I to ride them, make me die a little bit inside.
The E-matic is first going to be seen on the OE market. That means SRAM will be supplying it to selected bicycle brands, for them to integrate into their complete bikes. They’re not saying who just yet, but expect to see the first E-matic bikes on the stands at Eurobike.
Sales of the system to the likes of you or I will start happening next year.