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Shimano enters the e-bike market with new 3.1kg groupset

Shimano have launched STEPS (Shimano Total Electric Power System), a dedicated e-bike groupset that they first showed back in 2010. The new groupset is an integated power and transmission solution that is everything you need, bar a frame and wheels, to build an e-bike.

Shimano claims a 3.1kg weight for the drive unit, battery, chainset, cycle computer and chain, which makes it one of the lighter systems on the market. Reducing weight is a key design criteria with e-bikes, which has as much to do with increasing efficiency and range, as it does handling and performance. 

Maximum range is a claimed 120km when in eco mode, with normal mode offering 100km and high mode 80km. The motor tops out at 25km/h. The 11.6Ah Li-Ion battery battery has a 418Wh capacity and takes 4-hours to charge, and is good for 1,000 charge cycles, after that point is reached it still charges to 250Wh says Shimano. The battery can be mounted to the downtube or on a rear carrier.

The handlebar mounted cycling computer provides feedback such as the selected mode, remaining juice in the battery, speed and distance. The modes can be easily selected from the three button controller that sits next to the handlebar grip.

The STEPS groupset will also integrate with a Di2 internal hub gear opening up interesting build options. Shimano reckons such a setup will “maintain shifting performance under high chain tension by reducing motor power while shifting”.

Despite gaining little traction so far in the UK, e-bikes are booming across mainland Europe. The annual Eurobike show in Germany is always packed full e-bikes, where they really are big news. The reason e-bikes are such big news is that it is cycling as transport, for getting from home to work or college. There are several barriers they face though, the high price of most e-bikes is one, though prices are gradually coming down, and the other is packaging of the battery and motor into the bike. Here though manufacturers are producing ever smarter designs that look more like regular bikes and less like something out of a futuristic sci-fi movie. 

With big players like Bosch making a significant impact in the market, it’s clear Shimano doesn’t want to miss out on this growth and it surely hopes its new groupset will be adopted by the main manufacturers. More choice is undoubtedly a good thing and we should see some interesting new bikes this time next year. 

The new groupset is expected to appear on 2015 bikes as it won’t be available until August 2014.

www.shimano.com

David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.

12 comments

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allez neg [496 posts] 3 years ago
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The groupset name - its not just bad, its a tragedy!

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farrell [1946 posts] 3 years ago
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Does it come in 5, 6, 7 and 8 speed options?

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ragtimecyclist [158 posts] 3 years ago
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I expect this will sell well for a few years before disappearing without trace amid rumours of behind the scenes fall outs...

...then they'll rebrand it and try and sell it to us again 'ironically' in ten years time.

(have i overthought this metaphor a bit..?!)

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Ush [885 posts] 3 years ago
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I'm a bit leary of any of the e-bike groupsets which require a radically different frame.

Alternatives like the BionX seem a bit more likely to be useful and have the advantage of leaving behind a frame which is useful to non-assisted cycling afterwards

http://www.greenspeed.us/bionx_motor_bike_kit.htm

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farrell [1946 posts] 3 years ago
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How reliable is this group set going to be? Nobody wants to break down and get left stranded 'in a lost and lonely part of town' do they?

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allez neg [496 posts] 3 years ago
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I'd happily buy an electric bike if its the right colour. My local shop had one in a sort of pale cerulean but I wanted a deeper shade of blue.

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farrell [1946 posts] 3 years ago
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allez neg wrote:

I'd happily buy an electric bike if its the right colour..

Really? If that's all you're basing your purchase on then 'You'll be sorry'.

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dave atkinson [6297 posts] 3 years ago
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Ush wrote:

I'm a bit leary of any of the e-bike groupsets which require a radically different frame.

Alternatives like the BionX seem a bit more likely to be useful and have the advantage of leaving behind a frame which is useful to non-assisted cycling afterwards

http://www.greenspeed.us/bionx_motor_bike_kit.htm

bottom bracket systems are much better. the weight distribution of the bike is better, the systems for detecting pedal movement are easier, the working parts are simpler.

it's not radically different, anyway. it's essentially just a different bottom bracket standard. go to eurobike and you'll see *thousands* of different e-bikes with BB motors.

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thelimopit [144 posts] 3 years ago
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I'd prefer the speed control to be a bit more granular - maybe they should have chosen an H-shaped shifter.

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Ush [885 posts] 3 years ago
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Dave Atkinson wrote:

the weight distribution of the bike is better,

I can imagine that would be the case.

Dave Atkinson wrote:

the systems for detecting pedal movement are easier,

Ditto, I can understand that would simpler to detect.

Dave Atkinson wrote:

the working parts are simpler.

Genuinely interested, in what sense? The BionX seems to have the complication that the rear wheel needs to be rebuilt to include the motor in a massively expanded hub.

I've ridden a BionX equipped bike for a 20 Km jaunt and while the e-bike thing isn't really my cup of tea I could see that it would be massively appealing to someone with less energy. My father was an early adopter of the Giant LaFree "Twist" (now available as Kahlkoff) due to a combination of problems which made regular biking difficult. He's definitely a cyclist that would be off the road and in a car if it were not for e-bike technologies.

Dave Atkinson wrote:

it's not radically different, anyway. it's essentially just a different bottom bracket standard. go to eurobike and you'll see *thousands* of different e-bikes with BB motors.

So, when the battery dies, how much of the "e-bike" part can you just dump away and ride the bike as a regular bike? The advantage of the BionX stuff is that it's just: 1) unbolt battery pack; 2) replace rear wheel

As an aside, I don't know if road.cc editors/writers are familiar with "A to B" magazine? They have some serious background and talent when it comes to reviewing e-bikes
http://www.atob.org.uk/electric-bikes/

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dave atkinson [6297 posts] 3 years ago
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because the sensing and motor equipment are in the same place on a BB system, and because none of the control equipment and wiring needs to cope with rotating as well as working, there's generally less to go wrong. everything's in one place.

i'm not sure, when the battery died, you'd need to use the bike as a standard bike. wouldn't you just get a new battery? obviously you can convert a BionX bike back to a standard bike fairly easily, which in the case of someone wanting to switch from powered to non-powered cycling could be useful. i'm not convinced that happens much though.

ideally if you wanted to switch the bike to manual Shimano would offer a gearbox hub using the same mounting points. i still don't understand why more people aren't doing that; it's better than a hub gear for many of the same reasons that BB power is better than hub power

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rootes [51 posts] 3 years ago
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yes and to get greater take up of frame mounting standard perhaps a non assisted mechanical gearbox being made available as well to suit the same mounting points.

ideal for town bikes but perhaps also MTB, zero dish rear rear, less unsprung weight, weight low and centered, enclosed to stay out of dirt etc plus option to go assist if required.