Spring is in the air, just in time for Berlin's bicycling convention, the VELOBerlin.
The pleasure of attending a bike show cannot be understated -- where else can you lift a Tout Terrain Panamericana Xplore to help decide whether the full suspension is worth the extra weight and just a couple stalls over admire the 24 inch wheels on the Tern folding bike?
Our prize for the innovation most likely to take off goes to the binova flow. Under the motto "RETHINK EDRIVE", Binova has developed an impressive gearbox-free, mid-drive motor that can be retrofitted to nearly any frame.
We took a spin on the binova flow at VELO's Testival track, where a steep ramp to and from the underground access offered a perfect test run. The large Q-factor introduced by setting the binova flow motor inside the right pedal and curving the left crankarm for symmetry worried me, but I quickly got used to the arrangement in practice. The rider can set three assist levels: in the eco- and mid-levels you hardly notice the assist, which achieves the pleasant natural feeling that makes cycling enjoyable in the first place. You might never know the nearly noiseless motor is there, unless you select the high mode which is like clicking "superpower activate." It no longer aligns with my experience of old fashioned pedal-power, but is a heckuva lotta fun in its own right.
The friendly sales team traveled to Berlin from Glasshütte, famous as the birthplace of the German watchmaking industry. Since the price of the binova flow is not easily found on the website, let's get the sticker shock out of the way right now: we heard a price of around 1850 euros (US$ 1975). If you have ever known anyone who owned a watch from Glasshütte, ask them if it is worth the price.
Compared to options like dropping a Copenhagen wheel at the rear of your bike or an Electron wheel or GeoOrbital at the front, this may seem pricey. But the Binova flow eDrive retrofit allows you to keep your own wheels and gearing, which may have real value to owners of higher-end bicycles that have put a lot of thought into optimizing their equipment but still want that extra bit of oomph for the long haul or steep hill. The 180 km (111 miles) range also trumps most retrofit options on the market. The gearless and brushless direct-drive motor will save money due to minimal maintenance and should be sustainable due to use of open source code to control the display, battery, and loading operation.
Bike 43 offers the latest attempt to load lots of cargo - both of your kids in this case - onto a bike while keeping that freewheeling fun feeling that you enjoy on a normal two-wheeler. Click through to see their video of the bike casually navigating the city streets, including a hard left through a narrow gateway.
I think my own bike will soon be fitted with a pair of wooden Velospring handlebar grips. Not because they are made-in-Germany out of sustainable materials, but because of what you cannot see in the photo: these grips hide a patented spring system to absorb the shocks of your daily ride, preserving your wrists for more important tasks like typing, and holding hands with a loved one.
It wouldn't be VELOBerlin if there were not some ingenuously creative artistic takes on recycling bicycle parts as well as an array of bicycle fashion designers. The picture speaks a thousand words in the case of "The Dame," a sculpture I think of as the "god-spirit of what the world will look like if we don't ride bikes more" (elReinventor, daniel carrion rivas). The pedal-lamp shown by stw-design, Stuart N. R. Wolfe, belongs on the desk of every true bike-kitsch collector.
The Berlin-based FAHRER led the troops of firms recycling old truck tarps and billboards into chic cycle luggage, including a clever way to bring a soccer or basketball to the game. RED REBANE caught my eye for a clever saddlebag that converts to a backpack, and I was much impressed to learn that the products are made in Germany. The company's claim to sustainability rests mainly on the durability of the bags, which are made from Cordura nylon and PVC.