Troy Rank's new e-bike was worth the wait.
Five years ago I was very impressed riding around Buffalo on a Maxwell EP-O e-bike designed and built by engineer Troy Rank. It was actually the first time I had ever ridden an e-bike and I wanted to buy it, but it never got to market. Eventually I did buy a Gazelle dutch style e-bike which I love, but it is heavy and conspicuous, and I am nervous every time I leave it locked outside.
Now Troy Rank is back with the Maxwell Stoic, which takes a completely different approach. This bike is light for an e-bike (38 pounds) and inconspicuous, looking like a normal bike; the 378Wh battery pack is hidden, integrated into the frame. You would have to recognize the 300 watt motor in the rear hub or the little display to know it's an e-bike at all.
The whole bike is designed to minimize cost and maintenance while preserving the great handling characteristics and comfort of a classic city bike. The Stoic’s minimalistic design doesn’t attract unwanted attention from thieves when locked up on the street, and is easy to lift onto a bicycle rack or up a flight of stairs.
It is a bit less minimalist than the original EP-O bike, having front and rear lights built in, a pannier rack, and "all the stuff you need to practically live with the bike everyday." It's a pedelec, class 1 bike with five boost settings and tops out at about 20 MPH on electric drive to stay as a legal Class 1 e-bike, but is probably light enough that you can ride it faster.
I was intrigued by the name and asked why he called it the Stoic. Troy Rank responded with some wonderful points and a discussion of Stoicism, which he got interested in through reading Mr. Money Mustache, who has been an influence on TreeHugger too. It's a good read.
In one of the posts he mentioned the parallels between his ethos and classic Stoic philosophy. I realized that this was exactly what I wanted the ethos of our products to embody. Specifically, what I want to do is introduce products that serve foundational human needs rather than entice buyers with novelty that quickly fades. In an era of ever increasing resource consumption, everything that is introduced to the world should serve a true need, have a long useful life and have a short and identifiable return on investment.
You might argue that a plain old 40 year old bicycle or simply walking might actually better serve true Stoics, and I completely agree. However, in a world dominated by massive incomprehensibly powerful machines, the Maxwell Stoic levels the playing field a little bit and offers luxury over a traditional bicycle. Let’s be honest, in North America, the bicycle is always competing with the ubiquitous automobile. A moderate assist is a great way to reduce friction and get folks out and riding way more that they would otherwise, and have fun doing it! There is an upper limit to the amount of work most people are capable of in order to get around town, and e-bikes in general help raise that ceiling.
The Maxwell Stoic was inspired by the Stoic virtue of Temperance / Moderation. A great deal of e-bikes today are unbalanced in some way. Powerpacks can quickly overwhelm the overweight chassis and ultimately cease to be a good bicycle in the traditional sense. The Maxwell Stoic aims to be a bike which is familiar and fun to interact with but more importantly serves the user. Riding therefore becomes a healthy activity that leaves you feeling great while saving huge amounts of money.
A Stoic is sometimes defined as "a person who can endure pain or hardship without showing their feelings or complaining," but that's not accurate, and perhaps it isn't a good way to market an e-bike, which as Rank has said, is a bit of a luxury without being overpowered, heavy, or expensive. There is no hardship here.
Rank also explains that the hub drive motor is a lot less complicated than my Bosch mid-drive, doesn't contribute to stretching the chain, and is less complex. "Of course simple things like lights and fenders are standard because these items, in my opinion, are the necessities for even the most Stoic of riders."
Different people have different needs, but a light e-bike that feels like a regular bike, goes 50 miles on a charge and has an Introductory Indiegogo price of US$ 1199 should be attractive to anyone, and you don't even have to be stoic about it.