At Dandelion, we’re cool with all two-wheeled vehicles, but what we really love are bicycles. The feeling of pushing on the pedals and having the bike respond immediately, the integration of the human and machine — that’s the feeling we’re chasing. So the ebike systems that we’re into are the ones that give that “rides like a bike” feeling. We have tested dozens of ebike systems, and Bosch is our pick for the best ride quality. The electric component of the bike disappears into the background, and the rider is left with the simple and wonderful feeling of riding a bicycle.
There are several ways to tell an ebike that the rider wants power. The most basic is a throttle located on the handlebar that the rider can twist when they want power. Ebikes that are throttle controlled are esentially an electric moped. We’ve ridden many miles on throttle-only ebikes, and they’re OK. Holding the thottle in place gets tiring after a while. And because most ebike throttles act more like a switch that is either in the “full throttle” or “no throttle” position, it can be difficult to control the amount of power. Dialing-in the right amount of power is delegated to a power level selector on the handlebar.
An improvement on the throttle-only system is the addition of a cadence sensor to the bike’s crankset. When the rider turns the pedals, the sensor tells the ebike that it’s go time. This form of pedal assist is commonly found on lower priced ebikes. The drawback of a system like this is that it lacks subtlety. Is the rider spinning the cranks and pressing hard on the pedals to climb a hill, or are they pressing lightly on the pedals and cruising on a flat road? The ebike system has no idea, and it supplies the same amount of power in both cases. The result is a riding experience that feels like you’re slightly drunk. Everything feels a bit stumbly and out of your control. We have found that this type of pedal assist makes experienced cyclists want to cry because it’s such a distortion of the bike riding experience.
Premium ebike systems like Bosch and Shimano use an additional sensor, a magic little device called a torque sensor that can measure how hard the rider is pressing on the pedals. With this additional input, the ebike has enough data to know exactly what the rider is asking of it. If it sees a combination of lots of pressure on the pedals and a lower cadence, it knows that the rider is most likely struggling to make it up a hill, and it adds maximum power. If it sees a combination of light pressure on the pedals and a moderate cadence, it knows the rider is crusing, and it adds just a bit of power. So it feels just like riding a bike. Well, it’s more like riding a bike with magic power. There is still a power level selector on the handlebar, but you can set it and forget it for most of your ride.
Like most modern machines, an ebike is a fusion of hardware and software. There are serveral ebike systems that use a torque sensor, but Bosch’s system rides the best thanks to their software. Cadence and torque sensors are read 1000 times per second, and that data is used to make seemingly instantaneous adjustments to the power level. The result is an amazingly responsive system, which is important whether you’re riding a technical MTB trail or starting from a stop with a loaded cargo bike.
If you’re looking for an ebike and you have not ridden a Bosch ebike, it is something you need to do! We stock Bosch powered bikes by Riese & Müller, Benno, Gazelle, and Moustache.