City slickers: these urban warriors offer electric power and cycling chic

Want an ebike to beat the rush hour, but don’t want anyone to know? T3 tests three leading models

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What's on test

1. VANMOOF ELECTRIFIED S

It looks pretty discreet, but new-to-the-scene Vanmoof promises great things with its ebike, such as integrated smarts and app control.

2. RIESE&MULLER NEW CHARGER GH NUVINCI

R&M’s New Charger ebike is hot off the press and features Bosch Powertubes hidden in the frame.

3. TREK SUPER COMMUTER +8

When you combine Trek’s extensive bicycle heritage with the power of a Bosch CX motor, you’ve got a potentially winning ebike.

Ebike sales continue to explode. Whether you’re thinking about buying one to get a bit fitter, commute to work faster than ever, or just have fun on a weekend without breaking a sweat, they’re a supremely smart option. But, despite widespread adoption, ebikes still suffer from a bit of a stigma - that is, an ebike looks like an ebike. For some people, it’s because they think electric power is cheating and that makes them a bit unfashionable, but we think it’s simply because the majority of ebikes don’t look cool. E With a sizeable battery taking up a large portion of the frame’s triangle, ebikes lack the simple, streamlined style that conventional bicycles have enjoyed for hundreds of years.

Things are on the up, though. In this issue’s State of the Art we’re showcasing three of the latest ebikes from Trek, Reise&Muller and – new-to-the-escene – Vanmoof, and good news: they don’t look like ebikes. Instead of the traditional battery bolted to the frame, like an afterthought that we’ve become accustomed to, these two-wheelers have their electric credentials tucked away inside the frames, or integrated in such a way that it doesn’t visually jar.

These aren’t just rides for the fashion-conscious either, they’re also packing next-gen tech that’ll make your ride better than a normal bicycle ever could. We’re talking integrated smarts, lights that come on when you ride, continuously variable hub gearing, adaptive power modes and more.

So, they look good, they sound good, but what are they like to actually ride in the real world, and which one would we recommend straddling? Read on and find out.

Test 01: Design

Staid, boring, unadventurous – most ebikes tend to come under these descriptions. But that’s certainly not the case here. Right off the bat, the bike that catches the eye is Vanmoof’s Electrified S. It’s a scintillating blend of traditional Dutch bicycle design and high-tech componentry. Nestled inconspicuously within the top tube is the bike’s battery, along with the integrated front and rear lights and touchscreen display. It all looks so neat that you wonder why nobody’s ever come up with it before. There are no lights to pinch when it’s locked up and you can quickly access the computer’s settings without it dominating your handlebar space. Then there’s the locking system - it’s a revelation. Remove the chunky chain from its neat frame-mounted bag, loop it round an object and all you need to do is plug it into the frame to secure it. When you want to unlock it, you can do so from the app, via the touch-screen display or the keyfob. No padlock to carry, no fuss. It’s genuinely game-changing stuff.

The Vanmoof is a blend of Dutch design and high-tech componentry

By comparison, Trek’s Super Commuter doesn’t look half as cool, but it’s still a handsome bike, with a cohesive design. Sure, the external battery is noticeable, but the frame has been designed to make it flow with the lines rather than disturb them. It comes in standard red or bomber black (in the +9 version) Of course, the Trek’s advantage over the Vanmoof is that the battery can be removed to be charged up, making it more convenient for those living in terraces or flats.

If you want a bike that looks like it’ll conquer the world, then look no further than the R&M New Charger. It isn’t the most finessed bike, but it’s beefy frame is built like a tank. A Bosch PowerTube battery hidden in the downtube means other riders will never know what hit them when you leave them in the dust. Again, like the Trek, it’s removable for easy charging. The New Charger also comes in several appealing colour options for you to choose from.

TEST 01: WINNER

VANMOOF ELECTRIFIED S

Like all great design, the Electrified S manages to look good without trying too hard. Its integrated smarts should be the norm on all ebikes.

Test 02: Features

Though the New Charger is the least outwardly special of the bunch, it packs an astonishing array of tech. Mind you, at £4k you’d expect something decent. There’s the newly-introduced Bosch PowerTube, which integrates the battery in the frame. This is matched with a potent Bosch Performance CX motor – basically the most powerful ‘engine’ in Bosch’s range, normally reserved for mountain bikes. You also get an odd gearing set-up, courtesy of a Nuvinci hub gear, which does away with the clicks and clunks of regular gears - just twist backwards or forwards to change. Added to this is a belt drive, for a buttery-smooth, silent ride. Elsewhere, there’s a feature-rich Bosch Intuvia computer. This GH version gets more powerful Magura brakes, and beefier front suspension, for carrying heavier loads. You also get an Abus folding lock, with frame carrier, and an innovative bottle mount on the side of the frame, by the stem. Phew.

A belt drive is added to the New Charger for a buttery-smooth drive

Other than the frame, and some other components, Trek’s Super Commuter shares a lot of similarities with the New Charger. Instead of a hub gear, though, you get a conventional 11-speed gear set-up that’s chain-driven. Its brakes are Shimano’s almost equally powerful front hydraulic stoppers. But for some reason the Trek gets a low-spec Bosch computer which really looks outdated compared to the New Charger’s.

The Electrified S has a more basic frame type, cable discs and the electric motor is located in the front wheel, instead of the crank. There’s a slightly smaller battery too. Drive is dealt with by a chain-driven SRAM Automatix two-speed hub, and you get a boost button for hills. Its party piece is app control through your phone. Once connected, you have access to power settings, lights, chain unlocking and GPS tracking, so you can find it if it ever gets nicked. You can control most of the functions using the touchscreen display, too. That’s a lot of tech for an asking price under £3k.

TEST 02: WINNER

R&M NEW CHARGER

Though the Electrified S has more connected tech built in, the New Charger is packed with more conventional, and arguably more useful, cycling tech.

Test 03: Riding

Trek’s Super Commuter is built for riding pleasure. It’s the most dynamic ride in the group – the turn is perfectly weighted, allowing you to flick it through corners without nervousness. Then there’s the power - it’s got lots. In any mode it flies off the line, and you’ll be smashing through the gears to keep up. Pop it in mountain mode and you get the power when you need it, but not when you’re cruising. The 11-speed gearing makes easy work of any terrain; even the biggest hills are a doddle. It’s not super comfortable – the saddle is a bit hard, and there’s no front suspension – though you can lower the tyre pressures on those chunky Schwalbes to soak things up. At night, the front light is very powerful, with a tight, focused beam.

The Super Commuter’s 11-speed gearing makes easy work of any terrain

At 18kg, Vanmoof’s offering is the lightest here - you can easily pick it up without fear of slipping a disc. On the road, it rides nicely, that upright riding position giving you a fun, commanding position, but dynamically it feels quite basic compared to the others. The ride is a little harsh and the steering slightly twitchy. It’s not bad, by any means, it just doesn’t feel like it’s in the same league. The electric power is decent, and the hub makes for effortless riding, but it really needs an extra gear. Hills aren’t the Vanmoof’s forte, but then it’s a Dutch bike, so it’s to be expected. The lights are visible at night, but they’re not going to light lanes in pitch black.

If you’re looking for supreme comfort, the New Charger has it in spades. This is partly due to the front suspension, but also the ingenious Cane Creek Thudbuster seat post - it’s like a pillow for your buttocks. But the New Charger is a bit of a beast - at 27kg you’re going to struggle to lug it around. It rides smoothly on road, not quite as nicely as the Trek, but with the same motor it’s just as quick. The adaptive hub gears are arguably more usable than the Trek’s, making easy work of any terrain and we love the visual ‘gear’ indicator. For riding at night, the Supernova front light offers plenty of beam.

TEST 03: WINNER

TREK SUPER COMMUTER

Trek’s extensive heritage shines through here. It might not be the lightest or comfiest, but it’s an absolute pleasure to ride in any scenario.

Verdict: the overall winner is...

1. VANMOOF ELECTRIFIED S

Price: £2,798

WE’RE IMPRESSED: Quick (on the flats); lightweight; easy to ride; integrated lights; locking system and display; GPS security; smart app control.

WE’D IMPROVE: It needs an extra gear to make it more usable, especially on those bigger inclines; feels a little budget; could be a bit more comfortable.

THE FINAL WORD: If you want to buy something truly different that offers loads of tech built-in, the Electrified S will make you a very happy cyclist indeed. But it’s best if you live in a city like London, and not the rocky terrain of the Lake District.

2. TREK SUPER COMMUTER +8

Price: £3,800

WE’RE IMPRESSED: Lovely to ride; looks great from all angles; powerful drive; especially good on hills; lights are very powerful.

WE’D IMPROVE: Bosch computer is a bit low rent; not the comfiest ride; pricey.

THE FINAL WORD: A top alternative to the Vanmoof if you favour riding pleasure over smarts.

3. R&M NEW CHARGER GH NUVINCI

Price: £3,959

WE’RE IMPRESSED: Superior comfort; loads of features; easy to ride thanks to a CVT hub; integrated battery; powerful for any ride.

WE’D IMPROVE: It doesn’t look quite as slick as the others; really heavy; the most expensive bike.

THE FINAL WORD: The New Charger would make a great city or touring bike.

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