Though some cyclists don't necessarily need or like electric-assisted bikes, the bicycle world has grown quite accustomed to the idea of pedals mixing with electric motors. German e-drive manufacturer Brose is hoping to expand that relationship into a more open marriage of multiple motors per bike. Its Visionbike concept, possibly the wildest looking bike at the recent Eurobike 2016 show, uses several motorized systems to slide and shift into different riding and parking profiles.
An established automotive supplier for more than a century, Brose has transitioned some of its expertise over to the world of e-bikes in recent years. Using an automotive steering motor as a start, it developed a mid-motor e-bike drive and began series production in 2014. Its versatile drives have been featured on e-bikes like the Pininfarina Evoluzione and Bees Bike, highly distinctive designs from the last two Eurobike shows.
A bold sculpture of contrasting shapes and colors, the Visionbike is even more eye-catching than either of those other Brose-powered Eurobike debuts. It explores possible ways that electric motors can do more than just pedal-assist, helping improve other aspects of an electric bicycle's ergonomics and utility. So the unique shaping and styling don't only grab your eye and tickle your imagination, they support the special systems aboard.
The feature that pops out most on the Visionbike is its individual handlebars, each of which sprouts up from a fork leg, together spreading out like a set of wings. Those handlebars aren't designed for any steering advantages (they actually look kind of awkward), but instead offer the primary advantage of retracting when not in use.
When the bicycle is parked, a spindle drive automatically drops the handlebars down into the fork legs so that they sit at frame level, saving space. This feature would be particularly attractive when trying to store or transport the bike in small spaces in which jutting handlebars prove a formidable obstacle.
Perhaps even more useful than the handlebars is the electrically activated saddle. When parked, the saddle drops down, stowing away between the frame and rear wheel. The space-savings advantage of that design isn't necessarily all that big a deal, since many a bike saddle removes rather easily for storage and transport. The saddle design does offer a second advantage, though: the curved rubber back of the lowered seat jams the rear tire, serving as an anti-theft wheel lock. It won't necessarily prevent theft entirely, but like other wheel locks, it will lessen the likelihood of the bicycle becoming both stolen goods and getaway vehicle.
The saddle and handlebar systems also automate adjustment, helping the rider tweak settings with ease, no tools necessary. The saddle can be adjusted both vertically and horizontally, and the cyclist can wait to deploy it until he or she's already straddling the bike, making for a lower swing-over height. As in car seat positioning, settings can be saved for multiple profiles (e.g. cruising, speed, etc.) or riders and selected at the push of a button.
Beyond that, Brose mentions only that there's a mid-drive connected to the rear wheel by a 3D-printed chainstay. The main frame block and wheels appear to be carbon fiber, but Brose doesn't stress that aspect of the design, nor does it list a weight. We guess those specs aren't all that important on a concept bike designed entirely around showcasing motor technology.
Interestingly, Brose initially showed the Visionbike at last year's Frankfurt Motor Show, a destination it's probably well more comfortable in than a bike show, given how long it's been in the automotive game. We assume the concept bike attracted a bit more attention at last week's Eurobike, though, where it didn't have to compete against the likes of the equally shifty Mercedes Concept IAA or the super-curvy electric-powered compatriot, the Porsche Mission E. Brose hopes the design will inspire bicycle makers to innovate new safety and comfort features (and buy countless Brose motors to bring them to life).