Stealthy range-extended Bonc bike might tempt even hardened ebike haters
A new contender in the race to make the sleekest, most unassuming electric bike out there, London's Bonc uses a frame-integrated battery to maintain the thin-tubed diamond geometry of a classic road commuter. The downside of that sleek, classic construction is that the slim battery limits the electric pedal-assist range, so Bonc offers an equally inconspicuous water bottle-style range-extender to boost it up to a robust 85 miles (137 km). This means the Bonc can serve as a slim, lightweight bike for in-town commutes and a longer-range electric steed for more ambitious journeys.
Instead of attempting to stuff range into its electric bike by bloating it with a large-capacity battery, Bonc decided to split the battery in two from the get-go. The 7-Ah 36-V cylindrical battery hidden in the down tube delivers between 15 and 50 miles (24 to 80 km) of e-assist range while keeping the aluminum-framed bike's weight down to 35 lb (16 kg) — not the lightest electric bike out there by any means, but certainly on the lighter side, especially at the everyday commuter end of the performance/price spectrum.
Motor assist comes from a 350-W rear hub motor, and riders can select from five power levels using the handlebar-mounted LED display. The cadence sensor-controlled e-drive provides assistance at speeds up to 22 mph (35 km/h).
For those journeys that include (or may include) more mileage than the base Bonc bike can power, Bonc offers the 4-lb (1.8-kg) range-extender battery pack to boost the total range up to 85 assisted miles (137 km). The battery pack is as sleek and carefully designed as the bike itself, looking like a modern powder-coated stainless steel water bottle. Drop it in the water bottle holder when it's needed, stash it when it's not.
Bonc certainly isn't the first to think of using a range-extender battery – many major bike brands, including Specialized and Giant, offer range-extender packs, and major electric drive manufacturers like Bosch also offer multi-battery range-extending systems. But Bonc does it in a very clean way, presenting an electric bike that looks like a standard bicycle, with or without the range-extender hooked up. That could prove a very big deal for those who don't like the look, handling or overall experience of a heavy, awkward, big-boned ebike.
As far as basic bike specs, the Bonc bike comes with buyer's choice of single- or six-speed drivetrains. It includes mechanical disc brakes, a quick-release seat post and 700 x 32C tires.
Oftentimes "sleek," "versatile" and "electric" translate into "completely unaffordable" at this part of a bicycle's story, and that could mean a $4,000 or even $22,000 price tag. But the Bonc bike is actually fairly affordable for an ebike, particularly at the current Indiegogo pledge level of £948 (approx. US$1,310). If you go in with friends, you can even get that down to just over $1,000 per bike by buying a two- or four-bike pack. The range-extender battery pack prices at £109 ($150). In the future, a single Bonc bike will retail for an estimated $1,799, the range-extender battery for $200.
We're not sure that Bonc will change the minds of the most vehement ebike haters and opponents, but it looks compelling enough to attract those who are put off more by super-high ebike prices or clunky designs. Bonc is certainly convincing someone, as it's raised more than 20 times its Indiegogo goal for an impressive total nearing $500,000, with a month left to go. If things continue to go well, Bonc will start deliveries in February 2022.