Hand tools and fabrication machines
There is this fascinating e-bike/pedelec called Carmela24, made by oh!_bike in Barcelona. We needed a new e-bike in the family and so...
Clarification: when I use the word ‘e-bike’ I usually mean pedelecs, i.e. bikes which are classified as bikes by (German) law, because they (only)have a motor with max. 250W which supports up to 25km/h max.and requires the driver to actually pedal to have the motor engage (with an exception for up to 6km/h speed through only pushing a button which is called push-support (‘Schiebehilfe’) e.g. for pushing the bike up a hill or ramp.
In the summer vacation I have been researching e-bikes with a focus on weight and size. I am very intrigued by folding and camping e-bikes, but I am wary of wheels smaller than 24” and also I am almost two meters tall. On the other hand, my oldest kid needs a new e-bike as she has grown out of the 24” ben-e-bike Twentyfour (an excellent e-bike for kids btw., because you can limit tourque and speed). The question was basically if there is an e-bike that scales from a 1, 50m child to a 1, 95+m adult.
For a reasonably fit adult, a light bike is nice, but only important when you face broken elevators or traveling by train; for a kid or a not-so-fit adult, a light bike is a must. Still, e-bikes around 15kg are very few.
Also, for us it is important that the battery can be removed for charging and to keep it from getting too cold as we do not store our bikes inside our house. Many of the light e-bikes (e.g. Ampler) have internal batteries, which is really nice to look at (because you can’t see them, haha) but would not work for us.
We also like front motors. Sure, rear motors are also inexpensive and do not change the 'normal' behaviour of a 'rear-drive' and the more expensive middle motors get to use the gears to full benefit (good for hills); but front motors are very good when you do 'normal' biking through woods, sandy/gravel paths and in winter on snow or even iced paths. And we bike all seasons.
Last, as with (too) many things, there is a psychological factor when choosing a mode of transport, so it is important that the bike has a high 'acceptance factor' with my kids and wife. That rules out folding bikes (for reasons I do not understand yet). So far, everyone I have met comments positively on the elegance of this bike. If you think about it; part of this is because of no logos, text and acronyms are painted (or glued) on the bike – what a visual relief.
Oh and one thing about e-bikes and kids: I only recommend them if the alternative is buying a car or severely limiting the fun in life; so think about it. For e-bikes and adults: just get one already, because it kills most excuses for not biking – the remaining excuses are removed through Gore-Tex ;- )
Carmela24 specification, manuals etc. here, in various languages: https://carmelabikes.com/en/customer-service/
Kickstarter campaign (see updates for some details): https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/204802053/ohbike-the-smartest-and-lightest-urban-e-bike
Some background: https://www.designboom.com/design/ohbike-electric-bike-08-29-18/
On the NCTE sensor (German): https://radmarkt.de/nachrichten/ohbike-bionisches-e-bike-leichtgewicht-gewinnt-design-preis
- when you order a bike online, good packaging is very reassuring and the packaging of the Carmela is so good, I'd advertise with that…
- shipping was very fast, I ordered on a Sunday and the bike shipped from Spain to Germany in four days, arriving Thursday morning.
- front and rear rack were sent separately, the box as shown below included the bike, battery and fenders.
- of course we wanted to test drive the bike as soon as possible, so I put it together without fenders and racks first, but if you do it like that, you may have to disassemble the wheels later again to put all the necessary screws for the fenders in, so keep this in mind.
- assembly is a breeze, documentation is good. The only things which were not super easy were a) getting the screws of the stand in: be careful to align them precisely – and b) getting the rear rack mounted: it's frame, then fender stay, then rack and aligning the screws straight. You may want to 'widen' the rack supports a bit.
- the rear wheel is already assembled, but don't forget to verify wheel alignment and tighten all screws.
- no cable ties anywhere, which adds to the clean look.
- see if you can find the bell on the handlebar; hint: it has a ring shape. I did not know such nice bells exist.
- the battery is safely locked after you drop it in, but it would be cool if the key could be inserted either way for unlocking.
- the two built in USB ports of the battery allow for charging e.g. your phone when removing the battery (e.g. while on a break). An USB port to power the phone while riding the bike would of course be nice, but would require additional cabling etc.
- the cabling has (at least) enough room to add a stem ('Vorbau') that will raise the handlebar by 10cm.
- front rack can hold 15kg.
- rear rack can hold 25kg, though you may want to use different quality screws if you plan to do that.
- support in Normal and Eco mode is both towards 25km/h.
- do I want a protector / cap for the battery connector against rain?
- German law has light and visibility requirements (front, read and sides) which were last revised in 2017. Disclaimer: my interpretation may not be perfect, but my (kids) bikes always passed the checks by local traffic police officers at school.
- Carmela already has the required reflectors on the pedals (and the aforementioned very elegant bell which is also required here by law).
- because Carmela does not have a reflector strip on the tires (which is usual here), you have to add reflectors on/into the spokes of the wheel. In our family we add those anyway, because they are great. I think oh!_bike should ship the bike with tires that have a reflector strip as being visible is important for bikers. Or even use reflective paint for the whole bike.
- front and back lights with integrated reflectors; this is our first bike where the light is not connected to a dynamo or the main battery and this is on purpose: dynamos always get cabling issues and we do not want to take the main battery on short trips just for light.
- selecting a back light with integrated reflector was not so easy. I finally chose one with a high recommendation rating that is fixed with screws to the rear rack ('Gepäckträger'), because those have a big reflection area (they are 10-12cm wide) and are not easily stolen. Because back lights do not need so much power, a set of (rechargeable) batteries lasts weeks.
- the bike handles very well and direct, due to its size and low weight.
- the motor support is based on pressure and rotations sensors in the pedal axis and is very well balanced. Not like the kick in the back that you may get from bad implementations.
- my ten year old can drive this e-bike. Of course, she has 18+ months all-weather experience on a speed-limited kids-e-bike, but it works very well for her. The Carmela may benefit from a 15km/h mode for kids or (grand-)parents who bike with kids who are not that fast.
- my 'normal' e-bike has at least 10-12 more kg in weight and the difference is bigger than expected. Just makes it more amazing that weight is not more of a topic in e-bikes and almost all new e-bike announcements lack weight specification.
- driving any e-bike is fun. Really. Having had a tiring day? Having wind from the front? Having hills on the way? Want to get there quick? No matter, just turn on the e-support. But a light and compact e-bike with such balanced motor support is significantly more fun.
- after a month of use, the belt drive started squeaking. This is easily fixed by applying a little bit of grease on the inside of the guard plate of the front gear (i.e. the driving gear at the pedals) which protects the belt drive.
- (to be continued)