My word, how things have changed. Not that long ago a car generally had four wheels, four seats and an engine, and a bicycle had two wheels, a steel diamond frame and the rider was both passenger and motive force.You knew where you were.
These days car manufacturers have bolted on all sorts of extras to hide the fact that cars haven’t really progressed very much: satellite navigation, air conditioning, four-wheel drive, traction control, quadraphonic sound systems and mountains of similar junk.What they won’t tell you in the showroom is that the car weighs more and costs more than it used to.Whether it’s more fuel efficient than its distant cousin from the 1980s is a rather complex question, but informed opinion suggests it may not be, although much of that will be down to road congestion and other factors.
We’ve watched technology creep in on bicycles too: power-assist, better tyres, trip computers, satellite navigation thingies, little brackets for charging your iPod and so on. And from its fuel-free origins (apart from increasing your Weetabix intake), many bicycles now need to top up with fossil fuels to run this stuff, albeit in tiny quantities. If you’re not very keen on this trend, you’re not alone. An increasing number of people are choosing light, simple, fixed-wheel bikes. But rather more are going for the high-tech stuff, particularly in places, such as Northern Europe, where bicycling is seen as a day-to-day activity.
Daum is a German company, and a long established manufacturer of professional gym equipment. Like us, you might not be very familiar with the inside of a fitness club, but it seems modern people spend long hours on bicycles that are bolted to the floor, rather than hiking healthily about the countryside.To relieve the tedium, manufacturers fit all sorts of gizmos, and Daum’s machines are very much in this mould, featuring onboard MP3 players and virtual road courses. Being well used to pedal-powered machines that absorb energy, Daum seems to have taken note of the burgeoning electric bicycle market and made that crucial leap of the imagination into designing a machine that carried you somewhere.
You might expect a bicycle based on an exercise bike to be a load of old rubbish nasty cheap components, crude heavy frame and basic Chinese power-assist.Your average British exercise bike importer might well sell something like that, but they do things a bit differently in Germany. Daum has used its expertise to design and specify the Rolls-Royce of bicycles instead: Busch & Muller Lumotec IQ lights, Schwalbe Marathon Cross tyres, Nexus 8-speed hub (oddly, not the home-grown SRAM 7-speed), its own crank drive power system, and every conceivable electronic convenience, from an altimeter to SatNav. To satisfy German legal requirements, the lights are powered from a hub dynamo rather than the traction battery, but the dynamo also sends pulses to the onboard computer to give a read-out of road speed and other more complicated things.
The downside of all this equipment is a relatively heavy bike (26.9kg, plus a 3.3kg battery), but price is not quite as stratospheric as you might imagine, and certainly not in the Rolls-Royce category. The basic ‘Classic’ bike, with everything except the SatNav and a few associated functions, costs £1,950, and the all-singing, all-dancing ‘Premium’ costs £2,350. OK, not the cheapest bicycles in the world, but the Classic is comparable in price to the Giant Twist Freedom, a stodgy, mass-produced Taiwanese machine, and not that much more expensive than the excellent, but relatively poorly specified Kalkhoff ProConnect and Emotion Sport Deluxe. More strikingly, it costs only £150 more than the topend Wisper, and £500 more than the top-end Ezee, and these are Chinese machines. Remember, we’re talking about a rather nice, rather clever German bicycle, with custommade German power-assist.
The bikes come in three styles: the Comfort is a nice upright step-thru, and there are two conventional diamond frames, the Trekking D with a steeply raked top tube, and the Trekking H with a more horizontal tube. Daum wouldn’t dare suggest it, but the step-thru is for ladies who shop, the Trekking D for the more adventurous kind of lady who likes to get out of town, and the Trekking H is for men who can still heave a leg over the frame (and the battery).
All the bikes are available in silver or matt black with two size options: The Comfort and Trekking D with a 44cm frame, putting the saddle 89-100cm from the ground, or 52cm, giving a saddle height of 95-110cm. The H is bigger: 48cm (93-107cm saddle height) or 56cm (100-116cm saddle height).
Any of these three basic styles are available in Classic or Premium trim. The options look exactly the same, with the same power-assist, the same battery, and the same enormous dashboard, but the Premium bike does more.Where to begin? All the bikes provide read-outs of speed, assist rate, assist mode, battery capacity, time, date, elapsed time, average speed and estimated battery range, the latter a great feature.
The Premium can also tell you your GPS coordinates, your altitude, the gradient of the road (more useful than it sounds), the temperature, and all the other SatNav things. There’s no map as such, but the liquid crystal display can be programmed with your favourite routes and tell you where you are, or download known cycle routes in your area, after a bit of jiggery-pokery talking to satellites and mission control. If your Premium is stolen you can send it a text message and it will tell the Old Bill where it is. Maybe Big Brother has the machine under constant surveillance? You never know.
Both versions carry an SD card, enabling data to be uploaded to a PC, and both have a receiver that can exchange information with an optional heart-rate monitoring belt. At night, the IQ headlight comes on automatically and cuts a swathe through the gloom, and the instruments light up.Well, we said it was comprehensive. The only downside is the humungous screen which really is as big as a travel television, and thus something of a lump on the handlebars. Unfortunately, it won’t receive TV, or indeed radio signals, calculate the wind chill factor or make the tea, but we’re getting picky now. And you’d be asking for trouble locking the bike up anywhere, but you’ve probably already gathered that.
One thing we should add is that while a comprehensive screen can be a bit of a lark on a static bike in a gym, there’s a lot of information here to distract the rider, which might not be good news on busy roads.
Most crank-drive bikes are fitted with the Panasonic system, which takes some beating. We’re delighted to say that Daum’s own attempt at this complex technology works even better. According to Daum, the crank-drive has two-speed motor assistance. This may be a misunderstanding in the translation, because we can’t detect any mechanical shifting going on, but it’s an impressively sophisticated device, and it draws universal praise. We couldn’t decide whether the Daum was quieter than the Panasonic, although neither could be described as noisy. Riding back to back with the Raleigh Dover, the Daum has a more sensitive and responsive torque sensor. It also accelerates faster to a slightly lower top speed, but this is partly down to it’s lower 26″-79″ gearing.
We rode the Comfort variant briefly and found it a bit twitchy at the front, although whether this was a result of geometry or tyres, we’re not sure. Our main test was of the Trekking H, and this felt completely different – a superbly surefooted and comfortable machine. Suspension is by a Humpert seat post at the back and SR Suntour forks at the front, and the combination gives an excellent ride, although if you were pedalling hard without power assist, it would certainly feel on the soft side.
Unexpectedly, the bike is pleasant and efficient without power, so there’s clearly little or nothing in the way of extra resistance in the crank-drive. The Nexus 8speed hub is almost a standard fitting on roadsters these days, and although it might not be the best hub in the world, its wide 307% gear range and user-friendly shift certainly put it in the top rank.
Turn on the power-assist from ‘cold’ and there’s a bit of a kerfuffle while various things boot up, then you’re off.
There are four power levels: Off, Low, Normal and High. Starting in Low, power comes in with a mighty whoosh to whizz you through road junctions, but falls away to a whisper as speed climbs. In Normal, the shove in the back remains insistent to a slightly higher speed, and in High the characteristics are much the same, but with less pedal effort from the rider. So sophisticated is the system, there’s no hint of the motor ‘hunting’ in and out of engagement as speed hovers in the maximum 15-16mph speed band, but as speed falls, you feel the motor give a gentle or more urgent shove, according to road conditions. Upward gear shifts are straightforward, but downward changes need a little pause, although not the pronounced pause that are characteristic of some Panasonic drives.
The only time the power-assist gets caught out is when climbing short steep hills. What with the pause to change down, and another while the torque sensor finds its feet, you can lose quite a lot of speed, and end up slogging up a hill that the bike should have dispatched with ease. These conditions are always a challenge to crank drives, and the only answer is to get ready well in advance and keep pedalling nice and steadily, so that assistance closely matches your pedal effort.
The weakest element of the design is the rather large battery box mounted high up on the rack. Fortunately, it isn’t a very heavy battery, but the weight couldn’t be in a worse place, and we managed to induce a slight twitch from the back wheel when changing direction at speed. It’s an ugly lump too, giving the bicycle a rather hunchback appearance and shouting ‘power assistance’. A pair of rubber straps make it more practical than it looks, and conventional panniers should fit either side.
The Daum provides two interesting and unique readouts on its enormous screen that can be extremely useful for getting the best from the motor and bicycle. We’ve asked for power meters on electric bikes for years, and only ever seen one rather crude example. This bike has a sophisticated and sensitive meter that shows you exactly how hard the motor is working. If the meter moves too far to the right, you can slacken your pedal effort or change down a gear, reducing human and electrical input, or shift to a lower assist setting, and work a bit harder yourself.
The final decision on which (if any) power option to choose depends on the ‘remaining range’ readout, which the computer updates every few seconds, based on battery capacity and the rate of power usage. Ride gently and the range will click up to 70 miles or more. Ride hard with lots of power assistance and it can drop alarmingly. But these two meters give you a great deal more control than you would otherwise have. If the Youth Hostel is just over the hill and you’re feeling tired, you can ask the engine room for a bit more oomph. If you have 30 miles to go with time on your side, cut back the power, or turn it off altogether.
The SatNav is a bit of a disappointment for anyone expecting a big colourful map and a sexy voice telling you when to do a U-turn. The Daum can either display known cycle routes in your area, be programmed with your own, or receive routes from like-minded techo-types by email. In Dorchester, the only known route appears to be ‘Godmanstone to Thatcham, Day 13 (92 miles)’, which is clearly part of someone’s grand tour.
We wouldn’t have a use for it but it would be good on hire bikes, enabling the hiree to load the bikes with the day’s routes and be confident that everyone will get back in time for tea. As with so much else on the Daum, route information can be uploaded to or from a PC, and exported to Google Earth, where your route will appear on a gorgeous technicolour base map. Not quite Ordnance Survey, but you can’t have everything.
The battery, somewhat surprisingly, is a reworked version of an off-the-shelf Chinese design and costs a highish £425. As it seems to be the same basic battery fitted to numerous machines that pass this way, we were hoping that one of these cheaper replacements would fit. Unfortunately, Daum uses a slightly different connector. These batteries are rated at 10Ah and 37 volts, giving a nominal capacity of 370Wh, which is typical for a Chinese bike these days, but quite large by European standards.
We expected a German crank drive to be more efficient, and so it transpired, the range no doubt being improved by that handy power meter. A typical Far Eastern bike will do 23 to 28 miles on this sort of battery, but on our hilly test route, the Daum had a range of 41 miles at a very reasonable 14.5mph. The fuel gauge and ‘range’ gauge are excellent, and extremely accurate. On our test ride, the bike gave the battery 50% capacity at 19 miles, with 19 left on the clock, and it’s difficult to get much closer than that. Interestingly, Daum describes the battery as being 9.5Ah rather than 10, but by our reckoning it holds about 10.7Ah. The evidence seems to suggest that the battery (made by Phylion we think) has been extensively reworked for this application, but it’s hard to be sure.
The overall power consumption of the Daum (ie including charging losses) is around 9.7Wh/mile, which puts it right up with the best.We’ve seen lower consumption (for example, the Batribike Micro tested in this issue), but only from much slower bikes. Our test rides are undertaken on full power, but we’ll use a lower setting where average speed won’t suffer, and the clever systems on the Daum allow you to maximise range by making creative use of limited battery capacity. We would suggest 50 miles as a reasonable range with a bit of care, and the on-board computer confirms that 70 miles is certainly within reach, albeit at a slightly lower average speed.
Charging is nearly twice as fast as one would expect from a battery and charger of this kind. After 21/2 hours it’s more or less done, and the charge rate falls sharply thereafter, finishing at 3 hours.We should add that fast charging of Lithium-ion batteries is not recommended if you want them to last very long, but we assume the people at Daum have done their homework. In any event, there’s a two-year guarantee on the battery, as there is on everything else. Running costs are a hefty 13.6p/mile, but this is mostly down to the high purchase price of the bike.
You may be salivating over the altimeters and satellite whatnots, but for us, they’re a bit irrelevant.The power meter and fuel gauge are excellent though, and something others should adopt.We’d like to see Daum develop a cheaper (and lighter) bike with a neat little nacelle offering these two functions, plus everything you’d expect on a good trip computer.
The current machines are clearly not for everyone, but in terms of range and function, they’re undeniably the best electric bikes you can buy, provided you’re keen on the techy, gadgety side.You might agree or disagree with the concept, but for those who expect more functionality, these machines really do take the bicycle to a whole new level.
DaumTrekking H Premium £2,350 .Weight Bicycle 26.9kg Battery 3.3kg Total 30.2kg (66lbs) Gears Nexus 8-spd . Gear Ratios 26″-79″ . Battery Li-Ion . Capacity (Measured) 396Wh Replacement Cost £425 . Maximum Range 41 miles . Full Charge Three hours Overall Consumption 9.7Wh/mile . Running Costs 13.6p/mile . Importer Velospeed firstname.lastname@example.org T 01635 579304
A to B 79 – Aug 2010