I suppose it was only a matter of time- bicycle component juggernaut Shimano got into electric bikes. They’ve recently announced they’re producing a complete electric bike component group available to manufacturers for original-equipment use.
That means the STEPS system is not going to be available as a retrofit kit, which is too bad, but the upside is that the system is brimming with nice features and new technology that should perform well.
The general concept is to emphasize the ‘bike’ in’e-bike’ by providing a seamless look and operation. The system has a 250 watt motor with pedal assist only, and a maximum assisted speed of 15.5 mph. The controls are unobtrusive buttons located on the brake levers, and the kit comes with an LCD readout that displays vital info like speed and battery power.
One of the more interesting features of the system is the shifting system. The group comes with an optional eight-speed internally-geared hub that features electronic shifting, meaning there is no cable-controlled shifter but a sort of ‘ride by wire’ setup similar to Shimano’s top-of-the-line Dura-Ace Di2.
The battery has some pretty impressive numbers behind it- charge time is supposed to take an hour, and Shimano claims the battery is good for 3000 charges, which should provide years of service. The battery also has an integrated rear light and will be mounted on a rear rack.
There are no bikes with STEPS on the market yet, but Shimano is offering the group to manufacturers, so expect to see STEPS coming out in a year or two. We’re eager to get our hands on one and test it out.