Summer is waning. That doesn’t mean that it’s time to pack away all of the fun recreational items that we enjoy just yet though. Included in the list of these things is the bicycle. In many countries, it is the preferred method of transportation. In the US, one can usually get by rather well with such a means of getting around but sometimes the distances are just too far, the route too hazardous or the destination inconvenient by that method. Besides, when you arrive “you’re all hot and sweaty.” Not fun for some but for many, it’s a great way to get around. It also improves your health and conditioning in general (Remember to wear a helmet though. It’s really a good idea. Fighter pilots wear them so they must be OK, right?).
Not far from the Twin Cities, Trek Bicycles in Waterloo WI, has some offerings that might just fill the needs of individuals who might otherwise not commute with or ride a bicycle. The offering is in the form of an electric assisted bicycle.
The electric assisted bicycle has been around for a while and while some have adapted to the cumbersome retrofits and heavy lead acid batteries, for the most part they have not enjoyed widespread acceptance. Now that battery and motor control technology has moved a bit further along though, things have changed. Gone is the separate throttle control and cranky auxiliary chain drive systems or friction drives that rub on your back tire for motive operation. It seems that the friction drive systems only wore out the back tire. Trek’s new bike is a bit different though. It has a rear hub with an internal motor and drive system. The controls are set up so that the rider still pedals but the motor and electronics detects the motion and powers the motor accordingly. The amount of assist can be selected according to the riders preferences by a small display on the right side of the handlebars. The control is simple and somewhat intuitive making for an attractive and easy to use system. When brakes are applied, the motor becomes a generator and slows the bike and rider down by putting charge back into the batteries. This is known as regenerative braking and is used on the Toyota Prius and many other hybrid vehicles. Regenerative braking comes for “free” with an electric motor as depending on the current and voltage supplied to the motor, it either acts as a motor or a generator. Nearly all electric motors of one sort or another exhibit this effect to some degree. The best overall motor design that provides this would be selected by the engineering designer. Energy recovery can be quite high, with efficiencies approaching 80 to 90% in many cases. The rider must select the regenerative braking option from the control unit.
Trek’s technology is called Trek Syn Drive™ and the control console and associated internal software that makes everything work together is called Ride+. The actual motor system that is integrated into the rear wheel is the Silent Drive™ motor. You may want to check this out at your local Trek dealer or visit Trek’s website for a look. More on this in the near future.