E-Bike mavericks bring style to utility
The trend towards mid-motors and integrated batteries has restricted the design freedom for e-bikes. While the models of many manufacturers look very similar, a few brands stand out proudly, doing their own thing and serving the need of style-conscious consumers.
A walk through the Eurobike halls will lead past a lot of e-bikes that look very similar apart from the brand logo. The reason for this is that these e-bikes have been built around mid-motors and batteries that fit inside the downtube. But as the e-bikes of most manufacturers look more streamlined and similar every year, some consumers start to look for something decidedly different. One brand to serve this need is Super73 [B2-302]. Hailing from Orange County, California and tackling the European market from an office in the Netherlands, this manufacturer mimics the looks of mini motorbikes that were popular in the late 60s and 70s.
The typical features of those mini motorbikes were a frame made of thin steel tubes, a lengthy seat bench and wide tires mounted to small-diameter wheels. All these elements can be found on the e-bikes of Super73 as well. And while early designs relied on a retrofittable motor mounted to the bottom bracket, the drive unit moved to the rear hub in 2019. The battery was built into a mock-up fuel tank for the fully-suspended R-Series and the S-Series with a suspension fork and rigid rear, while the entry-level, unsuspended Z-Series kept the battery under the seat. Speaking of the seat: since there is no way to change its height, the lengthy bench is welcome to find the right position for an efficient pedal stroke.
At first glance, the Lil’ Buddy and the brand-new Biggie model of Ruff Cycles [B1-400] may look similar to the models of Super73. And indeed the same mini motorbikes were the source of inspiration for this young German manufacturer as well. Founded back in 2012 by BMX enthusiast Petar “Pero” Desnica to bring some Rock ‘n Roll to the bicycle industry, Ruff Cycles at first only sold frames that low rider enthusiasts like Desnica himself could use for their custom builds. The first complete bikes were sold in 2015, and the year after the Ruffian, a stretched-out low rider inspired by California’s latino life style, was offered with optional electric assistance. In 2019 the Lil’ Buddy was added to the brand line-up.
But Ruff Cycles is not only different in terms of design: From its headquarters in Regensburg the company insists on keeping all steps in-house, from concept to product design, purchasing assembly and marketing to sales. This has created over 30 jobs at the headquarters that Desnica calls the brand’s manufactory – hinting at the high degree of manual work. Since Ruff Cycles has its steel and alloy frames welded and painted by a partner in Travnik, Bosnia-Hercegovina, another 35 jobs in Europe are linked to the visually striking bicycles from Regensburg. The big news for 2022 is the launch of the Biggie model. Thanks to its larger-diameter wheels, the Biggie combines style and functionality, making this Ruff Cycles model the most suitable for daily use.
From its headquarters in Vienna, Vello Bike [A3-207] is focusing entirely on folding bikes. As an industrial designer, company founder Valentin Vodev drew a first design of the characteristic frame back in 2013. To cover all commercial aspects he brought Valerie Wolff on board, and the two relied on crowdfunding to get their idea of a sustainable, innovative and modern mode of urban transport to production. While the fork and the rear triangle of Vello Bike’s folding bikes are made of chromoly steel, the main frame is available in titanium as an option as well. Using this platform, the Austrian company builds a wide-range of models. And there’s also a wide selection of accessories, from fenders and a front carrier to fitting, branded daypacks and a wheeled transport bag.For its e-folders (weighing less than 13 kilograms in the titanium version), Vello Bike relies on the Human + drive system from Italian manufacturer Zehus. This all-in-one solution packs the assistance drive, the electronics and the battery into the hub shell. To get the proper gearing for either flat or hilly terrain, Vello Bike relies on planetary drives from Swiss maker Schlumpf. For utility use, there are low-maintenance builds with Shimano’s Alfine 11 hub and a belt drive from Gates, and at the Eurobico event the Austrians presented a gravel build with a flared handlebar, Schwalbe’s slighty studded Billy Bonkers tires and a ten-speed drivetrain from Shimano’s 105 groupset. And for Eurobike, Vello Bike will build a limited edition model with Rohloff’s Speedhub 500/14.