I had mentioned in a previous post that the dude had purchased and installed a Bionx electric assist system on his bicycle, Red Savina, to flatten his extremely hilly twelve mile commute. I had later mentioned that, due to his new job that is closer to home, we were considering stripping it off the bicycle. Before I did that, I wanted to share more information about this unique product.
What we have in our possession is the Bionx PL-350, meaning, 350 watts of power, and a “relatively light” kit, with a lithium ion battery. This system essentially magnifies your pedaling effort between 25% to 200%, based on one of the four assist modes included. You can also choose to be in one of the four regenerative modes, where you put more effort into each pedal stroke, relative to what is physically required, and hence recharge the battery. Either way, it feels like you are defying the laws of physics when you ride.
The kit comes with a rear wheel that has a silent silver colored hub-driven motor.
The rim of the wheel not-so-discreetly mentions the brand name of Bionx.
The down-tube holds the battery-pack, which, here, has been painted black to fit in with the rest of the bicycle.
The key that comes with the kit unhinges the battery pack, and releases it from the down-tube mounted bracket. This is one of the theft-deterrent qualities of the system. Nobody is going to walk away with just your battery.
The bracket, itself, is mounted to the downtube using standard bottle cage screws. The light gray portion at the bottom of the bracket depicts the original color of the battery pack, prior to our painting it black. This port transmits the power from the battery to the hub within the rear wheel.
The handlebar mounted console both displays your speedometer, odometer, and level of assist, and allows you to use the thumb-press “throttle.” Ordinarily, your pedaling effort is magnified based on your assistance mode; however, all rules fly out of the window with the throttle. Pressing this lever zips you forward without any additional pedaling effort. I believe all you need to do is have your bicycle moving at 3 mph (a safety feature), before the throttle comes into effect when pressed. The speed of the system, however, maxes out at 20mph to abide by local US laws. If the laws of gravity ordinarily necessitate you to go faster (ex: while riding downhill), that extra power is absorbed back into the battery, due to the regenerative features of the system.
The following video demonstrates the throttle feature:
Overall, the system works flawlessly; however, some pitfalls include both the weight of the system and negative impact to the aesthetics of the bicycle. The system adds about 15-20 lbs to the bicycle, most of which is on the rear.
The system also necessitates the use of zip-ties to guide the electrical wiring. To me, if the owner does not take pains to buy paint-matched zip-ties, this is a major negative impact to the beauty of the bicycle.
Furthermore, wires abound around the console, which gives the cockpit a messy feel.
Some efforts are made to clean up the wire routing. For example, the kit comes with black velcro straps that cover the wires around the chain-stays; however, if your bicycle frame is not black in color, this, too interferes with the frame’s otherwise clean lines.
Speaking of interference, the battery mount, too, interferes with the ability to mount a water bottle cage to your seat-tube.
With the abnormally large hub, the battery pack on the downtube, console, and cords everywhere, there is no secret that the bicycle in question has electric assist capability. I only consider this characteristic of discreteness due to the level of crime in my area. In spite of the battery’s lock-and-key mechanism, I would not want to park a bicycle outfitted with the Bionx system outside for extended periods of time in Atlanta.
If you can look past the additional weight, Bionx is a fantastic bicycle electric-assist system–probably the best that money can buy today; however, it is not for those concerned with aesthetics and anyone living in a high crime area. If you have a true physical limitation that otherwise prevents you from being able to ride a bicycle, then there is nothing like it. If you’re young, healthy, and agile, I would not recommend the purchase.