THE BIGGEST TREND in the e-bike industry today is the “S-pedelic.” If you’re still riding a beach cruiser, here’s the intel: “Pedelic” is shorthand for “pedal electric cycle,” which means that the rider’s expended energy is assisted by a small motor. Add that “S” prefix and things change drastically. In Europe—and especially Germany, the continent’s largest e-bike market—“S” stands for “schnell” (speedy). That figures: The land of the Autobahn, the Nürburgring, and the Porsche 911 Turbo is a place where people take their schnell seriously. In fact, these bikes are so fast and torquey, they’re classified as mopeds throughout most of the European Union. Add a modest amount of human power to the pedals, and these bikes can easily approach speeds of 30 mph.
STROMER ST1 X
When it comes to commuter e-bikes, Stromer is at the top of the heap. The newest addition to their line, the ST1 X, is almost as good as the flagship but far more affordable.
When discussing fancy Euro e-bikes, affordability is a relative and amorphous concept. Priced at $5,000, a financial advisor should be consulted before making this purchase.
Perhaps you dream of being an S-pedelic commuter: sleeping late, zipping to the office, and arriving with time to spare, your freshly pressed Thomas Pink unsullied by pit stains. If so, one of the e-bike brands that’s probably pinging on your radar is Stromer. The Swiss company’s flagship model, the ST2, has garnered reams of fawning reviews and a mantle of prestigious honors. Like many fashionable e-bikes, though, Stromer is not for bargain hunters or the faint of heart. The base ST2 is $7,000. You want to add sport mode? The ST2S is $10,000. That’s why the latest addition to the Stromer lineup has become such a popular test-ride request at bike shops. Instead of being insanely expensive, the new ST1 X is, at $5,000, merely ridiculously expensive. It promises most of the performance, along with the same styling and build quality of the ST2S, but at half the price. Let’s charge up and see how schnell this thing is.
The ST1 X frame is the same platform used on the company’s $10K model. Unlike some high-tech e-bikes, this frame is more sober than stylish. That’s the point—the shape caters to comfort, performance, and shock absorption instead of some fantasy about what the Dark Night might ride through the streets of Gotham if he had to lower his carbon footprint. That slightly angled top tube is as rakish as it gets. The rest of the details—from the flat but conservatively tapered handlebars to the custom wraparound fenders to the teardrop cutouts in the chainring—are an exercise in restraint, classicism, and good taste. To minimize visual clutter, all the tech is cleverly integrated. The touch display, which resembles a tiny iPhone, is inconspicuous, set flush with the frame. The large battery pack is neatly concealed in that stout down tube. Even the cables under the bars are stowed away, tightly bunched in zippered neoprene sheaths before being internally routed through the frame. The paint job on the review unit is Matte Charcoal (Gloss White and Matte Copper are options), which lends a slightly sinister DARPA vibe to the civilized neo-Bauhaus design; those wavy TIG welds are gorgeous. Despite its quiet presence, the ST1 X still turns heads. But the admiring stares tend to come from designers, art directors, and German tourists.
The STX 1 boasts top shelf e-bike features like regenerative braking (to capture and recycle precious energy), a large lithium-ion battery (for high torque and long distance), and a purpose built 6061 aluminum frame (the same alloy used to make Audi’s A8 chassis). The thing that really sets the ST1 X apart from the competition, though, is its connectivity. And I’m not just talking Bluetooth. The bike’s performance is tuned using a proprietary algorithm, which can be customized. Stromer can ping it to apply free firmware updates on the fly. It connects to GPS satellites for theft protection and tracking. Even your grease-stained mechanic can remotely monitor the system status and peruse your service records to schedule maintenance.
The magic that makes this all happen is Omni, Stromer’s impressive cloud-based platform. Download the app to your phone, and you have access to the Stromer portal as well as all the chips and software inside the ST1 X. Snow in the forecast? There’s a ride program for that to control wheel slippage in the sloppy stuff. Can’t concentrate at work because you’re not sure the ST1 X has enough juice for the commute home? Just log onto the Stromer app to check the battery status. Maybe you need an afterburner kick to make it to an important meeting on time. Simple: tap the handlebar-mounted display for maximum torque, turn the pedals, and go. The screen is pressure sensitive, so wearing gloves isn’t a problem. I preferred using the control pad ring located on the right handgrip. The small backlit buttons allow you to control the lights and click through the three torque-assist levels. Looking down to navigate an LCD display while picking through traffic is never a good idea.