ExtraEnergy's big electric bike test kicked off in Lorsch on 24 April with enthusiastic test riders. It continued in Tanna on 28 April, where test riding with measuring instruments on board finally stopped on 7 May. The editorial team of ExtraEnergy reported progress and interesting developments from Tanna every day. View photos here!
7 May: Finishing the test
After the early-morning briefing, a few riders set off on the track to repeat a number of tests which didn't record properly on previous days. This time they set off under sunny skies, with the temperature at a pleasant level. In the meantime, the technical experts Nikolaus and Friedhelm soldered the last batteries to be performance measured, while "lecturing" the editors and everyone within hearing distance, on what they were doing.
In the afternoon a few testers and technicians set off on a "lap of honor" to close the test officially. Later testers and technicians congregated outside the test center under the guidance of Hannes Neupert, to carefully document the plusses and minuses of each bike.
6 May: Testers talk their hearts out
It was still chilly when the test riders made their last rounds on the test track this morning, before heading to the ExtraEnergy Pub, where Andrés Moreno, editor of Spanish green vehicles website Vehiculosverdes.com, and editors Susanne Brüsch and Christo Volschenk were waiting to listen to their assessments of the bikes they had tested over the past ten days.
Eighteen people applied for the job of test rider, eleven test riders eventually started out, riding day in and day out, for hours on end, in sunshine and rain, without remuneration.
Everyone with his or her own reason for wanting to come to Tanna. Young and old, designer and pensioner, electric engineer and bike mechanic - all wanted to get an overview of the bikes on the market. Because they want to buy their own, or are simply interested. They came to Tanna from all over Germany and Switzerland.
A colorful group, who went through thick and thin with the technicians and testers, and had lots of fun along the way. Everyone had found his/her personal favorite bike, which differed from target group to target group. One motor was mentioned again and again: The BionX. Although most bikes were top-end bikes, some didn't impress the testers at all. Asked how much they would be willing to spend on a good e-bike, the answers ranged from €1,000 to €3,000.
To the question for which purposes they would use an e-bike, the over-70s said for 'power up the hill' and the younger ones said for 'speed and fun', and 'to get to work quickly and confortably, also with luggage'.
More about the test team
5 May: The kilometers tick over...
Despite the cold weather, the test riders were in a positive frame of mind at kick-off this morning. The evaluation of last week's testing had been completed and a few interesting findings revealed. We have something to look forward to later this week!
A few trips had to be repeated when measuring instruments malfunctioned. The test team now aims to complete test riding on Wednesday, to leave Thursday for repeat rides - should the data evaluation reveal deficiencies.
In the afternoon Hannes Neupert met visitors from the firms SLG and BionX for a technical discussion on topics including batteries, plugs and chargers.
4 May: Fields of Gold
It's cold, but (at least) it doesn't rain. After the bustle of the previous day, when ExtraEnergy had invited the public to an Open Day, calm has returned to Tanna. The supporting program has come to an end, leaving the team to concentrate on the main task, namely the testing.
A few days ago damp had caused a few measuring instruments to malfunction. These were all back in operation this morning.
Shortly after nine the first test riders set off with warm clothes and gloves, and made their way through blooming canola fields and green forests. Life is tough!
3 May: Halfway mark in sight
Twenty-nine different models were submitted for testing. The manufacturers delivered two of each model (58 bikes in total). Some manufacturers delivered bikes with identical technology, but slightly different frames, which means more than 29 bikes have to be tested.
At the end of the day 20 bikes had completed the test, meaning five test riders had ridden each of the 20 bikes and had completed a questionnaire on each of the 20 bikes. Then the batteries were ridden until empty every time.
Many people reacted to the open invitation to visit ExtraEnergy in Tanna from 13h00 to witness the testing. As it turned out, many visitors also witnessed a lot of repair work being done: Flat tires, a broken chain on the Vital bike and a software problem on a Flying Cranes bike, which is finding it difficult to compete with its brother in the same stable and had to be substituted for a new one.
In the late afternoon the heads of testing Frieder Herb and Andreas Törpsch rode around the complete test track to document the GPS coordinates at defined points one more time. This would enable them to doublecheck later (from the recorded data) whether the test riders had always passed all the points on the test track.
Photographer Patrick Knappick and ExtraEnergy editor Susanne Brüsch followed them with cameras. Like true acrobats they hung from their bikes with cameras in hand, taking pictures at full speed, while struggling not to fall behind. The latter was no easy task. Afterall, the testers had specifically selected the Delights of Riese und Müller for their speed!
2 May: Day of the flat tires
The weather was perfect and the riders dragged as many kilometers out of the bikes as possible. Flat tires and malfunctioning measuring instruments broke their stride a few times.
But, not for long. Of the 29 different bike models submitted for testing (58 bikes in total, since two specimens of each model were delivered to ExtraEnergy), about half was tested by the end of the day.
Test rider Marion had an especially unlucky day out on the track: First, something went wrong with the data-recording, forcing her to repeat her round; then she got a flat tire at the furthest point away from the test center (forcing her to push all the way back) and on her third attempt the data-recording malfunctioned again! Eventually, she was successful on her fourth attempt.
Marion's nightmare will (hopefully) prove to have been the exception, not the rule, this week.
1 May: Sun at last!
This morning the test riders arrived at the testing center under blue skies with the end-goal in mind, namely that every bike must be tested and evaluated by five different riders. At the early-morning briefing Frieder Herb, head of testing, said he was very happy with the progress made to date and praised the test riders for their contributions.
"We are still on schedule," he said. At the end of the day's testing he said the test riders had together covered a total of 450 km on the day - which was a new record.
Since the bikes are tested carrying an average weight of 75 kilogram, the smaller test riders (mostly women) pack weights on the back carriers of their bikes.
On one bike the manufacturer had attached a label saying the carrier was built for a maximum weight of 25 kg, but a main support pipe cracked carrying only 20 kg. No other mishaps, or breakdowns were reported and all 58 bikes were still in the test approaching the halfway mark.
30 April: Riders and equipment shiver on
Despite continuing gloom and wet conditions, the test rides continued with measuring instruments carefully protected from damp. In the morning, the tour section of the test track was ridden twice, before the technicians checked the quality of the measuring data.
Then it was off on the 18 km long test track to measure the strength of the support and collect other data. Back in the technicians' workshop, the pedals of the bike - with the measuring instruments attached - were removed and attached to the next bike to be tested.
Then another test rider repeated the whole test procedure with the new bike, while the already tested bike was driven by the first test rider until the battery was completely flat. In this way, the reach of the battery was determined in a real life situation.
Finally, the test rider completed a detailled questionnaire on his/her impressions of the bike during the test ride. The day produced two flat tires, but no serious technical problems.
At the end of Day 3 of the testing in Tanna all bikes were still in the test. Frieder Herb, head of testing, said "generally speaking, the quality of the bikes seems to have improved since last year". In 2008 a number of test bikes had to be withdrawn with major technical problems already early in the test.
29 April: Rain throws up a few challenges
After a successful kick-off of the test rides in Tanna on Tuesday, 28 April, rain put a spanner in the works early on Day 2.
The test riders had to wait for an hour, while the technicians made sure all test instruments fitted to bikes were waterproof. At the end of Day 2 the test was back on schedule and both bikes and test riders had survived the cold, wet weather. All bikes were still in good conditions.
28 April: Test in Tanna kicks off as scheduled
Ten test riders started test-riding 30 electric bikes and pedelecs as planned on the first day of the 10-day test series conducted by ExtraEnergy in Tanna, Germany. By the end of the first day the bikers had together pedalled a total of about 250 kilometer on tar and gravel roads. No major technical problems had been encountered and all bikes were still in good running order.
Partly cloudy skies kept the temperatures for bikes and riders within the comfort zones, but the immediate future looked grim: Rain was forecast for Day 2 and the technicians had to be sure the handful of testing instruments fitted to each bike would not be put out of action by damp. Precautionary measures were asked for.
27 April: Mounting of the testing instruments
Preparations for the test in Tanna. Mounting of the measuring instruments to the test bikes. Fixing the battery measuring instruments to the batteries of the test bikes.
26 April: 1,400 test rides in Germersheim
On the occassion of the Spezi Special Bike Fair in Germersheim near Heidelberg, ExtraEnergy made all the test bikes available to visitors for test rides. The opportunity was grabbed by many who tested one bike after the other with great interest.
ExtraEnergy events manager Uwe Schlemender estimated 350 test riders were on the test track. Some tested one, or two bikes, but most tested more and a few tested as many as eight bikes!
He calculated the average for the 350 riders at 4, meaning 1,400 test rides were undertaken.
24 and 25 April: Public test event in Lorsch
The ExtraEnergy test started with a public event, as part of the local electric bike fair in Lorsch near Heidelberg. Previously registered test riders, passed through a number of stations with the bikes of their choice. They had to, for instance, find the batteries which fitted to their bikes without the help of user manuals, and carry their bikes up stairways, mount them to a cycle rack and push them up a loading ramp. Afterwards they rode through the small town of Lorsch.
Finally they completed the customary questionnaire evaluating the everyday usability and riding characteristics of the individual bikes. The rush of the hobby testers (and their interest) were big. The completed questionnaires will be evaluated in the coming few days.
More about the 2009 Test
Copy: Christoffel Volschenk and Susanne Brusch
Photos: Patrick Knappick, Susanne Bruesch, Nora Manthey, Nicolaus Decius
Last updated: May 5, 23h00