Electric bikes have featured heavily in the news for all the wrong reasons in recent times.
In 2016 a professional female cyclist was caught cheating with a bike that had a motor and battery hidden away in the seat post. She was only found out when her bike stopped working mid-race and she had to carry it across the finish line. She was banned from competing for six years.
Stories about shady bespoke bike makers that have been paid $2m to make powered road bikes for professional riders. A small amount of the money for parts and labour. The rest? For keeping quiet about it.
YouTube videos of riders who crash their bikes in a race…and the bike wheel keep turning whilst the bike is lying on the road.
Thermal imaging pictures showing heat sources (the kind that a battery and motor would emit) in the bike frame.
This is a great shame. Not only does it put another cloud over the world of professional sports. Another layer to add to the doping and other cheating that apparently is rife in many fields. But it also spills out on the street. Then you get ‘proper’ cyclists calling ebike riders cheats.
I get that in pro sports the organizers are trying to create a level-playing field so that it’s a fair and true test of who is the fastest or strongest. But how important is that in our day to day real lives though? I don’t think it is.
If an extra boost of power that comes from an electric motor makes the difference in terms of getting:
- me out of the car and on to the bike to do my grocery run, or
- an overweight person away from the couch and out into the park to get fresh air and exercise, or
- a senior person, who hasn’t ridden before and doesn’t think they can handle hills, out powering up those hills…
Then how can ebikes be anything but a massively positive addition to our lives?
Our recommended ebike with hidden power:
So, I think they’re fantastic (you probably already guessed that!) but, like many areas of life, they may not be something that we’re comfortable talking about, except with our nearest and dearest.
If a person sweats excessively they might keep an extra shirt at the office to change into quietly over the lunch break.
And, if we like really bad 80s Euro-pop, we might listen to it quietly, by ourselves, in the car, when we’re cruising along the highway.
Ahem, not me, obviously….
Hidden electric bike motor
Because of this, it’s nice to know that bike manufacturers have recently started creating ebikes that have unobtrusive power systems integrated. These mean that you can get a boost of power without letting on that you’re getting a bit of a helping hand.
The systems that the pro riders have allegedly used don’t actually appear to give a huge power boost. Somewhere in the region of 200W for 20 minutes. That’s not a lot and you and I probably wouldn’t notice it. However, in races where an ounce or a 1/10 of a second can make the difference between a podium finish or a “Bad luck, Pal. Maybe next time ….” Riders seem to be prepared to risk their careers.
For us, though, we can get all the benefits of a more powerful hidden motor, without the danger of becoming a newspaper headline.
Hidden bicycle motor kit
Things To Look Out For When Choosing a Hidden Power eBike.
There are some great ebikes in the marketplace today, but many of these scream “I AM AN EBIKE!”
What we’re looking for though is something a little bit more subtle and a little less shouty.
That’s a useful start point because it means we can whittle the options down by applying a few filters to the results.
There are a number of features that we’re looking for with eBikes that have hidden power. Let’s take a scroll down the list:
- Hidden battery
- Inconspicuous motor
- Unobtrusive cabling
- No “eBike” branding
- Small LCD display
Let’s go into a bit more detail on each of these.
Often one of the biggest giveaways on an ebike. The batteries tend to be big and chunky and strapped on to either the downtube of the frame (where your water bottle would generally sit). Or they are fixed to a pannier rack over the rear wheel.
The kind of battery we’re looking for is one that is neatly stored in the frame.
Small electric motors for bicycles
Normally there are three positions for an ebike motor:
- front wheel hub,
- by the pedals, or
- rear wheel hub
Motors by the pedals can look fairly out-of-place (and therefore give the game away). Although a larger hub motor can also draw the eye of an observer.
Electric bikes will have extra cabling to take the power from the battery to the motor and also hook up to the controller. Best case this will be inside the bike frame where no-one will see it. Next best is to have it in a color that matches the bike frame so it doesn’t stand out.
No “eBike” branding
From our perspective, there’s no point in having an ebike that has a battery in the frame, inconspicuous motor and hidden cabling… if it then has MASSIVE IN-YOUR-FACE DECALS THAT SCREAM “EBIKE!”
Subtle ebike branding is fine as this can be covered up. No ebike branding is even better.
Small LCD display
Most ebikes will have a helpful LCD display, generally on the handlebars. This will give you information about battery charge left, speed, distance, etc. All useful information, although it can sometimes reveal the reality behind your trusty (electric) steed.
Smaller is better here. Some ebikes even do away with the LCD display completely and go with a simple on/off button – see my No.1 recommendation below.
Recommended Hidden Power eBikes
Ok, let’s take a look at each of these gorgeous machines with their hidden charms:
Another fantastic city bike, the Story Electric Bike comes with a 350W motor tucked away in the rear hub (and virtually impossible to see).
Even more unobtrusive is the battery, which is hidden in the bike frame. It’s in the down tube with STORY BIKES printed on it. With a battery in the frame, the surface-mounted cabling is also kept to a minimum and looks just like standard braking and gear cables.
Take a look at the video on the Amazon page and you’ll see that the only aspect that gives the game away is the LCD display on the handlebars. And with minimal effort, this could even be explained away as a standard speedometer.
Another awesome feature of the Story Bike is one that you definitely can’t see from the photos. For every bike they sell, they give another bike free to a person in need in Africa, South America or South East Asia through their partnership with World Bicycle Relief.
At mid-table is the EB-5 from SwagCycle.
This is a fantastic all-rounder that is most at home as a commuter bike. Either for the full distance, but more likely for the last mile of a journey. One of the only aspects that identifies the SwagCycle EB-5 as an ebike is the tiny print on the frame by the seat post. Hey, that’s what decals were made for, isn’t it?
Fold it up to pop it onto the train with you. Unfold it at the station and whizz the rest of the way to your office. Then fold it back up again and stash it safely under your desk. Reverse on the way back home and then fold it up to pop in your closet and keep it out of the way.
This ebike has an unobtrusive rear hub motor and, like the previous two bikes, the battery is tucked away in the frame.
Ok, I hear what you’re saying. These urban bikes are great for getting round the city on a weekday, but what I really need is a sweet ride to cruise down to the beach on the weekend.
I know what you mean! The trouble is that those standard beach cruisers get really heavy and hard to pedal along when you’ve got them laden down with your cooler stuffed with sodas and the surfboard lashed to the frame.
What’s the answer? Well, as it turns out, the answer is definitely the ONWAY Fat Beach Electric Cruiser. This bike has all the swept-back easy-riding style of a traditional beach cruiser. But it also has a very powerful 500W motor on the back hub and a battery tucked into the frame. For me, the best feature of the ONWAY is that the battery is removable. So you can take it off the bike for charging if your socket is away from the bike storage.
Oh, yeah, and you might need another hog sticker to cover up the E-Bike branding under the seat.
It would be fair to say that sometimes electric bikes can look a little bit… clunky. You can see the thinking that happened at the bike factory:
Ok, let’s take a basic bike and strap on a massive battery, ginormous motor and put ugly cabling everywhere. That’ll be a winner!
Hmm. Thankfully none of that thinking clearly went on at the factory where they designed this beauty. The Café Racer from CIVI BIKES channels its inner Steve McQueen and just oozes style and retro sophistication. It has a long list of great features like the vintage headlight, sweptback geometry and massive 750 watts of power. From our perspective, it also keeps all the “ebikeness” tucked away inside the “gas tank”.
Finally, and this is a feature that you won’t use. The Café Racer can whisk you along at a whopping 28mph. But, who would want to go that fast on this bike? Clearly this is a bike that is meant for cruising slowly round town on so that everyone can see you.
Well, that and jumping tall barbed wire fences, obviously.
Final word on Hidden Power Bike Motors
Like me, I’m guessing you’re probably not a professional cyclist. I suspect my days of even hoping to become one are probably long gone. That’s fine. I’m comfortable with that.
However, that doesn’t mean that we can’t make use of some of the same tech that they, ahem, may or may not be using. Like them, we may also not want to shout about it 😉
In that case, electric bikes with tucked-away batteries and motors are genius.
Try out these great bikes and see whether their hidden charms can win you over.
Keep it on the QT…