We ran into Ian Hughes, the new UK distributor for Storck Raddar – the German company's e-bike line – at this week's London Bike Show and he told us some exciting news: they've teamed up with Britain's Cosworth Group, of Formula One fame, on a new electric bike project.
Along with Andrew Warr, programme manager for Cosworth, Hughes showed us two of Storck's new e-bikes – including one in Cosworth livery – and we took them for a spin around the car park.
These machines are powerful – switch on the pedal-assist, the motor seemlessly kicks in and before you know it you're flying off down the road. And because there's been no lengthening of the chainstays or other tweaks to make room for the battery and rear hub motor, they look and handle just like 'normal' bikes – albeit somewhat heavy ones.
In fact, if you remove the lithium polymer battery and replace the back wheel with a standard one, that's exactly what you have – a standard Storck Multitask or Multiroad hybrid. The white alloy Multitask seen here weighs around 19.5kg (43lb) in e-bike guise, but remove the 4.9kg motor and 2kg battery and that comes down to 12.6kg (27.8lb) – perfectly respectable for an urban bike.
The battery locks into place on a rail mounted to the down tube bottle cage bosses. Remove it, and swap the rear wheel, and you're left with a standard Storck hybrid
The team-up with Cosworth has only just been agreed, so these bikes haven't yet benefited from their engineering and electrical expertise – the motors are actually custom built by a Swiss company to Storck's specifications. The plan is for Cosworth to refine this already very promising design, making the engines lighter, more powerful and more efficient.
Warr told us that he hoped the collaboration would "bring some excitement to the e-bike world". "The latest battery and motor technology is coming together to produce bikes that aren't slow and uninspiring but instead offer a really good and exciting ride," he said. "Markus (Storck, founder and chief executive of the German company) has done a really good job of bringing all that stuff together. Hopefully we can put a little bit on top."
Cosworth have been tasked with refining Storck's Swiss-built motor, with the aim of making it lighter, more powerful and more efficient
"This really is an exciting time, with two highly regarded brands coming together," said Hughes. "Cosworth's vast knowledge of high-performance engineering will help develop more efficient and lighter electric engines, batteries and control systems, plus a whole load of new applications." The pair envisage a time in the not-too-distant future when you'll be able to upload data from the bike to your smart phone or PC.
As well as the stats you'd expect, like battery life and how far you've ridden, this will include how much money you've saved by choosing an e-bike over a car – something Warr sees as one of the main selling points for electric bikes, especially for commuters. "An e-bike makes cycling available to people it wasn't previously available to," he said. "You can make yourself healthy and you can save yourself a whole lot of money."
A handlebar-mounted unit lets you switch the motor on and off, and control how much power it delivers
The move into e-bikes is part of a wider diversification by Cosworth from their core motorsport market. "It's exciting for us," Warr said. "A departure from our norm but we have a huge enthusiasm to get into a new and exciting market. The Cosworth brand is know for Ford Sierra Cosworths and all the rest of it. It's so nice we can bring the brand back to the public's attention in this way, especially when subjects like fuel efficiency are so topical."
Five models will be available this year in the UK. As with the rest of Storck's range, they'll be aimed at the premium end of the market, with a choice of carbon fibre or alloy frames and quality Shimano parts, including hydraulic disc brakes and PRO finishing kit. All share the same 250W motor, with a patented torque sensor that delivers a very linear power curve – there's no kick as the electrical assistance kicks in or is increased. Claimed range of the battery is up to 100km.
The cable routing isn't pretty but it allows for easy removal of the battery or rear wheel
The two alloy Raddar (Storck's designation for their e-bikes) Multitask bikes come with alloy forks and Shimano Deore kit. The basic £2,500 model downgrades to a Shimano Alivio chainset, while the £2,700 bike comes with mudguards, a rack and dynamo powered lights. Claimed weight is 19.5kg (43lb).
There are two standard Raddar Multiroad carbon models, each with a matching carbon fork. For £3,200 you get a full Deore groupset while £3,500 buys you an upgrade to Shimano XT. Claimed weight is 18kg (40lb).
From May, there'll also be a special Storck Cosworth EFV version, with an unrestricted motor (the others are limited to 15mph by UK law). It'll look somewhat like the model pictured here, although the design of the graphics has yet to be finalised, but with a much higher spec. It's expected to cost around £4,000, with a target weight of 15kg (33lb).
This white model is the alloy Raddar Multitask, complete with rack, mudguards and dynamo lighting
The bikes will be available in Britain via Newcastle-based Storck Raddar UK Ltd, who are in the process of setting up a network of dealers and launching a website. They'll also be offering plenty of opportunities for people to try the new bikes. "The key is getting people to ride them," said Warr. "That means making them available in real-world situations, getting people to test ride them and see how good they are."
"The e-bike market is young at the moment," said Hughes. "But that, to me, has potential. It's similar to the mountain bike market back in the '80s. Trek are involved now, Giant... there are quite a few big companies taking the e-bike market seriously in the UK."
Ian Hughes (left), Storck Raddar's UK distributor, and Andrew Warr, programme manager for Cosworth, with the new e-bikes