The Stromer ST1 pedelec was a tricky purchase to make. I have a glut of bikes in the house and this new one was going to cost the same as a brand new Vespa scooter.
The view from the household was that I should quit being lazy and just get on my push-bike.
That refrain has been heard before but has very limited effect I’m afraid. The fact is, that although I love the ride into work; the speed, the ducking and diving, the excitement of reaching London and its bridges and parks – I just can’t be bothered with the ride home. After a hard day’s work, when it’s dark and usually wet, I just can’t face the upward climb towards an unattractive suburb of Croydon.
So I’ve been using pay as you go oyster far more than I’d like. I’m not prepared to buy a money-saving season ticket and tie myself in for a year of public transport drudgery.
That’s where the Stromer comes in. It’s got to be close to being the worlds best eBike. Super fast, long-range and I don’t feel like a nob riding it.
It’s a pedelec eBike which means it doesn’t have a throttle and only provides motor assistance if you are putting in some effort. You can actually put in as much effort as you can on a standard bike but you are rewarded more handsomely for it. The extra assistance cuts out at a pre-defined max (28 mph).
A lot of people assume that it is cheating and that I won’t be getting any exercise by choosing to use an eBike, but they are wrong. Well not about the cheating bit, I would have wasted a lot of money if it wasn’t cheating, but I certainly get a good dose of exercise from the commute. I’ve monitored my heart rate on the journey into work and back so I can compare the effort on an eBike with the effort of a standard road bike (Specialised Sirrus). I was quite surprised.
The chart shows my heart rate against distance, with the eBike in Orange and my standard road bike in blue.
On the way in to work my heart rate is actually higher on the eBike. What you can’t see from the chart is the time taken, its much faster on the eBike, so although I may be putting in more effort while I’m riding, I’m not doing it for as long. On the way home my effort levels are lower and I still get home 20 minutes quicker. That is exactly what I wanted – a fun ride in and a more relaxed trip home.
What is like to ride a pedelec eBike?
The ride is thrilling. Obviously push-bike riding can be thrilling if you ride fast enough but the joy of the Stromer is that it makes me feel fit and energetic everyday. That’s a great feeling.
When I first started, I tended not to lead the peloton too often. I didn’t like to draw too much attention and also didn’t feel quite so agile on this heavy beast of a bike. After a month of riding that’s changed though and I ride freely, regularly leading my own Gurney races.
The weight of the bike which is not insubstantial made it quite tricky to manoeuvre as a novice. You can’t flip the back wheel up while on the move for instance but that can also be an advantage as it offers stability and slow speed moves are made a little easier.
The power transmission from the rear wheel motor is pretty smooth. It feels like you have a supportive hand on your back just pushing you gently forward.
There are 4 assist levels:
0 – which I presume means zero assist. I had thought I’d use this for the ride into work but really, why would you. The bike weighs a tonne and the unassisted ride feels like riding with the brakes on.
1 – is supposedly just enough assist to eradicate the slowing effect of the weight of the bike and the motor. It should set you on a level playing field with the other cyclists. It feels to be slightly more performance enhancing than it suggest in my experience.
2 – This is where I spend most of my time. I ride between 18 and 22 mph – not too fast for the Central London conditions. It’s a stop start commute and I appreciate the extra help to get back up to speed.
3 – top supported speed is higher than 2 but I don’t find the transmission to be as smooth, I can feel it powering up as I pedal hard and then it drops off again in waves. For the pace I like to travel at, level 3 just doesn’t feel comfortable.
4 – this is fast! Top supported speed 28 mph. For the stop start London commuting experience I find this too fast and hardly use it. There is one straight stretch on the way home that I like to power along though so I tend to flick to assist 4 and then back down to 2 when the roads get more gnarly again. If I had a less congested commute I would probably live at Level 4.
You also have 2 levels called Recup 1&2 which are also triggered by the application of the rear wheel brake. This applies electrical braking which also recharges your battery a bit and extends the distance range before your battery flattens.
What is the Distance Range of the Stromer ST1?
I’m afraid I haven’t tested this out fully and will need to come back and update this review.
The manufacturer claim a distance range of 40-80km for a 70kg rider. Now I’m a 100kg rider with luggage, half of my journey is at night which uses the integral light – another drain on the battery, so I’m unlikely to get 80km out of it.
My daily commute is 36 km and I arrive home with about 2 bars left on the battery indicator. What I have yet to do, in the name of blogging science, is to continue riding around and around my block until I run out of assistive steam. I want to make sure I’m close to home when the battery flattens as the unassisted ride is quite an effort!
***UPDATE on Stromer ST1 Motor Failure***
As soon as I finished writing this post, gushing about the joys of eBike riding, disaster struck.
I was mid way home, about to power away on a standing start at a junction. I pushed on the pedals, nothing happened, I pushed harder, still nothing untill I wobbled and tipped pathetically to the side while the other vehicles impatiently pushed me aside.
The Stromer ST1 was not playing at all, it was stuck in brake mode and it felt like I was trying to move a spin bike on the highest resistance. Worse still my monitor was flashing the message HALL. Of course that meant nothing so I googled it. Apparently it means “Motor failure – contact dealership”. That is not what I wanted to read so far from home. I tried switching off and on and eventually the message disappeared but the bike was no longer the same.
The Stromer is heavy and unwieldy at the best of times, when it decides it’s not going to work anymore it is quite a pain to get home. You can’t just bundle it in a taxi or the back of a train. I switched it off and tried pedalling anyway but it still felt like a high resistance spin bike. On the bright side, my return commute was going to be an amazing quad workout.
I did get home eventually and the UK dealer (Urban eBikes) have been very good, they are coming around tomorrow to pick it up and repair it for me, so it looks like I’ll have to dust off the oyster pay as you go for another week while they repair or replace the motor.
***Second Update on Stromer ST1 and Rider Performance***
I’ve just seen a fascinating youtube video by Adam Alter, showing a Stromer ST2 rigged up with a power meter and BSXInsight Lactate Threshold device with the rider powering up a substantial hill.
It nicely illustrates that the effort levels of the rider can still be high when riding an s-pedelec, its just that the rewards are so much greater.