Those of you who know London will know that it’s a sprawling city set over a very wide area. Those of you who live here will also know what it’s like to commute in this town. Personally, a few years was all I could take before I had to find a way to work that didn’t involve a sardine can - and when I was faced with the option of spending a few thousand to renew a yearly travel card or finding a more rewarding investment, the answer seemed obvious.
Ebike! No license or registration, no late or cancelled transport, it can handle the 25 mile round trip daily commute and what’s more, it costs less than a yearly travel card. I hadn’t cycled in about a decade, but some things you never forget… After learning a few hard lessons about safety I was good to go.
This year, I’ve replaced my 2010 Kalkhoff Pro Connect Sport with the 2013 Endeavour Bosch Sport in the new year sales (tip - you can always save 20-25% on Kalkhoff bikes, at the right time of year). When I bought the Pro Connect S, I’d spent a ridiculous amount of time website-shopping, forum-surfing and review-reading, but being quite a niche market, good reviews are a bit of a rarity. So here I’ll summarise my thoughts on the two in the hope that it’ll convert a few readers to an electrically charged life of sin.
Kalkhoff Pro Connect Sport (2010)
This bike has been my primary mode of transportation for so long, I’d be lost without one of similar capability. And despite a few flaws, I absolutely love it.
When you consider that avid, lycra-clad cyclist sportsmen types can easily spend 33% more on a bike, the build quality of the Kalkhoff is stunning. Perhaps it’s easier to build a strong bike when you’re not quite as concerned about the weight, but this frame looks and feels strong and solid. As a nice touch, the paint is applied in such a way that it would take some serious damage to the metal to scratch the paint. After all this time, and a good clean, the bike still looks new - but it’s travelled 10,000 miles.
There are a few quite serious flaws with the design however. The battery is unfortunately just a little big :: jiggly :: - which cause the contact between battery and bike to wear out during the first year of ownership. Luckily this was replaced under warrantee, as batteries don’t come cheap, but it’s no great thing to know that the contacts on your battery will wear out before you even notice a reduction in battery life. I made sure to keep the second battery secured as tightly as possible, which required a little modification, but that battery is still in service to this day.
The drive mechanism is built around and extra drive sprocket, and another extra stability sprocket by the pedals. On the one hand, it’s a great system which provides a great deal of power and stability, the chain never skips unless it’s time to replace it, and never comes off - unless there’s a problem. And when there’s a problem, you’d better hope you have an alternative form of transportation, or a spare parts kit.
The stability sprocket is held in place by a surprisingly flimsy piece of metal, prone to bending out of shape. Once it goes, it goes, and you’ll need to replace it. Prepare to have bike shop staff stare in confusion at your bike, if you take it to one. They’ll figure it out, but keep in mind it’s non-standard parts you’ll have to keep stock of.
Once you get used to the setup of the bike it’s actually fairly easy to take care of, almost maintenance free until a part needs replacing, which is the kind of reliability you need from a bike when it’s your main mode of travel.
All in all, it’s easy to do 25mph on the flat with this bike, and it takes a steep hill for a healthy cyclist to have to drop below 18mph with the assistance it offers. The lights are so good they could be on a motorcycle - so good the new model still uses them 3 years later. The range of around 14 miles in the highest power mode and over 20 in the lowest was good in it’s day, if a little restrictive as I live so far out of town. I always wished I could afford a second battery, but that’s my fault really, as I’ve saved more than a battery cost in travel costs over the years. And now I’ve got a new model, with a new battery…
Endeavour Bosch Sport (2013)
I’ve only had this bike for a week now, so I may have to update this, but I’m very happy with the upgrade. First off there’s the addition of disc brakes, and anything that reduces the amount of meddling and worrying I have to spend on those it great. The cycle computer has an additional fourth power mode and even better, it finally calculates the remaining range of the bike in miles rather than battery blocks. I put it through it’s paces and it lives up to spec, after 20 miles on the highest power mode over some big south London hills, it still had 7 miles on the clock. And the highest power mode is just ridiculous. The electric assist doesn’t cut out till 28mph and it’s shockingly easy to hit that high and push past it.
The biggest change - the battery doesn’t jiggle, and the two extra sprockets driving the chain have been removed in favour of standard parts. Everything that’s bound to need replacing at some point, you can finally get in your local bike shop. All in all everything seems to have been rethought and upgraded but the lights, which were already as good as it gets.
My only complaints? The handlebar grips are rubber and compared to the leather stitched set on the 2010 Pro Connect S, I much prefer the older bike, but hey, I may just switch those over. Also, over the few brief miles I’ve travelled on the new model, I don’t think I’ve quite adjusted to the gearing (10 gears on the new model/9 on the old) - and I haven’t found the groove to accelerate as fast as on the old model, but I suspect within a week I’ll have it.
I definitely recommend Kalkhoff ebikes, they’re in a league of their own, and if you ever get the chance to compare their chain driven systems to the hub motor e-bikes most common in stores you’ll see what I mean. This is an e-bike for a cyclist, not for a motorcyclist. You have to pedal. But it makes the experience thrilling.
The manual on the CD is out of date and just redirects you to a new manual, here: http://manuals.derby-cycle.com/manuals/kalkhoff/en_kalkhoff_2012_20140131_08.pdf
It appears the sole use of the USB port on the control unit is for charging devices like phones and tablets from the bikes battery - a use which would require an adapter or a very specific USB cable.
I bought my bikes from http://50cycles.com/ who are the official UK reseller.
The USA reseller are having a sale till the end of January, but I don’t see the Bosch on their site. Perhaps they can fix that for you on the phone. http://www.kalkhoffusa.com
Kalhoff is a German company http://www.kalkhoff-bikes.com/