The Vello Bike+ has arrived!
We have our first demo bike in the shop. Its a Vello Bike+ with disc brakes and belt drive and the Bike+ power assist. I have been riding it for a few days to familiarise myself with the power assist and the folding mechanism and so far it all seems pretty good.
First of all the finish looks excellent. The welding is clean and it seems to have a thick layer of powder coat which should keep the frame looking good for many years. The only critical folding element is in the fork crown which is custom machined with a red anodised aluminium and stainless steel finish. It looks very solid.
The geometry is slightly unusual as it has quite a long top tube and a very short stem. This means it can have quite a long wheelbase for stable handling and makes it easy to adapt for taller riders, but it might be challenging to make it fit smaller riders without doing something radical. The handlebars can be set at any height as part of the fold and a longer or more upright handlebar stem should make it adaptable to most riding positions. The ends of the handlebars slide out for folding but are kept in place by a heavy duty shock cord and located in a slot so they easily slip back into position, where they are clamped by a quick release lever with more red aluminium. They are dead straight, which is the only compromise on the ergonomics. If you would prefer a different shape you could sacrifice the extra compactness supplied by the removable bars and fit a set of conventional handlebars. The grips are acceptable and the saddle inoffensive.The pedals fold and are better than average.
At the moment it lacks mudguards and rack which are both in development but with summer coming (?) I don't think this will be a deal breaker. In the meantime you can use the front headtube mount for a Rixen Kaul bracket and there are loads of nice luggage solutions to fit. Later there will be an in-house designed luggage frame which fits on the same mounting point. This puts the luggage nice and low and fixed to the frame of the bike rather than the handlebars or forks, so it is stable and secure.
The mudguards on the previous model had a cunning split which means that when you fold, the bike is not resting on the mudguard as the Brompton does. They should be available quite soon and I assume will work in the same manner. I will bring you news on these when we get to see the finished item.
So finally the power assist, which is very new technology and I think I will need to use it quite a bit before I can give a full report. The revolutionary element is the way everything, battery, motor, controller, is contained in the bikes rear hub, which has a single gear but a multitude of settings which are all controlled by an app on your phone. The app also displays speed, trip distance and total distance travelled, how much the motor is currently generating and the remaining battery life. It also enables you to lock the bike when you leave it.
After downloading the app and using bluetooth to connect it to your phone, you can choose your setting and ride, it is not necessary to have your phone with you unless you want to change the setting.
The motor has to be turned on which you do by pedalling the bike up to 10 kph (about 7 mph) and turning the pedals backwards, at which point you feel the brake being activated. Pedal forwards and the motor kicks in, giving you immediate assistance. When you stop it takes about half a pedal revolution before the motor actuates again, I assume as a safety feature to stop the bike running away if the pedal is moved by mistake. So far I have only been using it in "turbo" mode, which gives the maximum output up to 20 kph and then gradually tails off until you reach 25 kph. Regulations don't allow you to have assistance above this speed, and the gradual tail-off avoids the feeling of hitting a wall which you experience with some other systems.
In turbo mode the motor will support you comfortably pedalling at 20 to 25 kph, it gives you a boost when you are starting off and gives you a powerful push up the hills. It has a claimed range of 35 km, but you might be able to extend this a little by using the built in recharging, which activates when you pedal gently backwards, acting as a brake and putting a little bit of juise back in the battery.
There is also a BIke+ mode, which actually uses any speed more than 25 kph to recharge the battery, so when that you are going downhill you are putting some energy back in. The effect is similar to putting on the brakes as there is obviously some increased resistance as electricity is generated. I would need to do some longer term tests to work out whether this is sensible or useful, but it is claimed that on an undulating ride the battery can be maintained at close to capacity.