Stromer ST1x – a fast and sophisticated ebike
I leapt at the opportunity to ride and review the Stromer ST1x – a new model for 2017 being distributed by electrify.nz The original ST1 is one of the bikes that popularised ebikes in its native Switzerland, in many cases as a car replacement. The ST2 was more of a beast, priced ‘from’ USD7000. The ST1x is not an updated ST1, but an ‘entry-level’ ST2, at ‘only’ USD5000/NZD8500. It shares frame and electronics package, but has a slightly more modest motor torque at 35Nm. It is worth noting that 35Nm on the hub is probably like 80Nm in a mid-drive.
The ‘Cyro Drive’ on the ST1x is 35Nm compared to 40Nm of the ST2. Stromer also have an ST5 at a whopping 48Nm. The motor is labelled 250W but fear not, that assumes it is limited to 25kph. When unleashed (as it is out of the box) it is the same as the 500W model sold elsewhere. Remember that power ratings on bikes are as useful as power labels on a stereo. One quality 50W will play louder than another’s 2500W.
My first ride had me somewhat impressed, but then I discovered all the hidden treasures in the Omni smartphone app. Here I could tune the output, between ‘Max Range’ and ‘Max Power’. Guess which way I went? Max Range seems unnecessary when you have an 816Wh battery (17Ah at 48V). The demo bike had the lesser 618Wh battery and still had 54% left after 28km at my full speed commute. Maybe there is something to say for brake-activated regeneration…
If you haven’t ever ridden a direct-drive rear hub bike, do yourself a favour. The fashion might be towards mid-drive but there is something beautiful about a motor that is totally silent, smooth and doesn’t care about what gear you have selected. This one starts off a bit tame, but around 30km/h decides to really take off. On the flat it settles into a nice rhythm around 43-44km/h, faster than most bikes you can buy. What’s more, is that it isn’t limited at all, so keeps going faster if you decide to pedal harder, or get a lift from a tail wind or downhill. Nice! The front chainring is a 44T teamed up with an 11-speed SLX mech at the back. I’d like a 48T up front as I did find it a bit undergeared in the forties.
Of course speed is just plain scary if you don’t have the handling and braking to match. The Stromer frame is plenty stiff and the 60mm balloon tyres and Tektro Dorado brakes made me feel safe, even when the #$&% taxi pulled out in front of me. The demo model has optional suspension fork and Thudbuster seatpost. I’d recommend this bundle ($900) as it adds massively to comfort and protects the wrists from the shocks that you will get with the rigid fork at higher speeds. The suspension fork is nice, it looks similar to the one available on the Specialized Vado made by SR Suntour.
I was a bit puzzled initially by the geometry of the bike. 26” wheels and a short top-tube with narrow bars feels a bit 2000. But as I got used to the bike it all made sense: this isn’t a cross-over wannabe, it is an out-and-out urban warrior, and nimble handling and ability to squeeze through tight gaps is a plus. And if you ever want to wheelie an ebike, the shorter rear stays are there for you! The downside is that the rear rack is a bit short, and with panniers on heel strike can be a bit annoying. I imagine Stromer have some Hermes-designed custom panniers that fit perfectly… unlike my Ortlieb.
The Omni app is quite cool. It links up with a touch-screen on the top tube and an embedded (SIM-less) mobile data link and GPS sends position to your phone on demand. You can remotely lock the bike, set a PIN and locate it by GPS, and you don’t need to have a mobile phone data plan to use it – it just works without any intervention from the owner. Apparently if they ever get nicked, they always get found again. A bit like a modern iPhone, they are not worth stealing despite being highly desirable. I tried this feature when I handed the bike back. It shows ‘THEFT’ on the screen and pulses the motor with resistance. It’s a weird feeling and would be quite unpleasant for anyone who had ideas of stealing the bike.
All of the operating aspects of the Stromer are highly refined. I mentioned regenerative braking, if you pull either of the brake levers the regeneration mode is activated, providing engine braking and putting a bit of juice back into the battery. That too is tuneable. I like that the bike turns on quickly with a tap of the button under the top tube, and it defaults to the same settings you had before, including light on/off and power settings. Why don’t all bikes do that? A: Because they aren’t Stromers. The battery is neatly concealed in the downtube behind a flap, and the ergonomics of this have been well sorted. The battery itself has a little folding handle. Michael from electrify.nz tells me they opted for the ST2-standard 816Wh battery for the same price. The USA-spec bike sells for USD5000 with the 614Wh, whereas we get the 816Wh for an equivalent price (factoring in exchange rate and GST). Nice! Bigger is always better when it comes to batteries on road-going ebikes, especially at the same size and weight.
Who should buy this bike?
- You can afford it and want something fast
- You get another bike for offroad use or just prefer your Santa Cruz Hightower
- You’d rather have this than a car anyway
- You value the sophisticated electronics package
- You are still paying off your car, or simply can’t afford to buy one
- You want one bike to do it all
What else could you consider?
- One of the other quality speed-pedelecs like the Specialized Vado 5.0, Moustache Friday Speed, Scott e-Silence SE
Where can I get one?
- electrify.nz (Auckland, Browns Bay, Tauranga, Hamilton) and selected dealers