What's new in e-bikes? The Gazelle C380 HMB has been Lloyd-proofed
I ride the new model in Amsterdam and Dieren and don't break anything!
Second-last bike post, I promise!
On the morning of my trip to Amsterdam, I was riding my Gazelle Medeo e-bike home from a lecture in the cold and sleet when suddenly I couldn't pedal; A clip and strap from my pannier had got caught in the chain and the derailleur. I turned the bike over and started trying to work the strap out of the chain, but in the process, the chain popped off the front chainring. I couldn’t remove the chain guard, and as I tried to work the chain back on, it snapped. I sighed, walked the bike to the shop and took the subway home, soaked to the skin and shivering. After writing about this on Twitter, I got responses like, “what kind of idiot cyclist doesn’t carry tools to fix a tire or a chain?” But I am an urban cyclist and rely on local bike shops, and I don’t believe you should need to be a bike mechanic to ride your e-bike. It should be idiot-proof, or at least Lloyd-proof.
I thought of this often when riding a new C380 HMB from Gazelle while their guest in The Netherlands. There is no derailleur for things to get stuck in; it has internal gears in an Enviolo stepless continuous variable transmission (CVT.) There is no chain to maintain or break; it has a belt drive. There is no big battery at the back carrier; it is built into the down tube. There are no wobbly fenders that are always rubbing against the tire; these are solid. There are no rim brakes that slip when it is wet; there are big grippy hydraulic disc brakes.
The Bosch Kiox 300 controller is completely changed too, separating the controls from the display, which gives you a lot more information in living colour. This puts the display in your face where you want it and makes the operation of the controls much more intuitive and convenient. I could now buy “pogies” or winter bar mitts and still see the display. Of course, it has Bluetooth to connect to your phone.
But the biggest change is the Auto mode; instead of flipping between eco, tour, sport or turbo, It picks the power it thinks you need. You don’t have to touch it. I only moved it into Turbo mode once when I wanted to get up a steep (for the Netherlands) hill fast. It was all smooth and seamless.
The two features that transform the bike are the new controller and the stepless shifting, which lets you just rotate part of the handgrip and seamlessly move through the ratios with no steps or clicks because there are no gears. Back in Toronto, I was just out riding in below-zero Celsius (in April!) and noticed how much trouble I was having getting my gloved fingers between the brake handle and the grip to get at the gear shift, thinking how much easier the twisty grip shifter had been. I also noted how often I changed power levels from my usual Tour to Sport to occasional Turbo, and it was often. All of this is avoided in the C380.
It’s all in a solid, well-built bike with comfortable geometry, good shock absorption and top-of-the-line components. The paint finish is perfect; you want to fondle this bike as well as ride it.
Basically, almost every problem I ever had with my bike, whether it was breaking the chain or being in the wrong gear at a red light or the wrong setting on the power control, is gone with this bike. You get on it, and it goes without you having to think about anything. They have Lloyd-proofed it.
Speaking of hills, the one I will die on is the question of how much power an e-bike needs. The 250-watt Bosch Performance Line motor designed for European Union pedelec rules delivered more than enough torque (75 newton-meters) to get me moving. The speed was more than enough so that I felt I was moving fast, but not so fast that I was overtaking the fit Dutch cyclists- European rules limit the speed to 25 km/hr, and commenters on the Dutch Gazelle website complain that the governor on this bike is really effective, cutting power right at 26 km/hr. In Canada and the USA, thanks to good old American exceptionalism, the speed will be 32 km/hr or 20 MPH.
I moved with traffic rather than being faster. I remain convinced this is all one needs; I tried a gorgeous Gazelle “speed pedelec” that could do 45 km/hr, legal in much of the United States, and felt like I was on a rocket. The range is adequate for urban and suburban riding- There are two battery options; a 500 Wh that should push it 130 km and a 625 Wh, good for about 155 km.
The riding position is described as “active,” which is not quite the Dutch sit-up-and-beg, but it was comfortable, easy on the neck, back and bum with the great seat. The shock absorbers ate up the bumpy section of the test track and would easily digest urban potholes.
This was an almost perfect bike; I had never been on one that was so easy to use or as smooth and comfortable. You do not feel or hear the motor; you do not have to think about anything; you just ride.
It is not cheap, and one local told me she thought it was too heavy at 25.6 kg, but she has to carry her bike up a flight of stairs, and there is no way anyone not young and fit is doing that with this bike.
It also shares a frustrating feature with my own Gazelle e-bike: the key stays fixed in the café lock when it is open. I use a big honking angle-grinder-proof Hiplok and occasionally forget about the café lock, presenting an opportunity for a thief to steal my battery and leave me with a locked bike. I wish they wouldn’t export this feature.
Gazelle still sells e-bikes with derailleurs, metal chains and earlier models of the Bosch controls, but if you are shelling out for the quality of a Gazelle, dig into the sofa and find the change for the upgrade to the C380 HMB. It’s worth every guilder.