One of the great perks about working at a bike company is that amazing new gear has a way of just walking in the door. This was the case recently when Randy from Shimano stopped in with something special in the Sprinter; a fully equipped STePS e-bike paired with their Di2 shifting system and Alfine 11 speed internal hub!
NAHBS builder SyCip Bicycle's frame cradles the STePS power plant
Shimano introduced the STePS system at Eurobike this year and has clearly been in development of an electric assist system for some time. While European's have been adapting e-bikes to daily life for the past several years, the U.S. has been a bit slower to adapt to this advancement in bicycle technology. For those of you who haven't ridden a solid electric assist bicycle the concept may seen like cheating, or impure in some way. While I'll never give up pure pedal power, I can certainly see an e-assist bike as part of my personal quiver.
Walk mode provides e-assist of 3mph
We've had the good fortune to demo several electric systems and I can truly say that Shimano has done their homework developing the STePS system. Like Curry Tech and Bosch, Shimano uses an integrated chassis mounted motor and controller. As expected, Shimano has designed the system to work fluidly with their Di2 electronic shifting system. This paired with an Alfine internal 11 speed hub means the brains in this e-bike will downshift the hub automatically when you come to a stop. It also throttles back the power as you shift to give a smooth transfer to the next gear as if you were massaging the clutch on a motorcycle. The Di2 shifter places gear control at the tip of your fingers with push button controls and smooth shifts.
Push button control via Shimano Di2 for the Alfine internal hub
The amount of assist is up to you with modes ranging from Eco to High assist. While we didn't have enough time to go through a battery cycle on this machine, according to the STePS display significant range can be expected depending on the level of assist chosen.
Choose assist modes of Eco, Normal and High
Battery life is available on the handlebar mounted display and through a series of lighted LED's on the battery housing. To power up the system simply depress the power button on the side of the battery and wait a few seconds while the system activates. There is also a key port on the side to disable the system.
Battery life, keyed security lock and charging port all located on the battery housing
Power is smooth on the system and speeds up to 20mph are easily maintained depending on the level of assist chosen. Another nice feature on the steps system is their walk mode. You can have a 3mph assist to help as you walk your bike, which would definitely be an advantage if your pushing a fully loaded e-bike up an incline.
Speeds up to 20mph are easily maintained depending on assist mode
This STePS system gave us a great opportunity to enjoy another e-bike and left me with a very positive initial impression on Shimano's new electric system. Overall its an intuitive and easy to use system and is well executed as you may expect from Shimano.