Shimano is bringing on-the-trail power output customization to their STePS eMTB/e-bike drive systems through a new firmware update and mobile app. While it may seem moot to think you need to customize the output of your e-bike system (especially on-the-go) we’ve had the personal experience of test riding e-bikes on unfamiliar terrain & in changing weather conditions where the high-torque E8000 power assist has made it difficult to maintain traction on loose trail surfaces. By bringing the ability to set the power output of the Trail & Boost modes, Shimano is giving its eMTB riders better control over their e-biking experience and lets them adapt their pedal assist & battery life to individual needs and trail conditions. Then on top of the electronics update, Shimano let slip that they have developed a new e-bike-specific mountain bike saddle. Find out why that might actually make sense after the jump…
On the STePS customization front the new firmware give riders the ability to tune the Trail & Boost modes of their E8000 eMTB systems over Bluetooth. For those looking for simplicity, there are now two basic settings – the factory original Dynamic setting that pairs a low output Trail mode with a full power Boost mode, or a more evenly spaced Explorer setting that turns Trail mode up a notch and Boost down a step.
Or then go into the full customization mode where you can set high, medium, or low settings for both Boost & Trail modes. Shimano wouldn’t give more concrete details of what these different power levels actually are for their 250W E8000 motor, as that seems a tightly held secret from one e-bike maker to the next, but from our experience all of these levels are going to probably be falling between the spectrum of 100-250W of nominal output, with the Eco mode that you don’t get to adjust existing at the low end of that.
Interestingly, Shimano also says that even when you customize output, their Trail mode is still an Intuitive pedal assist. That means the actual pedal assist output is variable depending on the force you put into the pedals (and is displayed by the power bar on the E8000 handlebar display.) Pedal harder in Trail mode and your get stronger motor assist. So when you are really torquing it on something short & steep, the E8000 will match your efforts up to its max 70Nm output.
Personally I would like to see real numbers (or at least estimates) to clarify the different levels, but the fact that Shimano is offering customization at all is a great first step, and will hopefully go a long way to helping e-bike users adapt their bikes better to their riding style and trail conditions.
All of the settings can be customized through Shimano’s E-Tube interface. So that means you can use the home computer or tablet apps, or a mobile phone app on the go. The new firmware is slated to be ready to be pushed out through the Shimano E-Tube website & apps by the middle of August 2017.
PRO Volture e-bike saddle
Now to that e-bike specific saddle from sister brand PRO – it is going to be called the PRO Volture. That’s a play on the name of the existing Vulture trail riding saddle on which the shape of new e-bike version is based. Shimano’s PRO component arm is said to have developed the new saddle to deal with the different way most people ride an e-bike vs. a conventional bike.
Probably the biggest difference that PRO sees is riders spending more time in the saddle, so not only does the new saddle get a bit thicker padding, but it gets a new carbon fiber reinforced composite shell designed to damp vibrations as well. The Volture also gets a lot wider. The pre-production saddle we saw was marked 152mm, making it a full 2cm wider than the standard Vulture we saw mounted to an e-bike nearby. PRO again says that is to better suit riders who are more likely to stay seated, spinning a high cadence to get the most out of the eMTB assist on extended climbs.
The Volture drops the full length channel of the Vulture, but does carry over a depression in the middle, plus a pressure relief opening on the underside of the shell. It also gets a similar one-piece synthetic cover, with reinforced sides for all the times you put your e-bike into the dirt, and looks to have a couple of threaded inserts at the rear to attach accessories like a rear-racing action cam? No official info on the saddle yet – expect more around Eurobike – but the one we saw had stainless rails, and a cromo one is likely as well.