The Grace MX is Germany's future machine with Bosch, NuVinci, belt drive and integrated Lithium pack.

Darwin’s Bikes

There are two names you should know with respect to bicycle evolution: Bosch and NuVinci.  You’ve probably heard of Bosch and associated it with cars, but they have recently introduced a 250 watt crank drive electric motor that can power a bike through all of its gears.  The NuVinci hub sports a continuously variable transmission (CVT) that replaces traditional front and rear derailleurs to vastly simplify a bike’s drivetrain.  Just the twist of a shifter runs a rider through the gears without skipping a beat and can be done under load.  A few bike manufacturers have already combined these cutting edge technologies to produce what promises to be the future of electric bikes and quite possibly bicycle commuting as a whole.

I spoke with Al Nordin, president of Fallbrook Technology’s cycling division, which produces the NuVinci hub.  Though the idea for the hub was hatched by Don Miller in San Diego, who was looking for a cure for the bicycle drivetrain headache, it has quickly expanded in its applications and locations.  The technology has not only morphed into other forms including wind energy, vehicle transmissions, and APU’s (Auxiliary Power Units), but has hopped continents and taken root in Europe.  Nordin says that bicycle manufacturers in Germany have been more enthusiastic about the NuVinci hub because of the popularity of bike commuting there and a more mature e-bike industry.  But he maintains that many US companies, such as Evelo and Bodhi, have pointed their wheels in his direction.  And with European OEM’s like Stevens and Grace entering the US market, we should see a plethora of e-bike offerings in the near future.

Evelo has developed its own crank drive with a NuVinci N360 option that is currently being road tested across the country.  The objective: complete a 4,000 mile journey on $20 worth of electricity.  The Trans-American Electric Bike Tour will promote electric bikes as an alternative mode of transportation for commuting and recreation. The tour departs April 7, 2012 from New York City and ends in San Francisco two months later, with stops at more than 15 cities to host presentations and talks. Read more or follow the team at

The latest addition to the N360 is the Harmony automatic CVT hub, which was designed for e-bikes.  Nordin says the rider can set a desired cadence, which works much like setting a cruise control speed in an automobile.  The system then automatically and continuously seamlessly shifts the hub to maintain the rider's set cadence. It's power is drawn from the e-Bike's battery.  He adds that it will soon be available for human powered bikes with the addition of a small battery.  The Harmony will be extra helpful on e-bikes that have a throttle because the rider won’t have to control the throttle and shifter at the same time.  The Bosch system is called a “pedelec” because it automatically increases electric power when more pressure is applied to the pedals, therefore alleviating the need for a throttle. 

Written by Keith Shockley





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Electric-Assist commuting in the streets of New York

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