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The bicycle is being transformed into a vehicle and going digital

With electrification, the bicycle has reached its next evolutionary stage - Digitalization increases, both with and without electric drive - Eurobike exhibits new trends

Friedrichshafen, Germany - Electrification of the bicycle is in full swing: For some time now, almost every product group has been available with electric drive - from city bikes to trekking bikes all the way through to mountain bikes. At the Eurobike in Friedrichshafen (August 30 to September 2, 2017), as a barometer of the bicycle industry, this development is becoming more and more evident, but this trend is far from over. Topics such as digitalization, connectivity, and big data are increasingly becoming the focus of all industry stakeholders.

The variety of e-bikes is not just about the areas of application. Designers can truly run riot with the new technical elements for bicycles. More and more providers are realizing that an e-bike can be visually more than a bike with a rechargeable battery and motor added on. The upcoming Eurobike will feature unusual designs that are only vaguely reminiscent of the classic bicycle. System integration is the catchphrase here -  and we are not just talking about looks: All of the electrical features of the bicycle can be controlled using a control unit. This is not only technically possible but already being implemented. Linking with smartphones is of course also standard now.

The digital bike

Incidentally, a digital bike does not necessarily have to be an e-bike. Even without electric drive support, it is now possible to have a lot of electronics on a bicycle. Networking bicycles among one another in order to allow them to move more quickly and safely in rush-hour traffic, for example, is still a vision of the future, but it is already technically feasible, as technology conglomerate Microsoft demonstrated at last year’s Eurobike.

This digitalization of the bicycle and its infrastructure is being shaped by specialized service providers with expertise not only in the bicycle industry but also in software development. These include young emerging companies such as Cobi and Bloks, which are completely dedicated to the idea of bicycle connectivity. Or the social media athletic network Strava, which operates a dedicated data service with Strava Metro. This service collects and analyzes the paths taken by pedestrian and bicycle commuters registered on the network. "Strava Metro’s anonymized data, such as preferred routes and times of day, can help urban planners significantly improve and re-design traffic routes and traffic flow,” explains Simon Klima from Strava. At present, cities with a total population of 160 million are already using data from Strava Metro.

E-bike manufacturers are also advancing bicycle networking: Swiss provider Stromer, which specializes in S-pedelecs, has fully committed to the digital bike, which it describes as follows: "It is smart and learns from the individual riding behavior of its users. It hardly ages, because innovations and updates are received over the air, thus enabling continuous renewal.” An integrated anti-theft device, localization of the bike using an app, and integration with social media networks are also part of a digital bike.

The economic importance of the e-bike today can be seen in the current figures for the bicycle industry. According to Germany’s bicycle retailer association, the share of sales of electrically propelled bicycles at German bicycle dealers was 35 percent in 2016. Compared with the unit numbers of the previous year, 11 percent more e-bikes were sold. Since the average price for e-bikes in the retail trade also rose to 2500 euros, sales in this segment actually rose by 17 percent.

The Dutch Accell Group, one of the largest bicycle manufacturers in Europe with well-known German brands such as Winora, Haibike, and Ghost, earned more revenue with e-bikes than conventional bicycles for the first time in 2016. Bicycle manufacturers were even able to increase sales of sporting e-bikes by 70 percent over the previous year. The greatest driver of this revenue growth is Germany.

Product trends are often only a short-term phenomenon, but the current e-bike boom is more than just a flash in the pan. This is one thing that bicycle experts can agree on. "Society is changing: urbanization, increasing environmental and health awareness, demographic transition,” says Claus Fleischer, Managing Director of Bosch eBike Systems, one of the leading drive manufacturers for e-bikes: "These mega-trends have a strong impact on our individual and commercial behavior. Innovative technologies, new solutions, and crucial improvements to existing products make everyday life noticeably easier. For example, the bicycle has also reached the next evolutionary stage with its electrification.” Fleischer expects that every third new bike sold in Central Europe will be an e-bike in the medium term.

What the bicycle and e-bike of the future will actually look like can thus already be intimated. More than just an intimation, but rather a comprehensive overview of the developments in the bicycle market, will again be offered in the coming summer by the Eurobike as the world’s leading trade fair for the bicycle industry. The expected 1350 exhibitors from 48 countries will be presenting their new products for the upcoming model year to the trade audience from August 30 to September 2, 2017. On the last day of the fair (Saturday, September 2), the fair will also be opening its doors to bicycle fans among the general public. More information is available at