How smart can a bike get?
The Greyp G6, a battery-powered bicycle launched Friday, March 15, provides a new answer to that question. It raises the bar for every other e-bike manufacturer with a ton of original features that turn the bike into a powerful, high-tech gadget.
Over the weekend, I got the chance to try out the G6 on the beautiful trails of Croatia’s island Brač. Turns out, it’s also incredibly fun to ride.
Greyp is a sister company of Croatian hypercar maker Rimac Automobili, and the two share a lot of the same DNA. Neither company is interested in doing something that’s been done before, and both build high-end products that may not be for everyone, but will surely make every tech geek’s eyes light up.
Greyp’s first bike, the G12, was launched in 2013, and it was an entirely different animal. Half electric motorcycle and half e-bike, it was speedy and powerful — so much, in fact, that it wasn’t exactly street-legal in the same way a regular bicycle is.
The G6 comes in three flavors — G6.1, G6.2, and G6.3. It’s definitely an electric bicycle, of the mountain bike (eMTB) variety. But it, too, has a duality that makes it hard to categorize, simply because there aren’t many (or any) similar bikes around.
On one hand, the G6 is a high-end mountain e-bike with a 250W MPF motor and a 700mAh battery that provides additional power as you hit the pedals, but it never just drives itself like a motorcycle does. It has some of the best components imaginable, including a carbon fiber-reinforced frame, an enduro-oriented dual suspension with 150mm of travel and top RockShox parts, and SRAM EX1 shifters, cassette, and chain, to name a few. If you don’t recognize these components, suffice to say that you’ll find them on the best enduro and all-mountain bikes. See full specs for the three Greyp models here.
Everything and the kitchen sink
You may have seen similar electric bikes from companies such as Giant, Cannondale, and Specialized, but this is where the similarities end. First, Greyp drew from Rimac’s battery expertise to build its own custom battery, providing some 100 kilometers (62 miles) of range. Based on the short time I’ve spent with the bike, it’s hard to judge how much of an advantage over other brands this is. But having seen Rimac’s battery assembly plant, and given the fact that the company provides battery expertise and parts for some of the world’s fastest supercars, I’d say these folks know their battery tech. One other detail makes the G6 different from many competitors: The battery is visible (as opposed to being built into the frame) and easily detachable; you charge it at home with Greyp’s own custom charger.
But the biggest difference between Greyp G6 and most other e-bikes is that instead of relying on added sensors and smartphone smarts to provide extra functionality, the G6 has all of that built in. The bike has a GPS chip, a 3-axis gyroscope and accelerometer, and even a barometric pressure sensor. It has two wide-angle, 1080p cameras (front and rear). It has a 3-inch TFT screen, designed to be readable in sunlight, with a 240×400 pixel resolution for showing basic info such as battery life and speed. Connectivity-wise, the bike’s equipped with Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and a USB-C port. Most importantly, it’s constantly connected to the internet via a built-in e-SIM, with Greyp covering the data costs until at least 2022.
If you think that sounds like a specs list for a smartphone instead of a bike, well, you’re right, it kinda does. I’ve checked numerous competitors, and I haven’t found an e-bike that has all these features, even on pricier models (though the G6 itself isn’t cheap; more on that later).
While the bike is fully functional as is — basic functions are accessible via rugged, waterproof buttons on the left handle — the real fun starts when you connect a smartphone and place it in a special cradle on top of the built-in screen. Then, you start Greyp’s companion app (Android-only, for now; iOS support is coming this year) and get features such as navigation, a live video feed from front or rear camera (seeing what’s behind you can be really handy sometimes), or detailed info about your ride. You can even put a built-in heart rate sensor on your wrist (it comes with the bike) and set the bike to provide more power when your heart rate goes up and less when it goes down, keeping you in that fat-burning sweet spot all the time.
Yeah, this thing is clever.
It doesn’t end there. When it’s not plugged into the bike (the bike’s battery charges the phone, so no need to worry about your phone dying), the G6’s smartphone app turns into a sort of remote control for the bike. If someone’s touching your bike, for example, you’ll be notified. You will then be able to remotely warn them via a text message on the bike’s screen, take a photo through the bike’s cameras, or disable it completely and track its location through the G6.
Between the bike itself and the companion app, the list of features is too long to name them all. Still more are coming, as the bike’s software can be updated with over-the-air (OTA) updates. But enough lists.
Turning a beginner into a pro
Unlike some prototypes we’ve seen, the Greyp G6 is a finished product that can be pre-ordered now and will start shipping to customers in a month or two. I had the rare opportunity to actually test it out right after launch, on a variety of terrain and in two different configurations — the G6.2 and the most powerful variant, the G6.3.
As a pure mountain e-bike, the G6 is just loads of fun. If you’ve never ridden a pedelec e-bike — one that assists you while pedaling instead of just driving you like a motorbike — you should know that it has two important traits. First, yes, it makes the ride easier by helping you out during those nasty uphill climbs. If you’re not very experienced or just can’t handle a climb on a regular bike, the G6’s motor will make you feel like a pro by providing just as much power as you need.
But if you are experienced and are looking for a challenge, the e-bike won’t turn you soft and lazy. You can ride as hard as you like and break a serious sweat, but the difference will be that, compared to a regular bike, the G6 will help you cover more distance. On a normal bike, 20 miles on rough terrain with a solid amount of elevation would be a long, painful ride for me. On the G6, I was blasting through the finish line. In fact, a couple months with this bike, and I bet I’d be testing the G6’s nominal 62-mile range, which would take me years to achieve on a regular bike. Note that once the battery’s depleted, the G6 becomes a perfectly capable regular mountain bike, so no problems there.
The G6 excels on rough roads. It’s got wide, off-roady tires and a sturdy frame that make the bike feel incredibly stable. With the help of the electric motor, I was easily conquering terrain that’d be a real challenge on a regular bike. Often I felt more confident at high speeds than I usually am; that could mean I’ve suddenly become a better rider, but it’s far more probable that the bike is just fine-tuned well. On an asphalt road, I didn’t mind those rugged tires; again, with the electric motor I was easily achieving good speeds, perhaps not comparable to a road bike, but still fast enough for my liking. I’ve tested both the mid-range G6.2 and the most powerful G6.3 variant, and honestly, both had plenty of power. I’ve also tried turning the power assistance off completely during a steep climb — and I very quickly realized that I’m not in the shape this bike made me feel I’m in.
The brakes, shifters, and suspension all performed admirably on both bikes I’ve tested. The G6.3 has slightly better parts than the G6.2, but it’s all high-end stuff that’s far better than anything I usually ride. One cool feature was the ability to change the seat height with a switch, mid-ride. The control buttons for the bike’s smart features seemed sturdy enough to me, though using them while riding over rough terrain wasn’t always easy.
Tech platform for the future
With the G6, the ride itself is just half the fun. I also enjoyed fidgeting with the extra features provided by the smartphone app. Some, like navigation, were most useful during a break. While riding, I mostly had the camera on, because it’s just so cool to have an HD stream of your ride in front of you. And you can record it to your phone at any time.
There were a few bugs. Sometimes, the video stream would lag considerably, and sometimes, the app crashed — but those issues were only present on an older, Galaxy S8+ Android model, which happened to be installed on the bike I was testing. This is made worse by the somewhat odd decision to place the phone cradle so that the phone covers the bike’s built-in screen. If the phone app dies, you lose access to all the info about the bike and the ride (plus, as a tech geek, I just like the idea of being able to see two screens at the same time).
The next day, the Greyp crew outfitted me with a different bike that sported a newer Android phone, and I had no issues during a 45-minute ride. Some parts of the trails had a poor 3G signal, which was also an issue for the always-connected G6. I’ve spoken to the folks at Greyp; they’re aware of these issues and are working to fix them before the product reaches end users.
The most interesting aspect of the bike, however, are the features yet to come. Some, like the possibility of getting a one-minute video replay (useful in case of crash) are nearly there, but aren’t fully implemented. And some, like gamification and racing against other riders, I didn’t get to test. But the possibilities of this platform are truly endless. Notifications if you stray off path and fall out of your group? Bad weather warnings? Music streaming? With the tech this bike has, it’s all possible.
Why hasn’t anyone done this before?
You could take a regular bike, add some third-party gizmos, and create some sort of makeshift version of the G6. Use a phone for the info screen, a helmet cam for video recording, a sports watch for the measurements, and stick a bunch of sensors on the bike. But it will never work as well as it does when the cameras, the sensors, and the connectivity are all built into the bike itself.
The truth is, once you get used to it — and you do get used to it fast — you start to wonder why other e-bikes don’t have these features. Mate Rimac, the CEO and founder of both Greyp and Rimac Automobili, tells me the secret is simple. “We’re an engineering company first. Innovation comes before everything else. We aren’t looking to build another bike, we’re looking to see where can we take the idea of the bike.”
I really do believe we’ll see these sorts of smart features on e-bikes more and more. After all, when you have that big, juicy battery, why not have it power a bunch things instead of just helping the bike move forward?
There’s another reason why all e-bikes aren’t as advanced as this, though, and it’s the price. Starting at 6,499 euros ($7,359), the G6.1 is not cheap. The G6.2 costs 6,999 euros ($7,925), and the G6.3 costs 7,499 euros ($8,491).
While the prices may be eye-watering for someone used to regular bikes in the sub-$1,000 price range, when you compare apples to apples, Greyp’s pricing makes sense. Comparably equipped e-bikes from big bike brands like Specialized and Cannondale are priced similarly, and they don’t have all the features that Greyp has.
The Greyp G6 can be ordered now from Greyp’s website, and should be hitting dealers in Europe over the next months.
Read more here: http://mashable.com/