The Future Of E-Mountain Biking With Marco Sonderegger


– Now it’s not that long ago that we sold the first e-mountain bikes,
the like of the Cube Stereo, the HaiBike, or the Specialized Levo. But a question I get constantly asked is: “Should I buy an e-mountain
bike, or actually wait “for the technology to improve?” Well, today I’m joined by Marco
Sonderegger from Specialized to take a look into the future. (dramatic music) So, Marco, welcome to Wales. – Thank you. – From Switzerland. Hills are a little less
lively than with you guys. – Still quite steep though! (laughs) – So let’s go back to
that last question, right? Lots of people ask me should
I buy an e-mountain bike, or shall I wait for things to improve? What’s your answer? – I would buy right now! I wouldn’t wait out. I mean, it’s obviously fun, right? – Exactly! – Yeah.
– It’s a no brainer, right? No, absolutely no brainer. – But look, let’s have a
look at some of the details of the e-mountain bike. But I want to take you on
a ride around my patch. – Sounds great, let’s do it. (energetic rock music) – (grunts) Marco, steep banks! – Yeah. – Now, steep banks versus shallow banks. It has a huge difference in terms of the draw
it has on your battery. I want to talk to you
about batteries because on this bike it’s got 700 watt-hours. I can do about five to six
thousand feet of climbing and I have five or six hours of riding. And do you know what? I actually find that quite satisfying. It’s a different type of riding to what I was doing previously. – [Marco] Right. – But, where are we going with batteries? Are we going internal, external? Are we going for 250 watt-hours? Are we going for 700 watt-hours? Are we going for 1500 watt-hours? Where is it going? – That’s one reason why I’m here in the UK is trying to find out, right? – Yeah.
– Talking to people and understanding what are they riding, how long are they riding,
what kind of mode, and how much power do they actually need? They ask us for more. They ask us still for more. Yeah, I am totally with you
I think with 700 watt-hours we have a nice mix between weight and efficiency of the bike,
because it’s lighter. This type of battery allows
us to do future specs, so if new sales come out we’re compatible. So that’s good! – [Steve] There’s a lot
of obsession, I feel, with this more range,
but are people actually going to use that range? – [Marco] No, they don’t. And we know hard facts too, right? Because we got some data
from riders and we look at those datas, how
long they ride actually, and they’re not taking it to the limit. I think it’s just that range anxiety. These guys are just afraid of running out. – I think about it, if you’re
a heavier rider and you want to go for a longer ride,
then you do need the range? – [Marco] Yeah. I mean, obviously the weight of the bike and the rider
together, and if you have a backpack on you and lots of water or whatever, a second
battery, weight drains power. No doubt. – I guess it also depends on the type of riding you’re doing. I mean, if you climb like I said there, if you’re climbing steep terrain then that’s going to have a
huge draw on that battery. Whereas if you’re maybe
riding smooth, single track with super skinny tires,
then it’s going to have less. – I think it depends on if you are capable to ride the steep stuff
in like ECO or trail mode, then you drain less
than in turbo, for sure. (chuckles) If you go turbo, then it’s all in, right? – Yeah.
– Turbo is full drainage, and of course, tires make a huge delta. I mean, seriously, we’re
talking in tires up to 20% in range. – [Steve] Between a super tacky and a super low profile tire. – Easily. They make 30 watts difference between like 80 to 50 watts times twice
so we’re talking 60 watts, which is pretty much 60 watt-hours. – You know, I spoke to someone. Let’s talk about battery technology. I asked somebody the other
day in the e-bike industry, I said where is the technology going? And he said to me, “Well, it depends “if you’re in the aerospace industry “or the mountain bike industry.” I guess things are going to get smaller and more compact, right? – I think so.
– How soon? Eventually? – Yeah, the cylindric type
cell we have in here is, as of today, the highest density possible. So, is there a future? Yeah, eventually right? Five, 10 years out, who knows? But right now, at this current moment and with looking out five
years, there’s nothing better than cylindric type cells. – So there you go! Let’s go on to the next trail mark. – Sounds great!
– Yeah. (high intensity rock music) Whoa (chuckles)! Marco, I don’t want to
upset you, but there’s still a little bit of noise in the
Specialized motor (laughs). – (chuckles) Yeah, no, I know. We know, and we heard about it, yes. – Talk about motors, I mean,
it still is very quiet. – Yeah. – Motors. Now, at the moment,
we’re looking at between two to three kilos. On this bike it’s 95
newton-meters of torque. How long before we see
a sub two kilo motor with the same amount of torque? – It’s a good question. Probably not that long, maybe. We’ll see, yeah. – I’ve been looking at new
Creo, the Creo gravel bike. What was that? That’s one point… – [Marco] That’s one point nine kilograms. – [Steve] Right, and
what torque’s that got? – [Marco] 35 newton-meters. – Right. So, it’s not inconceivable
that we will see that type of motor, right? (both laugh) Sorry to put you on the spot. – You’re definitely putting
me out there, right? You know, we’re obviously
looking if it makes sense, right? – Mm-hmm, yeah, totally. Let’s talk brands. Now, in the mountain bike
world, we’ve got Shimano and we’ve got SRAM. – [Marco] Yeah. – [Steve] You’ve only
got to go to Eurobike to see the monumental amount
of E-bike motor brands who are in the far East and
in Germany, it’s crazy, right? – Oh, it’s out there, yeah. Everybody wants to be
part of this business. For real. – Yeah, it’s totally crazy. – There’s a lot of brands
coming and making new products. – I wonder, where are we going to go in materials and weight, then? Are we going to see different
materials for motors? – Yeah. I think everybody’s trying
to push the boundaries to go lighter, in a way, and that leads us to
magnesium, leads us to more aluminum and more high end materials. – I guess that’s going to have an impact on the geometry as well, right? And obviously the styling of the bikes? – Yeah, for sure. Well, I guess it depends. The material itself maybe
allows you to build more compact engines, but the smaller you can build them, the more
you can blend them in. If you blend them in, you
can make shorter chainstays and change the dynamics. Have longer space for bigger
batteries, for example. – Yeah, well, what about torque? Now, let’s have a look at the Creo bike. We’ll just start with
torque and power actually. Now, the Creo bike is is 230 watts, right? We’ve got to be careful
when we talk about watts, because there’s peak and nominal, right? – The Creo has 240 peak
and nominal together. So, basically we designed it
in a way that it has a plateau so it plateaus out right at 240 watts. It doesn’t get you this
amount of peak power. – This little beauty here, though. – It’s beast, yeah. – This little beauty is 565 maximum? – That’s right. It has a peak of 565 watts, which is basically the peak power we
were allowed to go after, but that drains a lot
of battery and basically it’s the amount of weight that we have. These motors are that
heavy because of the peak. – So, I guess we’re just
always balancing the weight versus the range versus the type of riding people are going to be doing
on the e-mountain bikes. – That’s the beauty, yeah. We basically have the choice between choosing lightweight batteries pair them with lighter
weight engines and then you have the same range as
the big and big, right? – Exactly, yeah. – So, maybe in the future
we pair light engines with big batteries then
you have this freaking endless range, right?
(Steve laughs) Hours of hours! – Well, I tell you what,
we’re not going to need any battery on the next bit because it’s a little bit steep. (energetic rock music) I’ve been thinking since your last comment about weight and power. Now, I spoke to Burke, your colleague, in Morgan
Hill back in the spring. He said it looks like
we’re probably get bikes which are lightweight, low power versus heavier weight bikes which are more
rangy, bit more powerful. Where are we going in terms of weight, on say a mid travel 150 mm bike with, say, a 700 watt battery, and, I don’t know, maybe
lightweight case and tires. Where are we going to
be in five years time? Because when I last spoke to you, you said probably around 15 to 16 kilos. Blows my mind still, that does. Is that what you aim for? – Well, that’s still the,
we’re still aiming for that. The main reason is that’s
the bike we used to ride. DH bikes and Enduro bikes,
back in the day, were like at that weight. We loved them, how they
feel, how they ride. So, I think the perfect
balance between bike weight and ride performance
is in the 16 kilograms. – Okay. I tell you what, I was up
from the hills recently. I was actually doing a
ride against a triathlete and, of course, he can jump
over stiles and over gates. You’ve still got to pick that bike up to get it over a gate, so 20 kilos is still quite heavy, right? – I think 20 kilos is still heavy, yeah. Not just for lifting a bike over a gate, but also handling. – Yeah.
– I just think it takes more effort to, you know, move it in the line, pick your line. It’s more holding onto. – I’ve got a colleague
at work, she said to me, “Well, I’ve bought an e-bike. “How do I transport it?” Well, I say what you don’t do is stick it on top of your car, yeah? – (chuckles) Even though
we saw guys at the trail centers that took the batteries out and then it gets a little
lighter, not a good idea. – No, no. What I’ve really been
interested in to talk to you about, Marco, is geometry. Are we actually zoning
in on e-bike specific geometry, do you think? I mean, when I talk
geometry, I think in terms of e-bike specifics, chainstay
is definitely up there as one of the key numbers, right? – We’re basically testing
a lot of different choices. Right at this moment, we
have multiple prototypes trying to understand what we can change to make an e-bike ride better, and there’s definitely ways to go. – Because I’m looking at Lapierre, the Lapierre Overvolt. That’s a 160 mm travel bike. Now, when they first
came out with that bike, they had a chainstay of like 480. And, of course, the latest bike
is 444, so that’s a dramatic change in philosophy on chainstay. It’s not just like, so Mondraker. The Mondraker, the 180 mm travel Mondraker, I think
that had a 490 chainstay. The latest bikes, they’ve
come down to 440 450. – Well, that’s the end goal. That’s what all the motor
makers aim for, right? Those bikes had long
chainstays because they had to. – Is it though? Is it?
– Of course! A motor was in the way. How can you build a short
chainstay with a big ass motor? It just doesn’t work. So all the new engines are, actually now the industry thinks about it, we tell the motor
manufacturers to just keep that measurement in mind between
the axle and the end of the motor, because
that’s between the tire. – I did see Bosch bikes
with short chainstays on the market 3 or 4 years ago. To go back to the question
though, is you need to have a balance between
the front center and the rear center, especially on climbing or an e-mountain bike. Is there a sweet spot? Because Specialized are
renowned for having, on their downward bikes and their enduro bikes, short chainstays. – I think what matters
for the climbing too is actually the seat tube angle. – [Steve] Absolutely, yeah. – Or if you move, if you
look at my bike, I moved the saddle fairly forward on the rail. So, I sit more in the bike
and less behind the bike so it doesn’t lift in the front as much. So, the seat tube angle plays
a big role in the climbing as well, but the chainstay length itself, 445 is a sweet spot, no doubt. That’s the size people aim for, for both climbing and handling. – Do you think bikes
with, say, 420 chainstays are too short? – I tried it! (chuckles) I tried it, and it’s fun too. I do believe, though,
when you go taller sizes, like extra large you’re riding, you probably want longer chainstays to balance that front length. – Yeah, it’s the balance. I mean, you see some brands
like Norco, they have, it’s been a thing that’s been going on for years and years. For the bigger bikes you’ve
got a longer chainstays matched by a longer front center. – I think that’s the way to do. That’s the way forward, for sure. (high energy rock music) – Do you know what? It always cracks me up when you have a technical
climb, and it doesn’t matter what bike you’ve got, whether
you’ve got a Shimano E7000 or 120 newton-meter. The Rocky Mountain’s 110, what is it? – [Marco] Yeah, it’s pretty powerful. The TQ is 120. – Do you know what? It doesn’t matter how much
power you’ve got, all it takes is a stick or a stone
to get into your wheel and it has you off, right? – Yeah. – But, what I’m saying to
you is the torque thing and there are people who are obsessed with having more torque. And we did talk a little bit
earlier, if you’re heavier then it does help, but
there’s certain situations for certain riders where it might be like a wet trail where you don’t need all that power and you can actually, well I guess this bike you can manipulate it, right? – Yeah. I think it comes down to you need to know your terrain you’re climbing. If you know there’s a
steep climb ahead of you, you can choose the right mode you ride, and I reckon sometimes turbo
is not the right thing, because it’s so freaking powerful and one rock or one log will take you out. Once you spin out you
probably can’t make it. But if you know the
climb and you know what’s ahead of you, you can switch it down to trail mode and depending on how you adjust to trail mode within our app, you can fine tune it to a way that
you can make the climb at pretty much all conditions. – Do you think then that is another part of the future, is adjustable motors to tune
to the terrain you’re riding? The same way as like
motorcycle trailer bikes. If you’ve got crazy steep climbs, they tune those bikes at the event to make them go up those banks. So, you have a bike which is suited to the terrain you ride, to your rider weight and your ability. Is that where the future lays or? – I think that’s what the future’s like. Within our app, we’re
looking into new things and we’re basically now looking into different preset modes that you have. Right now, we have three
modes, like ECO, trail, turbo, and there’s like that one
state, but in the future, imagine it like being more folders. So by the trail we ride, you can choose the trail you’re going to ride today and, depending on that, you have the pre-settings for that trail. So because the motor tuning makes a huge difference in the ability to climb. – You’ve talked about presets for motors and customizing that. When it comes to trail enduro-style bikes, now the mountain bike
model has become one of cross country, trail,
marathon, all mountain enduro, will e-bikes follow that model or will you be a little bit more, what’s the word? A bit more prudent with
the amount of models and types of bikes that
you have, do you think? – We’re trying to be
really harsh on ourselves not to add skews by
travel because it doesn’t make a lot of sense,
since you have an engine. So, on the classic
bikes, it really changed because you could design lighter bikes with less travel, but
then everybody would ride a longer travel bike if it could be the weight of the short travel bike. So, with these e-bikes,
we’re trying to really minimize the amount of skews, make that perfect mountain bike. – Do you think 150 is the
perfect e-mountain bike? – I think it’s a really
nice sweet spot, yeah, of how stiff you can get the fork. You know, the longer
forks, if you stick to single crown, they just become flimsy. You need to go double crown at one point. (high energy rock music) – How much time do you actually spend developing software for
the motors and stuff? That must be, you know it’s about you do need to get those motors
smooth, don’t you? – Well, we have a full team. We have a full team of people in place which are doing nothing else but front rim testing and revising them and testing them and finding box. We need to find a lot of box. – Do you think, obviously,
software depends on the rider’s philosophy on how they want the motor to work? – [Marco] Yeah. – [Steve] So, what’s your philosophy on how you think an e-bike motor should work? – [Marco] I just like the natural feel. The less I feel the motor, the better the software is, I think, right? – [Steve] So, you don’t
want any sudden surges, or anything like that, right? – No, I don’t want any of this. I want it to be when I push harder, I want more and I want it to be smooth in a way that it doesn’t just
suddenly kick in or something. – And say you’ve got a
bank like this, something that keeps delivering
power all the way up? – Yeah, for sure. – But, it must be quite simple, right, for anybody to do that? – (deeply exhales) No, it’s
not as simple as you think, because–
– I know what he’s going to say next. “It requires a lot of time riding “in the mountains”, right? (both chuckle) – It does require a lot of testing. Now, what I was trying to tell you is these bottom bracket engines, they rely on rider cadence. And when you ride up here,
you don’t constantly ride in the cadence 80, you
ride a different cadence. That offset, we have
to think about between like 80, 85, 82 that makes it hard. – So also then, so what you’re saying is, the future could be
fantastic software, but still it requires the rider to understand how to ride the bike? – Oh, I think so too, yeah. There’s definitely some basic
riding skills you need to have to understand the bike.
– Yeah, I tell ya. (high energy rock music) Well, that was a romantic day, Marco. – It’s a romantic bench right here. – (chuckles) So, my
final question to you is can you you seen a day,
can Specialized see a day, where there will only be e-mountain bikes? They could be like, and your colleagues have said this, right, on camera, – Did he on camera? Okay. – He saw a day where you just have low powered e-mountain bikes and high powered e-mountain bikes. – I share the same vision, yeah. – Whoa! – Yeah, it’s a big one! I do think there’s still a
place for non-motorized bikes, but just in some certain areas. – Downhill then?
– Downhill. – I mean, downhill will always be an amazing sport, right? – Maybe like hardtail
cross country racing? – Exactly, yeah. – And maybe light full
suspension racing again. – How far away is this? 10 years? 20 years? – (deep exhale) I think the rider might decide to be sooner. I think people will
understand the benefits of an added motor, and I
think it will come quicker. – I mean, let’s not forget
that e-mountain bikes have only been around since around 2012. So, Marco, thanks for
coming to the Welsh Hills and having a spin on the trails. David! Sorry you’ve been so ill, maybe we can sort it out with some fizzy lager later on. – He likes gin tonics. – In the meantime, if you want to see what Marco and the team do with Levo in Cham in Switzerland have look at the video which we did with them, just down by here. Or if you want to know about maybe what’s happening with motors in the world there’s also a video for
you to check out down there. In the meantime, give us a thumbs up, but most of all, let us know your thoughts on what you think is the future of e-mountain biking, and give us a thumbs up and subscribe
if you like this video. Cheers!
– Cheers, thank you.