In addition to the hordes of e-bikes out there, the market has plenty of aftermarket kits designed to turn standard bicycles into electric-assist machines: electrified wheels like the Centinel and FlyKly, friction drives like the ConoDrive and Rubbee 2.0, and mid-drives like the Bimoz. With the exception of the rare powerhouse, like the 3,400-watt EGO-kit, these add-ons tend to use modestly powered motors for speeds between 15 and 20 mph (24 and 32 km/h) or so. The new mid-mounted Bikee Best kit packs more power potential and torque than average, aiming for better hill climbing capability and speeds up to 30 mph (48 km/h).
Bikee Bike founders, brothers Luca and Matteo Spaggiari, hail from Italy's "Motor Valley," home to such names as Ferrari, Lamborghini and Pagani. It's no wonder the two grew up with a healthy love for all types of motor power and went on to individual careers working around motors and vehicles in various parts of the world.
The Spaggiari brothers applied their expertise to the smaller motors of electric bikes after learning of the issues that e-bikes were having climbing hills. The two set out to create a more powerful, hill-friendly electric bike option that would remain sleek enough to not weigh the rider down. They came up with the Bikee Best motor, which is designed to optimize torque and help cyclists climb up steep hills from a standing start. They say it's effective on up to 30-degree slopes.
Bikee chose to integrate its motor into a retrofit kit instead of a complete bike in order to reach more people and give customers the flexibility to add the motor to the bikes of their choosing. Instead of building a one-size-fits-all kit, as some other companies do, Bikee has developed four kits tailored to the restrictions of different countries and regions. The base 250-watt kit is designed to meet European Union pedelec restrictions, the 500-watt system for Switzerland, Canada and EU S-pedelec restrictions, the 749-watt version for select US states, and the 999-watt version for other US states.
While the power varies, the 88.5 lb-ft (120 Nm) of peak torque at the chainring is constant across all four kits. Unlike with automobiles, torque isn't a standard spec for e-bikes and kits – a few manufacturers list it, but many don't – so it's a bit difficult to gauge how that figure compares to the competition on first glance. Bikee claims it's three times as much torque as competitors offer, but it doesn't say which competitors.
A quick look at a few e-bike products with listed torque figures shows that the 88.5 lb-ft figure is indeed robust compared to some of the others out there. The muscular2,000-watt Bultaco Brinco had half the Bikee's torque when it launched last year. The 250-watt Bionicon e-ram off-road mid-drive also had half when we looked at it. Even the Ubco, more of a full-blown 2,000-watt electric dirt bike with 2WD, has well less at 66.4 lb-ft (90 Nm). The Trefecta DRT manages over 50 percent more, up to 184 lb-ft (250 Nm), but that super e-bike was starting well above $24K when we last looked at it, so not really in the same league.
The greater Bikee kits include 48V battery packs ranging from 320 Wh to 550 Wh, a throttle, controller, speed sensor, crank arms, Bluetooth, and mounting hardware like the battery holder. Bikee says that the kit is compatible with 90 percent of existing bicycles, and it replaces the existing bottom bracket of the bike. It has an integrated gearbox with single high and low gears and works with your existing rear cogset or internal gear hub. Bikee estimates a 15-minute install and extra weight of between 16.5 and 18.7 lb (7.5 and 8.5 kg), depending upon configuration. The kit can be removed if you want to add it to a different bike or convert your Bikee-equipped bike back to a traditional bicycle.
Once installed, the Bikee gives you three modes to work with: throttle, pedal-assist, and throttle override. The accompanying iOS/Android app lets you tweak motor response and other parameters to customize the ride to your preferences. Bikee estimates range between 25 and 35 miles (40 and 60 km) when using motor power alone at speeds of 15.5 mph (25 km/h) on flat ground. Estimates increase up to 180 miles (~300 km) if you dial it back to 20 percent motor assistance with those same speed/ground conditions. Top speed is listed at 30 mph (48 km/h).
Bikee is hosting a Kickstarter campaign, offering complete Best kits starting between pledge levels of €860 (approx. US$975) for the 250W and €1,390 ($1,575) for the 999W. It's also offering just a 1,500W motor with mount, but without battery or components, for the DIY crowd, starting at the €560 ($635) pledge level.