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A preview at the newly launched Shimano Steps E8000 eBike system for 2016. This revolutionary system from Shimano is designed specifically around electric mountain biking. It's great to see a big competitor like Shimano join the market with an eMTB specific system. Up until now, the Shimano Steps system has been designed around city riding and thus has not been supported for electric mountain biking. A player like Shimano could be a game changer?..
Following a big launch, last year at EuroBike Shimano clearly put a big push on their standard Steps system, but we were anticipating Shimano to come out with a new system specifically for the mountain bikers, so let's take a look at some of the new features:
Shimano Steps Motor Drive Unit
Following the integrated look, the Shimano Steps E8000 eMTB motor is small and compact. Using a slightly different design to its competitors the drive unit is held in a triangle formation allowing for a slimmer bottom bracket width, better q factor (just 175mm) and a secure, efficient and direct power output from the rider to the cranks.
The compact E8000 Motor has integrated cooling fins to disperse heat efficiently, a technology which derived from some of the newer Shimano disc brake systems. Plus it look's good! The way in which the motor is designed and integrated means frame manufacturers can position it just right to reduce chainstay lengths keeping things tight and nippy on the back end. This will add to the rider's manoeuvrability on the bike and ride like a typical mountain bike in respect of handling. It offers 250w of continuous output power and a whopping 70Nm of torque which gives good progressive power to the rider. This is adjustable with the power outputs as the rider can set and change the assistance mode whilst riding on the fly in 3 options - Eco, Trail & Boost. The Shimano Steps eMTB system also features a walk function should you ever walk next to the bike it'll push itself along (also handy for oiling the chain!). Using a more conventional but dedicated crank setup with technology from the Shimano hollowtech cranks. These are offered in 2 variants - A lighter hollow arm or a solid arm based on rider preference. The regular sized chainring on the front (34t or 38t) gives the rider easy compatibility between regular sprockets and chains which we will delve a little more into further down this article.
Shimano Steps Battery Power Pack
The newly formed slim power pack slots neatly into the downtube of the eMTB. This appears to slide in from the side rather than slot in from above allowing it to be mounted into smaller frame sizes. We also hear that although this is currently frame mounted there may be options to integrate into the frame in the near future. Shimano advertises a rattle free mount that should withstand even the harshest of conditions.
The Shimano Steps E8000 eMTB battery has a larger capacity of 500Wh. We are still awaiting range figures based on the system's efficiency, but as with all things Shimano we expect it to be good. You should be good for a lifetime of around 1000 full charge cycles. The 500Wh power pack has 5 green LED's at the top to show current charge state and allows the user to see capacity when charging at a glance. Worth noting the Shimano Steps battery is also offered up as waterproof so no qualms when catching the odd rain storm or when cleaning the electric mountain bike.
Shimano Steps eBike User Display / Controls
Keeping in with the look of Shimano Di2 displays the eBike specific colour LCD version gives a clear and simple readout to the rider. Credentials like speed, assistance mode, power & battery capacity offer a crisp picture at a quick glance whilst out attacking the trails. The smaller display is neat and compact and just does the job it's intended for.
Also integrated into the new display is gear selection and we'll delve a little more into this further down. It's also worth noting that the new E8000 eMTB display is smartphone/tablet compatible via Bluetooth, where the rider can change settings & customise the eBike to their liking. Nice!
The handlebar mounted controls on the left act as the riders assistance selector for the rider and keeps in look with the current Di2 setup and looks. It means the rider's cockpit will be clean and sleek with potentially a Di2 shifter on the right and the assistance selector on the left. Quick sharp and precision shifting between assistance modes on the fly should be a doddle with the large grippy buttons.
Shimano Steps Integration / Compatibility
As with all things Shimano, the clear advantage is perfect seamless compatibility and integration with other popular controls. The fact that this system will work seamlessly with Shimano 11 or 10 speed cassettes, standard chainrings and Shimano chains is a big bonus. It means the user knows exactly what will work with each component. It also makes for handy transfer across to the normal Shimano drivetrains which users are already familiar with. Where this really means a lot is in the integration, with electronic shifting taking off and Shimano's already proven Di2 system firmly established, the clever bit will be with the synchronised electric shifting and motor assistance to create an all in one system to the rider.
For example, a Shimano XTR Di2 Rear mech will be fully compatible with the system, using the power of the Shimano Steps system, information passed through the motor/controls and quick electric shifting to offer a completely integral system. Perfect! The new Shimano Steps system uses the well established Shimano eTube setup to communicate between components. This open system allows easy installation of extras like shifters, derailleurs and lights by simply unplugging existing parts, plugging in a Y-cable adapter and re-connecting the components.
How does it compare?
Likely to be a big question, so moving forward it'll be mostly compared to big system providers like Bosch & Yamaha. The motor is around the same size as it's competitors if not slightly smaller whereas the battery appears slightly bigger.
It's clear it's designed in direct competition at both of the above. The power is similar between systems although the new Bosch CX will be slightly higher in torque, in real life conditions it'll be difficult to tell over specification on paper. Check out our Bosch / Yamaha comparison here. Some features of Bosch and Yamaha have clearly been taken into consideration to combine into a powerful system. The big chainring and side mounted battery are similar to the Yamaha whereas the controls/smartphone communication is more comparable to the Bosch. Offering 4 assistance modes seems to be the preferred figure too across Shimano, Bosch & Yamaha eBike systems. Battery capacity is on par / if not more than some, obviously depending on how efficient the motor and drivetrain are. We will be able to do a more comprehensive comparison article as the official facts and figures appear.
What do we think?We believe the Shimano E8000 eSystem will exceed on the gear shifting integration and smaller display/controls. Although the Bosch system is also compatible with gear integration, the Shimano will be an easier switch and more brand specific. Having tested a Shimano Steps system with integrated Di2 gear selection early last year, the shifting was seamless & really made sense. It's fully interacted with both the rider & the system:
It's also nice to see a big player like Shimano back in the game, with the launch many years ago of the first ever standard Steps system it never really took off, it's nice to see Shimano have been working hard to produce more modern specific city / eMTB systems that work for different riders needs. We are sure the eMTB specific system will live up to the Shimano name.
If the battery power and signals already exist; it makes perfect sense to use them to power / control all aspects of the bike - An all-in-one system!
When can you get it?
Well, it's just been announced this week at the Lake Garda Bike Festival as a preview. We are sure Shimano will have a lot more to offer when it will properly launch at EuroBike later on this year (August) where we expect to see the first Shimano E8000 Steps eMTB's.
What does that mean to the end consumer? Manufacturers will already be working closely with Shimano to produce prototype bikes in time to show off at EuroBike. You'll be able to get your hands on actual bikes later on in the year, we'd expect at least October time 2016.
See our Shimano E8000 equipped Mountain Bikes here - Shimano Electric Mountain Bikes.