Even chip shortages and supply-chain snafus haven’t stopped the Pyrenees-worthy ascent of e-bikes, whose sales are leaving traditional bikes in their dust. If more evidence were needed that e-bikes and micromobility are a cool defense for a toasting planet, consider this: Porsche, the venerable sports-car purveyor, recently acquired a majority stake in Greyp. That’s the Croatian e-bike company founded by 33-year-old Mate Rimac, the electric-car wunderkind and CEO of the newly formed Bugatti Rimac, of which Porsche holds a 45-percent share.
Greyp (pronounced “grape”) isn’t looking to be the two-wheeled analogue of the US $2.4 million, nearly 2,000-horsepower Rimac Nevera hypercar, according to company CEO Krešimir Hlede. Yet the company’s high-end offerings, starting from around $7,000, are similar technology flagships, designed to help Greyp sell its digital know-how to other bike manufacturers, just as Rimac is supplying EV tech to Aston Martin and Koenigsegg, and developing a high-performance EV for Hyundai.
“We do have 'bikes' in our name, but we’re not a bike company,” Hlede says of his vertically integrated outfit. Of 50 employees in Greyp R&D, only four work on the physical bikes themselves. And the company has sold only about 2,000 bikes since 2019, nearly all in Europe, with about 1,200 pre-ordered for 2022.
Think of Greyps as smartphones or PlayStations with pedals, and Android/iOS apps as their nerve centers.
“We’re never going to sell 100,000 bikes, because then we’d become a competitor to our own customers,” Hlede says.
So what is the company up to in Sveta Nedelja, near Rimac’s factory on the outskirts of Zagreb? Greyp touts its creations as the first fully connected e-bikes. They’re designed to meld the digital and real worlds, and get people huffing and puffing in the process.
Extravagantly styled models like the Greyp G6 (starting from about $8,000) are stuffed with sensors, 4G eSIM modules and GPS; dual 1080p/30fps cameras, telemetry and rider data; remote antitheft features and real-time gamification. Think of Greyps as smartphones or PlayStations with pedals, and Android/iOS apps as their nerve centers.
That connected philosophy already gets on the nerves of some old-school riders, who see biking as a blessed escape from screen time, and a way to tune into one’s natural surroundings. But company execs and engineers instead see a competitive edge.
Certainly, Greyp’s bikes don’t skimp on top hardware. The G6 is a full-suspension mountain bike with such goodies as a T700 carbon frame, Formula Selva fork, Formula Cura disc brakes, SRAM drivetrain and Schwalbe tires. A mid-drive motor by MDF, updated with Greyp firmware, outputs a nominal 250 watts of pedal-assisted power (450 watts peak), with a 700 watt-hour battery.
“If our bike puts a smile on your face, and our competitor doesn’t, we win.”
—Krešimir Hlede, CEO, Greyp
Yet Hlede says the world’s e-bike giants all draw from the same shelves of familiar, largely interchangeable hardware—frames and forks, derailleurs, batteries, and motors—from suppliers such as Shimano and SRAM, Yamaha and Bosch. Regulations limit maximum speed and power, and practical limitations in battery mass make it hard to eke out a meaningful edge in range.
“In bikes, it’s difficult to be different,” Hlede says in a video interview. “We’re not creating a bike for the next Olympic champ, or the most efficient bike. You won’t hear a lot of discussion from us on range or newton-meters, because most people honestly don’t give a damn. But if our bike puts a smile on your face, and our competitor doesn’t, we win.”
On Greyp bikes, front- and rear-mounted cameras constantly buffer action in 20-second bites, so riders can press a button and save footage for a social post or posterity.
A front-mounted wide-angle camera joins a rear-mounted similar device in providing Greyp e-bikes with action-capturing eyes fore and aft. Greyp
“When you see, say, a pink elephant cross the road and say, ‘I really should have recorded that,’ you’ve already got it,” Hlede says.
Another in-the-works feature will let the bike recognize a jump or stunt in progress, and automatically load that clip onto the user’s phone. Using their apps and TMobile connections, riders can communicate with bikes remotely to snap still images or manage functions.
“All of a sudden you have a bike you can take from point A to point B, but one that will also create content, make decisions for you, provide a gaming platform, and communicate with other bikes or infrastructure.”
If a rider tumbles into a ditch or encounters an emergency, the bike can automatically dial for assistance, as with cell-connected services in cars. Owners can be alerted if someone moves or makes off with their pricey bike, and track or even disable the Greyp entirely. A battery charge takes about 5 hours. But a hidden, secondary battery maintains a connection for up to six months if the main battery is depleted or removed, according to company engineers Robert Gotal and Saša Počuča.
Onboard sensors capture dozens of telemetry data sets, including hill gradients, g-forces, rpm cadence, or a rider’s physical power output and heart rate. That heart monitor can adjust the bike’s power-assist level accordingly, or to match a preset workout schedule. As with auto-racing software, users can analyze their rides in granular detail to improve their skills or adjust training regimens. Gamification features let riders compete with one another—and potentially “players” in other locations—over GPS-linked courses, capturing flags or seeking high scores in time, speed, or physical output.
“All of a sudden you have a bike you can take from point A to point B, but one that will also create content, make decisions for you, provide a gaming platform, and communicate with other bikes or infrastructure,” Hlede says.
Several of Greyp’s digital features are on the sleek new Storck Cyklaer, an innovative, lightweight e-bike made in a partnership between Greyp, Storck Bicycles, Porsche Digital, and Fazua, the German drivetrain maker. That bike also lets riders remove both the battery and motor when they don’t need the assistance, greatly lightening the load.
Hlede believes that linking bikes to the phone-and-Internet world will only boost the sport’s popularity; he cites an overall 40 percent rise in e-bike sales in Europe in 2021, 140 percent in the United States, and the Far East’s longtime practice of moving through cities on two wheels.
“This is absolutely something that can happen in the Western world. My mother is 70, and all of a sudden, this allows her to ride a bike,” Hlede says.
“My own traditional mountain bike has been collecting dust for five years,” he continues. “Going up a hill is no longer a pleasure, but a punishment. Without an e-bike, I wouldn’t go for a weekend ride, but now I will.”
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Lawrence Ulrich is an award-winning auto writer and former chief auto critic at The New York Times and The Detroit Free Press.