At the end of 2013 Shimano presented the new version of its ebike system Shimano STEPS. The first version of this system was created in 2010 and it was a complete failure. That failure meant that the Japanese company was late in the competition with Bosch, whose ebikes were already growing in popularity. The new Shimano STEPS should be feared by Bosch, especially regarding city ebikes and trekking ebikes. Moreover, Shimano is a brand that is known by everyone who’s already familiar with cycling, and this can only be an advantage for them.
Just like Bosch systems, Shimano STEPS is an ensemble of components (motor, battery, display…) that the Japanese company supplies to ebikes producers. The Shimano system requires a specific frame so it’s not available as a conversion kit.
We will illustrate the components of Shimano STEPS in the next paragraphs, highlighting in particular the recent (February 2015) improvements: the most interesting evolution of this system is a completely automatic gearshift option. Read on!
Shimano STEPS ebikes have a 418Wh battery (36V x 11,1 Ah). It is available in two versions: it can either be installed on the rear rack (2,5kg) or on the down tube (100g heavier). Shimano states that the battery is made of high-quality parts and that it can be recharged up to 1000 times without leading to battery degradation.
You can choose between three levels of assistance: you’ll have a range of 60km with the high mode, a range of 85 km with normal mode and a range of 125km if you switch to eco mode. Shimano doesn’t go into any detail about the weather, weight and street conditions for which these values are valid.
2015 news: a new system allows the battery to be charged without removing it from the ebike. The new charger also allows for a 80% charge in only 2 hours. It takes 4 hours to completely charge the battery.
Shimano calls this motor a “drive unit”: indeed it houses not just a motor, but also a pedalling sensor and the control unit. It’s a central motor, it only weighs 3,2kg and it’s compatible with different gearshift systems. The drive unit comes with a single chainring: you can choose either a 38 or 44 tooth chainring,
Internal Gear Hub
Shimano STEPS can be used with different gear systems: the classic rear derailleur gear, a standard internal hub gear or an electronic shifting system: the internal gear hub Shimano Di2. The news for 2015 is the possibility to have a completely automatic gearshift system with the Di2 internal gear hub.
The drive unit tells the Di2 gear hub which speed to use depending on the pedaling rate and the bike’s speed. When it shifts gear, the motor’s power is temporarily reduced to avoid breakage caused by the tension on the transmission.
Bosch has experimented with the integration with different automatic gearshift systems in 2015 too. It’s a very interesting possibility, especially for city ebikes, where cyclists are forced to stop often at traffic lights.
The Di2 hub gear is available in 8 or 11 speed versions.
Cycling Computer and Switch
The Shimano STEPS ebike system is based on a switch that goes next to one of the handlebar grips so you can use it with your thumb. It comes with a central console.
This set up is the most common choice for all ebike producers. It allows for more safety because you don’t need to let go of the handlebars to regulate the level of assistance and it allows for good visibility of the central display. The news for 2015 is a bigger display with two buttons (on/off for the system and the lights). The switch hasn’t changed.
As you can clearly see from the photo above, the display shows the time, range left, gear selected, battery level, distance travelled.
Up until now the Shimano STEPS ebike system has been available for electric bikes built for asphalt. In 2015, Shimano decided to make some changes that allow the STEPS to be installed on gravel bikes. A change made on the firmware allows for more power to be delivered. The battery hook has been reinforced. Last but not least, the STEPS is now compatible with 11-speed rear derailleur gears (the kind of gear used on mountain bikes). It’s interesting to know that Shimano explicitely says that the STEPS is not desigend to be used on uneven paths usually covered on a mountain bike.
Last but not least, you can now choose from disc brake, hub roller brake or V-brake.