Escape Velocity: 2021 in Review

Escape Velocity: 2021 in Review

The year 2021 marks the production of Elevate, our first full bike electrification system. In September 2020 we’d unveiled the lightweight, removable prototype at the online Sea Otter play event, showed it to some industry leaders, and started taking orders. This year we expanded the team and brought Elevate from the lab into the world for field testing, and continued getting the word out to customers, industry figures, investors and business clients.

After the Sea Otter Play in 2020, we hit the road for a socially-distanced demo tour. Socal was the first stop. Mountain bike legends Troy Lee and Crank Bros founder Carl Winefordner demo’d Elevate and both loved it. Troy Lee asked how something so small could deliver so much power. Tony Donaldson at Electric Bike Action wrote that it performs as well as many production mid-drive bikes.

A few days later, in Northern California,  mountain bike pioneer Joe Breeze rode Elevate. Both its performance and the design impressed him, and he said it was more robust than he’d thought from looking at the pictures. 

All masked up: Toby Ricco explains details of Elevate to mountain bike pioneer Joe Breeze

With so much positive feedback, we started 2021 in good spirits. We worked remotely for the first part of the year, and like everybody else just dealt with the supply shortages and long wait times. 

Refining the product

Early in the year we specified changes to gear and gear box designs that would result in significant improvements to the ride quality and durability. Battery regeneration is desirable, but the overwhelming consensus from demonstration rides was that between freewheel and regen, having a freewheel offered the better riding experience so that became our design direction.

In addition to the gearbox, we redesigned our electrical connections from the ground up to make Elevate a plug-free system, redesigned our motor to reduce noise, and brought our bottle battery all the way from renderings to functional reality with working firmware.

The redesigned parts started to come in around the time that we could stop working remotely and assemble as a team in the workshop. With freshly assembled hardware, we kept our eyes open for public demo opportunities. Outdoor expos began re-opening in the middle of the year.

Productivity increased once we started working as an in-person team

Generating a buzz

Our first outdoor expo was at a National Interscholastic Cycling Association event, held by the NorCal League in May. This went well, and a few months later we took our booth to an Oregon League race.

NICA race attendees loved Elevate

It turns out that NICA coaches and parents really want Elevate-equipped bikes so they can keep up with the student athletes. Across the board, students, teachers and parents alike had the same reaction as Troy Lee in December 2020, wondering how something so small could be so powerful. People loved that they could fit the Elevate system to their existing bikes, or remove it in just seconds. Several of the students were interested to know technical details about the system too.

Shortly after the Oregon League event, we had booths at Micromobility San Francisco and then the Sea Otter Classic. The excitement and interest in Bimotal products continued to grow, resulting in several promising industry leads and media contacts, but above all we loved meeting some of our pre-order customers in person. All four of our demo events are covered individually in our blog.

Our booth at Sea Otter attracted journalists as well as customers and industry figures

Things we’ve learned

First, we are learning that few, if any, other US companies do what we’re doing, which is building micro-electric components from the ground up to control and drive a range of vehicles across the micromobility spectrum.

Second, Elevate has a Wow! factor. Individual customers are blown away by the way Elevate performs. We keep on hearing this feedback from those that test ride it.

Third, manufacturers, not only in the bicycle sector but also the broader micro-mobility market, are seeing us as a designer and supplier of powertrain components across a range of vehicles.

Good times

As the year draws to a close we are content with what we’ve achieved. We are building strategic partnerships with some great industry clients, and Elevate sales have been steady throughout the year. We completed our first client installation in October, and our pre-order book is nearly sold out.

Toby Ricco with Brodie Gay and the first customer installation of the Bimotal Elevate system
Toby Ricco (l) with John ‘Brodie’ Gay, receiving Bimotal Elevate Serial No. 001. Photo credit: Bimotal Inc.

Enquiries are coming in from across the USA, and abroad too. We are excited that the interest in Elevate is so widespread, but the reality is international sales are still some distance away. We are going full speed ahead with fulfilling our US pre-orders and getting more bikes powered by Bimotal.

Looking to 2022

Our ability to quickly develop new high quality technology from scratch using first principles, breaking down complicated problems into basic elements and then reassembling them from the ground up, is leading to opportunities we scarcely imagined a year ago. We are scaling up, bringing additional engineering talent into the company. We will increase the resources allocated to getting Elevate out of the Beta phase so we can build our end-user customer base, and at the same time we will work on OEM projects in our development pipeline. 2021 was a big year for Bimotal, we’ve gone from having a prototype to almost a market-ready product. 2022 will be much, much bigger.

By Paul Skilbeck

Paul Skilbeck is an international consultant and writer in cycling and micro-mobility, with hundreds of published articles and a few books. He's organized events and journalists, and his advice to companies and organizations of all sizes has led to many successful outcomes. Paul enjoys life with his partner, his dog and several bikes in Berkeley, California.