General Motors has launched an electric bike division called ARiV, initially offering two different urban e-bike models: the folding 8-speed Merge and the non-folding single speed Meld.
Both bikes have the same GM-designed 250 watt motor and 240 watt hour battery, giving a range at the lowest assist level of 64km. ARiV says that the motor design is around 40% smaller than the competition, gives the same 75Nm torque and uses a patented planetary gear system. Charge time is around 3.5 hours.
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There are four assistance levels, selected via a bar mounted control, plus you can select a walk mode, so that the bike will propel itself along gently, rather than you having to supply all the push.
One lever folding mechanism
The Merge also incorporates a clever one lever folding system.
Pull open the lever on the front of the head tube and it releases three catches in the frame. These allow the frame to be folded neatly in half, with the wheels ending up next to each other and making the bike easy to push around, like the Gocycle GX. Here’s ARiV’s video of the process; it reckons it will only take around 5 seconds.
But the lever also releases the top of the front end, with an eccentric hinge so that the bars fold down against the side of the frame. And the two sides of the bars fold together too, so that the bike takes up less room if you’re pushing it around or storing it. Plus there’s a grab handle on the front of the head tube, so that you can easily manipulate the bike.
GM designed an automated testing rig that allowed it to test the folding system thousands of times to ensure that it is robust.
ARiV has also integrated all the cables inside the frame, so that the design looks super-clean and there’s nothing to get dirty or snag on obstacles. There are built-in front and rear lights, space to mount your phone and use it as a computer, plus a USB port in the head tube so you can keep the phone charged up.
The e-bike can be controlled via ARiV’s own smartphone app, which gives you a host of stats and diagnostics, or the bike can be operated via the bar mounted control. There’s an indicator for the power level selected and battery level, that’s integrated into the frame. ARiV also integrates GPS, GSM and Bluetooth chips into the bike, so you can track location and communicate with its bikes.
At the moment, unlike Bosch’s latest systems, there’s no motor inactivation built into the app, but ARiV is working on adding additional functionality.
Other neat features include the kickstand built into the bottom of the seatpost. Drop the post to the position indicated and you can fold out the stand to support the bike. You then just need to flip the stand back and re-extend the post to be ready to ride.
Both bikes use the same 16 inch wheel size fitted with 1.75 inch VeeTire Goody Goodie tyres, although ARiV has allowed enough clearance to allow wider tyres to be fitted. Mudguards and hydraulic disc brakes with 160mm rotors come as standard.
Why has General Motors launched ARiV?
Car manufacturers’ forays into the bike market have in the past been rather half-hearted affairs, usually involving rebadging of existing bike makers’ bikes.
But GM sees real opportunities in electric bikes and has been working on the new ARiV e-bikes for over two years, hiring people with cycle industry experience, including the brand’s director Hannah Parish who’s worked at Specialized and Trek, and leveraging resources from its electric vehicle and telematics divisions to develop the hardware and software.
Forecasters say that by 2050 75% of humans will live in cities, so car-based urban mobility just won’t work. And GM has a vision of zero crashes, zero emissions and zero congestion – again ruling out car-based urban travel.
GM’s own research has identified 26% of city dwellers are “urban mavericks” – people who are transport mode agnostic, taking public transport, walking or cycling, dependent on their needs, rather than just relying on their cars to get them around.
As part of its design process, ARiV has tested folding e-bikes in multiple cities, including New York and San Francisco as well as European locations including Amsterdam to see how people move around and use an e-bike for everyday activities like shopping trips.
ARiV bikes: first ride, pricing and availability
We travelled out to Brussels to attend ARiV’s Belgian launch and took a trip on the Merge and Meld. They’re comfortable, fast and efficient and we were able to whizz around an urban loop easily without working up a sweat.
There was just about enough saddle height adjustment for me at 1.75m. But for taller riders, the seat may be a bit low; ARiV has used a standard diameter seatpost, so it should be easy to swap it out for a longer option if you need to.
You get a bit more motor whine than in some other e-bikes like the Gocycle GS and Fazua powered options, but it’s not intrusive. And ARiV has really nailed the folding mechanism, with a system that’s super-efficient, quick and easy to learn and use.
Initially, ARiV’s bikes will be offered in Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium.
To find out more about the ARiV bikes, go to www.arivmobility.com.
Belgian price for the Merge is €3,385.58 and for the Meld is €2,780.58. ARiV will initially sell directly to consumers via its website.
It’s lined up local support partners in the launch countries to deal with any problems which buyers may face, who will travel to owners to provide assistance. Since the bike parts are industry standard, a bike shop should be able to service them too.