Motoring

The best time to own a bicycle is now!

A Coppernicus bicycle   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Can we hear a resounding ‘yes’ from city planners for bicycle tracks and charging points? Because the e-bicycle is here. India’s first brand of the segment, Coppernicus, débuted in Mangaluru, Karnataka recently, with the thought of making the city commute on a cycle possible.

“Almost 99% of bicycling enthusiasts in cities ride to exercise or for leisure. I am keen to start cycling regularly mainly to commute across Mangaluru. And this should be the aim of the city administration: to facilitate regular commutes across the city,” says architect-conservationist Niren Jain. Since these bikes allow you to adjust the energy consumed during the ride, you keep fatigue at respectable levels, he says.

Coppernicus is on a mission to redefine the way we commute and aspires to help us make a positive lifestyle change, oriented towards fitness and well-being, says Kevin X Vas, the founder of the startup. “Coppernicus is fully assembled in India at this plant in Mangaluru. We have tied up with the companies that make e-bicycle parts: the power train comes from Panasonic; the gear cassette comes from Shimano, Japan; the motor is manufactured by Bafang, in China, the world leader for motors for such applications. They have revolutionised bicycle motors in Asia, Europe and America. The frame has been designed by young engineers in Mangaluru, using Aluminium alloy 6160 grade, which is lighter and tougher than steel, so we have the best components mounted on a frame that has the heart and mind of Indian ingenuity.”

The bike is powered by a 250W motor from Bafang brushless motors. It has a maximum speed of 25 kmph and a 14mAh lithium ion battery pack as its power train. The motor, provided on the back wheel hub, will give a 50% boost to the chain drive which is connected to a cassette of 10 gears. The output of the motor could be set to the desired level of push, depending on the gradient or the distance. An independent gear-shift lever and a throttle, and the combination of the gears can take you to any distance inside the city with only 50% of pedalling or less, depending on the settings one makes on the colour LCD panel. This also displays battery life, speed and other settings. It can also cruise without pedalling, for which a separate accelerator is provided.

“These e-cycles are available all across India, but initially we have stockists at Kochi, Bengaluru, Mangaluru, Mumbai, Chennai and Ahmedabad. They will soon be available with e-commerce platforms,” says Kevin.

What about servicing and spare-parts? Kevin says over 60% of the parts are used in other lifestyle cycles, while all the dealers are fully equipped with know-how and trained manpower.

Coppernicus is launching 3 models with a range of 30 to 100 km, and a price tag of between ₹40,000 and ₹1.28 lakh. The top-of-the-line T3 model will be competitively priced about 50% lower than imported bikes with similar specifications.

  • “How do we bring back the bicycle as one of the main intra-city commuting machines? It’s a daunting task, since cities don’t have dedicated cycle tracks. The current demand from cyclists for a dedicated cycling lane within the existing concrete roads would further reduce the width of already-crowded motorable roads. So the demand will probably never materialise. We should look at innovative ways to overcome this rather than just blindly follow how it is planned in developed countries,” says Niren.
  • For example, in Mangaluru city, there are numerous small lanes or Right of Way (ROW) streets, which are barely six feet wide, meandering all across the city. Niren’s suggestion is to utilise these. “I am sure many cities across the country have ROWs that do not have any motor vehicles plying on them. I intend to map, in collaboration with the bicycling clubs of Mangaluru, all such available lanes and then identify which lanes or parts of lanes connect across the city. Once we have identified all such broken segments of non-motorable lanes, the city could invest in such specific connections to join these segments with an overpass or underpass or build narrow bridges across thodus (small water streams), to form an uninterrupted connectivity of cycle tracks. This will probably require the least investment from the city corporation, while getting a great experience of riding through the shaded coconut groves and the green cover of Mangaluru, away from the noisy and polluting traffic.”
  • Vasumathi Srinivas from Bengaluru, who has cycled long-distance from Kutch to Kerala and from Kolkata to Kanyakumari on two different expeditions, says she has also cycled in China and Japan, where footpaths for pedestrians are also thrown open for cyclists, so that 40% of the local commuting takes place on bicycles. In Bengaluru, the planners have envisaged a trunk cycling track from Cubbon Park to Manipal Centre on Dickenson Road. A small beginning, but it might spur a movement following the availability of e-bicycles, Vasumathi says.
  • Ajith Kamath, who calls himself a green activist, is excited to try it. He’d stopped riding, as the hilly terrain around home had posed a challenge. He says the e-cycle just may be the answer.

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Printable version | Dec 5, 2020 3:04:11 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/motoring/the-best-time-to-own-a-bicycle-is-now/article25103698.ece

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