Bike Review: RIESE & MÜLLER SUPERCHARGER GT VARIO HS
RIESE & MÜLLER SUPERCHARGER
GT VARIO HS
Maybe you’ve heard this type of story before. Riese & Müller started out as a collaboration between two engineers in a garage. Don’t a lot of great companies start that way? But you always picture California for these startups. Microsoft started this way, and so did Apple. But in this case, it was in Darmstadt, Germany.
The project took off right away, and the company’s first product, a bike called the Birdie, won the 1993 Innovation Prize. Their product line grew, and Riese & Müller entered into the e-bike world in 2013. Propel Bikes in Brooklyn first brought them to the U.S. market.
Riese & Müller is known designing and building high-end, overbuilt and over-engineered bikes. In that vein, the Supercharger is built like a modern tank.
The Supercharger is the bike the company refers to as its “long-distance runner,” and for good reason. It has two, 500Wh Bosch PowerTube batteries integrated into the frame—one in the top tube and one in the downtube. This is Bosch’s innovative dual-battery system, and it offers really long range.
There are six variants of the Supercharger fit around two different motors. It can be set up with a Bosch Performance Line CX, the same one used in e-MTBs, which provides more torque but cuts assist at 20 mph, making it a Class 1 e-bike. The other motor offered is a Performance Line Speed motor that goes to 28 mph, making it a Class 3 bike. Drivetrain choices vary—from a chain and gears to a belt drive and either an Enviolo CVT rear hub or at the higher end, a Rohloff electronic 14-speed rear hub.
Ours was the mid-level speed bike, with the Enviolo CVT and the Performance Line Speed motor, earning it the lengthy title Supercharger GT Vario HS. There are two options for color, either Electric Blue Metallic or Urban Silver Metallic.
The stock tires are Schwalbe Super Moto-X tires designed for low-rolling resistance on the street, but also the durability to ride down cobblestone, gravel or even take a route through the forest.
While the high-volume tires can take out some of the bumps, there’s also an SR SunTour Aion 34 air suspension fork with 100mm of travel to catch the bigger bumps and a Thudbuster seatpost that does a great job of taking the rest of the bumps from the rear. That amount of damping makes a massive distance if you’re going to be doing long
“We were never worried we’d have to switch to a lower mode to make it where we were going and make it back home.”
The Gates carbon belt is a perfect choice for this bike; it is one less thing to worry about on a long ride. It’s quiet, maintenance-free and should last the life of the bike. It won’t get grease on your pant leg, but you will appreciate the guard over the front sprocket to keep your pants out of that mechanism.
Rear gearing is handled with an Enviolo 380 constantly variable transmission, or CVT. It’s a clever concept, and it is harder to get used to if you’ve been shifting gears your entire life. You change the gearing by twisting a control on the right side of the handlebars, a sort of twist grip with an indicator that shows a steeper hill or a flatter one. At the steeper end, it’s easier to pedal, like you were in a lower gear. At the flatter end, you’re in a higher gear and can
A much-appreciated safety feature is Busch & Müller’s Lumotec IQ-X E head light and Supernova M99 integrated brake light. The bike also sports SKS A65R mud guards, a Pletscher Comp 18 Flex kickstand and a Spanninga horn.
No matter which model you choose, you’ll still be coming away with a Bosch Performance Line motor. The only reason we could see to choose the slower but torquer CX motor is to comply with local laws on bike paths and trails. The Speed motor gives you far more flexibility to keep up with traffic in bike lanes and on regular roads.
The bike ships with a Bosch Intuvia display, but by the time you read this, there will be an option to get the bike with the new Kiox display that provides connectivity with heart rate monitors and much more for a $118 premium (page 34). We think that’s well worth the extra money.
The dual-battery format is similar to what R&M has used with previous bikes, but they used external batteries attached inside the front triangle. The batteries have a two-year warranty and a guarantee that the battery will have at least a capacity of 60 percent after two years or 500 full charge cycles, whichever happens first.
WHO IT’S MADE FOR
The Supercharger is a touring bike for those that can afford it. It’s meant to go long distances. As a commuter, it might be overkill. Its design and comfort features beg you to go on long trips.
Firing up the system takes no time at all. What we weren’t sure how the motor was going to assist with this relatively heavy bike. Our fears were assuaged quickly, as it took off easily. Starting it off with the twist-grip gearing set at the easiest gear, meaning the symbol of the little cyclist looks like he was climbing a vertical wall, made takeoff snappy. There is an almost imperceptible lag in power delivery as you dial in the glissando changes in the ratio
When up and running the R&M is nice and quiet. In fact, the only noise you really hear is the wind in your ears. The motor is super quiet. If you stop pedaling, you will hear the ticking of the freewheel, but that’s it.
The bike comes with a folding mirror. We weren’t sure about it, but after using it to easily get through doors, then using it to check traffic while riding, we were sold. R&M really knew what they were doing with this feature.
While riding, you’ll notice that there are a lot of cables coming from the controls on the front end. These all elegantly disappear in the downtube just behind the head tube. Geometry on this bike is not only comfortable, it’s precise. Turns are relatively easy, and one of our favorite livability tests is to ride the bike with no hands on the handlebars. This bike tracks straight and true, and no-handed riding is confident on the Supercharger.
Long rides were very comfortable because of the Aion fork and the Thudbuster seatpost. Previous versions of the Thudbuster were strange, as they seemed to cantilever our body position backward over bumps, which can be pretty disconcerting. This one was far more linear, leading to a simple up-and-down damping movement that felt far better. We didn’t adjust the fork or set sag like we would have on a mountain bike, yet the fork provided fantastic attenuation of shocks as we rode. And, we chose test rides that took us over rutted bike lanes with tree roots protruding from the asphalt.
The stock saddle is a gel 3D Skingel that was very comfortable on long rides without having to swap it out for a custom-fitted seat.
The Magura MT4 disc brakes were very easy to modulate, and we could confidently ride at the upper end of the assist range without worrying about overdriving the brakes.
It was fun to have so much range. We toggled through the different options on the Intuvia’s screen and were never worried we’d have to switch to a lower mode to make it where we were going
and make it back home.
The IQ-X headlight is fantastically bright. We used it at night to see and in daylight to be seen. The taillight is bright enough to be seen, but we do wish that it would have a brake-light function and get brighter on braking.
Strapping stuff to the sturdy rear rack is a cinch, thanks to the included rubber strap. It’s easy to add bags or just use other cords to help affix cargo to the rack.
The Supercharger carries a hefty price tag, but if your budget can handle it, it’s a well-designed, comfortable bike that’s perfect for long rides. It’s way overkill for a commuter, but it would certainly work as one.
We think the one we tested may be the best of the bunch. We liked being able to go 25–28 miles an hour the whole time. We think the belt drive/CVT setup is better than a chain that requires maintenance. Though the Rohloff hubs
are great, a $1400 premium over the CVT is a little rich for our blood.
RIESE & MÜLLER SUPERCHARGER GT VARIO HS
Motor: Bosch Performance Line Speed 36V, 350W mid-drive
Battery: Bosch Powertube, 36V, 1000 Wh lithium-ion
Charge time: 6-8 hours
Top speed: 28 mph
Range: 40–120 miles
Drive: Gates CDX Carbon belt, Enviolo CVT
Brakes: Magura MT4 hydraulic discs
Controls: Bosch Intuvia (Kiox option for $118 more)
Fork: Suntour Aion, Air, tapered, 100mm
Tires: Schwalbe Super Moto-X
Weight: 69.6 lb.
Color choices: Electric Blue Metallic, Urban Silver Metallic
Sizes: 46, 49, 53cm
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ELECTRIC BIKE ACTION
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