John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
The Vivax Assist is perfect for folks who want to (secretly) convert to an e-bike.
The next time you're gasping for breath pedaling on a hill, and your buddy is gliding up it with a big grin, consider that he may be cheating with a teensy motor that slips into the frame of a bike.
The Vivax Assist is an Austrian-made electric doodad that looks like a humble, 8.6 inch-long metal rod. It hides inside the seat tube near the pedals, connected to a battery pack stashed in a saddlebag or disguised as a water bottle (seriously). When you're sick of, ya know, exercise, flick a button on the handlebar and the motor engages a crank near the gears, giving you a secret and shameful boost.
Not that the Vivax people are marketing it as something sneaky. They just want everybody to be able to pedal at the same pace (apologies for the stuttered translation):
Cycling is huge fun in a group or with a partner. But cycling with others can also quickly become frustrating. Weaker cyclists trail behind stronger ones for kilometer after kilometer—not really what most riders think of as group cycling.
And that is the situation the vivax 2-in-1 principle [is] remedying: With the lightest electric motor available anywhere the bike looks as any conventional bike, and it provides that real and authentic ride feel. When the motor assist the legwork, you are still quick and still easy-going. When the motor is disabled all vivax bikes work with their free-running gears without resistance. Get more the extra adrenalin of 100% power to unleash the through capabilities you thought you never had.
Getting Vivaxed up requires some work. You need a seat tube with an inner diameter of 31.6 or 30.9 millimeters, a Shimano Hollowtech II crankset assembly, the assistance of a Vivax dealer, and about $3,350. Still, with an airy weight of 4 pounds including battery and a 1.5-hour performance time, it's a decent conversion kit for folks who really want an electric bike (but don't want their friends to know about it).