In partnership with maxon, premium Swiss manufacturer Thömus is working on an electric mountain bike that will set new standards for lightness, handling, and reliability. Based on the BIKEDRIVE AIR, this game-changer for cross-country training is being developed in close collaboration with the “Thömus maxon” World Cup team of mountain bike legend Ralph Näf.

There is a new high-tech collaboration in the world of international cross-country bike sport: Swiss bicycle manufacturer Thömus is developing a new electric mountain bike for World Cup training based on the BIKEDRIVE AIR platform from maxon, which Thömus also plans to release commercially in the future.

Optimized for the needs of top-notch athletes

“Thömus and maxon – that’s a strong partnership of two Swiss technology specialists,” says Eugen Elmiger, CEO of the maxon Group. “But this collaboration, between renowned bicycle manufacturer Thömus and ourselves as drive specialists, is not aimed at creating some kind of exclusive new motor. Instead, we want to work with the “Thömus maxon” team to perfect the existing BIKEDRIVE AIR. The practical experience from the training sessions will go directly into the overall system, including the software and app. The cross-country pros, led by current overall World Cup winner Mathias Flückiger and team manager Ralph Näf, supply us with valuable insights for this.” Amateur mountain bikers will benefit from the results too, in the future.

Ralph Näf was one of the world’s top mountain bikers for many years. He is a multiple Swiss, European, and World champion in a range of bike disciplines. In 2015, he retired from professional mountain biking. Today the Thurgau native is not only the owner of the Thömus maxon team (formerly Thömus RN Swiss Bike), but also competition coach and advisor to World Cup series winner Mathias Flückiger.

Ralph Näf now often chooses to use mountain bikes with an electric drive, both in training and in everyday life. In the interview, he reveals the benefits he sees in e-bikes, and the properties the Thömus maxon electric mountain bike needs to have.

Ralph, how did your partnership with maxon come about?

Years ago I got to test an e-bike with a rear wheel drive from a maxon retrofitting kit. I was really surprised by the power and acceleration from that hub motor. It was cool! This was the starting point of a collaboration that intensified over time.

How does an electric drive help pro mountain bikers to train more effectively?

Because athletes don’t have endless physical strength. If you want to have a good ride on a regular bike, for the most part you have to cycle at full power. The electric drive means we can cover almost twice the distance in each off-road training session, especially on technically challenging sections. We can also vary the intensity of the electrical support during the training session, which is very helpful. The electric motor has perfected our training plan.

What’s the difference in terms of riding technique compared to a regular mountain bike?

A conventional electric mountain bike is quite different to ride than our extremely light cross-country bikes. For a start, it’s just so much heavier. That is precisely why we aim to build a really light electric version, one that also handles as much like the World Cup bike as possible. So it doesn’t feel like a motorbike off road.

What influence has the electrification of mountain bikes had on your sport?

All of a sudden there are so many more people off-roading on two wheels. (Laughs.) In the cross-country discipline, we see ourselves as the Formula 1 of this sport. This often also has an impact on mountain biking in general.

How is that impact felt?

We test new developments that aren’t set to go into commercial production until later. Even lighter, even faster, even sturdier, even better grip, even safer, even easier to ride: we want to keep improving in every way. This may sometimes also be a little challenging for our partners, but this is how we advance development overall.

What influence has your racing team had on the development of the BIKEDRIVE AIR?

We already had this idea for a really light drive for some time. And who, if not maxon, would have the know-how needed for the motor and the other components? We kept asking questions like: What properties would the perfect e-bike for sporty and ambitious riders have? And what is the market crying out for?

And what answers did you come up with?

Ideally a full suspension e-bike that comes as close as possible to our “Thömus Lightrider” World Cup bike that Mathias Flückiger rode to Olympic silver in Tokyo in 2021. With a few new features to make the bike attractive for everyday mountain biking too.

The BIKEDRIVE AIR doesn’t need to be reinvented. However, is there still work to be done on fine-tuning the overall system?

Definitely, and in addition, we envision an app controlled by both the output of the motor and the rider’s pulse rate. As you train, the e-bike adapts to both you and the ground surface under it.

What should amateurs look for when buying an electric mountain bike?

The weight is the main criterion for anyone who rides for sport, using their own strength a lot but also welcoming the support from the motor. The frame with mid-drive motor is not the only factor here – lightweight wheels are extremely important too. Anyone who has ever had to ride a 25 kilogram e-bike with a dead battery can tell you a thing or two about that. You can barely move, and that’s no fun. So a lightweight design is everything!

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