What's the best upright step-thru with extra oomph?

Southern Kiwi

New Member
Region
New Zealand
Greetings from Christchurch, NZ. My wife Alex and I, both late 50s, love cycling, mostly on the flat but with occasional forays on the Port Hills above the town (not off-road). At present, I have a Kalkhoff Agattu with the old Impulse motor, bought at a knockdown price. I since discovered that the Impulse has “known issues” but so far so good at nearly 3,000km after two and a half years. It has 70Nm of torque, which means it can get up hills pretty well, although I still get a good workout. I’m not keen on the squeaky rim brakes (new rubbers needed?) and had to kit it out with lights and carrier, but I really like the upright riding position, as I have lower back trouble, and don't mind the 26km/hr speed restriction. I love the internal hub Nexus gears, they’re super smooth and so much better than my old derailleur gears on my Giant non-e-bike. I might trade it at some stage though.

Alex wants a comfy step-thru bike that is smooth but has enough oomph to get up the hill. Internal hub gears preferred. She has tried several e-bikes, none of them right. First, an Electra Townie. Quite comfy but cruiser-style seating position not the best for knees, no front suspension (our post earthquake roads can be quite bumpy) and the gears were a bit rough. Worse, the chain came off several times on hill rides.

Her next e-bike was another Kalkhoff, an Agattu 3.S. Very comfy and smooth but the motor just wasn’t powerful enough for hills, which is what she specifically asked for. The dealer recommended swapping out the hub but it made no difference. They had no idea about the Shimano STEPS 5000 motor, which we found out was 40Nm — and that just doesn’t seem to be grunty enough.

How important is Nm? What else? Watts?

She recently tried a Magnum Metro with a rear hub motor. It whizzed up the hill but she didn't like the artificial feel of the cadence sensor and trying to monitor gears, power assist level, and throttle all at the same time, especially in traffic. Simpler is better!

We also tried a Moustache, seems well made but again, we’d prefer internal hub gears. A Husqvarana Gran Urban 4 is a possibility. We believe this e-bike has a STEPS DU-E6110 motor with 63Nm and 250 Watts. Enough?

But it’s not yet available and we’d have to buy sight unseen. We have a big shortage of e-bikes in NZ right now due to COVID-caused shipping delays. Oh well, at least the virus is under control here at present so we can go out and about as normal, so we can't really complain. We just have to be patient and may have to pre-order and wait a few months.

Two other possibilities: Riese und Müller Nevo. Pricey, but worth it? We’re also seeing a Dutch engineer who custom-makes bikes and may be able to offer more advice.

One other question: Brakes. As mentioned, I’m not keen on my Kalkhoff rim brakes. But I read that hydraulic disc brakes wear more, so again it’s hard to tell, there’s so much conflicting information out there!

Thank you for reading and all advice welcome.

A final thought: How can I be over the hill when I can’t even get up the hill? ;)
 

Alvin1957

Member
Region
USA
City
Midlothian, TX
Greetings from Christchurch, NZ. My wife Alex and I, both late 50s, love cycling, mostly on the flat but with occasional forays on the Port Hills above the town (not off-road). At present, I have a Kalkhoff Agattu with the old Impulse motor, bought at a knockdown price. I since discovered that the Impulse has “known issues” but so far so good at nearly 3,000km after two and a half years. It has 70Nm of torque, which means it can get up hills pretty well, although I still get a good workout. I’m not keen on the squeaky rim brakes (new rubbers needed?) and had to kit it out with lights and carrier, but I really like the upright riding position, as I have lower back trouble, and don't mind the 26km/hr speed restriction. I love the internal hub Nexus gears, they’re super smooth and so much better than my old derailleur gears on my Giant non-e-bike. I might trade it at some stage though.

Alex wants a comfy step-thru bike that is smooth but has enough oomph to get up the hill. Internal hub gears preferred. She has tried several e-bikes, none of them right. First, an Electra Townie. Quite comfy but cruiser-style seating position not the best for knees, no front suspension (our post earthquake roads can be quite bumpy) and the gears were a bit rough. Worse, the chain came off several times on hill rides.

Her next e-bike was another Kalkhoff, an Agattu 3.S. Very comfy and smooth but the motor just wasn’t powerful enough for hills, which is what she specifically asked for. The dealer recommended swapping out the hub but it made no difference. They had no idea about the Shimano STEPS 5000 motor, which we found out was 40Nm — and that just doesn’t seem to be grunty enough.

How important is Nm? What else? Watts?

She recently tried a Magnum Metro with a rear hub motor. It whizzed up the hill but she didn't like the artificial feel of the cadence sensor and trying to monitor gears, power assist level, and throttle all at the same time, especially in traffic. Simpler is better!

We also tried a Moustache, seems well made but again, we’d prefer internal hub gears. A Husqvarana Gran Urban 4 is a possibility. We believe this e-bike has a STEPS DU-E6110 motor with 63Nm and 250 Watts. Enough?

But it’s not yet available and we’d have to buy sight unseen. We have a big shortage of e-bikes in NZ right now due to COVID-caused shipping delays. Oh well, at least the virus is under control here at present so we can go out and about as normal, so we can't really complain. We just have to be patient and may have to pre-order and wait a few months.

Two other possibilities: Riese und Müller Nevo. Pricey, but worth it? We’re also seeing a Dutch engineer who custom-makes bikes and may be able to offer more advice.

One other question: Brakes. As mentioned, I’m not keen on my Kalkhoff rim brakes. But I read that hydraulic disc brakes wear more, so again it’s hard to tell, there’s so much conflicting information out there!

Thank you for reading and all advice welcome.

A final thought: How can I be over the hill when I can’t even get up the hill? ;)
Hello,
I understand that in N.Z. you can get the Giant Explore STA at a higher grade than the +4 available here in the U.S. I love my +4(in spite of gripes I have posted on EBR. The bike is still fantastic. Same for my wife's Liv equivalent. If I could afford to buy another, I would. It is mid-drive and uses a derailleur.
 

indianajo

Well-Known Member
I don't know if you are allowed to buy the MAC12t geared hub motor in NZ. Mine is only 500 W rating but will start me and 80 lb supplies, 330 lb gross weight, on a 15% grade. 7/8" rise on a 6" level. From a start flattens out about 6 mph, without pedaling, but if I hit the grade above 15 mph it will accelerate with the full load. Mac12t has more windings than more common Mac10t for heavier loads and lower speeds. Mine will top out on level without pedaling about 23 mph on 26"x2.1" tires.
I hate cadence assist. My ebikeling controller was tuned for minimum speed 11 mph and minimum acceleration 500 W. Too fast for bad pavement I ride for miles & miles. I deleted the sensor when I moved motor to a different bike. That motor wore out @ 4500 mlles, replacement Mac12 controller from lunabike didn't even have an input for a crank sensor, or a torque sensor either. It was throttle only.
I use the throttle, but only for miles over 25 or headwind in my face >12mph. Other times I pedal, for heart/lung health. Paid off when I had covid 137 days last year; no oxygen support required. My hand does get tired of the throttle after 20 miles, but that is not as bad as pedaling 6 hours into a 25 mph wind on a 100 deg day like September, 2017. Before I bought the hubmotor.
torque sensor would be nice but taking the crank apart has thwarted me every attempt previous, and I'm not getting any younger. I don't know what aftermarket controller with torque sensor input would plug up to the Mac12 motor either. I don't want a display, they just fog up in the rain. Displays aren't bright enough to see in the sunshine either.
 

Stefan Mikes

Well-Known Member
Region
Europe
City
Brwinów (PL)
  1. Why not a Moustache? Let the derailleur drive-train not scare you off. These are high quality e-bikes indeed. (You would wait for Nevo for ages...)
  2. Hydraulic disk brakes are a must in a modern e-bike. They work reliably at any conditions. The excessive wear is a myth and replacing inexpensive brake pads is as simple as ABC. What brakes are used in your car, for instance? Certainly not V-brakes... Doesn't the mechanic replace the car brake pads from time to time?
  3. Mid-drive motor with 250 W nominal is very much. Trust me. Whole Europe (the world's leader of e-bikes) rides on 250 W nominal motors. (The peak power of such motors is far higher).
  4. Torque. This matter is overhyped. If you intend to get over very steep hills, everything from 80 Nm up is very good. Bear in mind: If you think of internal geared hub drive-train, it has lower efficiency than the derailleur drive-train.
Your last question:
One of my e-bikes is 90 Nm Specialized e-bike (Brose motor). Another one is 80 Nm Giant/Yamaha motor e-MTB with higher gearing ratio. There was no hill I couldn't conquer. Now: I can hardly walk but am capable to make even 120 km daily trips on my 250 W (nominal) mid-drive motor e-bikes.
Have I answered your question?

P.S. Watch this video. Of course it is not the matter of the e-bike alone, still these Britons ride 250 W (nominal) mid-drive motor e-bikes...
 

Southern Kiwi

New Member
Region
New Zealand
Thanks Stefan, that's very helpful. The Moustache certainly looks very well built. One of the problems here continues to be availability and lack of choice at present.

Torque may be overhyped but 70Nm seems to be a minimum requirement for decent hills.

Agree about the need for good brakes.

Great video. We've walked up Baldwin St in Dunedin -- the "slab" looks like a challenge!
 

Dewey

Well-Known Member
Another couple of possibilities:

A converted Pashley step through from Blackwell & Sons of Greytown near Wellington. Blackwell convert the bikes using a Bafang BBS01/M215 mid-drive motor. This is similar to my BBS01 Breezer Downtown conversion with a Nexus 8 IGH and Sturmey 90mm drum brake, though I must admit Blackwell's do a much nicer job of tidying up cable management than I did. The BBS01/M215 has 80nm torque, and uses a cadence pedal assist plus a throttle. While some Pashley's are available with a Nexus 8 IGH option it appears from Blackwell's website they stock the Sturmey 5-speed. Most Pashley's use the smaller 70mm drum brake but if you feel you need more stopping power the fork has a tab for the brake reaction arm so a competent bike shop could thread the larger 90mm hub into a 26" wheel - check with Blackwell's if you would need the dynamo hub version to power the lights. Provided you use the stock Sturmey 4-finger brake levers I'm a fan because I find my 90mm drum brake gives reliable stopping under load in all weathers. I find the throttle helpful for getting started then I use pedal assist, but if your wife doesn't want a throttle you can remove it, I rode my BBS01 for a couple of years without the throttle before fitting it. If you find the power is not quite enough, the BBS01 controller current setting can be reprogrammed with a laptop cable and software, or if you upgrade to an EggRider display that uses bluetooth you can change the settings with a phone app - this will likely void your warranty but would improve hill climbing performance and provided you keep the speed setting within the legal limit nobody cares, I set my controller to 18A current which doesn't overheat the motor and with my 36v battery delivers 648w peak power.

Blackwell's also sell the Wisper step through's which might better meet your wife's needs, despite havinging a derailleur, because they are equipped with a suspension fork and a torque pedal assist sensor. The manufacturer website is here and the process of developing the bikes was documented on the UK Pedelecs forum here. I don't know much about the Wuxi Truckrun M01 motor Wisper use except that it is also used on some Priority brand ebikes here in the US, but the manufacturer website claims it has 100nm torque which is closer in power to the Bafang BBS02/M315 that has a stator 20% wider than the BBS01. Blackwell's is sold out so it seems the first batch of 700 bikes for New Zealand were popular, but the Wisper Wayfarer would be worth test riding if Blackwell's have one you could try.
 
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gtpharr

Member
Region
USA
City
CHESAPEAKE, VA
If you really want Internal Geared Hub (IGH), I suspect your wife would be very happy with R&M Nevo. It is nice not to have to clean or lube a chain. We own one with single battery and Enviolo CVT Hub and just ordered a second one with dual battery and Rohloff E14 hub. My scheduled build time is 60 days plus 2 weeks for air shipping from Germany to USA.

Is the R&M worth the price? I'm not sure about that, but your long term satisfaction with the bike will probably last a lot longer than your concern about the high price. Is the R&M worth the wait? Absolutely yes in my opinion!
 

Southern Kiwi

New Member
Region
New Zealand
Thanks so much for the comprehesive answers so far; there's a wealth of knowledge here! A lot depends on what's available locally, but we'll be patient.

I read about Blackwell & Sons in Greytown, looks like a fab business and good on them! Pashleys certainly are a classic and there's nothing wrong in my view with a slower ride; you don't have to go hell for leather all the time -- but sufficient power to help going uphill or into the wind (we live in the "Roaring Forties") is helpful.

Riese & Müller is very tempting! We visited Christchurch Electric Bicycles, who are very helpful, and rode some demo bikes:

-- A Moustache X3 Open (the newer model will have adjustable handlebars), felt very well-built and derailleur was pretty smooth;

-- a R+M Supercharger, very nice in mustard yellow, with the CVT hub gears;

-- a R+M Nevo GT with the Rohloff 14-speed hub, which went like stink and was super smooth. Mouthwatering price tag, though!

We also were impressed by the R+M's suspension and extra touches like the brake lights and loud horn. A new R+M Nevo with the CVT hub is due in July. My wife liked it and this could be the one! But Moustache is certainly very good.

Other we tried briefly elsewhere were:

-- a Melo Yelo with a Bafang 85Nm motor (apparently it's comparable to a much lower power Bosch; not sure how that works?). Felt OK but not as smooth;

-- an Avanti and a Scott, both step-thru with Bosch Active Line Plus 250W motors. Not everywhere gives power ratings in Nm which makes it somewhat confusing too compare! Both these felt similar to the Moustache and are a bit cheaper.

Also available, but we haven't tried: a Specialized Como.
 

indianajo

Well-Known Member
Newton meters is torque. Newton meters divided by gear ratio, divided by wheel diameter, will predict ability of motor at a stall to start turning against a certain force (weight/slope). Don't know if manufacturers are quoting stall torque, which is ability to start from a stall. They may be quoting peak torque, which could only be used if a rider attacked a maximum grade at a certain speed.
Most bikes increase the speed of the motor with sprockets, so torque at wheel is lower than torque at motor. A few mountain bikes with a huge dinner plate 48 tooth rear sprocket will actually multiply torque. My bike designed for carrying children in San Francisco has a lowest speed ratio of 32:32 or 1:1. I can ride about 1.5 mph with that ratio.
Kilowatts is torque of motor times rotation speed times wheel diameter, divided by a conversion factor. Motors usually have higher torque at a high speed than at a stall, so this measures the ability of the motor to carry a weight up a slope, with appropriate conversion factors. The ability to carry weight up slope may be higher than ability to start a certain weight, as motor torque picks up as motor speed picks up.
The biggest difference in stall versus fast torque is direct drive bike hub drives, that can have quite high kilowatt ratings at high speed, but can't start much weight on a steep slope at all. Geared hub drives multiply the motor torque by 3 to 5 to 1 with fixed internal gears, then the torque acts directly on the wheel. Mid drives mostly have an internal gear train that multiplies the torque before it gets to the chain. Mid drives are useful for climbing tall mountains, as geared hub drives can match their power short term, but don't cool very well and will eventually over heat & burn a winding on a long slow grade. 25 minute full power slow speed grades are warned about by one geared hub drive manufacturer.
Bike shops love to sell mid-drives because they are a more expensive product with higher markup. They can feel more natural if they are equipped with a torque sensor. They do eat chains faster than hub drives, and if a mid drive fails you push the bike to the pickup point for the support truck. I've pedaled my geared hub drive 37 miles home after the gear set failed, because it didn't drag going forwards.
IGH like Rohloff are more convenient that they can be shifted at a stall. They don't shift exceptionally well under torque. they take a certain amount of energy (watts) more than derailleur chains because they have a number of planetary gearsets spinning inside at all times, of which one is selected by the pawl. I found an 8 speed SA-80 slowed me down ~10% on my 27 miles commute compared to the derailleur it was replacing. That was without electricity. I was down on shimano derailleurs as a 6 speed had broken the axle and a 7 speed had come unscrewed & dropped the balls. But the SA-80 was not reliable either, developing an inability to stay connected to the shifter cable. Speed 8 the default was unrideable. Some Rohloffs have been known to leak, see mtbforum.com
Gates belts offer perhaps twice the best life of an 8 speed chain, in the best of circumstances. Posters here have found that they damaged their belt somehow early, which led to it coming off periodically. Such impacts are rarer in road use than in mountain biking across rocks & terrain.
 
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Stefan Mikes

Well-Known Member
Region
Europe
City
Brwinów (PL)
I don't negate what Jo has said. However, my observation is the "250 W" high torque mid motors can deliver high torque even at stall. The assistance level is often expressed in terms of % (rider's amplification). For instance, the Specialized 1.3 motor (the one found in Turbo/Como 5.0) delivers 380% maximum assistance, and that translates to 90 Nm max torque. it is very similar level to 85 Nm Bosch CX motor. Giant SyncDrive Pro (Yamaha PW-X2) motor delivers 360% assistance and 80 Nm, etc.

The practical translation of these values is as follows: If the e-bike is set to maximum assistance and delivers massive torque to the pedal (say, stands on the pedal or stamps on it), the controller would multiply the riders input by the amplification factor. In some cases, very high motor torque is delivered very fast. That is why mid-motors are used on all serious e-MTBs.

Giant has introduced unique "Zero Cadence" feature for the Yamaha motors they use. With a Giant e-bike at standstill, pressing the pedal delivers power/torque instantly. Combined with granny gear (which is 51T on my Giant e-MTB), it often leads to a wheelie unless the rider shifted their body weight onto handlebars. Riding uphill from standstill is possible there. (Similar capability can be activated for Specialized Turbo Levo in Mission Control App).

Other mid-drive motor e-bikes require the cranks start turning before power/torque is delivered. It is often just a quarter or perhaps even only 1/8 of turn to deliver tons of assistance.

I may agree the best performance can be achieved at some cadence but the whole idea behind mid-drives is to deliver assistance as soon as possible. (Starting the ride in lower gears helps).

@Southern Kiwi: Try the Como, too!
 

Scarlet/Fire

Active Member
Region
USA
Greetings from Christchurch, NZ. My wife Alex and I, both late 50s, love cycling, mostly on the flat but with occasional forays on the Port Hills above the town (not off-road). At present, I have a Kalkhoff Agattu with the old Impulse motor, bought at a knockdown price. I since discovered that the Impulse has “known issues” but so far so good at nearly 3,000km after two and a half years. It has 70Nm of torque, which means it can get up hills pretty well, although I still get a good workout. I’m not keen on the squeaky rim brakes (new rubbers needed?) and had to kit it out with lights and carrier, but I really like the upright riding position, as I have lower back trouble, and don't mind the 26km/hr speed restriction. I love the internal hub Nexus gears, they’re super smooth and so much better than my old derailleur gears on my Giant non-e-bike. I might trade it at some stage though.

Alex wants a comfy step-thru bike that is smooth but has enough oomph to get up the hill. Internal hub gears preferred. She has tried several e-bikes, none of them right. First, an Electra Townie. Quite comfy but cruiser-style seating position not the best for knees, no front suspension (our post earthquake roads can be quite bumpy) and the gears were a bit rough. Worse, the chain came off several times on hill rides.

Her next e-bike was another Kalkhoff, an Agattu 3.S. Very comfy and smooth but the motor just wasn’t powerful enough for hills, which is what she specifically asked for. The dealer recommended swapping out the hub but it made no difference. They had no idea about the Shimano STEPS 5000 motor, which we found out was 40Nm — and that just doesn’t seem to be grunty enough.

How important is Nm? What else? Watts?

She recently tried a Magnum Metro with a rear hub motor. It whizzed up the hill but she didn't like the artificial feel of the cadence sensor and trying to monitor gears, power assist level, and throttle all at the same time, especially in traffic. Simpler is better!

We also tried a Moustache, seems well made but again, we’d prefer internal hub gears. A Husqvarana Gran Urban 4 is a possibility. We believe this e-bike has a STEPS DU-E6110 motor with 63Nm and 250 Watts. Enough?

But it’s not yet available and we’d have to buy sight unseen. We have a big shortage of e-bikes in NZ right now due to COVID-caused shipping delays. Oh well, at least the virus is under control here at present so we can go out and about as normal, so we can't really complain. We just have to be patient and may have to pre-order and wait a few months.

Two other possibilities: Riese und Müller Nevo. Pricey, but worth it? We’re also seeing a Dutch engineer who custom-makes bikes and may be able to offer more advice.

One other question: Brakes. As mentioned, I’m not keen on my Kalkhoff rim brakes. But I read that hydraulic disc brakes wear more, so again it’s hard to tell, there’s so much conflicting information out there!

Thank you for reading and all advice welcome.

A final thought: How can I be over the hill when I can’t even get up the hill? ;)
Maybe consider a Priority Current ?
 

Southern Kiwi

New Member
Region
New Zealand
Well, Alex decided on a Riese & Müller Nevo GT with the Enviolo CVT gears and Gates belt drive. It comes with the Bosch Gen. 4 85Nm 250W motor, which should be grunty enough to get her uphill without hurting her knee. Battery is 625kW/hr. The only downside is we have to wait four months for delivery because of continued shipping delays.
 

gtpharr

Member
Region
USA
City
CHESAPEAKE, VA
Well, Alex decided on a Riese & Müller Nevo GT with the Enviolo CVT gears and Gates belt drive. It comes with the Bosch Gen. 4 85Nm 250W motor, which should be grunty enough to get her uphill without hurting her knee. Battery is 625kW/hr. The only downside is we have to wait four months for delivery because of continued shipping delays.
I believe Alex made a wise decision on a quality bike that will be worth the wait. Once she receives her new bike, don't be surprised if you find yourself wanting an R&M for your next bike.
 
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Montañero

New Member
Region
USA
Well, Alex decided on a Riese & Müller Nevo GT with the Enviolo CVT gears and Gates belt drive. It comes with the Bosch Gen. 4 85Nm 250W motor, which should be grunty enough to get her uphill without hurting her knee. Battery is 625kW/hr. The only downside is we have to wait four months for delivery because of continued shipping delays.
Yep the wait is painful, I ordered an Homage Rohloff/speed earlier this month but won't see it until likely late July early August even with air freight.
 
I have the Specialized Como 5.0 and it is fabulous. Feels very natural, does really well on hills and has great range. Feels like a very solid bike and I had the hub motored Magnum Navigator before this one. I added a stem riser and make it more upright and that has helped tremendously. It maybe 250 watts, but it has 90 nM of torque and is much better going up hills than the 500 watt Magnum did. I love mid drive better than hub after having both.
 

Montañero

New Member
Region
USA
I recently took early delivery of a Riese & Muller Homage HS Rohloff bike. Originally scheduled for build in Mid July but instead built in May and delivered via air freight a couple weeks later. Love the bike, excellent build quality and so much fun to ride. Can tackle the biggest hills in my area with relative ease. Makes riding a real joy and I'm extremely pleased with it so far. Have about 75 miles on it.
 

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Art Deco

Well-Known Member
Region
USA
City
Selinsgrove Pennsylvania
Thanks so much for the comprehesive answers so far; there's a wealth of knowledge here! A lot depends on what's available locally, but we'll be patient.

I read about Blackwell & Sons in Greytown, looks like a fab business and good on them! Pashleys certainly are a classic and there's nothing wrong in my view with a slower ride; you don't have to go hell for leather all the time -- but sufficient power to help going uphill or into the wind (we live in the "Roaring Forties") is helpful.

Riese & Müller is very tempting! We visited Christchurch Electric Bicycles, who are very helpful, and rode some demo bikes:

-- A Moustache X3 Open (the newer model will have adjustable handlebars), felt very well-built and derailleur was pretty smooth;

-- a R+M Supercharger, very nice in mustard yellow, with the CVT hub gears;

-- a R+M Nevo GT with the Rohloff 14-speed hub, which went like stink and was super smooth. Mouthwatering price tag, though!

We also were impressed by the R+M's suspension and extra touches like the brake lights and loud horn. A new R+M Nevo with the CVT hub is due in July. My wife liked it and this could be the one! But Moustache is certainly very good.

Other we tried briefly elsewhere were:

-- a Melo Yelo with a Bafang 85Nm motor (apparently it's comparable to a much lower power Bosch; not sure how that works?). Felt OK but not as smooth;

-- an Avanti and a Scott, both step-thru with Bosch Active Line Plus 250W motors. Not everywhere gives power ratings in Nm which makes it somewhat confusing too compare! Both these felt similar to the Moustache and are a bit cheaper.

Also available, but we haven't tried: a Specialized Como.
You really should try a Como 4 or 5 if that is available to you before making a decision. The difference in comfort is very noticeable against the Trek and Giant bikes here in the US, anyway. And the EU Como has a front suspension fork...