The HP Velotechnik Scorpion FS 26 S-Pedelec is definitely one of the coolest electric bikes I’ve ever had the pleasure to test ride. Recumbent bikes offer a number of advantages on their own (stability, aerodynamic efficiency, special needs adaptability) and these are further enhanced with the addition of electric assist. You can go further, reduce knee strain and perhaps match riding speeds with a more advanced cyclist friend. HP Velotechnik is a German company that offers premium frames and accessories that meet the highest EU standards (earning them recognition at Eurobike 2012). The Scorpion FS in particular, is a full suspension frame that offers a more comfortable ride. I’m a huge fan of suspension, especially over long distances and at higher speeds… which the Scorpion FS was made for. the frame is compatible with a wind faring for warmth in cold and wet riding conditions and comes standard with front and rear fenders, integrated LED lights, regenerative braking, a rear rack with 55 lb max load, USB charging port (for your portable electronics or phone), Bluetooth integration and a special reverse mode for those moments when your best cornering skills just won’t cut it. All of this is great but it’s not even the best part! This thing is a speed pedelec meaning it can hit ~28 mph top speeds in the highest levels of assist. Riding at these higher speeds definitely eats into the battery but there too, HP Velotechnik has found a solution… You can add a second battery pack for double the range. Also, with 27 speeds, you should have no problem finding a comfortable pedaling cadence and the drivetrain components are top of the line, Shimano Deore XT, for reduced weight and improved durability. The only minor gripes I have about this ebike are the limited availability in the US (as of this review), the lack of throttle mode (not surprising since this recumbent electric bike hails from Europe where throttles aren’t allowed) and the understandably higher price point. This thing is premium, all the way around. It comes in two track sizes, two colors (or custom if you pay extra), it offers two seat types (both adjustable) and it even folds for easier transport. Awesome!
Driving the bike is a a powerful but near-silent gearless direct drive hub motor from Go SwissDrive. It’s the same motor used with the celebrated Specialized Turbo electric bike. Hub motors are easier on drivetrain components (sprockets and chains) because they turn the wheel directly and independently from pedaling input. They do tend to create a rear-heavy platform but with the Scorpion FS S-Pedelec this weight helps to improve traction and even out the boom and two 20″ front wheels. By the way, this bike is called the FS 26 because it has a larger 26″ rear wheel. The larger wheel spans gaps and creates a smoother ride, along with the RockShox Monarch RL air suspension. Being suspended, the hub motor increased unsprung weight here but performance still felt great to me. Many times when testing gearless motors I feel like they don’t offer the same torque and power at low speeds but the Go SwissDrive is an exception. It starts smoothly and continues adding power all the way up to ~28 mph where it gently eases out… it’s not jerky and I really appreciate that. Once you’ve stopped or turned and need to reposition the bike there’s even a reverse mode built in. This is a wonderful addition that isn’t present on most other recumbent electric bikes I’ve reviewed, it doesn’t seem necessary on two-wheeled bikes but is definitely handy with a heavier platform like this weighing ~68 pounds. There is also a walk mode (slow forward throttle) that can be activated by pressing on the Plus button for a couple seconds.
Powering the Scorpion FS 26 S-Pedelec is one or two removable Lithium-ion battery packs. They mount to custom plates positioned just below and behind the seat which protects them from the elements and keeps weight extremely low and center… and a bit towards the back. As mentioned with the rear-oriented motor weight, this improves wheel traction and helps to balance the front boom and crankset. The batteries each offer 36 volts of power with 15.5 amp hours of capacity, combined they offer over 1 kilowatt hour which is on the large side for any type of electric bike. If you’re planning to commute over 40 miles per day or go touring, this could be an excellent choice and in the lower levels of assist it could get you 80+ miles. According to this Gizmag article from 2013, CEO Paul Hollants explained that a common request for HP Velotechnik electric bikes has been increased range and that a lot of owners simply carried a spare battery in one of their panniers. The double battery mount solution available with the Scorpion FS was prepared as a direct response to this need and I think it looks and works very well. As a quick aside, the included charger is rated at 5 Amps which is quite a bit faster than the 2 Amp chargers I usually see. It only weighs ~1.2 pounds and is super small so topping off along your ride can also significantly increase range. It would be really cool to see a solar charger built into a bike like this someday… one bike could trickle charge while the other provides power :D
Operating this bike is pretty easy once the battery or batteries are mounted and the power button has been pressed on the button pad near the display. There are quite a few optional readouts built into the display but the primary menu remains simple and intuitive listing speed, battery level, estimated range and assist or regen mode. You’ve got five levels of assist to choose from here and the lower ones will conserve power by accelerating more slowly and limiting top speed. There are two levels of regen to choose from and I love that both brake levers activate the lowest level of regen for the most stopping power and energy regeneration. So many electric bikes that have the potential to regenerat energy (using a gearless direct drive hub) pass it up and still others only offer it through a menu so they can use fancier brake levers or reduce complexity and wire clutter… In my opinion, HP Velotechnik has done it right here by offering a full set of regen options. Anyway, I really like the button pad and quickly got used to the plus and minus buttons because they are easy to reach and feel as you ride, even without looking down. When you want more information from the display there’s a mode “box” sort of button that changes to a full trip readout with max speed and energy use, stopwatch, caller list and data storage. It’s more like a miniature computer than a simple display and the screen has been designed to be readable in bright light and is also coated with anti-glare.
In closing, I really enjoyed testing the HP Velotechnik Scorpion Full Suspension 26″ Speed Pedelec recumbent. I had never before considered buying a bike like this despite the gains in efficiency and ergonomics in large part because they gave me a neck ache while riding over bumps and cracks. The full suspension design helped to alleviate this for me and the adjustable boom, seat and optional sizing options really won me over. This machine is finely tuned and made with extremely high quality components and materials. After test riding the bike and then going online to learn more from the official site my appreciation only grew. The HP Velotechnik recumbent bicycles are designed and assembled in Germany and go through stringent review and testing before being shipped out. With so many adaptive accessories available, the option of a wind faring and the second battery pack I feel like this thing could accommodate just about anyone with legs… and for those who don’t have legs or have extreme physical needs, check out the Outrider Horizon which also offers full suspension and can be custom manufactured to suit quadriplegics and amputees. I love the look of the Scorpion, the color options and the solid warranty and longstanding reputation of HP Velotechnik. I’d gladly recommend this bike to anyone with the desire for increased speed, range and comfort.
- Super powerful, fast and quiet hub motor from Go SwissDrive, one of the best hub motors I’ve tested (available on this and other premium ebikes), capable of ~28 mph top speeds
- Regenerative braking helps to reduce wear on brake pads and recapture energy during decents, it’s ~10% efficient, you could also use this feature to train indoors if the bike is setup on rollers
- Bluetooth interface can alert incoming phone calls and read tour data with the HP Velotechnik App, Powered 5 volt 1 Amp USB port can charge portable electronics
- In addition to a large, color, backlit LCD display and Bluetooth compatibility for use with smart phones you also get a tactile button pad that controls assist level, it’s easy to reach and use without glancing down at the display or taking your hand off the right grip
- The Go SwissDrive is super quiet, powerful at low speeds (impressive for a gearless direct drive motor) and offers reverse at 3 km/h (1.86 mph), this is extra convenient on a recumbent where turning radius might be less than some traditional two wheel ebikes
- Recumbent trikes offer aerodynamic efficiency, adding panniers to the Scorpion FS 26 S-Pedelec is said to improve this and a second battery pack is said to improve stability and rear wheel traction
- Compatible with a comprehensive line of special needs accessories including: Stand Up Aid, Hand Rest, Pedal with Heel Strap, Ergonomic Safety Pedal, Ergonomic Pedal with Lower Leg Fixation, Walking Aid Mount, One Hand Actuation for Drivetrain and Brakes, Ergomesh HS Plus Seat
- Independent front wheel braking for improved cornering, open wheel mounts for easy and fast detachment
- Full suspension design adds comfort, especially over long distances and riding at higher speeds, it also handles cargo more gently
- Tool-free folding design saves space during transport, the chain stays on and wraps using guides, self locking hinges click into place when unfolded
- Units are assembled in Kriftel, Germany and checked by the Technical University of Rüsselsheim for quality to meet EU regulations
- Speed pedelec capable of higher top speeds ~28 mph (classified as a multilane vehicle under EU-law, may require a special license)
- Winner of the 2012 Eurobike award for exceptional quality, performance and innovative design
- While coasting or pedaling without motor power some efficiency is lost due to cogging (the magnets inside the large gearless hub repel the staters and create drag) but the system does recapture some of this energy at ~10% efficiency, it also features regenerative braking
- This is one of the most expensive recumbent electric trikes I’ve tested and reviewed… but it’s also incredibly awesome and versatile ;)