I don’t like electric bikes. They’re usually ugly, quite ugly, or extremely ugly. But a bike presented at the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this month made me question that belief–thanks, in part, to a design by a legendary midcentury name.
My new two-wheeled love is called Coleen (the Gaelic word for “girl”). I found myself longing for one based on the pictures alone. From the shape of her carbon fiber frame, and metallic details to the leather work. She’s a thing of beauty, with the design of a timeless classic.
That’s because she is modeled after a timeless classic: the bicycle that Jean Prouvé created in occupied France during World War II.
Prouvé was originally a metal worker, evolving into a self-taught architect who specialized in prefab buildings and furniture. He was admired by Le Corbusier himself, who consulted with him on technical problems and called him a constructeur–a person capable of blending architecture and engineering.
Life in 1941 was hard for Prouvé, who was an active member of the French Resistance. He didn’t have much work, and to keep his shop going, he decided to start designing and building bikes. He was forced to use cheap sheet metal since the tubular steel typically used for bike frames was reserved for war applications. That’s how he came up with his efficient, sturdy, and strangely X-shaped bike frame design. Those original bikes now go for up to $100,000 at auction–and the design served as the basis for the new e-bike.
Today’s Coleen retains the same essential design as the Prouvé classic, but with changed materials. The sheet metal frame is now a carbon frame that only weighs 1.9 kilograms (about 4 pounds). The rest of the bike is made of aircraft-grade aluminum, with beautiful new details like fine-grain leather handlebars and saddle.
The new model is a mix of new and old in other ways, too. The base model has a 250W motor powered by a 529Wh battery, which translates to an assisted speed boost of 15 miles per hour. On the top model, called the Speed One, the engine maxes out at 500 watts, which provides a 28mph boost. Coleen’s designers–Audrey Lefort and Thibault Halm–claim that this nouvelle tech gives the bike a “more than 62-mile range” on a single charge. For comparison, some top-of-line e-bikes, which have ranges between 25 and 50 miles. The battery charges from empty to 80% in about 90 minutes minutes. Another hour will get you to 100%.
The technical magic doesn’t stop there. The handlebar has an integrated digital speedometer that communicates with the engine circuitry to give you information about speed and battery status in real time. Around the speedometer, located in the center of the handlebars, a little ring lets you control the level of assistance you want. A Bluetooth app lets you access all of that information, and lock your battery, too. Rather than using a chain–which requires maintenance and grease–the bike’s energy gets transmitted to the wheel using a belt, and buyers can add a 7-speed gearbox if they want more options for hilly conditions, too.
All of that design and engineering comes at a price, though: $5,340 for the “Elegance” model, with a 250W motor and 529Wh battery; $6,720 for the “Sport,” which comes with a leather saddle and enhanced braking system: and $8,540 for the top-of-the-line “Speed One,” which has an integrated 7-speed gearbox and an increased speed boost thanks to a 500W motor. It may seem like a lot of money, but it’s in line with other high-end e-bikes, like the $5,000 Tracker or the Audi Sport e-tron mountain bike, which costs $17,430.
The Bayonne-based company behind the bike is taking pre-orders now.