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Bilenky Cycle Works

Paul Skilbeck

Wednesday 03 July 2024

Bilenky's Gravel eBike

Bilenky Cycle Works stands among the select few bespoke frame builders ready and willing to craft ebikes, a fact starkly evident at the Philly Bike Expo where Steve Bilenky’s enterprise stood as a beacon amidst a sea of – albeit excellent – custom built convention.

Bilenky's Gravel eBike
eGravel bike by Bilenky. Photo: Brad Quartuccio/PBE

The reticence of many frame artisans toward embracing ebike technology is understandable, rooted in concerns both practical and philosophical. Yet, as sales of ebikes surge in comparison to their acoustic counterparts, Bilenky’s bold strides into this realm places him at the vanguard of cycling’s evolving landscape.

Displayed proudly at the expo was his Shimano Steps powered, mid-drive gravel ebike, meticulously tailored for a discerning client seeking the pinnacle of all-road performance. This modern marvel boasts a host of contemporary features including thru-axles, flat-mount brakes, and a tapered head tube. Constructed with finesse, its fillet-brazed frame predominantly employs Columbus Zona tubing, fortified by a bespoke ovalized top tube and sporting Columbus S-bend cyclocross chainstays. Connoisseurs may spy the ANT seatstay caps, a delightful and pointed flourish of detail.

 

Note the ANT seatstay caps. Having purchased ANT, Bilenky is beginning an integration process

An Enve Adventure fork completes this ensemble, underscoring its versatility with a capacity to accommodate tires measuring up to 43mm, rendering it a highly adept all-terrain vehicle. Running the 43mm Rock n Road tire, this bike could both fly on the asphalt, and feel like a mountain bike on the dirt.

Integration of the mid-drive motor into the frame was done by leveraging the blueprint of a 20-year-old CX Allroad, tailored to the client’s specifications, and tubes appropriately measured and cut to house the ebike motor casing at the bottom bracket. As Steve Bilenky aptly notes, this isn’t merely a prototype but rather a developmental model heralding future innovations.

 

Examining the electric assist system, the Shimano e7000 series mid-drive motor is the driver, a stalwart presence in the market for several years. With the drive unit and battery collectively adding around 6 – 6.5kg to the bike’s weight, the e7000 system, classified as a US Class 1 system, delivers a maximum output of 250W and up to 60Nm of torque. While its prowess excels on long rides with gentle to moderate inclines, a judicious gear selection becomes imperative when confronting steeper gradients.

Capping at approximately 25km/h (15mph), the electric assist serves as a boon for gravel enthusiasts. Equipped with a 630W/h battery, this system can sustain peak output for 2.5 hours or extend assistance across a 4+ hour excursion, amplifying the horizons of adventurous riders who could use extra push.

While the additional 13-14lb of weight may raise eyebrows among purists, it’s a measure ebike riders seldom notice, at least until the time comes to hoist the bike onto a car rack.

For those riders on the cusp of their prime or navigating the passage of time, such offerings as this promise extended chapters of thrilling escapades, ensuring the journey continues unabated.