About e-bike displays in a nutshell:
- The traditional control center of an e-bike is the board computer or e-bike display. Its variants range from minimalist displays, usually only a control unit with LEDs without a screen, to systems with extensive functions such as navigation, WIFI and GPS. More and more often, there is only a mobile phone holder, because the e-bikes are designed to be controlled via smartphone.
- Most modern e-bikes have a Bluetooth interface that allows you to connect your smartphone (your e-bike app) to the bike. Disadvantage: Not every e-bike app is reliable or well developed. You also need a motor-specific app for each e-bike.
- It go better with an independent e-bike app such as the PowUnity app, which not only allows settings on the e-bike, but is also one of the leading GPS anti-theft solutions on the market with the PowUnity GPS tracker BikeTrax.
In our overview article “How to find the best e-bike app for your needs” we mentioned that the smartphone, in combination with suitable apps, is becoming increasingly important as the control centre of e-bikes. After all, it is extremely powerful and offers a wealth of options for an optimal riding experience. And the truth is that no e-bike display can keep up with that.
Therefore, we have no doubt that in relatively near future, the days of the e-bike computer will be numbered.
But the time has not yet come. If you buy an electric bike, it usually comes with a display. And just as the e-bikes differ, so do their on-board computers. But what are the most important differences, which brands and models are particularly interesting and what options do you have?
How e-bike displays work – common features
Despite all the differences, e-bike displays share the following characteristics:
- The devices are connected to the drive of your e-bike. To control them, you use a handlebar remote control, buttons on the display or the touchscreen – if there is one.
- As a rule, displays are easily visible at the front of the handlebars, either on the side or in the centre of the handlebar stem.
- With the help of the display, you can control your e-bike and read data, for example about the route or your performance. However, this is where the main differences begin. The differences between e-bike displays are significant, both in terms of the setting options and the data that can be viewed.
Important note: It is not easy to quickly change the display on an e-bike. This is because the drive and bike computer are linked to each other. With a Bosch e-bike, you can switch between different Bosch computers. However, you cannot simply switch to a Yamaha control unit because you like it better. This means that when you buy a bike with motor assistance, you decide in favour of displays from one manufacturer.
Types of displays
There are no official display categories for e-bikes, but based on the current models, the following groups can be identified:
Simple, compact displays
Compact and minimalist. A display of this type is used to make basic settings on the e-bike and to read a few data such as the current speed. Many modern e-bike manufacturers rely on this variant. They assume that their customers will use a smartphone on the handlebars anyway, which would make another large display more annoying than helpful. This type of display is sometimes a control unit with LEDs without a screen.
By the way: E-mountain bikers who like to ride cross-country appreciate minimalist displays.
Comprehensive, networked on-board computers
With a display like the Bosch Kiox, you have an e-bike computer that deserves its name – at least a little bit. Such systems with all the functions – such as integrated navigation functions, route calculation,WIFI or GPS – score high. Theoretically, you can leave your smartphone at home for your next tour. The only problem is that you won’t be able to make phone calls or send messages.
In addition, even a powerful display for your electric bike doesn’t come close to the performance of your smartphone. In fact, many networked e-bike computers only develop their full potential once you connect them to an app on your mobile phone.
Control systems for smartphones
Finally, there are more and more systems for controlling e-bikes that do not have a real “display” but are designed for smartphones. They often consist of a smart mount and an app. Also in this case, Bosch provides some prime examples.
Alternatively, you can do without an e-bike computer and use your smartphone, not only for navigation, but also, for example, for settings on your e-bike. However, this option still suffers from the poor quality of many e-bike apps – but more on this later.
Important features of an ebike display
What an ebike display must be able to do depends on you. If you use your smartphone for navigation and fitness data anyway, a computer on which you can read the charge level and switch to another riding mode is sufficient. However, the situation is different if you don’t want to have a mobile phone on your handlebars.
Important features and functions are as follows:
- Display type and size: Do you prefer the display to be as small as possible or rather larger? Even here, opinions differ. Once again, if you use your smartphone as an (additional) control centre, you do not need a separate large screen. If you only ride with a bike computer and want to read a lot of information from it, the display should not be too small so that you can keep an overview even at high speeds. Then a colour screen is also worthwhile. Mountain bikers often prefer a small screen for reasons of freedom of movement.
- Settings on the bike: One of the basic functions of e-bike displays is the setting of the riding mode. However, this does not have to be everything. In some cases, you can also use the bike computer to control the lighting or manage an anti-theft device.
- View: Even a minimalist display shows you how much power your battery still has and when it is time for a charging station. Depending on the device, you can also see the current speed and distance covered, the time and the temperature.
- Fitness data: Do you see your e-bike as a piece of sports equipment and cycle tours as a workout? With a bike computer that tracks fitness data (such as the Garmin Edge), you can keep up to date with your performance. If you want to know not only your cadence but also your pulse, you need to connect the display to a corresponding measuring device.
- Navigation data: An e-bike display with GPS can be used for navigation and make use of e.g. Google maps.
The range of what e-bike displays can do is therefore large. This can be also seen when we look at the range of individual brands.
Overview of leading brands and their e-bike displays
Depending on what kind of drive your e-bike has, the display comes from a different brand.
The following manufacturers are currently among the most important:
The name Bosch does not only stand for high-quality drives. The company has also produced a wide range of Bosch ebike displays. They range from the simple Purion to the fully networked on-board computer with built in navigation system to solutions for the smartphone.
- Bosch Purion: The Bosch Purion is rightly named. It is a minimalist e-bike display that shows charging status, speed, riding mode, range, trip distance and total distance.
- Bosch Intuvia: The Intuvia display also concentrates on the essentials. What is special about it is the separate control unit. In addition, the Bosch Intuvia Display can be converted to the COBI.Bike mount.
- Bosch Kiox and Kiox 300: This small and robust display with activity tracking is well suited for sporty riders. In interaction with the eBike Flow app, the Kiox 300 is constantly being expanded with new functions.
- Bosch Nyon: The Bosch Nyon display has a touchscreen, a separate control unit for while riding and a colour display, and can be connected to the Bike Connect app. With Nyon, you benefit from a wide range of functions in combination with your smartphone and can use the display for navigation, among other things.
- Bosch LED Remote: Finally, Bosch offers a handy LED control centre that connects e-bikes with the eBike FlowApp. As part of the Bosch Smart System, it becomes the sole control centre.
In addition to these displays, Bosch 2022 offers several smartphone solutions for e-bikes. These include COBI.Bike, SmartphoneHub and Smartphone Grip. The principle behind this: You connect your smartphone to your e-bike via an app and the respective mount. The mobile phone becomes the central display.
Brose currently offers three displays that fit every Brose drive and can be retrofitted. In terms of their functions, they are much more minimalist than the competing products from Bosch:
- Brose Display Allround: The all-rounder from Brose has a display with a 1.5 inch colour screen and six large buttons for operation. In addition to the usual basic functions, you can also use it to control the low and high beams.
- Brose Display Remote: The Brose Display Remote is limited to the bare essentials. There is not even a screen in this case, just a coloured LED strip.
- Brose Display Central: If the Display Remote is not enough for you, you can use it as a control unit for this 3.5 inch screen.
Yamaha keeps the names of its displays short.
- Display A: Das Display A ist Yamahas Minimalist unter den E-Bike-Displays. Geschwindigkeit, Batteriekapazität, Assistenzmodus sowie Reichweite und Kilometerzähler, das war’s. Die LCD-Anzeige lässt sich gut ablesen und das Gerät ist robust. Eine Lösung für Outdoor-Enthusiasten, die das Wesentliche im Blick behalten wollen.
- Display X: Etwas größer als das Display A und mit einigen wenigen Anzeigemöglichkeiten mehr. So lässt sich das Display X beschreiben.
- Display C: Das 2,8 Zoll große Farbdisplay C kommt mit Bluetooth und Fitnesstracking. Über eine Verbindung mit deinem Smartphone und beispielsweise Komoot kannst du die Funktionalität des Displays beispielsweise um Navigationsdaten erweitern.
Shimano is also one of the famous names in the bicycle and e-bike sector. The company currently presents the following e-bike displays:
- SHIMANO STEPS E8000: The minimalist and compact Shimano Steps E8000 colour display is aimed primarily at sporty e-bike riders and mountain bikers. It is mainly used to change riding modes, to take a look at the current speed and to keep up to date with the battery range.
- Shimano Steps E6010: The successor to the E6000, Shimano Steps E6010, is significantly larger and can also do a bit more. It can also be set to six languages.
- Shimano SC-E6100: At 2.7 inches, the SC-E6100 is also one of the larger of its kind and is well suited for trekking tours or forays through the city. It can be paired with a third-party device or smartphone via ANT or Bluetooth.
- SHIMANO STEPS E7000: The functions of the E7000 include the view of speed, riding time, total distance, cadence, support mode, time and battery level. More options are available when you connect the display to the Shimano E-Tube app.
On-board computers from Giant can be divided into two groups:
- Control units: Giant’s handlebar-mounted control units are proudly called RideControl. They have a few robust buttons and LED lighting that indicates the battery level, for example. The key differences between the individual models lie in the number of buttons and how they are attached to the handlebars. The RideControl Dash stands out because it is the only one of its kind with a small display.
- Displays: RideDash displays come in two versions, RideDash Plus and RideDash Evo. Their functionality can be extended by connecting the display to the RideControl app. Then it can be used as a navigation device – at least in theory. In practice, this usually fails due to the poor functionality of the app.
In addition to the displays mentioned, there are a number of others from brands such as Fischer, Panasonic or Fazua. However, the above examples already give a good impression of the different designs and functions you can expect from a modern bike computer.
Tip: Be careful when retrofitting
Sometimes you are not satisfied with the display of your own e-bike or a defect makes a change necessary. In such cases, it is a good idea to upgrade to another model.
This is not as easy as it sounds. There are two main restrictions to consider in this context:
- As already mentioned, you cannot switch between two brands. If your e-bike has a Bosch drive, you need a Bosch display.
- In addition, not every Bosch display fits every e-bike with a Bosch drive. Depending on the year and type of e-bike system, there are major restrictions.
We therefore recommend that you inform yourself before changing the display and ask again before you have an on-board computer and an e-bike that do not fit together.
Riding an electric bike without a display: is that possible?
The answer is “Yes, but not yet as good as it could be”.
In more detail, this means that most modern e-bikes have a Bluetooth interface that allows you to connect your smartphone to the bike. In addition, more and more e-bike manufacturers offer their own apps that you can use to access your bike and, for example, change the support. A traditional display with a large screen is then not necessary anymore.
And is it not the case that your smartphone is the more powerful bike computer anyway?
Unfortunately, mobile phones can’t yet really make the most of their possibilities as e-bike control centres. This is primarily due to the fact that the apps of most manufacturers don’t work well enough. Since there are no interfaces for developers of third-party apps, the alternatives are also often lacking.
The PowUnity e-bike app as control centre
The PowUnity BikeTrax GPS tracker, together with the PowUnity App, is currently one of the leading e-bike anti-theft solutions. However, PowUnity is taking its connected e-bike product to the next level with an enhanced PowUnity e-bike app – for the benefit of BikeTrax users and e-bike manufacturers alike.
Thanks to the new app, BikeTrax users will not only be able to protect their e-bike from theft, but also use their smartphone as an e-bike display. All services will then come together in one place – from e-bike control and ride statistics to automatic maintenance and service plan, and much more. The connection of the PowUnity BikeTrax GPS tracker to the CAN bus of the e-bike will also allow managing further control functions of the e-bike via one app.
We offer e-bike manufacturers a white-label solution of the PowUnity e-bike app, including a dashboard that shows the use of their e-bikes in various parameters – with no development costs for the e-bike app.
You can find out more about the potential of your smartphone as an alternative to the traditional ebike display and what needs to happen so that you are able to use this potential in our article “Use phone as bike computer – why your smartphone is the best e-bike display”.
Bike computers are becoming smaller and less important
In conclusion, it can be said that the traditional e-bike display still plays an important role on the market. Accordingly, there are many different models from well-known manufacturers. However, the trend is clearly moving towards smart solutions for networking with smartphones.
The fact that these new solutions are sometimes quite expensive for manufacturers as well as end customers, as is the case with Bosch, is more than a downer.