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Mando Footloose: a chainless hybrid e-bike

Commuter, Electric bike, Shows & Events 46 8945

I briefly mentioned the Mando Footloose chainless e-bike recently, but it is an interesting design that is overdue for a post of its own.  Mando Footloose is a partnership project of Mando Corp. and Meister Inc., both of which are automotive suppliers in South Korea. To design and develop a chainless hybrid electric bike “featuring automotive know-how”, they brought on board award winning British designer Mark Sanders (who I want to remind you is a judge in the ISUDA Bike Share Design Competition that is currently running on this blog), and Dutch e-bike expert Han Goes. The resulting design was officially introduced to the public a few weeks ago at Eurobike, and will be available for sale in Korea very soon.

The chainless hybrid drive system is probably the noticeable attribute of the bike, and that is one of the prominent features based on the technology from Mando/Meister.   As the rider pedals, the cranks turn an alternator that generates power to drive the rear wheel. The press release explains it this way:

“The hybrid drive system brings the power directly to the drive wheel with its high performance dual winding motor, while at the same time also serving as a generator: When you pedal, mechanical energy transforms into electricity and feeds the e-bike battery – to a certain extent self generating. By adding energy the standard range of 30 kilometers can be increased even more. Using a throttle, the motor drive can be controlled and you can ride the Mando Footloose even without pedaling.”

Another bit of automotive technology is the ECU (electronic control unit) which is located in the center of the frame. The integrated sensors recognize the bikes speed and slope of the terrain, and “regulate motor performance accordingly– just like the electronic assistant in a car.” The automatic drivtrain technology is all hidden in the frame, but the “detachable HMI Display (Human Machine Interface) is placed on the handle bar and supplies the rider with important information such as riding mode, distance covered, speed, battery status and amount of electricity produced.”

As we have come to expect from bikes designed by Mark Sanders, the Mando Footloose can be folded “simply and compactly by pushing two levers, and rolled on its wheels.” Mark’s “human focused” approach to design results in a bike with no sharp edges that is comfortable and easy to fold and transport. As Mark points out in the Mando Footloose catalog, the bike is “designed for regular humans; smooth and clean like the latest smart phones, with powerful technology hidden inside.”

Hmmm…sounds very much like a human powered transportation solution for that blue ocean of non-cyclists. It will be very interesting to see how it is received in a traffic choked city like Seoul in the near future.

Photo credits: Mando and Mark Sanders. See a few more interesting development images here.

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  1. Will Kelly September 18, 2012 at 5:02 pm -  Reply

    How does the efficiency of this drive system compare to a simple chain drive? I would expect some loss, but I am curious how much.

  2. Mark Sanders September 19, 2012 at 11:21 am -  Reply

    Will – As an designer/engineer when I 1st saw this new hybrid e-bike technology I had concerns about the efficiency – we all know direct chain drives are efficient. We also know that mechanical energy being converted to electrical energy to charge a battery (chemical energy), and then back into mechanical (via a 2-speed motor) loses some energy.

    BUT … when I first rode a crude test rig, I discovered the real benefits of this chainless hybrid system. It is a very effective plug-in battery powered e-bike….Plus…. the addition of an alternator gives control and generates power. This feels completely intuitive and user friendly – you can use and generate as much ..or.. as little power as you choose.

    Still sceptical ? …. Think of the system as chain driven…But… with an infinity long elastic chain, which can store pedalling energy, for release when you choose…. with control of of both: the elasticity, and the release of the stored energy. Add to this, regenerative braking which also ‘stretches the elastic’ when slowing – rather than loosing it ….. you get the idea….

    Miles – Good links – yes this technology has some solid background.

    Personal note: as a bit of a bike mechanic, it was so weird to see adjustments made buy the Mando R&D guys plugging in a laptop to adjust gearing 🙂

    Thanks for the ‘plug’ James 🙂

    • Nick F September 19, 2012 at 10:30 pm -  Reply

      I love the idea, and you make a pretty strong endorsement, regardless of efficiency losses… So I can’t wait to try one. In a way, I guess it’s a modern take on early mopeds – in the sense that it’s a powered two wheeled vehicle with semi-vestigial human power. Tracing that parallel development arc indicates we’re going to see some pretty exciting and minimal electric-only two wheeled vehicles in the next decade.

      Regardless, do we get to know how heavy it is? I’m no weight-weenie, but when it’s a folding bike that you’re expected to take with you, it’s a pretty relevant question.

    • Byron November 2, 2012 at 12:18 pm -  Reply


      Yes skeptical and was just at the factory that makes Stridas now, odd bit of timing. Let’s see this being ridden and test results of the drivetrain efficiency. That’ll do more to impress then plugs for yet another cad fantasy bike on design blogs and please more than beer coaster calculations.


      • Mark Sanders November 2, 2012 at 2:46 pm -  Reply

        Hi Byron
        No CAD concept that just raises expectations … this is real !!

        Re-efficiency … Best see the comments below and especially by Dr. Andreas Fuchs – who is leading expert on ‘electronic bikes’ … and also 4 page report in Bike Europe:

        I just got back after launch in Korea, and the Production bike is very impressive – Seoul is VERY hilly (think San Francisco – compressed in to a downtown area) .. so 1st thing I did was head out up these hills .. and did a few hill starts .. No problem! the dual wound motor works a treat even better than concept demonstrators.

        There are about 50 early footloose’s riding about Seoul and several of the test riders/ambassadors turned up to the launch. What was so cool for me to see was as they parked up, a technician hooked up a laptop to each bike and updated the ECU software – the riders went off much happier…. a modern version of ‘spannering’ 🙂

        A few more pic’s from Seoul, just added >>

        and at last (for such a wired country) a website:

        Mark (a tad jet lagged …. my excuse for lousy spelling)

  3. Frank September 19, 2012 at 2:16 pm -  Reply

    As a design blog, this report surprisingly lacks depth and fails to dissect the tremendous design implications the electronic drivetrain has brought forth. This is one of the rare cases that I found some random commentators on Bikeforums offering a more intelligent discussion on bike design than this blog:

    Assuming Mando does not bungle the product management and marketing, a revolution in e-bike design is afoot. I hope a more rigorous follow-up report is forthcoming?

    • James Thomas September 19, 2012 at 4:00 pm -  Reply

      Frank, I have been really busy with work lately, so yes… the majority of recent posts have been quickly written general overviews. Intelligent discussion is is what this comment section is for though, so I am glad to see additional information and links from Miles, Mark, and even from you.

      Everyone, feel free to add thoughts and opinions here if you think something is lacking in the original post.

    • Miles September 20, 2012 at 3:39 am -  Reply

      The discussion is just beginning here….The thread you linked to was started 3 weeks ago!

      WRT the efficiency of the pedal input, it doesn’t seem particularly relevant to compare it to a singlespeed, perfectly maintained, chain drive. A better comparison would be with the Nu Vinci CVT which probably has an average efficiency of less than 85%.

  4. Frank September 20, 2012 at 9:52 pm -  Reply

    Just wanted to make it clear that I love this blog and really appreciate James’ posts. 🙂 To continue the discussion, I believe that Footloose signifies a disruption in e-bike design guidelines. The old adages—such as power transmission efficiency—that are inalienable for HPVs should be reexamined and in certain cases deprioritized.

    Take the electronic drivetrain for example. The blue ocean customers would not care so much about “efficiency.” It’s a foreign concept to them, and they’d charge the battery anyway. They are likely to appreciate, on the other hand, the benefits of such a system: persistent pedaling cadence/force regardless of terrain, adjustable/memorized control and output curves for different riding conditions, use it indoor as a fitness equipment, less moving parts, and so on.

    Exciting times!

  5. Dennis Hindman September 21, 2012 at 12:44 am -  Reply

    Hopefully, the design will enable you to move the bike with the wheels on the ground when it is folded. It would be too heavy for most people to conveniently pick up.

    How much low-stress bicycle infrastructure that Seoul has would be a big determinate of how many potential users there would be for the bike.

    • Miles September 21, 2012 at 9:27 am -  Reply

      “Hopefully, the design will enable you to move the bike with the wheels on the ground when it is folded.”


  6. Wytze September 24, 2012 at 7:06 am -  Reply

    Ok, for more in-depth discussion 😉 I will try to help break down the efficiency question with some rough ‘beer-coaster calculations’:

    I spoke with the South Korean head engineer at the Eurobike and he told me some figures, and those figures correspond with what I also read here: So this is presumably the standard data that Mando gives about the Footloose and I will base my calculations on that. (apologies in advance; I do my calculations in metric system, as should you 😉

    Max distance without pedalling 30km on 36V 8.2Ah (=295Wh). I used this tool: for calculating needed W riding at 25km/h for 72kg person, sitting up straight, no wind: 188W. So for riding 30km at 25km/h you need 225Wh. Rough estimation efficiency of motor system: 225/295 -> 76%
    (kind of makes sense, compared to other way to calculate: battery discharge efficiency X motor controller efficiency X motor efficiency 0.95×0.95×0.85=76%)

    Now with pedalling you add 10-15km to the range. So lets take best case scenario: 45km total. For this you will need to add 112.5Wh to the battery in 1h48m (45km at 25km/h). An average person riding a normal bike at 19km/h will exert 100W. So lets say you also need to put in a 100W pedalling power in the Mando to get 15km extra range. Rough estimation of the charge efficiency would then be: 112.5W/180W -> 62.5%
    (kind of makes sense, compared to other way to calculate: Generator efficiency X battery charge efficiency 0.85×0.75=64%)

    Now to estimate the complete drivetrain efficiency: 62.5% x 76% -> 47.5%
    This would explain why you couldn’t ride the Mando without battery power.

    Bare in mind the setting of these calculations: ‘Done in a pub on beer coaster!’
    To put calculations in perspective:
    If the 30km range claim includes many start- stops -> efficiency goes up
    If the 30km range claim is not at 25km/h but at lower speed -> efficiency goes down
    If the added range is 10km instead of 15km -> efficiency goes down
    If effective battery capacity is lower -> efficiency goes up
    If 20″ wheels use so much more power than the 28″ wheels used for bicycle power calculations -> Electric efficiency goes up (but overall remains the same, the loss isjust in a different place of the bike)

    • Miles September 24, 2012 at 9:38 am -  Reply

      “Now to estimate the complete drivetrain efficiency: 62.5% x 76% -> 47.5%”

      That sounds about right : )

      I don’t think the wheel size would make a significant difference to energy use – unless you were on rough or soft terrain.

      I suspect there are reasons other than the efficiency which preclude the ability to pedal it once you have discharged the battery to its limit……

      Is there anything known about the 2-speed motor? I recall that MBI in Korea were developing a retro-direct 2-speed bicycle hub motor (similar thing to the new SRAM unit)….

  7. Bubba Nicholson September 25, 2012 at 12:37 am -  Reply

    I’m glad someone took interest in this.

    • Bubba Nicholson October 1, 2012 at 2:16 am -  Reply

      I thought of separate generator pedals rather than drive pedals for a bike vehicle in my contest entry to this site. I imagine my idea’s now patented in Asia?

      • Miles October 1, 2012 at 2:26 am -  Reply

        ” I imagine my idea’s now patented in Asia?”

        The general principle has been the subject of public discussion for more than 20 years.

  8. Andreas Fuchs October 1, 2012 at 3:51 pm -  Reply

    Motor running => current goes into motor
    Wheel and Motor standing => current goes into battery
    While riding: no battery losses for the generator current
    Generator – DC-circuit/Battery: Efficiency dependant on size, weight, cost of generator and on type of power electronics. Efficiency roughly 80 to 90+ percent
    Do you think this is low? Then measure efficiency of a multi speed internal hub or of a menchanical CVT and check your beliefs! (70+ to 90+ percent for internal gear hubs)
    DC-circuit/battery – motor: Like in an e-bike, e-moped or e-scooter: 80 to 90+ percent
    Since motor is a little bit bigger than on an e-bike, motor efficiency is higher than in e-bikes. In addition, since Efficiency = (1 – Power_Loss/Power_Transmitted), the efficiency of the motor is very high because the motor transmits BOTH current from the battery AND current from the generator. The ratio of Power_Loss/Power_Transmitted is lower, that is, motor efficiency is better than in standard e-bikes with hub motors.
    So efficiency of a series hybrid is not 0.8*0.8=0.64, it is better:
    And then an other effect comes in: In e-bikes, electric power is assist_factor*human power. Since the assist factor is usually inbetween 1 and 2, the series hybrid e-bike will be among the more efficient e-bikes because for electricity, it has simply the most efficient drive train.
    Conclusion: The series hybrid might not be an ideal touring e-bike. But it might be very good in many other e-bike applications.
    Andreas Fuchs, Berne, Switzerland

  9. Bubba Nicholson October 2, 2012 at 2:39 pm -  Reply

    Of course there is nothing to prevent a belt or a chain being added to this design (perhaps a tweak here and there) between pedals and rear wheel. The generator could then also be the motor and leave off the now superfluous hub motor, gaining bike transmission efficiencies losing weight and doubling range. Next, an aerodynamic inflatable fairing, motion activated lighting, handlebar dashboard, and so on bingo.

  10. Jack de Lowe October 10, 2012 at 8:30 am -  Reply

    I have 3 simple questions:
    1. When will it be available?
    2. Where will it be available?
    3. How much will it cost?

    • James Thomas October 11, 2012 at 1:47 pm -  Reply

      Jack, the test market will launch in South Korea very soon and the bike is scheduled to be available in Europe sometime in 2013. I don’t know about pricing, but I’ll see if Mark can answer that.

      • Jack de Lowe August 12, 2013 at 10:03 am -  Reply

        10 months ago I inquired about when where and how much. I have still not received a response.
        Please advise.

  11. Tony October 11, 2012 at 1:28 pm -  Reply

    How much. when and where can i get one !!

    • James Thomas October 11, 2012 at 1:48 pm -  Reply

      Tony, I am not sure about the price, but as I mentioned to Jack above, I’ll see what I can find out.

  12. Mike October 18, 2012 at 3:53 pm -  Reply

    Looks like a great product!

  13. Peter Han November 1, 2012 at 11:57 pm -  Reply

    According to MK newspaper, in korean, European price is about 3200 euros. In Korea, it is available from mid November 2012. They have opened a dedicated shop “Cafe Footloose’ in Seoul just recently

    • James Thomas November 2, 2012 at 10:28 am -  Reply

      Thanks for the pricing info, Peter!

      For those of you who are interested, the Footloose website is now up and running, though most of the detailed info is only in Korean at this point. According to a tweet from Mark Sanders, details in English are coming soon.

  14. bmthuat November 17, 2012 at 12:01 pm -  Reply

    Please keep the price range somewhere below USD700 then you can move a lot of this bike. I love it and was desperate enough to visit the homepage everyday and even sent an email to

    If it is sold for $3200 then I would buy the second gen (or when this version get old). If it is around $700 I will order 1 and get my friends buy 2-3 more.

  15. Johnny F January 18, 2013 at 3:02 pm -  Reply

    I love the design. I am curious about the cables. As a wire hater – you name power lines, supposedly wireless speakers etc I noticed that the promo shots above the wires have disappeared. I think you would do well to either group them so they are wrapped in a sheath similar to what you get at a speaker shop or route them internally. Even better get rid of them!

    • Mark Sanders January 28, 2013 at 5:40 am -  Reply

      Johnny – I agree !! I am on the case … (persuading the makers to make the bike naked or at least wireless 🙂

  16. Toni February 24, 2013 at 11:28 am -  Reply

    As the lithium battery is built-in, when it dies, how does one replace it?

    • Mark Sanders April 17, 2013 at 1:22 pm -  Reply

      There is a battery door (inside/wheel side of rear ‘Beam’).
      6 screws, DIY potentially. But Battery Management / balancing systems are mush improved these days to maximise life – expect 7-10years plus a al Tesla, and then only gradually reduced range (or in this case reservoir).

  17. Bruce Johnson July 1, 2013 at 5:12 pm -  Reply

    Where can I buy a Footloose Mando electric ebike where can I get one and how much do they cost please contact me Bruce E Johnson at I am a handicap I can’t drive a car but I ride my bicycle 35 miles minimum per week this would be great for me

  18. Martin August 6, 2013 at 1:39 am -  Reply

    test the mando footloose, now available in Berlin at “Platoon Kunsthalle”

  19. toni massari August 9, 2013 at 5:53 pm -  Reply

    how long before it comes out in the UK?

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