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The e-bike revolution

8 November 2019
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Don’t be put off by the sweat and the Lycra; there’s more than one way to join the cycling movement.

Words Sarah Bright

A year ago, I would have shuddered at the suggestion of going for a bike ride. I evade exercise and would prefer to hold the sofa down on the weekend. Living at Waikuku Beach surrounded by extensive cycle tracks, my partner was regularly out on his bike and incessantly harped on about “the great outdoors” and “being in the fresh air” and all that malarkey. No thanks. My cranky knees twitched at the notion. That was until he suggested we buy an electric bike (e-bike)… and what a revolution it has been; I am now an enthusiastic convert and nothing beats being out there in nature, turning the pedals and feeling the wind in my hair.

With prices decreasing and recent improvements in removable battery technology, electric motors, suspension, and lighter weight designs, e-bikes are becoming more commonplace and accepted by the public in all genres of cycling. From your work commute, pleasure riding, fitness riding to technical off-roading mountain biking, there is now an e-bike to suit every person and budget. Who wouldn’t want to go further, faster and to more places? They ready do amplify your pedalling power and your ability to do and see more.

Isn’t an electric bike cheating?

That’s a legitimate question a lot of people have. And the answer is a firm no. It’s sensational how these bikes have converted a whole troop of people to get on their bike, often on trails otherwise inaccessible to them by other means. Many who believed that bike riding was impractical or impossible because of distance, hills, windy weather, fitness, health reasons, joint problems, ageing or even because of the inconvenience of having to shower and change clothes after a morning commute. All this is eliminated with e-bike ownership, along with fuel prices for the commuter. It’s surely a win-win for the rider and the environment.

You can choose how you use the motor and don’t have to use it all the time. Merely adjust the amount of pedal assist depending on how you feel. It can still be quite a workout but without the worry of getting exhausted and stranded far from home. You can turn up the level of assist or even, on some models, use a throttle. Most e-bike riders get more exercise as they ride more often and for longer distances. I know mine still makes me puff but without me getting home in a sweaty, achy mess.

Top tips for buying an e-bike

  1. Consider your individual needs – with so many models on the market, it’s best to first identify what features are most important to you. If comfort is key, then a step-through frame may be best. If hill climbing is your buzz, a middle motor or high torque hub motor may be essential. If riding long distance is your cup of tea, you need a meaty battery of 400 watt-hours or more.
  2. Weight – pick a few e-bikes up and feel their weight. They vary considerably. You might need to be able to carry it over a stile or pick it up to put it on your bike rack. If your battery runs out, could you still move it with leg power alone?
  3. Choose your retailer wisely – do you get a good vibe from the place? Are the staff approachable, knowledgeable and helpful? Does the store have commitment to bikes, e.g. a visible workshop, brand range, stock?
  4. Test ride several – get a feel for the different types available. Try out the power assist systems to see what suits you best.
  5. Warranty matters – two years is standard. Make sure you are protecting your investment on parts, motor and battery.
  6. Choose for the long term – make sure you love the one you choose – it’s a substantial purchase. You should expect your bike to last five to 10 years with regular service and your battery should last 1000-plus charges (this equates to 30–40,000km of riding).
  7. Quality counts – but service counts just as much. Choose good componentry and a service plan if you can’t maintain your e-bike yourself. If it’s a Bosch motor, for example, you can be pretty assured it’s good as they are selective about who sells their systems and they provide great support and parts in New Zealand.
  8. Buy local – go for a bricks and mortar store where you can see the actual bike. Google the brand and do some online research and read reviews. Avoid purchasing from pop-up stores, Trade Me or overseas websites where you might be left in the lurch when it comes to parts and support. You usually get what you pay for.
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