A decade ago, e-bikes were still a rare sight in New Zealand, but now their popularity is surging.
Traditional mountain bikers, commuters and road riders will likely be familiar with that eye-popping moment when another cyclist sails past at improbable speeds. The leisurely posture – that sheer appearance of effortlessness – the penny drops when you see that their steed has an electric motor.
But who are these bikes for? Everyone it seems, among them, existing cyclists wanting to take their riding to a different level and people who don’t cycle as much as they’d like due to injury, health issues or reduced fitness.
There are many reasons to buy an electric bike, for starters:
Electric bikes can take you most anywhere. They’re a key to the city, a gateway to the countryside, a capable two-wheeler on the trails. Just pick a bike that suits the terrain you’ll be riding and then freedom is yours to explore over a reasonable distance with minimum effort and maximum enjoyment.
I think what I love about cycling the most is just the freedom... to go and explore. There’ve always been roads I’ve driven past or ridden past and gone ‘oh, I wonder where that goes…’ and I guess (riding on an e-bike) gave me the freedom to find out."
- Hamish Bond, 2x Olympic gold (rowing), Commonwealth Games bronze (cycling)
E-bike batteries and motors aren’t created equal, but the more powerful motors propel riders at up to 45k/ph, with range per charge depending on the selected power mode and other variables. You can go at a gentle pace or choose a higher setting that will give you an exhilarating rush while tearing around the countryside.
Energy-sapping hills and headwinds? They’re a problem of the past. As for distance, you’ll go further than you could in the equivalent time on a traditional steed.
If you’ve ever had... a really strong tailwind, you feel strong, you’re going fast – basically, that’s what it’s like the whole time on an e-bike. Being… arguably one of the strongest cyclists in the country in terms of watts, it seems a little bit odd that I might be attracted to an e-bike, but the Giant, it goes 45k an hour and it really was a means to an end for me… for me, it was about finding a solution that enabled me to save time, save money and save the environment a little bit as well.”
- Hamish Bond
Distance per Day
Days per Week
Vehicle Fuel Economy
eg. 2018 Toyota Corolla GX 2000cc
eg. 2018 Toyota RAV4 2500cc
eg. 2018 Subaru Legacy 4WD Wagon 2500cc
eg. 2018 Holden Commodore 3500cc
Fuel Saving Per Week
IRD Vehicle Running Cost Rate
Electric bikes will help reduce your carbon footprint. Their parts are manufactured on a less grandiose scale than vehicles, they don’t use petrol or emit smoke, and are a lot more economical to run.
Energywise NZ states that fully charging a typical 400Wh e-bike battery costs around 13 cents, the same as running a clothes dryer for about 10-15 minutes. At this rate, cycling 20km a day, five days a week for a year would cost less than $20.
You’re also part of the answer to traffic congestion. No more getting stuck in traffic jams and it’s easier to find a park in busy areas!
Electric bikes can be ideal for people with issues related to health and physical well being – or simply common aches and pains from injuries or ageing. You don't need to be fit to ride an e-bike, you don’t even need a driver’s licence, although knowing the road rules and being sensible in traffic is as important as ever.
In traffic, the battery-powered acceleration allows you to quickly regain momentum if you’ve had to stop, and you can arrive at your workplace or that meeting relatively fresh and clean.
And if you’re a trail fiend, electric bikes can give you a ride like never before, taking you from one hilltop to the next so that you can blast downhill repeatedly during the day. Shuttles? Who needs them!
Electric bikes are surprisingly good for fitness because riders tend to go out longer, further and more often. They also allow a consistent pedal cadence that elevates your heart rate without burning out your muscles. Decreasing the power assistance will make you work harder. If you haven’t ridden for a while, an e-bike can get you out into the physical world, enjoying the fresh air, boosting your confidence and improving your health.
Electric bikes are also becoming an accepted part of the racing scene. Increasingly, there’s a class for them in bigger mountain bike races and there’s also been movement overseas to create a new race category for road electric bikes.
Like any bicycle, e-bikes need to be used responsibly. You’ll need a good bike lock (ask for a high safety rating) and just like your car, your two-wheel steed should be insured.
You’ll also need a place to charge your battery, and to know how long it will last for while riding. Most electric bikes come with a battery life indicator, but you may need to experiment because there are variables. For example, e-bikes have different levels of assistance, and each brings a trade-off between power and battery life per full charge.
The more dynamic modes are speedy and will do most of the work, but they will drain your battery faster than the economy settings. Your weight, the tyres, terrain and how hard you’re pedalling will also affect battery longevity.
Then there’s the question of safety. You’ll need to exercise caution and thoughtfulness on the roads and trails. These bikes are fast and heavy. They take longer to stop, but accelerate quickly. Practise mounting, dismounting, halting and starting in a quiet area when you first get the bike. And don’t expect to heft them around without some effort or a ramp for assistance.
Whether you see them as a “toy” or a viable means of transport, e-bikes are a great investment. Here at Evo, we deal with reputable bike brands with great warranty processes and parts availability, so come in to one of our stores or visit us online if you have any questions or would like to order an e-bike of your own.
There’s an e-bike that can work for everyone. And I think, you do the sums, you work out what it’s going to save you in terms of time or whether it be, stuck in traffic, finding parking or money, in terms of the cost of petrol and that sort of thing. There really is good reasoning behind anybody getting an e-bike.”
- Hamish Bond
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