The very first question that almost every bike rider asks when they first encounter the electric bike is: “Why?”
There are so many great things that we love about riding a bicycle that seem like they would be diminished or would disappear completely in the case of electric bikes.
A bicycle is very simple. You get on your bike, you ride, your legs power you, up hill and down dale, and you arrive at your destination through your own effort, your own sweat.
An e-bike, or a pedalec, or a power-assisted bike just seems like it’s probably a form of cheating. The simplicity thing gets a bit lost too, when you have to remember to re-charge your bicycle in between uses.
Well, after sharing a pedal-assisted bike for a month with the other members of the BQ staff, I’ve come to the conclusion that e-bikes are excellent, and I would love to own one. I’m not quite ready to plonk down my own $2500, but given the slightest encouragement by other members of my family, I certainly would.
The first time you sit on the saddle of an e-bike and take it for a spin, it is kind of disconcerting. It’s like an invisible hand is pushing you in the back. Your pedalling isn’t what is causing you to accelerate easily up to 30km. But there’s barely any sound of a motor either. And because you control the power assistance by the act of pedalling, it’s nothing like riding a motor scooter or motorbike.
The eZee Sprint that I used had five power-assist settings. I most commonly used it on ’4′, the second-most powerful. Sometimes I would drop back to ’3′, if it looked like the battery was being used up too fast. With the power-assist on level 4, my 11km commute from Salisbury to West End was nearly effortless, and almost as fast as driving my car.
The disconcerting thing about an e-bike is that when you get to a hill, you actually pedal softer, rather than harder. That way you let the electric motor do all the hard work. You keep soft-pedalling, and the bike charges up the hill. It’s weird, but also exhilarating.
The travel times for my commute are (going the fastest way, I often commute by bicycle using many alternate slower routes, for various reasons):
|Driving (no congestion, say at 5am)||15 minutes|
|Driving (peak hour)||20-30 minutes|
|Riding a bicycle||30-35 minutes|
|Riding the eZee power-assisted bicycle||25 minutes|
The commute example starts to give an inkling of what I liked about the pedal-assist bike. For existing bike riders, I don’t think that e-bikes are competing with your bicycle. You already understand the physical benefits of riding a bike and there’s no way you would give that up.
But if you don’t already ride? Well you probably aren’t reading this.
But if you have a partner or a friend who doesn’t ride because of hills, or because of lack of energy or fitness, or because they don’t want to end up all sweaty … the e-bike addresses all those concerns. Arrive at your destination faster than by bicycle, only slightly slower than a car for trips around 10 km.
For the existing bike rider, an e-bike extends the number of trips you can take without resorting to the car. So you rode to work and home again, but now you have to go out to pick up some groceries or visit friends or go to a community meeting in the evening? The e-bike is perfect to replace the car for those short utility trips. Most e-bikes on the Australian market have plenty of load-carrying capacity. The eZee Sprint I tried had a capacious front basket, and a rear rack which would also take panniers. The average office worker, even one who took a laptop to and from work every day, would have no problem carrying everything they need. Likewise, a shopping trip for a couple of days groceries would be easy to manage with the eZee.
My household has three drivers and three cars. It would only take the occasional co-ordination between the three of us to cut down the number of cars by one and replace it with an e-bike.
The process for charging the e-bike is simple, as long as you remember to do it. The charger plugs into the battery, nothing needs to be taken off the bike for charging. For a round trip commute of 20km, you could easily get away with charging every second night. But maybe charging every night would establish a routine which ensures the bike is always ready to go.
The eZee Sprint was loaned to Bicycle Queensland by Electric Bikes Brisbane.