Well, let’s find out…
Why an e-bike
After moving to Sydney in late March 2012 I used to stay really close to the office (about 20 minutes walk) that’s when I bought my first pushbike – a cheap $300 hybrid flat handlebar bike.
A few month later when wife an kids joined we needed a bigger place and paying for a big enough flat so close to the city would have been too expensive, so we moved out to Kensington (abt 10km away) and really close to beautiful Maroubra and Coogee beach.
Now since I am, well.. let’s say – not a big fan of public transport I had to figure out how to commute 20km a day without getting stuck in traffic for hours as well as not having to buy my own petrol station.
Back in Brisbane I was riding a 150cc scooter – that was cheap, fast and parking was easy. Now here for some reason I read an article about electric bicycles, often just called ebikes or pedelecs and decided to have a look. As coincidence wants it, there is an ebike shop just next to my office and these guys from Sydney Electric Bikes are really smart. They will give you one of their bikes to test for a few days, totally free of charge and with no commitment. After riding that for 2 days I was hooked and needed to buy one. Which happened less than 24h later.
Also, I think there is a certain fun factor in life we tend to lose as we get older. Things get more serious and work life starts ruling our days – riding a bike let’s you take a piece of that youthfulness back – suddenly you are a you girl/boy again cruising down the road, enjoying the wind blowing through your hair and seeing the environment from a different, more open perspective. Sitting in a car almost shields you from all the good stuff out there, sitting on a bike makes you enjoy them first hand.
It’s an eZee Sprint with a 10Ah battery. I later fitted a child seat at the back to send Rudi to Kindy and cruise around with Charley later once Rudi can ride on his own.
I chose the Sprint because Jake, the bikeshop owner, recommended it as a very solid and robust bike with quality components.
The tires are Schwalbe with proper rims, the gears are Shimano Nexus 8 Hub which basically does not need any maintenance. The seat is very comfortable and it’s equipped with disk brakes at the front, a bike computer and really bright LED lights. It feels really stable on the road and I felt it could last for a long time.
Interesting enough there is not much information available online about the eZee Sprint and the manufacturer website is @#%@%$# so if you are currently in the market for an ebike – have a look at the Sprint, try it out and see whether it would convince you.
In a couple of days the first 100 km were done and I was still feeling good.
As mentioned, I am doing about 20km every day and at first I was only using it on clear sunny days, but then also started riding it in the rain (which is seldom in Sydney anyway).
Sydney is kinda difficult for bicyclists, there are certain areas with perfect bicycle path coverage and there are places when you share the road with cars, motorbikes, busses and trucks. Lucky Google has now bicycle maps available, so you can actually plan your route ahead.
My route would start close to Centennial Park on a dedicated 2 lane bicycle path right in the park. There are birds singing, the early morning sun rays are gently pushing through the trees and life is just good. For about 3 km. Then it goes right into the city through the traffic which is a little more stressful, but not dangerous because in peak traffic everything is kinda slow anyway.
The last bit to the office is dedicated bicycle path along the road again with is not very pretty but safe.
I actually recorded the ride in one morning – it’s 23min and nothing really exciting is going to happen, but it gives a good idea of how it feels to be riding into work: (the actual ride starts at 2:38)
There are 2 ways to operate the bicycle. One – you use the throttle dial at the handlebar (pretty similar to a motorcycle) the more you twist the quicker and stronger the motor pulls. However I chose to set it to pedal assist mode, which automatically switches on the motor when I start pedaling hard. There is a potentiometer at the handlebar which let’s you chose the power you want it to produce which then has affects on battery life and range.
Depending on the terrain, a full charge can last for between 30-50km I have not managed to drain it on any of my commutes before, even with Rudi at the back up Albion Street.
On the flat I usually fully open the pot which gives full power and then pedal moderately which then get’s me to a speed of 36-40km/h comfortably without sweating too much.
If you are having a lazy day and the sun is burning you could also just pedal very lightly and the bike would do the rest. (no sweat at all)
The real benefit can be felt on hills – and there are some steep buggers in Sydney. While my lycra friends on their roadbikes start glowing and sweating, I would just continue riding as if the road was flat. It’s almost magical – the bike just pulls you up the slope effortlessly. A friend who saw me once zooming up described it as Mary Poppins on a bike.
Well there is a fixed cost for the “hardware” as well as ongoing cost for maintenance, charging, accessories etc.
The bike cost me $2400 including the child seat, proper lock, extra lights and helmet – which is definitely a premium price. You can certainly get an ebike for $800 but it does not have the high quality components, may ride less comfortable and last only a fraction of the time (but maybe that’s just the way to make myself feel better about the investment ;))
Another reason why I went for the top range is that I would have invested $2-3k into a motorcycle or scooter anyways, which later would have had additional costs such as rego, insurance, petrol, maintenance etc.
I did some calculations with charging the battery on a daily basis and with my current electricity provider it costs me about $10 per month!
Yes – $10! – That’s 400km traveling for $10! In my Toyota Tarago in heavy city traffic, that would be more like $80 or so.
In addition to it being a relatively easy form of traveling via bike, there is still a health benefit if you want it to be. The motor will only get you up to around 25km/h (by law) and the rest is still within the capabilities of your legs. I sometimes see people in business attire (pants, suit and tie) riding electric bikes…
I can’t really write much about maintenance because I have not done much on that front. In fact today, after completing my first 1000km was the first time I had to go back to the bike shop because the front disc break was making a weird noise – turns out that the break pads were worn out and a simple replacement fixed the issue.
The only occasional thing I would do is pump up the tires as they lose a little air from time to time and with my **kg + Rudi at the back + my bag-pack with laptop etc and Rudi’s bag-pack with kindy stuff – we would put well more than 100kg on these 2 tires. I have not had a flat tire yet, apparently the Schwalbe tires are made to last.
My friend Stefan who rode a bicycle from Berlin/Germany to Darwin/Australia within a year uses these tires as well and I think he only had to replace them after 10k km. Have a look at his website, he is currently on the way back to Germany somewhere in China.
Apart from that, I guess some grease for the moveable parts and chain are good once in a while, but I would categorize that as “very low maintenance”
One part that I added today was a side mirror, it is convex shaped and allows me to see coming cars, motorbikes and other cyclists without turning – hug safety benefit in my opinion.
The Down Side
Well there is a downside of course – as I am writing this, I am actually wrestling with a flu that is fighting my way up my lungs. Rudi brought it home from Childcare at first, then Charley started coughing unisono, then of course Naura got it and I am next, well I guess.
Riding into work and home today felt a little strage already as I could feel the cough building up and the trip was not as enjoyable as usual – when I arrived I was in fact quite a bit sweaty and grumpy. I guess I should have taken the car.
Bad weather can also be a down side, In snow or hail or heavy rain – it’s not fun to ride if you do not have the right gear. However there is tons of gear around. In Sydney Winter (usually not much colder than 8-10 Deg Celsius) I would wear a beanie under the helmet as well as gloves and a thin cycling jacket.
Something that I probably have to invest into soon is a pair of pannier bags so I don’t have to carry my work stuff on the back.
Old man bike?
Well back back to the entry statement is an e-bike an old man bike? It sure is! If you are not young and sporty anymore, maybe had a couple of operations, a bypass or just feal weak it is probably the perfect form of bicycling.
However it is not just that. Ebikes are being more and more accepted as form of transportation and I believe it can even change the way cities operate, solve commuting- and even health problems of entire nations.
Denmark is a great example, there are tons of articles on the net speaking about the benefits of bike friendly cities (3min video on Copenhagen) an ebike can make that step from a combustion engine to bicycle very easy.
I am physically strong and healthy enough to ride a normal pushbike to work, I actually still have a normal pushbike which I ride out with Rudi when we go to the park. However I don’t like to arrive at work drained out, sweaty and grumpy – therefore the ebike is the perfect choice for me. (…and it could be for you)
Perhaps have a google around whether there is an ebike shop in your city, maybe a rental place – try it out for a few days, you may enjoy it as much as I do.