Please note: Neither the author nor Enigmatic Global is directly affiliated with Electrify.nz, or has received any gifts or payment for the following post.
Having moved to Tauranga (New Zealand) relatively recently, I have been using my bicycle as my main mode of transportation. Bicycles have been my main mode of transport for years, in Korea and for some time on my tiny island of Bequia in the Caribbean. I enjoy riding. I like the idea of being more environmentally friendly and, of course, not getting stuck in traffic. However, as I continue to become more established in Tauranga, it has also become clear that I need a form of transport that gives me a bit more assistance than a standard pushbike.
Enter my excuse to seriously consider getting an E-Bike!
I have been eyeing the new trend in electric bikes, or ‘E-Bikes’, for a long time. The idea of merging something I really enjoy doing, with the energy efficiency and environmentally friendliness that I really believe we should all be striving. A bike that gives that extra boost when you are tired from a long day at work, and just want to get home. A bike that allows you to arrive at your destination lightly perspired rather than dripping in sweat. But above all, a bike!
E-bikes are becoming more and more popular with every passing year. Articles found online are mostly associated with bicycle-friendly websites and offer reviews of not only e-bikes, but comparisons to standard bicycles, motorcycles and cars. One such example is an article from Electric Bike Review. However, some of the trends expressed in these reviews are supported in a more recent article from Forbes.
I had only ridden an e-bike on a very short 50-meter test at an outdoor show in Korea, but have never taken one on a real test run. Because of this, I still had many questions that could only be answered by doing a proper test of a quality bike.
As such, I was very thankful when I walked into Electrify.NZ in downtown Tauranga. The store had opened recently and I had ridden by it a few times. I finally decided to go in to take a look. I met Keith Silkstone, the managing director. He patiently explained several of his products. He was quite insistent that customers should take the time to choose the bike that is right for them. When I told him I would consider renting a bike to try it out, he offered me a free trial. No need to explain that I liked this idea very much!
I took a bike out overnight. The model: Bottecchia Kripton 29er. It is a nice looking bike, centre drive, on/off-road configuration. It is not the type of bike I am used to. I would usually ride a hybrid style on-road. However, when starting to ride the bike, I immediately felt confident. It was balanced and comfortable to ride. As I rode away from the bike shop, my questions about riding an E-bike were answered one by one.
Weight: Probably one of my biggest worries. Would an e-bike be excessively heavy? Would I be able to easily lift and carry it if needed? The bike definitely was not light, but also not as heavy as I had imagined. I was able to carry it up a few flights of stairs from the water level to town.
Battery Life: I rode about 50 km using the power of the bike quite liberally. This consumed about 50% of the total battery life. Charging was quick via a simple connection (though the power brick is quite chunky). What happens if you run out of power on the road? It would not be as fast, but the bike can definitely be ridden without power assist, which means you can still get home even if the battery is dead.
Power: The power range was really nice. I found myself using mainly power level 2 (of 5), with stints to 4 or 5 to keep the speed up. Low power was essential for shifting gears, as well as manoeuvring at low speed. At power 5, it does give a bit of a kick!
Speed: I was never imagining super speed, which is a good thing. I averaged about 30 Km/h. But consistency is the big difference. About 27 km/h uphill, about 35 km/h downhill made for a much faster travel time. I was put in my place when I was overtaken by a racing bike. But, to be fair, the Kripton was probably much cheaper than the graphite bike that passed me.
The Ride: As I said before, the ride was comfortable. The most impressive thing to me was that it felt like I was still riding a bike. The power assist was just that, it was not fully doing all the work. It was most similar to the feeling of pedalling downhill when the power was up. It definitely still felt like I was riding a bike, which is something I appreciated.
By the time I handed the Kripton back over to Keith, the e-bike showed itself as a viable alternative form of transport in Tauranga. It is definitely not a car replacement in this area, as there are roads that I would consider too dangerous for bicycles. But that seems to be changing as time moves on. If local investment in safe biking continues, the area could see benefits to both the environment and local traffic problems. In the meantime, I would say this bike would be an excellent alternative to a 2nd family car, and that is how I would use it. It certainly would be an investment, but it would be an investment worth making.