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Pick and pedal

Gary Stoneley

Is that e-bike right for you? Many New Zealanders are now moving to e-bikes and they definitely have health advantages while being cheap to operate and maintain.


E-bikes allow travellers to park up and get on their bike to explore areas they might usually not get to while keeping their fitness up and catching some good old vitamin D. E‑bikes, battery-powered bicycles, have evolved quite a lot from the early days but with prices ranging anywhere from a thousand dollars to upwards of six thousand dollars how do you choose the bike that is best for you and your budget?


I’m not a hardened cyclist and neither is Beverley, my wife, but for several years we have considered purchasing e‑bikes. We have been to many shows and visited many bike shops, tried out our friends’ and show models and watched the prices fluctuate against our limited budget. When Covid-19 came along demand and prices of e‑bikes climbed considerably. It took us a while to decide what was right for us but in the end the purchases were an easy choice. 


How do you make the right choice, first time round, on purchasing an e‑bikes?


What will you use it for?

One of the most important things to consider is what you will use the e-bike for and how often, keeping in mind that this could change. If you are only going to use the bike around town then an urban e-bike with limited features will be more suitable than one designed for riding over gravel and travelling rural trails. Some bikes are only suitable for urban riding and generally come with smooth tyres and without suspension. Others are more of a crossover, good for urban riding but with chunky tyres, suitable for occasional off-road riding.


How much power assistance do you want?

My personal preference is for an e-bike that requires you to still do the hard work with a wide choice of motor assistance. Some e‑bike riders prefer a bike where you only need to pedal occasionally, with the hand throttle giving you all the power and speed that you need.


Will you be transporting the e-bike from place to place or will it be permanently kept at one place?


If transporting it, how much space do you have to store it on or in your vehicle? What kind of bike rack would the bike need? How would it fit on your vehicle? In some cases a folding e‑bike may be an advantage, so it can be put in the boot or camper rather than mounted on the back (do try it out before buying, to make sure the folded bike actually fits).


How far do you want to ride in one go?

How far you can go on a single battery charge depends on the size and quality of the battery and how much pedalling you do and how much the bike engine does. Ask the seller how far the bike’s battery should be able to go. Each bike and battery will be different. Also check out how long it needs to be plugged in to fully charge.


How much are you prepared to pay?

For a couple getting into e-bikes for the first time you could easily spend $2,500 to $10,000 on your first two e-bikes. In NZ bike shops most e-bikes start around $3,400. For smaller folding bikes, or purchasing online, they can be considerably less than $2000. Check out online and instore specials for a bargain or use a discount membership card e.g. All Points Camping Club / Torpedo 7 to get year-round savings. 


Our experience

We bought our e‑bikes in two steps and got some terrific deals by shopping online, but there are risks in this and you need to make sure the bike you are ordering will be suitable for your size and weight. Bev’s lime green urban bike was the first purchase which we scored for under $1000 and was a test run before we spent more money. It came with mudguards, carrier and front basket with the option of three levels of power-pedal assistance or simple pedal-free power. The bike also came with good tyres for a bit of off-road use. After taking this bike away for a camping weekend, two of our friends decided to purchase this model.


My e‑bike was purchased initially because I could not keep up with Bev on my mountain bike. After an online search we found an Australian electric mountain bike for $1400.


Both bikes are proving their value and we now travel around with them exploring towns, cycleways and on trails rated as ‘moderate level of difficulty’. We have added a few accessories like cell phone holders and mirrors but for under two and a half thousand dollars we have purchased two new e‑bikes that meet our needs, improve our fitness levels and we still have money in the bank.


We could have spent so much more and for a first time purchase. Perhaps next time we might buy that $5000 bike but for now we can cycle along merrily. 


When travelling, check local information for urban and trail cycleways. There is a Facebook group for motorhomers who go cycling (see p36). There are also a variety of cycling apps that you can download on your phone to find and track your next cycling adventure.


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