Electric bikes ( or pedelecs), like normal bikes, come in all shapes and sizes – folding bikes, commuter bikes, townie style bikes, wheel kits to retrofit onto existing bikes and many more. To be legal to ride on roads in Australia e-bikes have to comply with the ACT regulations. ‘Motor-assisted pedal cycles’, although still being bicycles, will power you without the need to pedal and are limited to 200 watts. Whereas, ‘Pedalecs’, which require pedalling to activate the motor, are limited to 250 watts.
E-bikes are speed limited by law to 25 km/h. Now as a cyclist you might think, “ha! I can do that speed on my road bike”, but the difference is that with an e-bike you can do that speed going up hills, as well as down. For most people it raises their average speed to 25 km/h.
Most modern e-bikes use a lithium-ion battery system. A standard 10amp hour battery does between 30 -50 km/h on a single charge (depending on variables such as the weight of the rider, terrain, speed etc) and takes 5 hours to recharge from empty. Battery life varies between 400 – 1200 charges. A general trend we’ve noticed is that the more regularly a rider rides and recharges the battery, the longer the life of the battery.
E-bikes vary in quality and you get what you pay for from cheaply made e-bikes designed for a domestic Chinese market to ultra-chic, but often overpriced and specified European designs. The components on all e-bikes, regardless of price, mostly come out of the same factories in China or Taiwan. For example, Suzhou Bafang Motors produces around 1,000,000 e-bike motors a year which are exported (and re-branded) all over the world, have factories in China and the Netherlands and as such, like Shimano, have a hierarchy of models.
When looking for an e-bike check: whether it’s designed for the Australian market; if there’s a reasonable warranty and back up service; if parts are available and at what price – replacement batteries can cost almost as much as a bike. Check that the seller has been around for a while as we’ve seen many fly by night operators come and go. Be prepared to have to replace parts if you buy something cheap. If buying an e-bike second hand try to determine how much work the battery has done and whether it’s been charged at least once every six weeks.
So who rides e-bikes?
There’s no such thing as a typical e-bike customer but there are some common reasons why people choose e-bikes over normal bikes;
To use a bike for transport, rather than as a form of recreation. Commuters may not want to sweat, change clothes or have to shower at work. These people are often already cyclists, but may also want to get to work faster, or feel that their commute is too long or too hilly to do every day on a normal bike. For example, one of our members has a 60km commute that she does 2 days a week on a normal bike and 3 days a week on an e-bike. E-bikes are also great for pulling trailers to drop off kids on the way to work.
- Some people want to get riding or keep riding but have issues which stop them riding a normal bike. E-Bike riders include people with chronic fatigue, back and knee injuries, heart conditions and a whole range of other conditions which stop them riding a normal bike. E-bike riders also include people who are getting back into fitness but feel they are not yet fit enough to ride a normal bike. E-bikes let them choose what level of support they require, depending on how they are feeling.
- There’s a distinct group of people who buy E-bikes because, while they enjoy riding as a socially related activity, they can’t keep up with their kids, wife or husband.
- Other people are motivated to ride by economics; for example not having to paying parking fees and we have many customers motivated by environmental reasons who use an electric bike for transport or in place of a second car.
- There’s a distinct group of older riders who buy folding e-bikes for use in their caravans and RV’s as transportable transport. Many of these riders want to recapture the sense of fun and freedom they remember having when they first jumped on a bike as a kid – that wind in the hair feeling.