Top advice for choosing a quality e-bike from eBiker Diary

Our Heritage Cycle takes us through the heart of Tasmania's colonial history | Steve Trudgeon
Our Heritage Cycle takes us through the heart of Tasmania's colonial history | Steve Trudgeon

Top advice for choosing a quality e-bike from eBiker Diary

 
The next wave of cycling is well and truly here: electric bikes. These are steadily growing in popularity because of a variety of reasons: they make cycle paths more accessible to all, they're great for the environment, they give cyclists an extra boost up hills (less sweaty cycling? yes please!). Some active travellers will have their first encounter with an e-bike on a tour, but for many it won't be their last as they choose to buy an electric bike afterwards. With so many e-bike models and considerations, it can be difficult to choose the right e-bike for you. So we've enlisted the help of the passionate senior cyclist, Richard from eBiker Diary, to give us the rundown of what to look for when buying an e-bike. 
 
Richard has been an avid cyclist for all of his life, but it was not until he got onto an ebike in early 2018 when he rode the Otago Rail Trail in NZ that he realised how much an electric bike opened up riding possibilities. Over to you, Richard.
 

Choosing an e-bike

 
So many brands, so many models! The ebike revolution is well under way but how do you choose?

This article draws on personal experience  to help others choose an ebike that meets their needs. It is a ‘user’ review, not an ‘expert’ review. My own two bikes are used as examples of opposite ends of the ebike spectrum: the Ordica Neo Mid-Drive 26” Step-thru, and the Merida eOne Sixty 800 full-suspension mountain bike (both from Sydney Electric Bikes).
 
Two great e-bikes | eBiker Diary

One of the challenges for seniors when buying an electric-assist bike is guessing what type of riding they will be doing in the future. Many presume they will be riding mostly on sealed surfaces and choose a bike accordingly, only to later discover a passion for bush trails or other non-sealed terrain. This is where bike frame design becomes an important consideration. Full suspension bikes are designed to handle a wider range of conditions while commuter and hybrid bikes are made for smoother sailing.
 
Terry Hills trail | eBiker Diary
 

Retailers are often much younger people who may or may not appreciate the physical or health issues of senior riders. So, the more you know about your needs before entering a store the better your choice will be.

In addition to predicting the type of riding you will do, you need to factor in a range of personal and technical considerations. Some of the most important are:

Riding position: are you a ‘roadie’ accustomed to leaning forward over drop handlebars or does your back, wrist, and shoulders prefer a more upright posture.

Suspension comfort: are you physically comfortable with the bumps and shakes of a ‘hard-tail’ or firm suspension bike, or will you enjoy riding more with the suppleness of full suspension and a well padded saddle.

Ease of mounting: are you comfortable hitching your leg over the rear wheel as you mount the bike or does your mobility and modesty prefer a step-thru frame design.

Tyre options: if you expect to ride on other than sealed paths then wider tyres with nobbly tread improve grip and safety.

Bike size and weight: if you need to transport your bike in a vehicle, will it fit and can you lift it safely to your car, over a trail gate, or up a flight of stairs.

Battery range: maybe you don't need more than an 11Ah battery with a stated range of 50km, but ebike riding is addictive and fun, and you might soon want more range.  It is cheaper to upgrade the battery at point of purchase.

Motor torque: if you ride in flat areas you may never need much power, but if you ride in hilly places motor torque rating becomes important.

Motor positiongenerally speaking, ebikes with motors mounted between the pedals (mid-drives) are more responsive and efficient. While they tend to be more expensive, it could save you from upgrading too soon.

Digital display unit: some units are bright and clear, others too small or unreadable in sunlight, especially for older eyes, so check carefully before buying.

Pannier rack and bag:  new ebikers are often surprised when they discover they want to ride more often, for longer, and in places they never imagined. A cargo bag is essential for carrying snacks, drinks, repair kit and clothing options. You can often get a better deal at the time of bike purchase.

Test riding options: shop only where test riding is welcomed, and test several types of bikes before choosing. It is easier and cheaper to request modifications before purchase, such as an upright handlebar at a width to suit your shoulders, ergonomic grips, wider/softer saddle, and/or  more suitable tyres for your riding preferences.

Lake Jindabyne | eBiker Diary

 

COMMUTER EBIKES

Commuters are among the most common ebike frame design. Many allow you to mount the bike by stepping through the frame, rather than hitching your leg over the rear of the bike. They are usually referred to as ‘hard-tails’ (ie: no rear suspension) and the front suspension forks have limited travel or ‘springiness’. You can install seat-post suspension, but essentially commuter bikes are most suited to sealed or well-worn paths.

Urban explorer: Taylor Square | eBiker Diary

I chose the Ordica because of its light weight (21kgs), excellent power-to-weight ratio, slim integrated battery, responsive and well-balanced mid-drive motor, and overall compact design. The riding position and seat are very comfortable (especially with a Thudbuster seat post), and the bike is easy to carry in the back of an SUV. The battery lasts about 90 kms using the two lowest assist settings, and power is delivered smoothly through its responsive torque sensor. It is a sweet bike to ride.

FULL SUSPENSION MTBs

 Most mountain bikes are designed for riding in challenging conditions, but they also offer great versatility. If a comfortable ride is a paramount consideration, then a full suspension bike is the way to go. If your back prefers riding more upright, you can install a stem riser to raise the handlebar. I swapped the original Merida low straight handlebar for an upright curved style, changed the spartan seat for a plush cruiser saddle, then installed a Thudbuster suspension post. I love the crunch of gravel under my tyres and enjoy getting off paved surfaces; the Merida opens up many riding options that would not be possible with other bikes.

Merida Bike | eBiker Diary

I chose the Merida because of the suppleness of its full suspension system, the responsiveness of its high-torque mid-drive motor, and the overall comfort of the riding position. It is a larger bike which has both advantages and disadvantages: 3” tyres and heavier construction allow it to roll smoothly over a wide variety of surfaces. The battery lasts about 70kms on medium terrain. At over 30 kgs it is more difficult to transport and needs a heavy-duty bike carrier. However, on rugged, uneven trails and long tours, it is a delight to ride.

SUMMARY

Both of these bikes are excellent performers and enjoyable to ride. Their mid-drive motors give them a well-balanced feel, they have powerful disc brakes, and each has the important ‘walk’ function which helps when pushing a bike up a steep incline.

I bought the Ordica after a full hip replacement when hitch-mounting the Merida became difficult. After full recovery, I’m now in the lucky position to be able to choose what style of ebike is best for the ride I plan today. Having a second bike also means I can take a riding partner, and my adult kids have never been so keen to ride with Dad.

New technology is allowing many seniors to resume, continue, or take up cycling. If you are thinking of getting an ebike, think beyond the square. They are addictive and can lead to a variety of cycling adventures.  Life looks better on two wheels.

Olympic Park | eBiker Diary

Thanks to Richard from eBiker Diary for this helpful article. He sees eBiker Diary as an advocate for safe cycling for older riders who may have hung up their two wheels for health or safety reasons. Be sure to check out his website at eBiker Diary, his Instagram account, and his Facebook page.

 


 

Are you keen for a self guided cycling tour with an e-bike? Check out the comprehensive range of e-bike trips with Australian Cycle Tours. It's a great way to experience an electric bike before you purchase one.

 

>> Don't forget to join the Australian Cycle Tours cycling community!

 

 

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