I’d been thinking for some time about buying an e-bike (bike with an electric motor). At first it seemed just a silly, impossible dream. And it might have stayed that way except for two things that changed helped me my mind. At 71 and have started developing arthritis in my knees. My doctor said “Cycling is a wonderful way to keep healthy, but with your knees giving you problems, I would suggest that if you want to keep on riding, get an e-bike. Better still, get an e-bike that’s also a recumbent”. Pretty radical thought as the only recumbents I’d come across always remind me of dicing with death as they battle for space on the roads – you have to put a lot of faith in the driver because they don’t always see a cyclist perched on a seat so low from the ground you might as well be shuffling along on your bottom. No, not for me.
A few of my cyclist friends now have e-bikes and this was another reason for me to look at them. One of them, a man who is younger than me, is now the happy owner of a brand spanking new three-wheel recumbent. It’s an e-bike and he loves it. He can be forgiven for opting for this metal machine that looks more like a comfortable couch than a bike, because last year he was hit while cycling home by a car which didn’t stop to check if he was alright. Instead he was left unconscious at the side of the road. Our friend was lucky. He suffered concussion and a few broken bones, which necessitated a lengthy stay in hospital. The healing process took a while and even today he still has residual problems from the collision. An offshoot of the accident means that he can no longer ride his beloved motor-bike either so, with the money from the sale of that, he was well set to buy a new bicycle.
When he first came out on his new recumbent we all admired it jealously and it prompted another of our cycling group (two year’s older than me) to buy herself an e-bike as well, although not a recumbent. Within a month she was well on the way to completing her first 300 miles on it. Now I was interested!
I decided to do some research of my own. A friend who belongs to the same bowling club I do would often arrive on her natty second-hand bike with its electric motor which does only 12 miles before it needs recharging. She’s happy with the low mileage as she seldom does more than 10 miles a day. But I was going to need something which will take me much further before it needs recharging. To be honest, I’d love to be able to get back to the 50 mile plus rides I used to do back in my youth.
My son-in-law had a bike which he had attached an electric motor to. It looked like fun and he enjoyed zipping up to the local shop. And my sister who bought herself a small, very exclusive and very expensive, Gocycle e-bike. As someone who had probably only cycled in her youth, she could never get used to sharing the roads with other vehicles so, after having used it only twice, she sold it on. Sad really, as I had visions of getting out on long rides with her but it was never to be.
I soon found out that electric bikes, by their very definition, are still very expensive. Of course, I could have gone for a cheaper make and model – some sell for as little as £600. I decided not to get one as cheap as that because most really good long-lasting motors will cost that much by themselves, before they’re even attached to a bike. Another consideration I had to take into account now that I’m older is that I’d much prefer a step-through because I’m finding it increasingly difficult to lift my leg over the saddle like I once could.
I, together with my husband, spent weeks trawling through websites and visiting various bike shops in search for “The One”. We were in our local town centre one Saturday and had a few hours to kill before meeting people for lunch. I suggested we take a walk to a well-known bike shop at the other end of town. “You like wasting your time, don’t you” my husband quipped. But we had nothing better to do so he fell in step with me and before long we had arrived. This shop is better known for the high-end bike and, to be honest, I wasn’t sure I’d find what I was looking for. But we were both in for a surprise. I explained what I was looking for to a very nice man called Jason, and he led me straight to what was to become my very own pride and joy. Now I was happy.
The next few sections are based on information I have managed to find when searching on-line, and may help anybody thinking of purchasing their very own e-bike.
A few good things that an e-bike has going for it include
- Less wear and tear on knees and joints
- You won’t get hot and bothered when riding up hills, and battling into a head wind becomes a thing of the past
- You don’t need a driver’s licence to ride a conventional e-bike. While you need to check for whichever model you decide on, most e-bikes will not go faster than around 15.5 mph. It simply cuts out. But then who’d want to have the motor on when you’re going downhill anyway?
- E-bikes generally have a more upright seating position than traditional bikes which can help reduce back and neck pain
- Oh so much cheaper than a car, and better for the environment
- Look for one that has an installed locking system
- Check if the ebike has puncture-proof tyres which I’ve seen on some.
And now the cons
- More expensive than most conventional bikes
- Heavier too
- You may get more flat tyres because the bike is heavier than a conventional bike. And when you do, tyres are harder to change, even on a quick release wheel because of the weight of the bike
- Definitelyheavier to pick up and harder to get up and down stairs
- The expensive battery needs replacing after some time because it (even if placed in a cupboard and not used) only has a shelf-life of a few year’s for the older style battery. A report written in 2017 stated that a lithium ion battery won’t fair much better at three to five years. Manufacturers might claim that the life of a battery is much more and of course the batteries are evolving all the time. But bear in mind that the more expensive the battery, the longer it should last. This is a crucial question and not one to be neglected
- When it comes to servicing, motors and upkeep will generally cost more than a normal bike. Still want one?
Finally, how to take care of your e-bike battery
- Only use the charger and adapter supplied with your battery. This will avoid overcharging and it protects the battery against damage due to short circuits
- Let your battery cool before charging it. Also, do not use it directly after recharging
- Avoid completely draining the battery, but always charge it to 100% if possible
- If you cannot use the bike for prolonged periods of time, make sure to partially charge the battery every few months to keep it topped-up
- Always disconnect the charger from the battery and the network after charging
- Avoid letting it get too hot. If you leave the battery out under a hot sun for any length of time, you are asking for trouble. Keep it in a cool and dry place when not in use
- Do not leave the battery by a heat source
- Always remove the battery before cleaning the bike
- Never use a steam pressure washer as you might on a conventional bike for either your e-bike or the battery
- Of course, never immerse the battery in water. Simply wiping it down with a damp cloth should be sufficient. This goes for the motor as well – immerse it in water and you’ll be looking to buy a whole new bike
- E-bikes can be stolen, specially the high-priced ones, so locking is still necessary. It may be a hassle to try walking off with a heavy bike, so many “opportunity thieves” should be put off, but there’s no stopping some-one really determined to nick an e-bike unless you take avoiding action. So, get that lock. Better still, get two, or three, or even more
- Finally, a friend mentioned that you should never pedal as you change gear when the battery is in use as it shortens its life.