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E-bikes - exploring your backyard

“Many of us brushed the cobwebs off our bicycles and hit the road during the COVID-19 lockdown, but for those unaccustomed to regular cycling, or those with
restrictive health conditions, the effort of cycling is just too hard”.

E-bikes are a good alternative as pedalling is assisted by an electric motor that kicks in and handles much of the strain. The better e-bikes on the market in New Zealand will take you to about 40km/h, while a basic one will do 30km/h. Many European models top out at 25 due to EU regulations.

Just like normal, unpowered bikes, e-bikes come in various shapes and sizes, each better suited to different sorts of riding and riders. The type of bike you need will depend on whether you will ride short hops, or take longer journeys further afield, and the type of motor is also important.

An e-bike motor assists your pedalling, so when you pedal harder, the motor assists you more; when you stop pedalling, the motor stops too. A good motor starts when you start to pedal and stops when you stop, with no lag.

Other considerations are the durability of the battery, the quality of the tyres, the addition of mudguards and a chain guard to protect your clothes, and whether you need add-ons such as lights, a rack, and a kickstand.

As with a car, you should test ride as many bikes as you can, trying different styles with different motor systems. You should also ask the store about maintenance and servicing, including the motor.

The cost of e-bikes ranges from $1500 (budget) to upwards of $7000. Mid-range bikes are around $3000-$4000. According to the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) fully charging a typical 400Wh battery costs about 13 cents and provides a boost for around 40km of travel.

And, of course, you will need a helmet and a bike lock to protect your ride. You might also want to consider insurance. Before you head out on the road you should get used to riding your e-bike, starting somewhere with a bit of space. You will probably be travelling faster than a regular bike so make sure you scan well ahead, signal your movements and look out for cars turning in and out of driveways and side roads.

Consumer NZ has some great advice on choosing the right bike, www.consumer.org.nz.

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