The electric revolution

Cyclelane founder, Chris Baylis, decided to pack away the lycra and test out an electric bike.

Cycling with an electric motor has been slow to catch on in New Zealand despite popularity around the world.

It may be because many hardened cyclists have traditionally scoffed at the idea of having a motor assist you while cycling. It could also be that in the past, the bikes were also a little unwieldy due to their built in the backyard nature. This is definitely not the case anymore.

These machines are slick, easy to use, will charge your phone and get you to work without even breaking a sweat.

NZ new electric cycles

The first electric cycle that Cyclelane chose to ride is the brainchild of a NZ company – Bute Cycles – who have designed and produced Smartmotion bikes. Chris at Bute Cycles said that their bikes are selling not only in New Zealand, but in Australia, Norway, Portugal and more. Available across the country, Smartmotion are serious about making electric cycles a viable option for transport.

Fast take off

There is a switch that needs to be turned on before you head out to ride. Once on, the first thing you notice is how easy the bike gains speed – provided you have some assistance selected. While it is possible to ride the bike without electric help, they are quite heavy at around 25kg and really what is the point it is designed to make it easy for you.

Rolling out of the shop with the switch on you will instantly notice that the motor kicks in to help get you rolling. It is not intrusive or unnerving but rather just a subtle push to help with the take-off.  If like me you are forgetful and leave the bike turned on, it will turn itself off after three hours to conserve power.

Riding through town the disc brake on the front provides ample stopping for this situations where car doors open or other evasive action is required.

The ride is super smooth in general as the eUrban comes with front forks and a suspension seat which with its upright riding position and wide seat makes for comfortable trips. Like any push bike though, make sure to get it set up properly before you take it away from the store.

When you turn on the keypad there is another option to turn on the included lighting system. While they will not light up the whole street, they are enough to get you around and keep you seen on the roads.

Blast up hills

Hills you say….These bikes make light work of hills. You pick a gear where you can spin easily and then settle in and obviously you choose the level of assistance you want. Being a serious cyclist I wanted no assistance but this is a test right, so five it is.

The eUrban made it possible to blast up some seriously steep hills in comfort. After doing some hill repeats I decided that level three was about right for me, leaving me doing some work but not so much as to be panting away. If you take a balanced approach to riding, not having the bike do all the work Chris said it should get you between 70 and 100km between charges.

Instant take off

The bikes also have a throttle. You would be forgiven for saying “oh that is for lazy people”, but after riding it I think you will agree there are times where this is a cool feature. Have you ever pulled up at the lights in the wrong gear? No worries, let the bike get up to speed while you sort out what ratio you want. Or if you are at the lights and you are worried about what the cars are going to do, get up to speed quickly and avoid any issues.

Kitted out

There are a few options for you to choose from, but I rode only two the eUrban and the eMetro. The eUrban has a high top tube like a normal mountain style commuter cycle and has a motor on the rear hub and includes an 8 speed cassette on the hub. The other style I rode was the eMetro which has a 3-speed internal hub on the rear and the electric motor attached to the front hub.

eUrban

The bike comes with suspension forks and a suspended seat for comfort and has a rear pannier that is rated to carry around 30kg. You can therefore slap on some pannier bags and can carry your shopping home with ease. Check out the website for more information.

eMetro

This is the step through version that has a three speed internal hub. Personally I like the step through option, it makes it seriously easy for use around town.

While this model does not have suspension it was a compliant and cruisey ride with wide tyres to help cushion the ride. Check out the website for more information.

Security

These bikes have a frame lock on the rear wheels. While a nice feature, you will still need to carry a lock so that you can secure the bike when left outside. The battery is secured and removed via a key, so if you are not comfortable leaving, just unlock and remove it from the bike.

It’s a wrap

Smartmotion has produced a range of bikes that are a really good option for commuting. I am actually sold on the idea. If your daily commute is under 20km then these bikes could be perfect for you. You can ride to work and no longer need a shower. With a large luggage capacity you can nip down to the shops for groceries in relative ease.

If like me you live on the top of a really steep hill, then it is likely the thought of riding up a steep hill on the return journey that is off-putting. With an electric bike, this is no longer a hurdle.

I have already recommended that my father try riding one of these bikes. His age is becoming a factor and an electric bike will help him keep cycling and staying healthy.

The electric cycle make getting around easy but there is still New Zealand’s weather to contend with, but isn’t that why Gore Tex was invented?

Author: Christopher Baylis

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