23 Apr 2018

Inside the world of E-Bikes

1:01 pm on 23 April 2018

The number of New Zealanders using electric bicycles is on the rise with bike shops across the country reporting sales of one or two a day. Katie Scotcher took an E-Bike out for a spin.

Alistair Smith

Alistair Smith has been cycling since 1975 Photo: RNZ/ Richard Tindiller

Statistics New Zealand figures show that within the last year, there's been a 37 percent increase in imports of two-wheeled powered vehicles, which includes electric bikes, mopeds and motorcycles.

When asked to select an E-bike to test, I quickly approached the least intimidating looking model.

It looks like any flash bicycle - a glossy silver frame and brown leather seat adorned with gold hardware - the only noticeable differences when comparing to a standard bike is it's slightly bulkier, and a lot heavier.

Jordan Roy from Avanti Plus adjusted the seat to suit my height.

"For you it's a great bike, it's the right size - it's a medium large frame.

"So in the step-through stuff, they often go medium large or small medium - two sizes of step through - one fitting taller than average people and one fitting shorter than average people.

"And then the bike side of it - a really nice, easy to ride bicycle," he said.

E-Bikes in a store.

E-Bikes in a store. Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

Riding an electric bicycle isn't too out of the ordinary, just when the hills get a little steeper, or your pedalling slows, you're given a bit of a boost.

You control three levels of power through buttons which sit on the bike's handle bars.

Despite the hefty price tag - between $2000-$8000- the bikes are becoming increasingly popular, Mr Roy said.

"We're selling them really regularly, we say that we always have 30-40 different sorts of styles of things on the floor ready to go for people to ride and it's hard work to keep up to that ... it's a dull day if we don't sell any bikes around here," he said.

Alistair Smith has been cycling since 1975 - and has been a keen electric bike user for four years.

The walls of his garage are lined with bicycles but his e-bike is kept, pride of place, at the front of his garage.

"Oh, going down hill you can get up to 60 [km/h] or so, but of course that's the same as going down hill - it's the same as a standard bike.

"My bike, fits with the European standard for electric bike which means that at 25 km/h the power cuts out, so any speed beyond 25 km/h comes from my own effort not the motor," he said.

Mr Smith has owned two electric bikes, and travelled across more than 15,000km on them.

E-bikes remove potential barriers to cycling, such as for older people, those with disabilities and others worried about turning up to work all sweaty, he said.

"The thing that puts people many people off is the physical effort and also if you do have to appear in a business suit for example, it's a lot easier to do it on an electric bike and not appear sweaty or have to change out of lycra."

You don't need a license to ride an e-bike - but the New Zealand Transport Agency offers advice for users.

This includes - take extra care when riding at high speed, signal all movements and go for a few test runs to get used to the weight of the bike before hitting the roads.