Hi all, Alan here again! I recently bought myself an electric bicycle after a very long (2 years!) process of figuring out what I needed and what I could afford. So I thought I'd put this blog together in the hope it may be of use to you.
There are so many options of eBike available these days! Small big, Foldable or not, Trail or Commuter, etc, etc.. So which is right for you?
You may remember a few years ago I did the Rotorua 3D multi-discipline event (R3D). In which I used and electric MTB.
This was a centre (mid) motor eBike. Which meant you have to pedel to get assistance. More about this later but this is what tweaked my interest in electric bikes.
As my frequent readers would know, I have 3 kids. Two boys and the youngest, a girl, all who like riding their bikes. The two boys in particular like trail riding (mountain biking, mtb). I call it trail riding because, for the boys, it is not too extreme..... Yet! I find I can keep up for 30-40 minutes but then the few muscles in my legs that still work, start to fatigue and I need to rest. Mean while off they go for another hour or two!
The bike I used for the R3D was a proper electric mtb with a centre motor and very responsive torque sensors to control how much assistance is delivered to the rear wheel, I will talk more about this later. Here in NZ this type of bike starts at around $5000 and the sky seems to be the limit. I was not interested in spending at least $5000 on a bike just to keep up with my kids when mountain biking, knowing I was never going to get to extreme.
I looked and looked and tried many different bikes. Eventually working out exactly what I wanted and needed. I was told, for my height and size I needed a 29" wheel. I found even with the seat right down I struggled to get on a bike this size. If I stood on my better, left leg I couldn't swing my weaker right leg high enough to get it over the seat. If I stood on my weaker left leg as soon as I swung my stronger right leg over the seat I'd fall over!!! So I went for a 27". At least with the seat right down I could get on and off it without risking falling over. Just stand over the read wheel and pull the bike back through my legs until I'm sitting on the bike with both feet flat on the ground.
Needed a seat that was low enough for me to get on and off the bike and get both feet flat on the ground for stability. Also wanted a seat that was high enough that when peddling my knees were not up around my ears. This is where a "Dropper Post" comes in.
These pictures show my dropper post in the full down and full up positions and the thumb switch on the handle bars to control it. I got a 100mm dropper post but in hindsight I should have got a 150mm. You can see relative to the bike rack on the back how it changes my riding position.
Needed a push button to be able to drive the bike
without any peddling. So when I am tired and don't want to peddle I don't need to peddle. It also helps me get started and propels the bike forward giving me time to get my weak right leg up on to the peddle before I need to start peddling. The picture shows the thumb button that I use to control the speed when I am not peddling. This feature is only available with an eBike that has the motor built into the read wheel. Rear motor and opposed to a mid motor.
- Wanted full suspension for comfort to follow the boys off road but didn't need full mtb strength/quality of build.
- Wanted to spend as little as possible. Definitely did not want to spend $5000 plus.
- Wanted bike rack on back to carry stuff!
- Wanted mud flaps to keep me clean.
When I first got it Archer regularly wanted to borrow it to ride into town to see his friends. But after I put the mudflaps and rack on it he stopped wanting to use it. Not cool enough!!
All the proper electric MTB's available from the various bicycle suppliers around New Zealand had centre motors. This means you have to constantly be peddling to get any assistance from the electric motor. I realised I wanted/needed a rear motor but there weren't any available from the standard bike suppliers. Some suppliers are starting to make some rear motor electric bikes available but not in a full suspension MTB style. I started looking at importing one from China but worried about the quality and ongoing support, also buying sight unseen.
Eventually found one I was happy with for around $2200 NZD (around $1350 USD at time of writing). It didn't come with a dropper post but I put one on for around $600 NZD. $300 for installation but I did this myself. Also put mudguards and a bike rack on the back for around $70 NZD.
So for under $3000NZD ($1800 USD) I got exactly what I wanted/needed. Half the price of a slightly better than entry level eMTB readily available at the time.
So my advice, make a list of what you want out of an eBike and then start looking around. Try as many as you can. Most bike shops will let you have a ride around if they have the space for it. Try getting on and off the bike. Think about how you are going to get started...... Could be foldable if you want to put it in the boot of your car. There are more and more eBike options becoming available you should be able to find something close to meeting your requirements. With an addition or two, get exactly what you require.
I recommend a rear motor with thumb or twist grip accelerator. A dropper post on the seat and a smaller frame than they think you need. Get what you feel comfortable on, not what they recomend.