You never forget your first e-bike ride. Mine was a test ride with Big Street Bikers at the Viaduct Harbour, sometime around 2017. I started slow, along the calm streets. When I cranked up the battery assist I was almost flying along – it felt scarily fast so I backed off quickly. But the power and control were amazing once I was in motion, and it was easy to weave between trees, street and boardwalks. I’ve wanted an e-bike ever since.
After Lime launched e-scooters in late 2018, I often used them to scoot between Parnell and the city centre for meetings – cheaper than Uber and usually as quick. Once e-bikes joined their hire fleet, I never wanted to use the scooters again. E-bikes were way faster, safer and more stable in the rain. From my apartment by Spark Arena, I took rides up to Karangahape Rd for nights out, over to Kingsland for UDINZ meetings, or up to Epsom where my old company had their offices. These all involved climbing big hills, rides I’d never have managed on my normal bike. Hills are barely an issue on an e-bike – it really flattens them out (with the notable exception of the Beam hire bikes which have noticeably less power going uphill).
My analogue bike is a pretty mediocre one. After my $700 bike (with a $40 lock) got stolen from the bottom of Queen St, I replaced it with a $275 bike (and an $80 lock). I mainly rode it in the weekends, around the waterfront between Westhaven and Mission Bay. I didn’t have the oomph to ride it up hills.
I changed jobs in late 2021 and Lime e-bikes became my usual way to get up the hill to my Carlton Gore Rd office, climbing up through the Domain. I eventually started using my analogue bike – I had to push it up the hill, and it took a bit longer, but I saved the $10 a day in hire fees.
In December I moved to Mount Albert, and the thing I was most excited about was getting an e-bike. The bike parking in my old apartment building wasn’t very secure, and we’d had a few thefts – I didn’t want to put an expensive bike in there. Shoutout to Project 529 where you can register your bike so thefts can be better tracked.
I made it my mission to buy an e-bike over the summer holidays: put my deposit down for one on Boxing Day and then (bugger) bruised my tailbone the next day, coming down hard on some slippery concrete steps in Devonport. I’m not sure what was more painful: the actual pain, or the emotional pain of having to wait to ride my new machine. Actually hang on, it was definitely the actual pain.
Anyway, so I went back to work on the 9th and still wasn’t bike-ready. I drove or got dropped off in the first week. But gradually I was popping fewer painkillers, and was ready to give riding a go. Here’s what my last two weeks looked like (up to the 25th when I’m writing):
Mon 16th. My first real test ride! From home in Mt Albert to Morningside and back again. 7 km.
Tue 17th. The Morningside test run went so well I thought I could get all the way to the Carlton Gore office. It was easy along the northwest cycleway (still figuring out the best way to get through the streets at the top of Newmarket though). 18 km
Wed 18th. Morningside and back again. 7 km
Thurs 19th. Worked from home. 0 km
Fri 20th. Biked to the city centre for a meeting, down to Evo Cycles Britomart to buy panniers, up to Carlton Gore to pick up the lunchbox I’d left in the fridge on Tuesday, and home again. 24 km
Sat 21st. Morning ride around my new neighbourhood, Oakley Creek and Southwest Cycleway. 6 km
Mon 23rd. Past the Mt Albert Library and a couple of other stops, and home again. 10 km
Tues 24th. Commuted to and from Carlton Gore office. 18 km
Wed 25th. Biked to the city centre for a breakfast, up to Carlton Gore office, tiki tour past the City Rail Link construction at Maungawhau, bits of Kingsland and Sandringham and home again. 21 km
I haven’t commuted by car since the 16th and frankly, I can’t see why I’d ever want to again now I have my e-bike, panniers, child seat and some cheap wet-weather gear (which I might still need to upgrade). Next step: learn how to fix a puncture (just in case) and don’t crash into any more poles.
Summer is a great time to get on a bike – electric or otherwise – and with the Aotearoa Bike Challenge running through February, why not give it a go?
Now let’s get the party started and talk economics! $2000 is close to ‘entry level’ for e-bike pricing, as it’s a waste to bolt $1500 of electronics onto a cheap frame. The options really open up in the $2500-$3500 range, and mine was about $3300 on sale. It’s a decent multi-purpose city bike. I use it to commute, but also to nip out to the supermarket or the pub, take my son to daycare and so on. Because of that, I really wanted a step-through frame that I can hop on or off easily, and attached a child seat plus panniers for storage – it’s not a speed-optimised road bike.
Two or three grand is a lot of money to part with in one go, although it pales in comparison to the cost of a new car. This e-bike lets my family get by with one car instead of two. I can get from Mt Albert to either Newmarket or town in under half an hour: faster than driving, by the time you allow for walking from a carpark, and unpredictable congestion. I save about $15 a day on parking and running costs, get exercise which frankly I otherwise wouldn’t, and it’s great for the environment too!
So if you’re thinking about an e-bike – or even if it’s just on your ‘someday’ list – take a test ride, either hiring one in town or from a bike shop. Give it a go somewhere you can bike freely without being hit by a car (i.e. cycleways, bike paths). And know that it’s a whole lot of fun. I seriously just want to ride mine everywhere, and I can’t wait for all the adventures I’ll get to have on it.