Peter Bourke, general manager of Bicycles Industries Australia, says there were around 9000 e-bikes sold across the country in 2016-17; that figure rose to almost 50,000 in 2019-20 – and it’s expected to keep rising once the current worldwide bike shortage clears.
E-bikes that are classified as ″pedelecs″ are not motorbikes – you still need to pedal, but the battery powered motor can be programmed to kick in when you need a boost. Under Australian laws, the motor must cut out at 25km/h – if you want to go faster, it needs to be under your own steam. However, e-bikes are not about speed: they’re about comfort, mileage, sustainability and affordability.
Paul Bullivant, owner of Glow Worm Electric Bikes in Marrickville in Sydney, is convinced the market still has room to grow – so much so that he’s opening a new branch in Melbourne’s Collingwood.
He says families in particular are turning to electrics. “Cargo bikes, for example, are perfect for transporting kids to school or daycare, commuting to work, going shopping or for leisure riding on weekends,” he says.
Big international brands also see the potential. Brompton – the doyen of folding bikes – is expecting to launch its e-bike in Australia by early March via its flagship Melbourne store.
Finding the perfect e-bike
Mr Southall recommends road-testing at least three or four different types: step-through, step-over, commuter, mountain, folder, cargo, road, cruiser. And it’s important to leave your preconceptions at the door because “normal” rules of cycling don’t apply. For example, whereas regular mountain bikes can be heavy going on the road, an electric one can be perfectly suited to commuting because the motor offsets the wider tyres and the weight that would ordinarily slow you down.
He also says that with so many models and component combinations now on the market, price is not necessarily an indicator of power or battery range. It pays to seek expert advice.
If you commute…
Kalkhoff Endeavour bikes, priced from $3695, use reliable Bosch motor technology and have an optional battery upgrade to squeeze in more kilometres. For a lighter weight option, see Orbea’s Vibe, also from $3695.
If you’re commuting on a budget…
NCM bikes provide a balance between quality and price. The Milano trekking models start at $1795, while the Prague MTB comes in at $1495.
If you’re short of space…
Folding bikes are ideal if you live in an apartment or if your office doesn’t have bike parking. They’re great for bike-train commutes and bike-in-boot weekends away. Brompton, the queen of folders, is expected to release its electric in Australia in late February or early March. See also the excellent Tern Vektron ($5295).
If you ride off road…
Focus has great mid-drive mountain bikes starting at $4395. The Jarifa² 6.6 Nine comes with the option of mounting an additional Bosch battery for extra range. See also the Merida range from $3095, or ask about even cheaper hub motor MTBs. All can double as commuter bikes.
If you’ve got kids or cargo…
The eZee Expedir cargo range provides value and reliability from $4398. The Tern GSD S10 ($6998) is a higher end option with Bosch electrics. Both can carry two children.
If you want to splash out…
Bianchi’s classic road design is available as an electric ($8499). Top Spanish brand Orbea also has a nice range of road bikes, priced from $4123.
If you already have a bike…
Conversion kits can turn a standard bike into an electric. Depending on your bike, this may or may not be a more cost-effective option than buying a new bike. Ask your local electric bike shop for advice.
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