Electric bikes are great – they make cycling available to people who couldn’t ride before or struggled to do so comfortably in the past. They are not really a cheat, and they open up opportunities for the whole world to people who previously could not enjoy the freedom of two wheels.
I am lucky to be able to test and review some the best electric bikes around, and it is always a pleasure to take one out and find its character on the road, but it also makes me appreciate my faithful scooter much more.
It’s not just simple things like the price (naturally my old bike costs a lot less and is cheap to maintain), but there are certain things that most electric bikes aren’t quite nailed to yet, and the reliable Tapani does.
My bike (which I named the Seatyn in 2013) is a maroon Fuji Absolute 1.3 – a reliable, fairly cheap hybrid that was pretty good at the time. I couldn’t afford it directly, I bought him a job-to-job scheme and paid him a few pounds at a time directly through my salary. One of the best investments I’ve ever made.
More than looks
Back then, electric bikes were a real novelty, and (dare I say it) pretty cool. They’ve come a huge road in a few years, and they’ve really and really spread that little picture of a dog. Some of them are not even different from an ordinary bicycle; you can’t understand wonderful Ribble Hybrid AL e engine without a fairly close inspection.
Sety’s appearance doesn’t make him special. In fact, the opposite. Many modern electric bikes are so stylish that they attract a lot of attention. Magnificent Cowboy 3 got a lot of looks when I put it to the test a few months ago, partly because the brand wasn’t nearly perfect, and partly because of its smart carbon belt. It turned out to be a real topic of discussion, but I would never have left it unattended for a moment.
Instead, Setyn has nothing special to look at, and I think it’s nice to leave him out of the office for eight hours. Once he’s covered in Kryptonite locks, stealing him would be more of an effort than worth it.
The situation of electric bicycles is changing. More and more high-end models now have their own anti-theft systems, so you don’t have to worry about someone running with your new gorgeous baby.
For example, the aforementioned Cowboy 3 is only activated when the phone’s ‘digital key’ is within range and its location can be tracked with a built-in GPS transmitter. If you have Cowboy Easy Rider insurance, you can also receive notifications if your bike is moved when you are out of Bluetooth range. Equally stylish VanMoof S3 is equipped with a rear wheel immobilizer and anti-theft device.
However, one thing makes Setyn an easier target: his weight. Weighing about 10.4 kg, he is lighter than any e-bike, and a potential thief could lift him over the fence without too much effort.
However, that little weight makes my life easier. Unlike many electric bikes, he’s easy to lift on a wall bracket or lift up stairs. It also means that if I fall from him (as I’ve done many times), he’s not going to hurt me. I recently inspected an elephant electric bike that tipped the scale to about 30 pounds and I really don’t want to land on me.
The setting is also nicely balanced. The location of the battery on some electric bikes means that it is very difficult to lift them on the tail for vertical storage or carry them on your shoulder without first removing the power supply.
Care and management
The advantage of Sety is cheap and easy maintenance. Most of the problems can be fixed on the road with a spare inner tube and Allen keys, and all the more problematic can be taken care of at your local bike shop. A couple of weeks ago I took care of her with full service (a nice spa day) and she rides like a dream.
Electric bikes need a little more care, as Shimano Education Manager Julian Thrasher explained to me earlier this year. Many of the same rules apply (check tire pressure and brakes before starting, test the gear and make sure everything looks and sounds as it should), but you also need to take care of sensitive data cables and be aware of electrical faults.
Electric bikes can also cover up some common problems, such as brake pads that rub against the wheel rims. It’s something you’ll soon feel on a conventional bike, but the e-bike’s engine can hide the effect by working a little harder, so riding feels the same. Setyn has no such secrets – when his brakes aren’t in line, I know about it.
I like the feeling that I have complete control of the bike – even though e-bikes are coming along that front. When I recently had the pleasure of testing the MiRider One folding electric bike with five different power settings.
All the electric bikes I tested before had one and three options, the lowest of which was sometimes too much, so it was great that I could add just a little extra juice if I just needed a small addition. In fact, the MiRider is so well-designed in a versatile way, if I’m looking for a bike purely for a business trip, it wouldn’t make sense.
Maybe it’s not long before I can test the electric bike that puts the Instity in the corner. Until then, however, he will remain a reliable daily rider.