Going electric

Some people say it’s cheating but I know they’re curious. You see, I’ve bought an electric bike, a pedal-assist Gazelle. And the question I’m being asked is: why would you want an electric bike? Yes, I’m fit and a seasoned bike rider and I have a trio of bikes in the garage. However, there’s a problem that I haven’t been able to solve with them. My work commute. Riding 28 kilometres each way for several days a week is a fair dinkum ride. I can ride the commute on my Vivente Tourer but combined with a full day’s work, the commute becomes exhausting and isn’t a sustainable choice.

In 2017, going multi-modal brought me a partial solution. I’d ride my tourer to the closest tram station (13kms away), lock up my bike and catch the tram to work. The commute was long, the tram cost more than I think public transport should, and at times I felt stifled by the tram’s constant stopping and starting. Especially when I looked longingly out the window at bicycle riders pedalling past. The multi-modal choice works but still isn’t ideal.

I knew an electric bike would find a place in my life at some stage. Now, is that time. The technology behind electric bikes has advanced. Battery lives have extended. Ease of operation has improved. There is a wider range of brands and styles to choose from. And I have a need for a sustainable commute that isn’t dependent on a car. The costs of fuel and maintenance are an incentive to leave the car at home. So too is traffic gridlock – being stuck in traffic isn’t how I want to spend my time.

I chose a Gazelle Chamonix T10 pedal-assist bike. The bike uses a Bosch motor that is activated by my pedalling. If I stop pedalling, the motor stops assisting. Hence, the term ‘pedal-assist’. And I can regulate how much I allow the motor to assist by choosing one of five modes: OFF (in which I am completely under my own pedal power), ECO, TOUR, SPORT and TURBO. On a fully charged battery, the bike’s software estimates ECO mode will power me about 120 kilometres and TURBO about 56 kilometres.

This data is calculated by the Bosch software and screened on a digital display mounted to the handlebars. On that dashboard display, I can also read my current speed, average speed, maximum speed, trip time, odometer and clock (all without needing my prescription glasses too 🙂 ).

My Gazelle came with plenty of useful features.

My Gazelle came with plenty of useful features. It has a rear pannier rack that acts as a mount for the bike’s battery and also has handy luggage straps. I use the straps for carrying my raincoat when rainy skies are up ahead and and also for my breakfast esky. I’ve added an Ortlieb waterproof pannier bag that has excellent reflector features for riding before or after dark (which will happen when I commute through winter).

There are also front and rear lights powered by the battery and easily turned on and off via the dashboard display. The bike has a key-operated lock built into the rear wheel. It has mudguards, chain guard and a skirt guard too for flowing frocks! The Dutch think of everything. They’ve even included a walk-assist option which means the bike helps me if I have to wheel it anywhere. With the bike weighing in at around 24kgs (with battery but without any luggage), that’s a handy feature.

My Gazelle has me arriving at work not feeling excessively hot and sweaty. And not feeling spent. I feel energised after an enjoyable ride, having let TURBO mode carry me up the hills. On the way home, I can put a little more effort in if I like, or not. Either way, I’m more active than I would be sitting in a car or on a tram. Then there’s the fresh air in my lungs and the sunshine on my face (sometimes it’s rain, but I don’t mind a rainwater facial spa for free). Plus I have a commute that makes me less dependent on the car. That’s my kind of solution.

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Dashboard in the centre and I’ve added a Quadlock to hold my iPhone.

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Iced lemon tea for the ride home.

15 Comments on “Going electric

  1. Thanks for this great article on why you chose an e-bike. I’ve seen a few in recent months – the most recent at the Bike Friday gathering in Bendigo last weekend, where there were several different versions.
    We also have two e-trikes (specially made Triobikes) used for Cycling Without Age in the Multicultural Aged Care facility in Geelong. Each power-assisted trike takes two passengers on a slow bike ride to a local park and beach. The electric assist means that the cyclist/pilot doesn’t need to be over-fit to take part in the program.
    Keep those pedals turning…

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    • What a great use of the electric assist! I think we’ll see them used more widely as people start to see how and where they could pedal with that extra power. It will never replace my pedal power bike-riding but the pedal-assist definitely has a place in my bicycle lifestyle. Thanks for your comment – it’s great to read about other people’s experiences. Good cycling!

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  2. I get this completely. Anything that helps a cyclist to keep cycling has got to be good! I’ve spoken to older people too who have been able to keep cycling, or take it up again, now that they have electric bikes. I think they’re great!

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    • When I was researching to buy an electric bike, I met someone who had converted his push bike to electric so he could keep riding with his mates. He had a muscular medical condition that meant he couldn’t keep the pace with them like he used to. The electric bike gave him the power to keep riding and enjoying his social network. I was impressed with that.

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  3. So interesting – thanks Gail. I’m considering one of these for my ‘next’ bike, ideally in a decade or two, when ordinary cycling might become a bit much for me. Hadn’t thought of using it to commute to work though (perhaps because my own commute is 140kms return!)

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    • I always thought I’d buy one when I was older too or if I moved to live on a hill or among hilly terrain. But it was the long commute that did it. (By the way, 140kms receives an exemption from the long commute category – that’s a tour!)

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  4. Hi Gail, Your new commuting arrangements sound very civilised especially if the route includes dedicated cycling paths away from the hassle of other traffic. Perhaps, in time, you will be joined by a bevy of other cyclists who favour ebiking as the way to get to work.

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    • Unfortunately, my commute requires some road riding Margaret. But I can tell you this… with my eBike I have excellent acceleration when taking off at the lights!

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    • Doing the research on the electric bikes was quite a task Robyn. There are more features to consider compared to a conventional bicycle. Added to this, there are many different eBikes to choose from and they vary considerably in riding style, performance and price. The Gazelle model I chose received Choice Magazine’s highest rating so that was a factor in my decision.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I knew you would research any purchase carefully. I’m so glad you’re happy with your choice. We’ve always bought a report from Choice for ant big purchases in the past. It’s a great service. And yes, I expect your range will extend now.

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