Please ride with bricks in your panniers

17 11 2012

As someone who rides an electric bike it is amazing that I am sometimes exposed to a strange mixture of hostility and snobbery that cycling purists, who’ve never ever ridden an electric bike, will generously offer me. Some of the daftest opinions offered are that it is only for the old or the disabled or that it is “cheating”.

Well if I was riding an e-bike in the Tour then maybe it would be cheating, as if cheating in the Tour was totally unknown, but if I am riding 40 or 50 km around the district on a weekend, or riding down to the supermarket with my panniers empty, and coming back with them full, then what rule am I cheating against?

I am not old. I am not disabled. I could probably get myself a non-electric bike and ride that quite happily. I could get my old mountain bike out of the shed and spray it a bit til the chain moved, but I like riding my comfortable e-bike. The ride is smooth, solid and oh so comfortable. I generally pedal at a healthy cadence that makes me sweat. I go through my gears to help me keep my cadence in a nice range. When I get tired it is nice to keep moving and have a bit of a rest. I get help up the hills or into the wind, and sometimes on the flat. But overall I get a good workout on my e-bike. I average 25km/hr and I can go for 2 hours before I’ve had enough. Mostly I ride because it feels great to get out into the fresh air and get some exercise. I couldn’t really give a damn what some ignorami in a lycra leotard thinks.

The comments this week on the Conversation on an article about Australia adopting the European standards for electric bikes will show you what I mean. Of more interest is the comments from people who think that the European standards are not the right fit for Australian conditions. In particular I think the European rules have two dumb points that just don’t make sense. Firstly cutting out assistance at 25km/hr is limiting. It is quite an arbitrary limit. My bike has fat tyres and I hover around that speed anyway, but my next bike will probably be belt driven with thinner tyres and an internal geared hub. On a non e-bike version of that I could probably ride 35km/hr. The second dud rule is that you have to be pedalling to get electrical assistance. Why? Again its completely arbitrary. As I said I don’t mind having a rest and keep moving and if someone wants to commute on an e-bike and never pedal then I really don’t have a problem with that. It’s not like they are breaking any “rules”.

So to me the European rules seem to take on-board the opinions of the cycling snobs out there. Australia adopting the laws is a backwards step (although going from 200W to 250W is an improvement for Australia). New Zealand will probably follow Australia’s lead and blindly adopt the European law. Looking on the bright side one advantage would be that there’ll be a greater range of European quality bikes on the market, such as the new Grace electric bikes.

For what’s it’s worth I think that it’s the cycling “purist”s who don’t cycle with bricks in their panniers who are cheating. Bicycling is only meant to be done by stoic, self-flagellating ascetics after all.

Any less than 4 bricks is cheating.






22 responses

18 11 2012
Rob Edward

It is strange that some seem unable to make a clear distinction between competition and commuting. Could it be the commonality of the first three letters confuses them? Coincidentally these seem to be the same sort that find it hard to distinguish between being a professional cyclist and just dressing up like one….

I am yet to meet a person who regularly commutes that doesn’t think e bikes can be a good idea. Not everyone has the luxury of turning up to work in a sweat and needing a shower. Thankfully for a lot of folk the concept of hybridisation is not too abstract.

With regards to the bricks in the panniers, those most aggrieved by e bikes do appear to handicap themselves already by, more often than not, looking like two pounds of lard in a one pound bag.

The cut out at 25 km/hr does seem rather odd and the pedalling requirement is just silly. I wonder what the rationale is.

18 11 2012

Luckily it is usually quite easy to hack the sensor which requires the pedalling to occur. My bike allows for both modes. Coming from the controller there is a connector with a purple wire going to each. Connected it complies with the European law. Disconnected it isn’t hamstrung by arbitrary bureaucratic nonsense. Even if there is no connector cutting the sensor and shorting it or replacing it with a resistor might do the trick.

18 11 2012
Rob Edward

I’m glad there is an easy work around. Hardly supportive of cycling though making such daft rules.

Those Grace bikes look very nice. I have a Torq Alfine on the way and will be putting a carbon belt on it as I live on the coast here in Welly and in a southerly the sand makes for good grinding paste in a chain..

Are you looking at getting a Grace?

18 11 2012

Alas no. I’m not rich enough to buy a new bike each year. I’ll be maintaining my current ones and hoping that they do good for a few more years.

They do look really nice though. The high end of the market looks like it is maturing.

18 11 2012

I think 25kph is quite fast already. That limit has probably more to do about how quick a cyclist at that speed could come to a full stop. If you go to around 35kph, the stopping distance would almost double. If the road was wet, it would even be harder to stop.

21 11 2012
Rob Edward

The suitability of a given speed is surely dependent on the road and conditions. Granted it may be prudent to restrict your speed in bad conditions but 35 kph in good conditions is perfectly safe on a bike with good brakes. We expect (and for the most part they do) drivers to restrain themselves in motor vehicles capable of several times the urban speed limits. Why limit the utility of an e bike when the rider most likely makes similar safety judgements in a car?

9 01 2013

I was amused with your first paragraph. The cycling snobs and lycra clad purists would be the same types that if choosing four wheels would turn up at Manfield for a track day in a driving suit, Nomax balaclava and dainty lace up driving shoes. Most of them are tossers and what surprises me most is they are all adults and many of them going past 40.

Now I will soon be the proud owner of one of these

This is what electric biking has matured to today…I intend to take John Key up on his most generous offer to dump at our doorstep the finest asset in the global biking world. Nga Haerenga, the NZ Cycle project. They are all beginning to come to fruition and I intend to ride every one of them on this eBike from BH… is a serious pice of kit with an XT group set that can handle a bit of off road hammering. I’ve just turned 60, stay in pretty good shape but my knees get cranky after an hour in the saddle. So this has just given me a new lease of life being able to ride 80Km per day if I choose ( spare battery in back pack) and get to overnight digs on the national grid to charge up.No longer is one intimidated by hills and head winds. Indeed it is on pedal assist power but that is my choice, keep turning the cranks but without mashing the pedals and seizing the knees.

Believe me, this is the future for the burgeoning demographic of baby boomers and for all the push bike purists and fanatics and tossers who think we need to be old disabled and towing a Zimmer frame to be an electric bike rider then how about this:

At last years Interbike show, the Mecca for the bike trade in North America the eBike test track was jammed packed with bikes media and test rides>….the neighbouring push bike track was deserted with tumbleweed chasing a couple of lycra lads on their carbon what zits……….

Check out if you haven’t already, one of the webs better resources for all things eBike…..

9 01 2013

Nice bike Steve. If you ride lots of the new trails tell us how you go.

15 01 2013
Simon Kennett

In Europe ebikes will be sharing lots of very busy cycle paths and those are sfer when everybody is travelling at a fairly uniform speed. I suspect that is where the 25 kph limit comes from.

At intersections (where about half of cycling accidents happen) it is easier to notice a cyclist and determine their speed if they are pedalling – if a rider’s legs are not going round, people are bound to be surprised (possibly after steeping into the intersection) to find that a cyclist is effortlessly doing 25 kph despite a headwind or uphill incline.

And, at the risk of sounding like a purist, I expect there will be some conflict on the NZ cycle trails (and other trails) between self-propelled and motor-propelled users. It’s a longstanding part of backcountry ethics that trail users in conservation areas get around under their own steam. Many traditional users don’t like cyclists much – add a motor to the equation and you’re likely to get a frosty reception.

15 01 2013

Simon, Except electric cyclists legs go round too, and my experience is that very few people notice I have an electric motor at all. I have absolutely no qualms with sharing any cycleway path with an e-bike, and would be very surprised if anyone actually did (they might think they will, but then when they experience what e-bikes are actually like they won’t). My ebike goes slower than any thin-tyred bike with a half decent rider.

25 01 2013
Simon Kennett

You say electric cyclists legs go round too, but you also pooh pooh this rule:
“The second dud rule is that you have to be pedalling to get electrical assistance.”
In my experience of e-Biking, it was more like riding an electric scooter than a bicycle – fun times were had accelerating away without pedalling (which could be a bit confusing for other road users, since as you say, very few people notice you have an electric motor).

25 01 2013

I see absolutely no contradiction saying that most e-bike riders pedal and that a rule says they must pedal is dumb.

The way it works for me Simon is that I generally pedal for the first 40km or so, and then I enjoy having a rest for a minute or two and the bike keeps moving, and then I pedal the rest home. On a normal bike I would only be able to rest on the downhills. With an e-bike I can do it on the flat.

I don’t have a problem with anyone who rides an e-bike without pedalling, or only pedals sometimes. Arbitrary rules (like saying they must pedal) just limits their usefulness. And get someone out of a car and onto a bike (electric or not), and it benefits everyone.

15 01 2013
Rob Edward

Simon I doubt many would be looking to do extended backcountry riding as the weight penalty if the electrics go fizz is horrendous. It would only take one long portage with an ebike to nip that in the bud.. ;0)

15 01 2013

I think it is more of a lack of backcountry charging points that put paid to that. Although as a touring bike my bike is pretty nice.

15 01 2013

Hi Rob,

@”…..Simon I doubt many would be looking to do extended backcountry riding as the weight penalty if the electrics go fizz is horrendous. It would only take one long portage with an ebike to nip that in the bud.. ..”

I beg to differ particularly in the long term. The uptake may be slow but I am firmly of the belief that backcountry riding, and I single out the NZ cycle trail project, will see a significant expansion of the eBike market in this country with the emerging technology and design input. I have just ordered a BH Neo Jumper that you can see here;

This is the state to which the technology has matured in terms of off road mountain bikes.The build quality is exceptional and the group set is XT. The weight penalty is just 5 Kg. New proprietary Lithium chemistry developed by Samsung now gives these bike a range of around 60Km off road depending on the boost setting used and the amount of hill climbing. With a spare battery in your back pack you will manage 100 Km per day which will be enough to get you to overnight digs with electricity on even the longest of the great rides.
I’ve just turned 60 and used to ride a lot but my knees get stiff mashing pedals after about an hour or so. These bikes allow you to pedal constantly headwind, hills soft ground etc., as if you have a tail wind. They will open up a whole world of recreational possibilities for the burgeoning baby boomer demographic many of whom have limitations to tackle anything but easy grade trails. I have carefully researched most of the great rides and they all have overnight accommodation options that are on the national grid without having to ride more than about 90Km a day. In two years time the Lithium capacity will double for the same weight of battery that is available today.

If you live around Wellington get a hold of me and take it for a spin. I am sure you will be surprised and may have a different view on the potential of electric bikes for off road recreation.

25 01 2013
Simon Kennett

Well, for the trails in National Parks at least, you’ll need to leave your motor behind. The National Parks General Policy prohibits powered vehicle use off-road. This policy is designed to help maintain the values of National Parks – values which exist in other areas of pristine backcountry covered by the NZ Cycle Trails (such as Pureora, Pakahi and Dun Mtn).

25 01 2013

Simon, I can understand (and fully support) not having petrol driven motors on a bike in a national park on a trail that bicycles are allowed on, but for electric motors it does seem like a rule for a rules sake. I maintain that a pukeko farting makes more noise than my bike’s electric motor. It’s probably a rule that was made without giving any thought to e-bikes, and as such should be revised to consider them.

15 01 2013
Rob Edward

Hi Steve. That certainly is a fine looking bike. I’d be very keen to meet up for a look! Do you know the weight of the battery pack? I have a 20 Ah that weighs about 6-7ish kgs.

15 01 2013

2.2Kg, its 36v 9Ah but reports that I can glean tell me that the electronics in the controller make this equivalent to an earlier generation 16aH.
So I have no trouble carting an extra in my back pack along with the charger, toothbrush, change of socks, undies and Kindle. I would be very happy at overnight digs after a day’s riding in New Zealand’s pristine backcountry.

25 01 2013

@Simon Kennett (03:52:09) :
Well, for the trails in National Parks at least, you’ll need to leave your motor behind. The National Parks General Policy prohibits powered vehicle use off-road. This policy is designed to help maintain the values of National Parks – values which exist in other areas of pristine backcountry covered…..

This will not apply to class A and class AB vehicles…ie., cycles, and cycles with pedal assist less than 300W electric motor…. The meaning of the rule is to prevent powered vehicle of any other class, from Mopeds upwards. The purpose of the rule is to preserve the environment, not to restrict access to bike riders who have physical conditions that are a barrier to unassisted cycling….not freewheeling…but cycling without mashing the pedals, such as ITB syndrome, anterior knee pain, and early stage OA ( osteoarthritis) which most bike riders eventually will have a problem with.

2 02 2013


see here:

Well, I picked up my Jumper this afternoon….I am lost for words and that doesn’t happen often. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but the first impressions were nothing short of impressive and astonishing. First off the quality of build, assembly, and components is first class. ( XT group set) .There is room for upgrade in some areas but seriously you would need to suffer from a gadget and component fetish to want to do it.
After adjusting seat height and familiarising myself with the basic functions of the control panel I was off up the street. The acceleration is remarkable and as other have reported, very sensitive to pedal pressure.
I rode it back from the bike shop (Upper Hutt) to home (Lower hutt) , about 20Km on a variety of gravel, grass a bit of dirt and some sealed paths all along the river bank that has it’s dedicated bike trail. There was a 10 to 12knot cross wind for most of the ride). I couldn’t believe the smoothness of ride and ease of pedalling. Although you can choose four levels of assist ( the fifth is actually no assist) I found myself using only eco ( 1st step) for 95% and standard ( 2nd step) for 5%. I tried the other two higher levels, boost and sport, but seriously they are not really needed unless you are perhaps facing a strong headwind and need some relief.
The trail was mainly flat/undulating with about three short steep climbs that always I had to push up, as do a lot of people. The jumper cruised up at 30 kph.
I covered the trip in half an hour. Unheard of on a bike unless you have iron legs and want to arrive at the other end like a drowned rat.
My speed average was around 20kph, with stops and I very often found myself cruising along at 28 – 32kph. As far as I can tell there is no reduction in assist over 30kph. A lot of the time I spent in the highest gear wondering where the next gear up was.
Battery drain, and this is a new unbroken in battery was one step ( of five steps). The second step just disappeared as I rode up my driveway.
As for the effort, I arrived home with the heart rate elevated but not over the top, and lightly puffing. What was most noticeable for me was absolutely no leg pain and most of all, no knee pain which had put paid to my bike riding for the last 10 years.

The seat that has been the topic of a lot of earlier discussion was, like, okay. I can see how on longer rides it would, for me, be too hard, too narrow and basically uncomfortable. I have a new Brooks, pre aged on order.

My only technical glitch on this brief first test ride was the battery casing becoming dislodged after about 10 minutes. It was over a particularly fast bumpy stretch that jarred the battery case loose. It was sitting up about 3mm on the bottom edge. The controller started to flash with the battery level indicator going from full to empty and the the error icon flashing on and off
At first I thought the battery had somehow discharged itself and after pulling over and having a general fiddle with the connections the loose battery casing was pretty obvious. Solved by pressing down at the base and reseating it. It dislodged again after another bumpy stretch but this time I was able to push it back into place without having to stop. I’ll need to keep an eye on this and see if it’s not a fault with my battery and/or frame connector. It may end up being an idea to zip tie the battery down if you’re going on really bumpy off road trails. (update; the battery wasn’t locked in. I’ve placed a small paint dot on the key slot so uppermost it’s always closed)

I can see these bikes being in hot demand if the promotion is done right. They just making bike riding such a pleasant experience regardless of the terrain, the don’t look electric one bit and they are superb quality. I do need to push the testing though and get out on some serious MTB tracks with persistent uphills.
What has occurred to me is that these bike will open up a new line of thinking for biking. The ability to cover much more ground in a given time period. Like, you’ve decided to go riding in the weekend for three or four hours each day. Now you can cover twice the distance, and you won’t be totally stuffed at the end of it regardless of the terrain.
I do think the spare battery will be essential because of this. It’s not too bad for weight. I’ve got a small 18L Deuter back pack which is brilliant for riding. It has the suspension air comfort set up so the packs not in contact with your back and the battery sits nicely down the centre. Just have figure out a cushion for it when it’s packed in. These packs weigh nothing, light as a feather, German design. They are also weather proof and have a built in cover you can pull out and cover the entire pack in downpours.

7 02 2013

Neo Jumper – Second Impressions…true off road (Belmont Trig- Korokoro)

Check the pics here

Well today’s ride couldn’t have been in more contrast to yesterdays. I picked a dedicated MTB track about 3 miles from my front gate which I haven’t ridden before, simply because I couldn’t. My knees would have seized. So I had no idea about it’s difficulty apart from looking on the map provided by the regional council who manage the park and the occasional, somewhat dated, blog. The map wasn’t a topo map so I couldn’t see the contours. If I could, I may have changed my mind before starting out. The best indication was that the track followed a trail up to a trig marker, that’s a survey point erected at the highest spot in the surrounding countryside. It was 1500ft, say 450 metres. But the track to it is only 3Km long. So the grade is in the region of 15% and you don’t find that often. It was however an average, some bits were flatter than others, which were mind numbingly steep. By the time I crossed a grass paddock and looked up at the start of the track my transport to the farm gate, the start of the track, was well gone. So it was no turning back. I started to pedal the first bit in eco mode but I had selected the wrong gear and basically I became totally uncoordinated, couldn’t get traction. The surface was dry loose gravel and very uneven, so I gave up. Bring in the walking mode. Now this is where this function comes into it’s own. Hold down the up button and after 3 seconds or so the rear wheel powers itself so you can walk the bike at a max of around 6 kph. So after about 100 meters or so the track flattened a bit and I was able to get on board and start pedalling. You really have to develop the skill in doing this on a steep slope with loose traction. If you’re in the wrong gear then forget it. The back wheel breaks loose and the front is so light under acceleration that you have no steering.
After the first steep section the track gained a grassy centre strip which was brilliant for gaining traction and getting under way. So for most of the remainder I pedalled the distance, keeping to the centre grassy strip and staying in a low gear, about second or third from the bottom. The pedalling was amazingly easy just in eco mode. the secret is to select the right gear. Keep it low and don’t worry about the speed. My main concern all this time was the battery drain. This for me was going to be the acid test because my future plans are all predicated on doing around 70 -80Km per day maximum and there will be hills in my way. At the top, two bars of battery had gone. Not bad. I would have thought more. The downhill section was twice as long and this would give me a chance to bring in the regen braking and trickle some charge back into the battery.
Downhill was interesting. There had been recent heavy rains and landslides had forced a few detours. As on the uphill stretch there were some seriously steep inclines. The Jumper handled them beautifully. This is a very well balanced bike with superb brakes. I was green in the saddle not having down this stuff for 10 years so I took it easy. You must control the speed in these sorts of inclines. If you let it get away on you and panic, then grabbing the brakes will mean a quick dump and picking yourself up with whatever random injuries you might end up with. The brakes on the jumper are very, very, good. Great tactile feel. They give you good feedback and never seem to falter in their performance. Each corner, each incline you can expect the same feel.
I didn’t get much of chance to assess the saddle on this trip. I spent most of my time out of it. Uphill I was concentrating too much on staying straight and upright to think about the seat. Downhill all of my time was spent with my bum over the rear axle and my stomach almost touching the trailing edge of the seat.
Suspension was brilliant. You need rear suspension in these conditions with that extra weight in the rear wheel. Hit a bump, you don’t want it going through the frame. It’s needs to be absorbed and controlled on the rebound.The front soaked up all the bumps and smoothed out the ripples.

So at the end of it all I had covered about 13 Km in what would typically be an “expert” stretch of MTB trail. I don’t think you would encounter anything more difficult in NZ, just longer in distance perhaps. There was huge variety of surfaces, from loose gravel to hardened mud, deep ruts, tree roots, and a range of track width from 4WD, down to sections as narrow as two fence palings. There were bridges just a tad wider than your handlebars and creeks and streams to wade through where the detours were.
The Jumper enabled me, now technically an “old codger” at 60, to do something that I could never have contemplated previously. Arriving home I could feel I had a good workout, pedalling all the way. A total trip of about 18Km and the third bar of battery drain disappeared as I turned into my street. So, the regenerative braking I think, helped.
This is a remarkable machine and has surpassed all of my expectations, and believe me I’m a critical and fussy bugger !

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