Which e-bike should you buy?

THERE’S AN E-BIKE OUT THERE WITH YOUR NAME ON IT.

TechLife Australia - - WELCOME - [ ROB CLYMO ]

WHILE THE GROW­ING range of e-bikes on of­fer is a good in­di­ca­tion of in­creas­ing de­mand these state-of-the-art two-wheeled ma­chines are pricey. So, if you’re think­ing of buy­ing one it’s def­i­nitely best not to pick one up on a whim.

How­ever, if you’re se­ri­ously con­sid­er­ing get­ting a bit of bat­tery-pow­ered as­sis­tance when you hit the road then there’s plenty of choice. And, once you’ve de­cided to splurge on an e-bike the next thing to con­sider is what style of cy­cle you want, de­pend­ing on your re­quire­ments.

MUL­TI­PLE CHOICE

There are es­sen­tially three routes you can take: com­muter, moun­tain or a reg­u­lar-style bike that sits nicely in be­tween those first two cat­e­gories. In the case of the lat­ter ex­am­ple, we’ve tried out the VanMoof Elec­tri­fied S2 and X2 bikes, which are far from con­ven­tional, but we’ll get to that shortly.

How­ever, there are more stan­dard-style bikes that make de­cent all-rounders, which is an area that is cur­rently dom­i­nated pow­er­wise by Shi­mano, Bosch and to a lesser ex­tent, Yamaha.

These three man­u­fac­tur­ers pro­vide the elec­tric mo­tor units that are sub­se­quently mated to all man­ner of frame de­signs from count­less bike builders, and we got to try a generic Shi­mano-pow­ered Steps E6100 ver­sion our­selves just re­cently.

But if you have spe­cific needs then it re­ally is worth con­sid­er­ing a bike for a spe­cific pur­pose. Let’s start with the com­muter bike, which is an area that Bromp­ton has been in­volved in for many years. Now though, it’s got an e-bike op­tion to tempt you.

TAKE ON THE TOWN

The Bromp­ton Elec­tric is a hugely im­pres­sive bat­tery-boosted ver­sion of the British bike builders’ con­ven­tional fold­ing cy­cle. It’s a master­piece of en­gi­neer­ing which, when you ini­tially pull it out of the box, looks a lit­tle bit in­tim­i­dat­ing, but a few min­utes later, after you’ve fig­ured out the un­fold­ing se­quence, ev­ery­thing falls into place and you’ve got a pretty cool bike stand­ing there in front of you.

Al­though the bike folds up and you can carry it, with the ad­di­tion of the de­tach­able bat­tery pack the Bromp­ton Elec­tric isn’t light. Clev­erly, there are two small wheels if you

want to trun­dle it short dis­tances.

Cu­ri­ously, Bromp­ton says the bike will also dou­ble as a shop­ping trol­ley too with an op­tional bas­ket. How­ever, you re­ally want to get on and ride it sooner rather than later. And, while it does fold up, you might find it’s a bit of a squeeze if your car is par­tic­u­larly small. Ditto for packed com­muter trains.

Nev­er­the­less, this clever lit­tle bike gives you a real buzz as you ride it. Bromp­ton teamed up with Wil­liams Ad­vanced En­gi­neer­ing to de­vise how best to power this two-wheeler and with that com­pany’s fin­gers in mo­tor rac­ing in­no­va­tion the pow­er­train ar­range­ment is im­pres­sive.

Even with­out bat­tery as­sis­tance there’s also a Sturmey-Archer in­ter­nal gear hub, aug­mented by a de­railleur setup. All in all that means you’re armed with enough op­tions to take on any kind of road con­di­tion, al­though you need to pay at­ten­tion with those smaller di­am­e­ter wheels and fairly nar­row han­dle­bars.

There are two Bromp­ton Elec­tric models to choose from (a two-speed and a six-speed), and both come with the M-type han­dle­bar and black or white fin­ish. Bromp­ton reck­ons that the 300Wh bat­tery de­liv­ers a range of 25-50 miles and we did like the way the 250W front hub mo­tor gave the feel­ing of be­ing pulled along rather than pushed.

As you’d ex­pect, there an ac­com­pa­ny­ing smart­phone app that lets you keep track of your rides, bike ser­vice his­tory and so on. You’ll need to lay down $3,995, and while they can be hard to get in Aus­tralia, we found one with Syd­ney Elec­tric Bikes (

CLIMB EV­ERY MOUN­TAIN

Moun­tain and trail bikes have come a very long way in re­cent years, with heaps of new in­no­va­tions. Take the Merida E-OneTwenty that we tried for this fea­ture, which comes with a De­ore XT me­chan­i­cal set-up and is also armed with the new Shi­mano Steps E7000 mo­tor and groupset. It’s a more po­tent ver­sion of road-go­ing equiv­a­lent, the Shi­mano Steps E6100 men­tioned ear­lier.

Hon­estly, these bikes are awe­some. Even though I rode through a moun­tain range with a bunch of peo­ple who were ei­ther pro­fes­sional guides or bona fide bike jour­nal­ists, the Merida took us to places we prob­a­bly wouldn’t even nor­mally walk to.

Again, these bikes cost big money – with dif­fer­ent model op­tions rang­ing $4,299 and $6,849 as a guide – but they are the ul­ti­mate go-any­where op­tion. You can con­trol ev­ery­thing from the han­dle­bar setup, in­clud­ing gears, bat­tery power modes and even raise and lower your sad­dle de­pend­ing on the in­cline or de­cline.

And, when you want to get back to base, these bikes work well on the roads too, with a

sub­lime set of gears that let you power through town. You get com­fort, style and the re­as­sur­ance that the bikes are pretty in­de­struc­tible even on the most in­hos­pitable ter­rain.

In­deed, we might have come home with a hole in our leg from go­ing over the han­dle­bars, but the bike and its in­no­va­tive cock­tail of con­struc­tion ma­te­ri­als and de­sign in­no­va­tions was un­touched and ready to go again.

One thing that was def­i­nitely no­tice­able with the Shi­mano Steps E7000 mo­tor is that there is power, and plenty of it. While the great thing about the de­sign is that propul­sion is sup­plied dy­nam­i­cally, so you can milk as much or as lit­tle as you need from the mo­tor, the Boost mode has real brawn. In fact, on a seem­ingly im­pos­si­ble trek up through some rocky crags the flick over to Boost proved too much and the bike ran away from its rider.

Of course, this was an un­fa­mil­iar bike and sur­round­ings, and we were in­ex­pe­ri­enced. In the right hands, or with prac­tice, Boost mode would ap­pear to be in­valu­able.

RIDE THE UN­CON­VEN­TIONAL

And so to the VanMoof Elec­tri­fied. While you can get plenty of e-bikes that come mated to the afore­men­tioned Shi­mano, Bosch or Yamaha power units, the S2 and X2 bikes take things up a notch. This is a Dutch com­pany, so the bike-build­ing pedi­gree is un­ques­tion­able, which might ex­plain why the com­pany reck­ons that some 6,000 peo­ple re­served the lat­est models with­out see­ing or rid­ing them.

Why the rush to own one? Well, the com­pany thinks dif­fer­ently, which might ex­plain why they are at­tract­ing peo­ple with a for­ward-think­ing out­look.

“With the new Elec­tri­fied, we’ve cre­ated a bike that re­places the car for city com­mut­ing. We see Tesla and BMW as com­pe­ti­tion, not other bike com­pa­nies. To com­pete at that level, we had to make ev­ery­thing bet­ter, faster, sim­pler, and more con­ve­nient,” Ties Car­lier, VanMoof co-founder said at the time of their launch.

The VanMoof Elec­tri­fied S2 cer­tainly looks very cool and packs plenty of in­no­va­tive fea­tures too. These bikes are very valu­able, so one of the best things about it is its key­less stealth lock – a world-first ac­cord­ing to the bike maker.

This smart fea­ture pre­vents the wheels from turn­ing when you’re not close by, but can be un­locked with a sim­ple touch when you re­turn to the bike. If a truly de­ter­mined thief does man­age to make off with your pride and joy then there’s anti-theft track­ing too.

Any­one who rides an S2 will find that it also packs a dy­namic ride qual­ity, thanks to the in­te­grated front hub mo­tor. Power comes via a beefy Li-ON 36V bat­tery and VanMoof reck­ons that it has man­aged to squeeze ex­tra ca­pac­ity from the new models by over 20%.

Along­side per­for­mance there are smart fea­tures. Light­ing is in­te­grated into the an­gu­lar frame de­sign, while that uni­sex frame is a neat vari­a­tion on the model that was orig­i­nally only avail­able in Ja­pan. An­other cool fea­ture is the ma­trix dis­play; with a col­lec­tion of over 160 lights that bring the frame alive while also show­ing your speed, bat­tery level and the amount of power-as­sist you’re get­ting. This is an­other e-bike that comes with a boost but­ton, which’ll zip you up to the max­i­mum top speed of 25km/h that Aus­tralia cur­rently stip­u­lates as be­ing the as­sisted top end speed for these ma­chines at present.

We also like the quick charge mode, which prom­ises to re-juice the bat­tery by 50% in 80 min­utes. VanMoof says that will get you a fur­ther 75 kilo­me­tres down the road. With a fully charged bat­tery the VanMoof Elec­tri­fied S2 has the po­ten­tial to take you up to 150 kilo­me­tres in its power level one set­ting. In power level four, you’ll get 60 kilo­me­tres.

VanMoof is tak­ing or­ders on the S2 and X2 now. The cost starts at US$2598, but there is a hitch – while the pre­vi­ous model was avail­able here, these new vari­ants aren’t ship­ping to Aus­tralia. Yet. VanMoof prom­ises it is work­ing on set­ting up ship­ping or dis­tri­bu­tion to 174 coun­tries out­side of the cur­rent list that is ba­si­cally the US and Europe.

So here’s hop­ing.

UL­TI­MATE OP­TIONS

A mixed bag of e-bike op­tions then, with some­thing for ev­ery­one and two-wheel de­signs that are suited to any kind of cy­cling sce­nario. We like them all for dif­fer­ent rea­sons, but if we were forced to choose one then it would have to be the Merida moun­tain bike with that Shi­mano power – and it is the eas­i­est to get in Aus­tralia, too.

You might get into a few scrapes when you’re out and about on it, but it also de­liv­ers fun in spades.

AGAIN, THESE BIKES COST BIG MONEY – WITH DIF­FER­ENT MODEL OP­TIONS RANG­ING $4,299 AND $6,849 AS A GUIDE – BUT THEY ARE THE UL­TI­MATE GOANYWHERE OP­TION.

BROMP­TON TEAMED UP WITH WIL­LIAMS ADVANCEDENGINEERING TO DE­VISE HOW BEST TO POWER THIS TWOWHEELER AND WITH THAT COM­PANY’S FIN­GERS IN MO­TOR RAC­ING IN­NO­VA­TION THE POW­ER­TRAIN.

THIS IS A DUTCH COM­PANY, SO THE BIKE-BUILD­ING PEDI­GREE IS UN­QUES­TION­ABLE, WHICH MIGHT EX­PLAIN WHY THE COM­PANY RECK­ONS THAT SOME 6,000 PEO­PLE RE­SERVED THE LAT­EST MODELS WITH­OUT SEE­ING OR RID­ING THEM.

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