Back in October 2018, I finally did something I’d been meaning to do for a while and got myself an ebike.
Two main reasons for this decision – Firstly the public transport in Wellington is useless so rather than taking the bus, I would walk or drive to the office, but I really wanted something faster than the 1 hour walk to the office that didn’t involve sitting in my car, getting frustrated at traffic and paying for parking. Secondly I really enjoyed getting back on a bike again a few years back when I tried an eBike at a demo event in Wellington so it seemed like a good source of fun activity.
I decided right away that it would need to be an ebike. Wellington is known for its hills and going directly from not riding for almost a decade to immediately trying to climb some of those super steep hills would not be likely to go well. I wanted something that could get me up the hills, but also be fun both on and off road, so I ended up looking at bikes that were a cross between commuters and mountain bikes.
I ended up getting a Moustache Samedi 27 XRoad 3. This bike is made by a french company and uses a Bosch Performance-line motor and battery system. It’s a cross between a mountain bike (suspension forks, suspension seat post, chunky tyres) but includes commuter features (luggage rack, lights, chain guard, etc) making it ideal for around town, but also taking on gravel and dirt trails.
Since I brought it, I’ve done almost 2,500km on it, all around Wellington. Typically around 7-8km return for my daily commute, plus longer runs in weekends for brunch or random bike adventures riding around the Wellington region.
It really can go almost anywhere – I’ll ride it up super steep hills or light mountain bike trails just fine, or ride to town in my jeans for brunch just as happily. It’s certainly reduced my car usage, I’ll much rather take the bike for any trip where I don’t need to take passengers or pickup any heavy amounts of cargo.
Around town I can cruise at 30km/hr comfortably. My model is EU-spec, so the motor doesn’t provide any boost above 25km/hr, but it’s not hard to keep it at 30km/hr in most conditions with pure human power, sometimes I’ll even get it as high as 50km/hr on the flat if there’s not an energy-sapping headwind.
Uphill isn’t so fast, but I can average around 15km/hr on almost any hill with this bike. Fast enough that I’ll generally want to pass most over cyclists, but not so fast that you can leave the cars behind sadly. For context, this is about twice as fast as when I ride the manual bike.
The real measure of speed is to take a look at the end-to-end performance once traffic, shortcuts etc are factored in. I recently raced the car from our home in Wadestown to Kilbirnie on a weekend and it takes exactly the same amount of time – 30mins – to go by car, sitting in traffic queues, or by bike and having fun (and exercise) instead.
Speaking of exercise – it’s hard to measure the benefits exactly. I’ve not lost as much weight as I would have liked (~10kg over 1 year), but my fitness is significantly improved, to the level where I now find activities like snowboarding, yard work and running much much easier to complete and I’ve even become fit enough to buy and ride a regular non-ebike mountain bike for the more adventurous trails that my ebike isn’t well suited for.
Probably the closest measurement I have is that when I first got my ebike I would ride it uphill in turbo mode (275% boost). Now I’m able to ride it uphill just as quickly in eco (50% boost), which is a big improvement in my physical power output. My model is a pedelec, which means it only supplies power in response to ride input – there’s no throttle or ability to ride it like a motorcycle.
Really happy with the decision to get this bike, the level of fitness and enjoyment I’ve gained from it is worth every cent of the purchase price – which is really the only downside, these aren’t the cheapest bikes around at over $5k NZD which makes the barrier to entry a bit high for some people. That being said, you’d spend that in just over a year on carparking if paying casual day rates, so it’s a lot of money and yet at the same time, not a lot when you compare it to other forms of transport and it’s easy to justify return on investment with.
I’ve recently also converted Lisa over to the ebike life, so in the past of 12 months we’ve gone from being a 1-car household to being a 3-bike household. Lisa wrote about her experiences for ACC here, including her experiences with the excellent Pedal Ready course.
I didn’t have too many issues getting used to riding around town so I haven’t done the Pedal Ready course myself, but I’d recommend it strongly to any nervous riders based on the feedback I’ve had from people who have taken it.
On the whole I think that Wellington drivers are a lot better than they used to be and I’ve not had many close calls. Also not much abuse – a little bit here and there, usually when I have to take the lane (eg Molesworth St) for safety reasons but are going slow (eg because it’s uphill), but I’m not sure if the relatively lower levels of abuse are due to drivers being more conscious than when I was younger, vs the fact that they don’t want to pick a fight with a large white male. I sadly suspect it’s the latter contributing for the most part.
Douchebag drivers aside, I feel Wellington is right at the verge of being a great cycling city. There’s been enough investment over the past decade to make it no longer a daunting activity with changes like green cycle boxes on most intersections, cycle lanes in some places (still not enough!) and 30km/hr speed limit in city.
I’m really hoping the growth rate goes exponential and forces the council to really stop treating cycle infrastructure improvements as gradual side projects. I would particularly like to see proper segregated cycle lanes on all the uphill roads (eg Molesworth st) so that cyclists can ride at their comfortable speed without choosing between blocking cars or getting doored by people parked on the side of the road. I’m not a huge fan of the “shared” cycleways that the council has started putting in, I find they tend to end up with people randomly wandering around on the bike side ignoring the fact you’re wanting to go faster than walking speed but I guess they’re better than nothing. Ideally we need proper micromobility (bicycles + escooters + etc) lanes throughout the city at the same priority and space allocation as cars. Also really looking forwards to a proper bi-directional cyclelane on the proposed new sea wall heading out to Petone to open up the hutt valley to my weekend rides. The current “solution” of riding along the 100km/hr motorway edge isn’t something I want to try out anytime soon.
Given the combination of currently terrible public transport, affordable ebikes and goodish cycling infrastructure I think summer 2020 is going to be a record peak of bikes in Wellington. The cycle counters in Wellington have recorded the second highest number of cycle trips ever in August and that’s still full of cold wintery days when riding isn’t the most appealing idea.
Anyway this is a long overdue post regarding my ebike excitement, something that might actually be exceeding my interest level in tech right now. I’m also going to put together some notes about my recommendations if you’re looking to buy an ebike so will get those up on this blog soon hopefully the next post on here.