Is this an exciting step forward into the future of our cycling or an admission of defeat? We’ve bought an electric-assist bike.
Was this a good decision?
Mevrouw T can and does ride a bike perfectly well around town, but with two metally-assisted knees we thought she’s entitled to some help for the longer trips we’re planning. They may involve hills and headwinds. Cycling is meant to be fun, not an ordeal.
There is a bewildering range of e-bikes on the Dutch market. I read recently that nearly 20% of new bikes sold in the Netherlands are e-bikes and they earn the dealers most of their money. They’re roughly three times the cost of conventional touring bikes. If this puts anyone off, remember they’re about a quarter the price of the cheapest car.
The Netherlands cycling association Fietsersbond has done a review of electric bikes. (Sorry, the review is in Dutch.) As well as making the usual comparisons of comfort, appearance and durability, they were looking at the ‘actieradius’, the number of kilometres of assistance you can expect before the battery runs out.
The beast they, and we, settled on as the best is the Dutch ID ladies’ sport. It narrowly outpointed the considerably more expensive Koga E-limited XTE and the Flyer T8 Deluxe.
The Dutch ID electric bikes have a Bosch motor operating on the pedals, rather than the wheels, making tyre-changing easier. We hope that with tough Schwalbe tyres fitted, this won’t be needed too often. The Sport model sports a comfortable upright riding position, 8 gears, and four levels of support (Eco, Tour, Sport and Speed) each with 3 sub-levels. All a bit confusing to novices like us.
So we looked for other advantages. The Dutch ID Sport is black – our favourite colour in Dutch bikes.
We paid EUR2299 for an outmoded 2012 model at Witter Tweewielers in Amsterdam – a very good deal, we thought, and it’s unlikely that so much outmoding has taken place in a year. Replacing the battery, when and if that is needed, will be expensive – nearly EUR700. We hope the battery will last a few years and a lot of kilometres.
Then out we went to try it, Mevrouw T on the Dutch ID, me on the Kona cyclocross.
An icy force 4 gale was blowing, most of the time into our faces. We were riding from Amsterdam to visit friends in Beverwijk, just over 30km away.
Mevrouw T, with an eye to making the battery last till the return trip, set the dial to ‘ECO’. When I struggled against the gale, so did she. But when she set the dial to SPEED, I couldn’t keep up with her. The electric assist added a good 10kph to her average speed, even when the vicious wind turned to be in our faces most of the way back too.
The manufacturer’s advice is to let the battery run down completely a couple of times. When we arrived in Amsterdam, the meter was showing that the Dutch ID could still manage another 13km in SPEED mode, and over 20 in ECO mode. So next morning I set off to run the battery down. It was harder work than I expected, even in SPEED, sub-level 3.
I’m sure I rode another 20kms, meaning the battery had lasted over 70km, much of it ridden with maximum assistance. Very satisfactory. And it was very flattering to sail effortlessly past people who looked younger, fitter and were riding sportier-looking bikes.
Even with the battery empty, the Dutch ID wasn’t a bad ride, just like a basic solid city bike. It’s heavy of course – 27.5kg, but on the flat Dutch cycleways that’s hardly an issue.
The biggest single problem was with saddle pain. In normal cycling a lot of the weight goes on the feet; the harder the ride, the more pressure on the pedals and the less on the rear end. When pedalling is so much easier, the backside has more work to do. Fortunately we have the Dutch ID fitted with a big padded saddle.
Recharging the battery from empty to full took 7.5 hours. There’s a ‘fast recharge’ function that promises to do the job in 2-3 hours. I’ll try that out next time.
Anyway, so far so good. The plan next week is a ride up to the Dutch island of Texel. It’s some 100km away by the scenic route; if time, saddle pain and wind-chill factors permit, we may ride back again too.
Meanwhile, I’m interested to hear from others who’ve tried electric bikes. Love them? Disappointed in them? Best models? Ones to avoid? Advice on how to get the most out of them? Traps for young players? Let me know!