Last year, 1100 kiwis responded to a survey conducted by MeloYelo, telling us what they were looking for in an ebike. The vast majority indicated that they wanted a bike they could ride around town, but that was also suitably specified for use on trail rides. So, what does such a bike require?
Motor. It does not matter whether the bike has a mid-drive motor or a motor in the rear wheel – both will work perfectly well. If the motor is in the rear wheel, look for a bike that has the battery mounted on the downtube over the front wheel and not behind the saddle, so that the weight of the bike is distributed appropriately.
Battery. Battery size becomes important if you are to be doing trail riding. Battery sizes are expressed both in amp-hours (Ah) and watt-hours (Wh). If a bike has a 36-volt electric system and the battery is 16Ah, then the watt-hours is 36 x 16 = 576 watt-hours.
Riding around town on gently undulating paved roads, a typical kiwi rider will use about 7.5 watt-hours per km. Riding on gravel, back-country trails with some steep hills and sharp turns, that will increase to around 12 watt-hours per km. So, a battery that is 576 watt-hours will deliver around 48kms of range in the back country, and around 77kms of range around town.
Tyres. You will want what are called “crossover” tyres that are made to handle paved roads as well as back country trails. I would also recommend that you get puncture-resistant tyres. Nobody wants to have to deal with a puncture in the middle of a trail ride.
Suspension. There are two issues to consider here:
- What is required to absorb the shock of riding over gravel, rocks, tree roots, etc? Our recommendation is that you look for a bike that has 100mm of travel on the front fork. Travel is the maximum distance that the suspension can compress, when absorbing force, before bottoming out.
- What is required to give you a comfortable ride? Some people go all-out and buy what’s called a full suspension bike – a bike that has both front suspension and rear suspension. However this is not really necessary and in fact is an overkill for most riders. A better approach is to (a) ensure that you have a really comfortable saddle (for example a sprung memory foam saddle) and (b) add a suspension seat post to your bike. There are several different suspension seat post options, ranging in price from around $70 to over $200.
Brakes. There are two main forms of braking systems used on modern bikes: cable disk (sometimes called mechanical disk), or hydraulic disk brakes. For light to medium trail riding, mechanical disk brakes deliver perfectly adequate performance, are less expensive, and are easier to maintain and service.
Mudguards. Town bikes typically have mudguards that are reasonably close to the tyre and wrap further around the perimeter of the tyre. If you’re going to be doing trail rides, look for a bike that has smaller mudguards and that offer greater clearance between the tyres and the mudguards.
How much should I pay?
For an ebike that’s suitable for riding both around town and on back-country trail, expect to pay between $2800 and $4500. For under $3000 you can buy a suitably equipped bike with a rear-hub motor and thumb-throttle that delivers power on demand. For between $3300 and $3500 you can buy a mid-drive ebike that is suitably equipped and will deliver 40-45kms of range on the trail (70kms around town), while for around $4200 you can buy a mid-drive ebike with around 52kms of range on the trail (84kms around town), a high-performance suspension seat post, and beefed up suspension and hydraulic brakes.