Remember how we pretty much sold out of every pushbike in Australia during peak COVID last year? With so many people working from home or being forced to commute via car, the push bike looked more appealing than ever.
In NSW, the City of Sydney Council (my local council) injected quite a bit of money into a brand new bike infrastructure as well as pop-up lanes throughout the city. My brother had recently purchased a bike and I was dubious at best that it was a worthwhile purchase. There are so many hills where I live, and to be honest, I could not see myself riding around the chaotic streets of the Inner West.
A new kind of bike
But he had not purchased just any bike! This was an e-bike….what the heck is an e-bike? Is it a motorcycle, a throttle pushbike, an electric Harley Davidson like Ewan McGregor rides? (I wish).
An e-bike has a small electric motor mounted in the middle of the bike (limited to 25km/h currently in Australia) with the majority of bikes being pedal start. In other words, the power assists you once the wheels begin to spin, making the ride much easier, especially going up hills. You can also get ‘throttle’ e-bikes, which are essentially electric motorcycles as they can move with the motor power alone but still have pedals for when you need them.
The battery packs can be removed and are generally located in the middle of the bike for weight distribution but some urban designs have the battery located on the back. Batteries can take up to 6 hours to charge.
I want one.
After trying my brother's bike, I was sold. I went straight to 99 Bikes in Alexandria and used my canceled holiday money (thanks COVID) to purchase a Cube Hybrid e-bike. Now, this thing is German, so you know it is the real deal. All up, the bike cost me $3,200 including a lock and two bike bags (got these off Facebook Marketplace), plus your first service with 99 Bikes is free (I already had a helmet and pump at home).
Now that sounds like quite a bit of money. After all, you can get a second-hand car for that price (well, a highly polluting car). But allow me to list a few areas you will save your hard-earned cash.
Let's talk about money.
Since purchasing the bike back in April 2020, I have caught public transport less than 15 times (granted parts of 2020 have meant less travel overall due to COVID). I ride my bike everywhere. I am using my car less and have begun renting it out through the Car Next Door sharing platform, which is covering the cost of my car expenses (insurance and services total roughly $2,000) and allowing me to actually make a profit! Charging the e-bike is as easy as plugging in your smartphone, and since we use 100% green power at my home, I feel pretty good about my clean energy transportation.
It also means no chance of parking tickets, paying for parking, AND no more Uber rides. From using public transport and my own vehicle less, I have easily covered the cost of the bike within 1 year.
Bike shops will let you try the bike before you buy and some even offer a trial period. Zip and Afterpay are also generally available. If you live in Canberra, there is an e-bike library you can borrow from, and most states have access to the Uber Jump e-bike network. This is a very financially friendly way to get a feel for the technology.
What is it like to ride?
AMAZING! I genuinely look forward to going places with my bike. Riding a regular bike is fun, but this is something else. Range anxiety? I never get it. The bike, depending on which speed setting you are using and if you are carrying additional weight, can go on average about 50km on a single charge. If you were using ‘turbo’ mode the entire time you might be looking at closer to 30km, but riding in ‘sport’ or ‘tour’ mode gives plenty of assistance (and you still get some exercise 😉).
I never have to worry about finding a park, but even better than that, I never have to worry about traffic. It is SO much quicker on a bike. You can cut through parks, take the back streets, and skip to the front of the car traffic queue (you always get some jealous eyes). If my destination is really far away, I will resort to public transport (or bring my bike on a train) and my car when needed. I have taken the bike over the Sydney Harbour Bridge a few times as it was still quicker than getting the bus!\
The big question: Is it scary/dangerous?
Well, I was a little scared at first but after my second ride and a few Youtube videos, I was more than confident to ride on the road. The majority of my journeys utilise bike paths so I feel incredibly safe. I know riding in traffic isn’t for everyone, but it’s not as scary as it sounds. Of course, always wear a helmet, install front and rear lights and I highly recommend wearing a high visibility vest - it makes you feel that little bit more secure on the bike knowing cars can see you. And it’s not just me who has positive feedback. Some quotes from other members of the ClimateClever team are below.
“I purchased my e-bike over a year and a half ago and I often joke to friends that it’s the best investment I ever made! I’ve taken my trusty bike on many adventures including a journey across the Blue Mountains. Despite cycling for 8 hours (the majority of which I was using a considerable amount of power!), the bike didn’t run out of juice. While I realise that the initial down payment is significant (although mine is definitely on the lower end of what’s available), I have easily made back what I put in.” Tess - Head of Operations and Partnerships
“When I started my new role at ClimateClever, one of the barriers for me that a lot of us can relate to was - THE COMMUTE. I didn't want to drive to work for 40 minutes and be stuck in traffic, and public transport wasn't a good option either as the commute time would be 1 hour and 40 minutes. That is when my E-bike seemed like the best option and it really is! It takes me 50 minutes to cycle with another 10 minutes to get changed and ready for work. I look forward to my morning cycle by the coast every day. I even have a fellow group of cyclists that pass me at the same time every morning and we say hi to each other for the solidarity of the ‘cycling commuter’.”
Leona - Business Engagement Lead
Good for you and the planet.
Transport makes up 14% of global emissions (including non-CO₂ gases), but on-road vehicles make up 72% of that, more than aviation! Living a car-free lifestyle (as much as you can) has a hugely positive impact on the planet. There is also the added benefit of staying fit. Instead of sitting down on a bus, or in my car I am actively getting to where I need to go. It's like a bonus workout that is both fun and relaxing (can’t get that at your local HIIT class!). Now I know these batteries have a big environmental footprint during the production phase, but that topic is for another post in the not-so-distant future.
If you want to change how you get around but are concerned the infrastructure is not there, write to your local MP. The events of 2020 showed the world that if you put the bike paths in, people will use them, Australia included.
For those who can have the finances and the appropriate commute, I cannot recommend an e-bike more 🚴🏾♂️