• Café Cruisers e-bikers group

Riding the change

In a changing world, one question that continues to surface is: Why have electric bikes become so popular, and how are they so different from regular bikes?

Year after year, greater numbers of e-bikes find their way to the streets, cycleways and trails around New Zealand and abroad, with a user population made up of people of all ages. The technology driving e-bikes has been present for much longer than the surge in e-bike popularity, so why is it that so many people are choosing them as a lifestyle choice to get around on? Channel Mag’s Liz Cannon chats with Electrify.NZ’s James Speedy and John Cowan, founding member of the e-bike group 'Café Cruisers' to explore some different perspectives.

"It's the newfound ease of movement that has seemed to drive people to take another look at riding bikes, now that e-bikes are more broadly available,” says James. “We've found that even with locals who haven’t ridden a bike in 20 years or more, they can jump onto the saddle and with some guidance and instruction, feel like they can enjoy the experience and sensation of riding, but be able to vary the amount of assistance available from the e-bike, so as to not exert peak user input. Now that people are able to manage this, and 'regulate' their ride, it becomes a whole lot more appealing to ride practically anywhere, for almost anyone – and you still get your exercise.”

James also contends that there is a lot of change yet to come with e-bikes, particularly for the younger half of the working generation, who, he says, will be the next major customer group shifting to e-bikes. “Schemes such as Workride are changing the landscape by making e-bikes more accessible to workers who want to try using their bike for transport, instead of their car.”

John Cowan, who runs the fast-growing e-bike riding group 'Café Cruisers', is a local advocate for e-bikes. "My e-bike has various power settings: 1, 2, 3… up to 6. I tell people that the number represents how many decades younger I feel while I am riding! That feeling of being fitter, stronger and younger than you really are is a delightful illusion. The big bunch of mates I ride with every week are nearly all 'Gold Carders' but, on our e-bikes, I reckon our average age appears to be about eight. We just have so much fun."

"I admit, I had to overcome a psychological obstacle to getting my first e-bike. I was a push-bike cyclist and I was scared getting an e-bike would make me lazy, that I just wouldn’t work as hard and so I wouldn’t get the fitness benefits of cycling. The thing is, I can work out just as hard on an e-bike; I just go further and faster for the same amount of effort. In actual fact, I probably don’t work as hard on an e-bike, but I ride my e-bike far more often than I ever rode my push-bike."

"I ride a to a lot more places and enjoy many more routes because I don’t dread hills. If I want to work harder I turn the power down, and if I want to be lazy, the people around me never need to know how much boost I have selected. I get on the thing because I want to have fun, not because I feel I should. I did use my push-bike recently to ride at Taupō. It was fun, but I did find myself thinking often – I wish I was on my e-bike!”

For more professional insight and advice on all things e-bike, contact James at Electrify.NZ based in Northridge Plaza, 100 Don Mckinnon Drive, Albany

Issue 148 December-January 2023