Everyone is talking about eBikes because anything with an “e” in the name is evolved and edgy, right?
But are e-bikes actually worth the extra thousand or two to buy, and should you trade in your humble pushy to electrify your ride?
I got the chance to find out the answer this week when Bosch delived a bicycle fitted with their brand new Bosch eBike System.
The first thing to note is that while the Bosch eBike System might be a good eBike option, you still need to ensure the bicycle it is fitted to is a great bicycle. No amount of ‘E’ can make a bad bicycle better.
Here’s how things panned out on my Bicycle Babe test ride.
1. Speed – ok so that’s obvi! The Bosch eBike System makes you go fast. I reached 30km/hr. If you’re someone who is always late, a bicycle courier, or just like to get from A to B as fast as possible then a bicycle fitted with the Bosch eBike System will do the job.
2. Modes – the Bosch eBike System comes with a Bosch ‘Intuvia’ on-board computer which has different levels of assist: Eco, Tour, Sport, and Turbo. So you can match the level of extra push with the terrain and your peddling speed.
3. Battery – the rechargeable battery detaches from the bike so that you can take it inside and charge it over night. Meaning you don’t have to take your whole bicycle in doors to recharge.
4. Hills – the Bosch eBike System certainly made hills easy. You still need to drop your gears to low, just like a normal bike, but then ramp up the assist to Turbo and you’re at the top in no time. If you live in a seriously hilly city, this might be the solution for you.
5. Age Range – while on my ride I saw a number of fellow eBikers out enjoying a Sunday cycle, they were all however, in the 65 and up age bracket. A bicycle that can aid everyone to get about by bicycle is a serious bouns.
1. Speed – the additional speed actually made bicycling on shared paths either completely inapproiate or just plain dangerous. Bicycle Babes take the byways and the back ways which, more often than not, pass through parks and play areas. An eBike just isn’t appropriate for such situations.
2. Wind Chill – the other thing with extra speed is it starts to get seriously windy. At a Bicycle-Babe pace wind chill is rarely an issue, but this was one eye-watering chilly Sunday bicycle ride.
3. Irregular Assist – The pedal-assist motor, also referred to as pedelec, provides power as soon as the rider begins to pedal. The system recognizes when the rider begins to pedal and kicks in to provide an “optimum” level of assistance. The problem with this is that as soon as you stop pedaling the assist cuts out, which actually creates a strange feeling of being pushed forward and then dragged back. It’s only very slight, but after 30km of riding I started to feel sea sick. Bosch’s marketing calls this “less vibration” but frankly it’s just plain annoying.
4. Ease of Peddling – having something other than your own legs turning the pedals means your aren’t actually using your muscles and your legs feel a little like you are in free fall. Physiologically it doesn’t work because the contraction of your thigh muscle engages all the tendons in your knee which keeps your knee tracking in the right direction. On my ride my knees felt like they weren’t being held in place properly and for the first time in 7 years of bicycling I got sore knees.
5. Rhythm – everyone has their own unique peddling rhythm and on a normal bicycle you naturally pedal at your own personal frequency. But with the Bosch eBike System turned on I found it hard to find a level of assist that matched my natural rhythm. As soon as I’d found my natural rhythm, the assist kicks in and the pedaling became too easy and no longer my natural frequency. You will need to play around for while with different gears speeds and levels of assist to find a combination that matches your natural rhythm.
6. Battery Installation – the Bosch eBike System is made seperately to the bicycle it’s fitted to. Thus, the battery detaches from its socket for easy recharging however, that’s if you can remove it in the first place. I struggled to pull the battery from it’s moorings. It was made even harder by the fact that you have to turn a key with one hand at the same time as removing the battery with the other. It’s not a Bicycle-Babe friendly design.
7. Heavy – the Bosch eBike Systems adds Kgs to your bicycle. Which is all well and good while you are riding with the electric assist, but for longer journey’s where you might need to catch public transport it’s not practical.
8. Cost – one of the greatest things about the bicycle is that it’s completely free to get around. No petrol, parking fees or expensive servicing. The Bosch eBike System changes that. While it is minimal you still have pay to for electricity to charge the battery, and you can no longer service it cheaply, or service it yourself.
The Bosch eBike System is actually a very subtle and stylish addition to a bicycle, but the wind-chill and watery eyes means you might not look so sassy. By the end of my ride I was bleary eyed, cold and suffering sea sickness and had an ice-cream headache. Not a pretty sight.
And so it seems eBikes Systems, no matter how technically awesome they are, they don’t meet the basic Bicycle Babe criteria: fun freedom and fashion. It wasn’t fun, it’s not free and at that speed you are going to have to suit up with ski goggles and a beanie instead of your finest fashion.
Bicycle Babe Rating
5/10: the Bosch eBike System is great technically and a great option if you’re choosing between eBike motors however, all the other factors detract from the overall bicycle experience. No matter how well engineered an eBike System is, the ultimate aim of getting about by bicycle is the plain and simple joy of it. No amount of ‘E’ can ulter that.
Where to Buy
Bosch works directly with bike manufacturers from around the world to incorporate their systems into existing bike models. The system is available on numerous types of bikes, including drop frame leisure bikes, road bikes, sport bikes and mountain bikes. Ask at your local bicycle shop, or eBike retailer, to test a bicycle fitted with a Bosch eBike System.