Why e-bikes are the best thing since sliced bread

What do you think about e-bikes? Some people say they're for cheaters and others say it's the best thing since sliced bread.

Perhaps you have thought about buying one, but need to know more. Let's give you a spin on why they're a great investment ...

Firstly, it's no surprise - they're great for the environment. The Southcoast Health and Sustainability Alliance (SHASA) has been advocating that people choose bikes over cars for short journeys.

SHASA member John Bourne owns a few electric bikes and uses each for a different purpose.

He has a "rough and ready" e-bike he rides in the bush and then "a Mercedes Benz of the bike world" he uses to commute to town.

"An electric bike has been a huge game-changer for a lot of people in our bicycle group," he said.

"I am quite happy to ride (3km) to town on a cold evening, without getting cold or tired with a heavy load of groceries on.

"The other thing is, when we get older, our knees and hips play up and yet we can still ride a bike.

"We have members in our group who have never ridden a bike in their lives, and they are on electric bikes having a ball."

Mr Bourne encouraged anyone to give it a go.

In recent years, e-bikes have grown popular fast. During the pandemic, people have been looking for recreational activities and fitness and the demand of e-bikes continues to climb.

If you are wanting to buy an e-bike tomorrow, you may have to pump the brakes and wait because of the short supply.

Owner of South Coast Electric Bikes Russ Phelan. Image: Grace Crivellaro.

Owner of South Coast Electric Bikes Russ Phelan. Image: Grace Crivellaro.

Back in 2019, owner of Ultimate Cycles in Nowra, Russ Phelan, saw the industry was going to boom, so he opened another business - South Coast Electric Bikes.

He said customers have been travelling hundreds of kilometres to source themselves an e-bike.

"There's high demand and a short supply; people are ringing up from all over," he said.

"We get a lot of customers travel down from Canberra as they cant get anything in ACT. As well as people from the northern side of Wollongong and the Southerland Shire and even the Southern Highlands.

"We have some stock on the floor, but majority of the bikes that come in are pre-sold."

Servicing an e-bike at Ultimate Cycles in Nowra.

Servicing an e-bike at Ultimate Cycles in Nowra.

He said some customers put deposits on bikes and wait up to four months for them to arrive in store.

Mr Phelan was unaware of any Aussie-made companies and said most e-bike brands were European, Asian or American.

He said the global demand has put a strain on manufacturers who are trying to source parts and get bikes built quick.

Mr Phelan wasn't sure if this would change any time soon. He said it was likely bikes will "still be scarce" into the new year.

He even pre-ordered stock for 2023 so they wouldn't miss out.

What to think about before buying an e-bike

Organise a test-ride

Mr Phelan recommended riding an e-bike before purchasing one: "Whether you ride a friends or test ride one in the shop, it's good to experience one before you buy."

Finding the right bike

Where will you be riding your e-bike? This is one of the first questions you'll be asked in store.

There are bikes suited for roads and cycleways, then others are built to better handle offroad.

Mr Phelan said it was important to know where you will be riding the bike and how often you intend to ride it.

"The type of riding you do will help narrow the bike choices down," he said.

A brand new e-bike gets a few adjustments from the servicing team at Ultimate Cycles in Nowra.

A brand new e-bike gets a few adjustments from the servicing team at Ultimate Cycles in Nowra.

Technology comes with a price tag

The more advanced functionality comes at a cost. The price of a new e-bike starts at about $2000 and can range up to $10,000 or more, says Mr Phelan.

"When you get up in that high-end range, they're built for a purpose with the best technology," Mr Phelan said.

Most e-bikes connect to your mobile phone through Bluetooth, so you can analyse your ride and record data.

"Most manufacturers have an app to download; technology is getting better and better," Mr Phelan said.

"Technology advances each year. In terms of battery capacity, the range gets longer."

What you're guaranteed in all e-bikes is the pedal assist function.

"You can choose how much effort the bike gives you by adjusting the assistance level," Mr Phelan said.

The extras and servicing

Once you have bought an e-bike, then there's all the gear you need with it.

Bike accessories are endless but it's handy to know you'll need some essential extras like a helmet.

Bike shops can offer you other extras like front and rear lights, protective clothing and bike-care kits to name a few.

Just like cars, bikes need servicing too. Mr Phelan said servicing depends on how much you ride the bike.

Go on, spoil yourself

If you need a hand making a decision whether to buy an e-bike, there's only positives in this list:

  • Less impact on your body
  • Hills are made easier so you can explore places you wouldn't normally explore before
  • Gives you the opportunity to get out in the fresh air
  • Great way to exercise
  • Solves your short distance transport needs with minimal cost and effort
  • He said you'll likely love it.

Mr Phelan said the stigma associated with e-bikes being a "lazy person's bike" is gone.

His customers were amazed by how often they were riding a bike since owning an e-bike.

"They're now riding three times as much because they're enjoying it so much," he said.