Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: There in half the time: trying out a Mercury e-bike

83 Responses

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  • Fraser Gardyne,

    The last photo Russell looks like you are doing a burn out. Surely not. The sooner Aucklanders get used to sharing roads, paths with more bikes the better I say. Good to see you giving it a go. :-)

    Auckland • Since Nov 2009 • 21 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Fraser Gardyne,

    The last photo Russell looks like you are doing a burn out. Surely not.

    Just a tight turn :-)

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22712 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen R,

    My wife and I bought e-bikes for Commuting a couple of years ago.
    One big change was getting to work and not needing to have a shower!
    The other big change was being able to climb the hill at the end of the day without being completely knackered.

    Occasionally on windy days, I get a roady tucking in behind me and using me for slipstreaming into the headwind.

    On 4 (out of 5) power assist, it sits comfortably on about 32kmh when I peddle with some effort. It doesn't really coast well at much slower speeds 15kmh is quite difficult to maintain because I have to peddle-coast-peddle-coast.

    Mine will do 25km and still be on 80% charge, but then I hit the final hill (about 100 vertical meters) it drops to 40% by the time I get home. On a full charge it went from sea-level to the top of Brooklyn hill (the wind turbine) and back (about 300 vertical meters) and was down to somewhere between 20-40%. (the indicator is relatively imprecise).

    Downsides include going faster than a lot (but not all) of the standard bikes, and having to pass a lot, which can be a bit exciting on some narrow Wellington roads; and that the taxis pass me and then go round the corner with their wheels in the cycle lane, and I think they underestimate my speed and several times have nearly driven me off the road. (I'm assuming it's not deliberately due to them being bastards, but when someone cuts me off, it's 9 times out of 10 a taxi).

    Wellington • Since Jul 2009 • 259 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Stephen R,

    taxis pass me and then go round the corner with their wheels in the cycle lane, and I think they underestimate my speed and several times have nearly driven me off the road.

    I think this is becoming more of an issue as there are more cycle lanes. I recently (on my usual bike) came up the painted cycle lane to the corner of Karangahape and Newton. The light was green, but a car looking to turn left into Newton had a red turning arrow as pedestrians crossed – but while he waited, he drove across the cycle lane into my path!

    I attempted to get his attention but I don't think he noticed me at any point. Sigh.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22712 posts Report Reply

  • Rob S,

    Apart from price my main concern is battery life. How long until the battery needs replacing? I looked at electric cars and couldn't justify a purchase on price and battery life issues and would need reassurance on this before paying a hefty wedge.
    NZ is very well placed in regard of electrical generation to go big on this technology.
    The money saved on oil imports alone have to be a serious upside and then pollution and global warming mitigation can be put on the plus side of the ledger, it's all win.
    However as a formerly very keen cyclist I have an illogical view that battery assist is cheating somehow. What should I do with all my old lycra?

    Since Apr 2010 • 132 posts Report Reply

  • Shaun Lott, in reply to Russell Brown,

    My personal fantasy in that kind of scenario is to attract attention with a geologist's hammer... It's probably a good thing I don't own one.

    Waitakere • Since Aug 2009 • 108 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Fish,

    My wife & I have changed from being daily cyclists in London in the 80's & 90's to regular (sometimes not so regular) cyclists in Auckland now.
    My wife has been looking at getting an e-bike for a while, her commute ends with riding from the NW cycle lane at Kingsland to half way up Mt Eden & it has tended to put her off doing it too regularly.
    We rented some e-bikes in Waiheke a few months ago and found it amazingly enjoyable, it completly took hills out of the equation. And a great way to visit the vineyards!
    Have spent a while looking at what's on offer in Auckland, she ended up going with a tasty Grace from Flux in Charlotte St, Newton. The guy there is friendly & knowledgeable. The Grace's aren't part of the Mercury $500 off offer, but for a while he reduced the price by $500.
    We found the knowledge of many shop assistants about the e-bikes they were selling was not great, was definitely better at specialist e-bike places.
    Also got to ride a Mostache when we met a guy at the John Renyolds exhibition who had one and insisted we take it for a spin. That was very nice, but in another price catagory!
    So the main differences so far are my wife's keenness on cycling to work, and me struggling to keep up on our recreational rides!

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 19 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Rob S,

    Apart from price my main concern is battery life. How long until the battery needs replacing? I looked at electric cars and couldn’t justify a purchase on price and battery life issues and would need reassurance on this before paying a hefty wedge.

    Consumer NZ says:

    Batteries are lithium-ion. They recharge from flat in less than four hours, and are good for 500 to 1000 recharge cycles before starting to lose capacity – that’s likely to be at least three to six years of use. Once they lose capacity, they still work but with a reduced range. Replacement batteries are readily available, costing upwards of $600 depending on brand and capacity.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22712 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    $2549 is quite an alarming price. I've seen Chinese stuff a lot cheaper, but guess it's much shorter life.

    You can also get petrol engine kits, but I believe they're not road legal. Endless fun for making petrol powered speedy things though...

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • James Butler,

    Any other Aucklanders seen the new (as in, not open yet) e-bike specialist shop on the corner of South and East streets in town? Also hanging in the window are a bevy of Bromptons and a nice-looking Rohloff-equipped tourer of some sort...

    Auckland • Since Jan 2009 • 856 posts Report Reply

  • Simon Honiss,

    There is also the option to retro fit an existing bike if, like me, you have one hanging on the wall gathering dust. They tend to start around $1000 for a hub based one but also go to $1800 for fancy mid drive units with more powerful batteries.

    Also plenty of options for cheaper buying across the internet (as noted previously in the comments) but the freight on some of these heftier purchases, particularly if you have to ship back, gives one pause to consider.

    Anyway a potentially more cost effective option for the undecided.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12 posts Report Reply

  • artig,

    For several years, on and off, I have contemplated acquiring an e-bike. However, there are two features that I would prefer, without really having any solid basis for the preferences, that make the purchase somewhat more expensive.

    The first is a mid-mounted (the crank) rather than hub-mounted motor. It seems that would be more linear with applied pedal effort, irrespective of selected gear ratio.

    The other is a NuVinci (variable ratio) or similar hub, rather than fixed ratios or derailleur gearing. Partly also for ease of maintenance.

    If anyone has experience, for or against each of these preferences I'd be interested in hearing them.

    BoP • Since Oct 2010 • 41 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    $2549 is quite an alarming price. I’ve seen Chinese stuff a lot cheaper, but guess it’s much shorter life.

    It's much cheaper than the European models some shops are stocking – like, half the price.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22712 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie, in reply to artig,

    The first is a mid-mounted (the crank) rather than hub-mounted motor. It seems that would be more linear with applied pedal effort, irrespective of selected gear ratio.

    While I don't have a crank drive - mine is a very sedate rear wheel direct drive - I believe that they're a great choice when converting an existing bike. Some users who've attempted to fit retro kits with wheel hub motors, such as the Golden or Smart Pie brands that have been favourites in recent years, have experienced problems with wheel spokes becoming loose over time. This seems to be a problem of DIY conversions, rather than ready-built bikes.

    Because the crank mount uses an existing bike's drive train it's not an issue. Also it's supposed to be THE way to conquer hills. There are videos out there of these things being ridden up stairs. The only downside I've read of is that chains wear out faster than they do with hub motors.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4590 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie, in reply to Russell Brown,

    $2549 is quite an alarming price. I’ve seen Chinese stuff a lot cheaper, but guess it’s much shorter life.

    It's much cheaper than the European models some shops are stocking – like, half the price.

    For non-Mercury customers there are similarly specced bikes to the entry-level Smartmotions for just under the $2000 mark. Perhaps the most significant recent development is that the retail stores are now starting to carry them, rather than sales being mainly from online importers.

    To me the discounted Smartmotion looks pretty good. As each e-bike brand, and often each model, tends to have its own peculiar battery configuration, you hope they'll still be around when you need a replacement. A lot of models that were being sold in NZ 3 years ago have since vanished. Because Smartmotion has a significant user base they seem a good trade-off of brand security against bang for buck.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4590 posts Report Reply

  • James Butler, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    $2549 is quite an alarming price.

    Bicycles are like computers, cars, musical instruments - however much money you pay, you could always have paid more. $2k+ is perfectly reasonable even for a new entirely-leg-powered bike if you can afford it, and you're going to use it a lot, *and* you expect it to last for some years without trouble.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2009 • 856 posts Report Reply

  • Tim Welch, in reply to Russell Brown,

    $2549 is quite an alarming price. I’ve seen Chinese stuff a lot cheaper, but guess it’s much shorter life.

    It's much cheaper than the European models some shops are stocking – like, half the price.

    As a retailer of these I'm confident that you get what you pay for (as with most things in life)

    Auckland • Since Aug 2008 • 47 posts Report Reply

  • James Butler, in reply to Joe Wylie,

    As each e-bike brand, and often each model, tends to have its own peculiar battery configuration, you hope they'll still be around when you need a replacement.

    OTOH Li-ion tech gets better every year, and it shouldn't be difficult with the right know-how to match the electrical characteristics of an old battery pack with a new replacement. I can see this being a growth industry for all kinds of electric transport.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2009 • 856 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Joe Wylie,

    A lot of models that were being sold in NZ 3 years ago have since vanished. Because Smartmotion has a significant user base they seem a good trade-off of brand security against bang for buck.

    Somewhere in their sales material there's an assurance about the batteries being standard and easily replaceable when required.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22712 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    It's less than a 20th the price of this puppy too - but it doesn't do 218mph.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie, in reply to James Butler,

    OTOH Li-ion tech gets better every year, and it shouldn't be difficult with the right know-how to match the electrical characteristics of an old battery pack with a new replacement. I can see this being a growth industry for all kinds of electric transport.

    Most lithium-ion powerpacks, from cordless drills to Tesla cars, use the now venerable 18650 Li-ion battery. I think we'll have reached an interesting stage when it's easily possible to find someone to "repack" your bike battery, as currently happens with power tools. Right now there doesn't seem to be enough of a market to attract the established refurbishers to doing ebike batteries.

    Claims that lithium battery e-bike tech can only get cheaper haven't been borne out by recent history. One of the most successful NZ budget ebikes retailed for $1499 in early 2015. Close to 50% of that price was for the battery. When the NZ dollar dropped later that year the price rose to $1799. Currently it's $1995, with increased Chinese compliance costs following the Tianjin port explosions cited as a reason for the most recent price bump.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4590 posts Report Reply

  • Nick Russell,

    But for science reasons, I did a shopping trip via Motions Road, which is what we cyclists call “seriously fucking steep”

    Heh. Wonder how it would cope with a Wellington hill...

    Wellington • Since Jul 2008 • 119 posts Report Reply

  • Gareth Davidson, in reply to Russell Brown,

    I believe the correct phrase is: "Just a tight turn, Officer".

    Sydney • Since Mar 2007 • 59 posts Report Reply

  • Gareth Davidson, in reply to Nick Russell,

    Heh. Wonder how it would cope with a Wellington hill…

    Like everything in Wellington, it depends which direction you're riding - if in to the southerly, not a chance; from the south, well then...

    Reminds me of the first rule of cycling: if you've got a tailwind, turn around; you're obviously going in the wrong direction.

    Sydney • Since Mar 2007 • 59 posts Report Reply

  • Geoff Lealand,

    Great story, Russell. I have had a go on a Mercury bike and got up to 29km around Hamilton Lake. I just wish they were less expensive--for that kind of money, you would want the rider to be weather-proofed.

    In the meantime, until I can afford an upgrade, I will stick to my little Makita electric bike which I won in a Placemakers charity auction last year. The wheels are too small to get up much speed and the batteries power a journey of only 30-40km, but it is fun to toodle around at the beach or around town. It also folds in half and can be bunged in the boot.

    However, you do have to sometimes cope with the looks of disdain and slurs from passing teenagers!

    Screen & Media Studies, U… • Since Oct 2007 • 2537 posts Report Reply

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