Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Up with the Pacer: embracing an e-bike

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  • Moz, in reply to BenWilson,

    Whereas squeezing 10% more into batteries pretty much involves having 10% more batteries, simple

    And the extra capacity works for everyone, all the time. Regen only works for people who use it, when they use it, if conditions are suitable. If you live at the top of a hill it's not going to help you at all... you can't regen down the hill when the battery is full, but have to grind up it to get home when the battery is empty. More battery capacity means you get to have power on the final uphill.

    I do love the eBike thing, and I'm glad we have usable ones now. Also glad that people have worked through a whole bunch of ideas and we have knocked the sillier ones mostly off the market.

    On that note, the Gazelle ebike I rode had the battery under the rear rack, but it was fairly small and with the torque-sensing drive it was very much aimed at giving you that "I'm really strong" feeling on a bike that was rideable even with a flat battery. The dedicated ebikes with a battery slot behind the seat are heavier and harder to ride without power. So you can buy a bike to suit what you want to do with it. I quite like the idea of 300W and no speed limit, because my use in the near future will be for a long commute, where I want to do 40km on decent paths and roads in under an hour.

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1198 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie, in reply to Moz,

    The dedicated ebikes with a battery slot behind the seat are heavier and harder to ride without power.

    Are you sure it's battery size or placement? IMHE it's direct drive motors, easily identified by their large diameter, that "are heavier and harder to ride without power". Bloody near impossible in the case of my current bike, but I can live with that.

    The smaller internally geared motors don't have that resistance, though they're marginally noisier. Because their internal planetary gears are usually made of plastic to reduce noise they wear out over time, whereas direct drive hubs are almost maintenance free.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4591 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Bill Eaton,

    My e-urban has this option in setup mode. First thing I did was reduce the cutout speed to 25kph (it was 30-something on delivery). Read the manual?

    Ah, presumably so it's compliant where required by law?

    But can I ask why you did that?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22756 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Ah. Maybe that's an option. But it's too heavy to take out on the road?

    Definitely too heavy. The idea is that you leave the chain locked where you lock up your bike - you occasionally see such chains locked to bike parks around town for that reason.

    For mobile locking everyone recommends a strong U-lock, moderately heavy but proof against all but the most determined, we went with this.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4451 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen,

    We bought my wife one of these Avanti incE. Like your pacer, it's not cheap, but it has definitely made it much easier for us to go riding together and meant the car has sat in the driveway more often.

    We really like the whole no messy chain and the mat black finish is pretty nice. The mid drive cuts out at 25 kph and there is no throttle.

    But as you said the price of the bike changes things like insurance and security considerations. Note it seems that some insurance companies consider market value to be about half purchase price because there is no real market yet for used e-bikes.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4451 posts Report Reply

  • Worik,

    When I wrote a couple of sponsored blog posts about trying e-bikes

    You what?

    There was no indication on those posts that they were sponsored. How do I know when you are expressing your opinion and when you are expressing paid opinion?

    Waitati • Since Jan 2017 • 8 posts Report Reply

  • Rowan Crawford, in reply to Worik,

    There was no indication on those posts that they were sponsored.

    There was an indication.

    Auckland • Since Oct 2008 • 27 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Rowan Crawford,

    There was an indication.

    Yes, they were both clearly signalled as such.

    And I wasn't expressing "paid opinion". They were my opinions.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22756 posts Report Reply

  • Worik,

    Silly me.

    At the bottom.

    After I read it

    Not impressed. Very unimpressed. Glad there is some indication (happy to be wrong about that) but it is hard enough to find that I missed it.

    How about putting the word "Advertisement" prominently at the start?

    Some of Russell's blogs are long and always (almost..) interesting. To get to the bottom and to find that it was advertising copy is a crock.

    Waitati • Since Jan 2017 • 8 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Worik,

    Some of Russell’s blogs are long and always (almost..) interesting. To get to the bottom and to find that it was advertising copy is a crock.

    It wasn't advertising copy (indeed, this was something I clearly explained to the sponsor) but I'm sorry if you found it traumatic.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22756 posts Report Reply

  • electricbazza, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Auckland • Since Jan 2017 • 3 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Worik,

    I don't think it read as advertising, Russell was pretty clear about pros and cons. And it was pretty clearly Russell's "voice" not some marketing wonk. But I think it was also mentioned in Russell's twitter that he'd been sponsored to try the bike out so it was less of a surprise if you'd been following twitter.

    That said, this site and these posts take time and effort and resources. We benefit from all that effort and somehow Russell has to live a decent life so I'm not in the least concerned that the article was sponsored.

    I have a high level of trust that Russell wouldn't say something that he didn't firmly believe was true and that applies to his opinion of an e-bike with or without sponsorship.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4451 posts Report Reply

  • electricbazza,

    Smartmotion finally seem to have recognised the value of the Pacer vs Catalyst. I am currently arranging to do a full Pacer test for electricbikesnz.com

    Auckland • Since Jan 2017 • 3 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to electricbazza,

    http://wp.me/p7NrAH-ea

    Good explanation, thanks. This:

    Anyway, what’s the difference? A cadence sensor detects if you are pedalling, tells the controller, which then supplies motor power up to the limit you have set on your display. Most cadence sensor bikes also have throttles. A torque sensor bike detects how hard you are pedalling and the controller/motor will then provide a multiple of that pedalling force, from perhaps 50% (Eco) to 300% (Power).

    The outcome of that is with a cadence sensor, you only have to pretend to be pedalling to get full power. You could also simply use your throttle. With a torque sensor, you are always helping. Even at the 300% level you are still providing 1/4 of the power yourself.

    Perhaps another way to describe it is that a cadence sensor is a constant speed bike (to the limit you set on your display) while a torque sensor is a constant effort bike (the speed will vary if your effort changes).

    And very much this, for me:

    It feels more naturally like a bike – you control the speed through your pedals, you don’t have to fiddle with the controls much

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22756 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Worik,

    Some of Russell’s blogs are long and always (almost..) interesting. To get to the bottom and to find that it was advertising copy is a crock.

    Looking around for announcements like that is pretty much the first thing I do when reading any review of a commercial product. It didn't take more than a few seconds to see it in this case, after which I read the review in light of it.

    This isn't some horribly unusual thing to do, to get paid to review something, and it can be interesting in its own right, as it was in this case.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10641 posts Report Reply

  • Bill Eaton, in reply to Russell Brown,

    But can I ask why you did that?

    Old age and traffic terror first inspired my craven limit of 25kph. Since then it appears that higher speeds, when safe, suck too much power unless gravity provides. In which case, the cut-off doesn't actually *stop* me going fast :)

    Auckland • Since Sep 2014 • 15 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to BenWilson,

    This isn’t some horribly unusual thing to do, to get paid to review something, and it can be interesting in its own right, as it was in this case.

    My original pitch was for the banner campaign that ran (as part-contra for the bike) but the agency came back asking if I could also write a couple of sponsored blog posts, which I was happy enough to do in this case, given that it was a chance to ride an e-bike for the first time. The second post was about traffic congestion, which was the client's request, but my research and conclusions.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22756 posts Report Reply

  • Kieran,

    One thing you may discover with e-bikes is that at the higher speeds (35Kms+), car drivers tend to underestimate your speed. Also some cycleways are narrow and have blind corners and if you come up on someone doing 30km the other way then your combined speed is 60km! I'm a roadie and if i'm chugging along at 40km-ish I find a lot of cars turn in front of me because they have no idea how fast you can go.

    Since Jan 2017 • 1 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to electricbazza,

    Thanks.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19688 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Read like a fair review to me. If any bias was shown due to getting paid it was simply that you probably otherwise would not have reviewed that bike.

    It's pretty rich to expect that no one can ever be paid for their opinion, because that might take away the purity somehow.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10641 posts Report Reply

  • linger, in reply to BenWilson,

    Also, registering for the first time simply to signal one’s “outrage” at … not reading something carefully enough … doesn’t immediately suggest good-faith discourse. It'd be polite to contribute something positive before dissing the host.

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 1889 posts Report Reply

  • linger,

    Anyway, back on topic...

    With e-bikes now allowing travel at higher (and, as noted above, more dangerous) speeds, and having a higher monetary value, are we likely to see any regulatory changes to introduce user licensing and/or vehicle registration regimes for e-bikes similar to those for other powered vehicles? And would such moves be desirable?

    For the little it's worth, my initial take is that registration at the level of tracking equipment identity might be useful; that it's a good idea to have regular safety checks, but I'm not convinced it should be legally mandatory; and that user licensing seems a regressive move, likely to discourage the use of e-bikes.

    But I haven't ridden one yet; so what do those who have think?

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 1889 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to linger,

    My bike still has its registration required by UC Davis police. They wanted bikes registered so it was easier to return stolen bikes to their owners.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4451 posts Report Reply

  • linger, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    Similarly, pushbikes have to be registered in Japan (though I don't know how thoroughly that's enforced outside the major cities). Facilitating recovery of stolen property is certainly one factor; but where there is relatively high use of privately-owned bicycles (as opposed to rental operations), issuing parking infringement notices is at least as important.

    These things are broadly a good idea, but -- like any extension of state powers into citizens' lives -- are potentially subject to abuse. Around Tokyo, at least, "random" police checks of registration details for "cycling while foreign" is a thing (though such profiling is not necessarily xenophobic: short-term residents are statistically less likely to comply with long-term requirements such as licensing).

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 1889 posts Report Reply

  • Alastair Smith,

    Someone stealing an eBike has the problem of sourcing a compatible charger. This might not be too much of a problem for generic Chinese bikes, but for example the Bosch system requires a very specific setup. If my eBike was stolen, I'd advertise my charger on TradeMe and see if anyone responded, and contact the distributor to asking they'd had any requests for a charger.

    Since Sep 2016 • 2 posts Report Reply

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