eBike blog – personal experience with sustainable transport for the new millenium

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Arrived in Sydney, safe and sound!

Sorry, haven’t updated in a couple of days as the pace of the second last day was quite extreme, and weariness had certainly set in. But the good news is I can post a bunch of photos now!

But firstly, a general update of the last couple of days.

After the deluge coming in to Ulladulla, the next day dawned quite grey, but we didn’t actually get any rain at all until we were about 50km from Wollongong. In a fortuitous choice [for me], Dave’s bike got a flat and I gave him mine, after having a bit of a tough run up one huge hill and deciding that the 90 odd km I’d done would be enough for that day. 5 minutes later huge clouds rolled in, and the drenching began, about 3pm or so, which wouldn’t really stop for the next 2 days, with only brief respites. Now that the bikes had had their circuits rerouted, there were fewer electrical issues, but several flat tyres, including my bike ridden by Dave about 10km out of Wollongong: being so industrial the roads did have random bits of metal which seemed to be the culprit at least on my tyre. Roads were closed as we headed closer [fortunately not one we were taking] and the rain was unrelenting. It was great to be able to see the ride from the persepctive of the rear support vehicle though, and I took alot of photos and video, including some for Christian on the mini DV he had in the glove box.

We had dinner in the hotel restaurant that night and I had a wonderful veal marsala and one of the best creme brulee’s I’d ever had: if you’re ever in Wollongong check out “Antics” if you are a creme brulee afficionado!

So the game plan for the final day was thus: if fine, we would ride the whole way, but if the rain was still solid, the hill coming out from Wollongong would be far too dangerous to attempt, and we would take the train a little closer to Sydney and ride the last 50km or so. Guess what? It was still bucketing down in the morning, so it was onto the train. Unfortunately my bike’s electrics started playing up just after we left, and I had to swap bikes.

Fortunately the last stretch was only mildly rainy, and we got a mostly clear run. King St in Newtown was terribly congested, and to get to the arrival point in time we had to leave the support vehicles stuck behind in traffic! We also did a little bit of cross-country in downtown Sydney, fearlessly speeding toward our final destination, Lady MacQuarie’s Seat which has an amazing view of The Opera House and the Harbour Bridge.

Our arrival was about 2 minutes after 3: just in time for a phenomenal pelting of rain, but we raised our champagne glasses in a toast even as they were watered down and we were beginning to get chilled ourselves. A brief clearing allowed time for many photos with the lovely backdrop, for Stephen to do a couple of interviews, and then it was time to get out of the sodding rain, grab our gear and then head down to The Opera Bar for a celebratory couple of drinks. We did it! We made it, and given the task that had been set, I believe with amazingly few major issues.

Unfortunately, my bike couldn’t get fixed in Sydney before I head back to Perth today, so it’s gone back down to Melbourne where I would have been needing it in a couple of months anyway, and I won’t be taking it to Perth as I’d hoped. Sorry Chris, you may have to wait a little longer to have a go!

Okay, next post will be a continuation of the few photos I’d posted mid ride, but may take a little while to sort out! In a couple of days I’ll also do a general summation of the ride with a little bit of perspective. Stay tuned.



Today has been both awesome and the most physically challenging of the ride: as I am now the only girl riding full days and fitter than some former weakest links, the race picked up substantially, though possibly not as much as expected. We passed through Bega which was stunningly pretty and full of cows! Bikes mostly doing well but the Schwinn was down today, repairs were difficult. Hills toward the end of day [and some earlier] were of very steep gradient, so I did finally sweat a little – honestly so far I have hardly perspired at all! My lovely friend James drove over from Canberra to hang out tonight which has been awesome! Time for bed now, am exhausted. Bye!

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Leaving Eden

Morning! It’s become a regular frustration in dealing with a large group of people, that everything happens at a very slow speed. I had vague hopes that this morning we might actually leave on time, but we are still having breakfast and bikes are still being fixed. Given that today is our longest day so far, and on our 130 km day we were riding in the dark for half an hour, I really wish things we more organised in the mornings. Fortunately the bikes really are going the distance, and I continue to be amazed at how physically good I feel, just a bit sore. The real tiredness is mental, from concentrating on the road and looking out for the less experienced riders. And now I am the only female rider except for the family, for the rest of the trip, argh!

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Half way!

Today we arrived in Eden, having travelled over 500 km in five days! I have to say I am starting to feel a little frazzled, and would love to have a rest day, but the schedule must be kept. Last night we arrived well after dark, tonight fortunately we were fine but tomorrow we have a longer day than any other yet and I am hoping we leave early enough and have no mishaps. The Schwinn had some problems today, seeming to be mainly to do with the battery pack not connecting, one advantage of the eZee bike is that it has the battery connecting at the bottom under the weight of the battery, so gravity is always on your side there. On the subject of batteries, I am starting to honestly prefer the NiMHs to the lithiums! A strange choice you might think, but on a ride like this I am finding the discharge pattern more workable: while they make you work harder as they run low, I vastly prefer that to a flat cut off. This is helpful because each sudden change slows the group down. Time for bed now, more tomorrow!

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Not all eBikes are equal!

One huge beef I have been having about ebikes is how badly they have been portrayed in the media, and the rather negative, daggy impression most people have of them, if they know anything about them at all in the first place. I mean, I went to the UWA Sun Fair last weekend, and the only ebike there was this monstrosity:

Bad Ebike! Bad!

Seriously – would you be caught dead on this thing? Cos I sure as heck wouldn’t. I didn’t get the ugliest angle of it though, which is directly side on, where you can see the hideously bad line of where the SLA batteries are stored. UGH!

But this was a direct example of the kind of uphill battle we have, and that I have had recently over at Treehugger a couple of weeks ago. Firstly I was pissed off at the type of bike linked to in the article: not far off this thing, ugly as sin, no design aesthetics, and practically begging to be discredited as anything a sane healthy person would want to be getting themselves about town on. But the author had fallen hook line and sinker for the [understandable] prejudice and tarred all eBikes with the same brush! Not all ebikes are equal.

I’m pleased to say that my argument was sound and the next ebike article by the same author referred to my challenge and his corrected stance. We have the technology and the Intarweb links, we have been reading and researching for a long time now indeed, and we have also had enough experience on the road to know why these things rock for everyone and for the planet.

The most exciting thing for me about the S T ride is that ebikes are going to be getting a whole bunch of completely different press, hopefully catching some serious attention: because we ain’t going to be looking like grannies or invalids or socially challenged nerds. We are going to be looking daaaaaaaamn sexy. Just you wait.

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Dun Dun DAAAAA…. in CARS? [part II]

Thankyou everyone who responded to my little poll so far. I would like to make a few comments regarding responses. I have been gathering some very interesting information overnight, and this evening too.

So. It seems there are very few cyclists in our midst, with the majority of folks either driving or taking public transport for most of their commute.

It is great to see people using public transport instead of cars [though in some cases, because there doesn’t appear to be any other choice ie no license, no money for a car. But there IS another choice, in some cases] But I don’t use PT more than once every few months, and haven’t for a long time: too expensive & too slow. My scooter is much cheaper than public transport, and about 1/5 cost of a car to maintain. But it still spews pollution [nasty nasty pollution at that] – so I will sell it very soon. But it’s been a good transition! My ebike is about 1/5 of the cost of my scooter, probably less: and is faster for most of my daily trips. It will be faster than PT for most bus trips I’d be comparing it to, and if you add walking time, will win all out in nearly all cases. The only time I’d consider PT now is to go to the end of a line, or take my ebike and extend range from those points. So for most points I refute for cars, consider the ebike advantages over PT too.


One of the major reasons for using a car for commuting is that it is faster than other forms of transport:

Over half of you travel less than 10km each way. Did you know than an ebike will get you a full 10km of distance, in about 20-30 minutes even on busy roads? This would be comparable, and in many cases, faster, than a car for the same distance. Even for longer distances, depending on traffic conditions, congestion and speed limits, an ebike would very likely put you in front.

And this is before we even begin to get into the area of “effective speed” – which examines how fast you are really going, when you take into account how much time you need to work to earn the money to pay for your transport, as well as your own personal maintenance time, if any. Here [pdf] is an excellent analysis of the effective speed of various vehicles for commuting purposes. Cars: between 12 – 23 kph, depending on model. Bus: approx 21 kph. Cycling: approx 18 kph. Ebike??? … not on that report, but taking the data I know of from my own use, I calculate it to come out at about 25 kph.

The other main reason for people using cars, is that people are just plain lazy.

Did you know you don’t even break a sweat using an ebike if you don’t want to? You can go up to 30kph easily using no pedalling at all. It’s hilarious doing no work and passing all these sweating hardcore cyclists with ease. Seriously – it’s so much fun.

Also, I have been reminded that safety is a really important issue too, and a big reason why people aren’t using public transport, and just have to use their cars. Sure, I would agree about public transport late at night, and I myself don’t recommend using PT at late hours, if I can avoid it. So…. supposedly cars are the only option for late night travel, or indeed safe travel at any other time? Wrong. Bikes are probably not as dangerous as you have been told. You are significantly less likely to die cycling than in a car for the amount of time spent doing either, and the more people who ride, the safer it gets. You are also, surprisingly, safer cycling at night, as long as you are using lights and following road rules [the reason statistics show night cycling is more dangerous is because many accidents happen at night due to lack of lights or bad cycling]. Why are we constantly told cycling is more dangerous? Because the car has ruled the road and anything that requires extra attention on the part of the motorist is removed if possible. But we are now aware of the very serious risks we run by continuing current practise, and continuing to use fossil fuels even when there are better alternatives. Plus ebikes improve safety over bicycles as they reduce the speed differential, and give you extra acceleration capacity to get out of potential trouble.

Of course, other people responded the reason they use their car is because of health issues. Do you realise that the sedentary lifestyle encouraged by car use is responsible for about half of the life-ending health issues in typical “top 10 cause of death” statistics, including heart disease, lung disease, strokes, diabetes and suicide – all causes of death which may have been prevented by exercise. Do you know that, despite it being possible and at times desirable to be lazy on an ebike, because of the likelihood of owners using them far more often than regular bikes, they end up exercising more, without really trying, and thus get fitter? If your health reason for driving is because of your inability to sit on a bicycle seat – there are recumbents which have seats similar to car seats. If you have balance issues, there are etrikes. If your health reason for driving is because you can’t pedal – as stated before, on an ebike – you don’t have to.

Just another wee note. Carrying stuff. It’s a great excuse for taking the car instead of a bike. But did you know you can get great trailers, kid-seats as well as panniers, bike racks, baskets… there’s a huge range of options for tranporting things, and people, on an ebike.

So. If you want to get there safer AND faster AND be lazy AND be healthy AND carry stuff, an ebike is the answer! *nod*

nb. I know there are situations in which an ebike is not practical. But think carefully about your situation. There is probably a greater than 50% chance it would be a better choice for you for commuting, and you would be healthier, happier and have more time and money to spare, if you were using one.

[Goodie Goodie Yum Yum]

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POLL TIME… Here in my car, I feel safest of all???

I can’t really c&p this backdated entry as it has an integrated poll, so I’ll just direct your attention here.

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I’m gonna rock down to Electric Avenue…

So yesterday I finally got around to visiting Chris and getting serious about electrimafying mah bicyclette.

I had a go of his three current electric bikes. His main bike has the newest motor on it, the GL-2, which is astonishingly powerful, smooth and silent and I imagine with panniers, virtually invisible! I want. I WILL have. Soon.

But in the meantime, I am borrowing his folder bike, which has his old  front hub motor, with a 36V NiMH battery pack and Crystalyte controller. It’s tacky and cheap and ugly as hell but O.M.G. is it HELLA FUN to ride!!!! And I get into the city faster than I would have on my scooty. It’s amazing. It’s all the great things you like about cycling but without the sweatiness, the slowly chugging up hills, and the overall fatigue. Hills seriously feel like they are not there, and as it can go about 20-25 kph without you even pedalling, it’s already as fast or faster than my average cycling speed, with no effort put in. Headwind? What headwind? I laugh in the face of headwind! HahahaHAH!

Of course the folder only has one gear, and the wheels are small. Without the electric motor, it would really suck to ride.

And for about 20 cents a charge [maybe less? I need to understand more about charging cost], that’s bloody amazing: that’s probably about 15 cents a day for a round trip from Maylands to Perth. Even if it’s 20 cents, that’s less than 1/5 the cost of petrol for the same trip. Probably even smaller. Put in easily understood terms: The energy a 100 watt electric light bulb burns in an evening – that’s enough energy to propel an electrically-assisted bike for 20 to 40 miles [32 – 64 km]!

So, while I have Chris’ loaner bike, he is adding an Oatley geared motor to mine. It’s not as powerful a motor and goes very slowly up the hills [ie in low gear under load]: but on the flats, it goes astonishingly fast for the size of the thing! It’s a bit noisy and obvious though, and doesn’t freewheel as the hub motors do because they aren’t attached to the chain, so it’s a bit irritating, but it will do good as an interim measure until I get a new bike which I will get a GL-2 for, i think. But I’m having a ball on the one I’m using now in the meantime.

I can’t wait to have mine done, and then start planning the next one. WHEE!

I also have been researching the relative efficiency [equivalent MPG] of electric cycling compared to other forms of transport. I know my scooter gets about 100 MPG, and cars vary but generally run 10 – 30 MPG [less for 4WD, more for hybrids]. I found this page which gives a well researched estimation of human powered bicycle, and the results vary hugely depending on diet:

Vegetarian: 196 MPG
Lacto-ovo vegetarian: 142 MPG
Average US die [non-vege]: 104 MPG

That’s quite eye-opening: and makes me consider going vege a little bit…

Eventually I also found some figures on what kind of MPG electric bikes achieved: and holy crap but it’s nothing short of unbelievable. An electric bike achieves from around 800-2,000 MPG. This page has a list of awesome and genuine reasons to get an electric bike, too.

Having only done my first commute day today, I already can’t imagine going back to a regular bike: if not for any other reason than I’m making better use of resources by using it, than cycling alone – as long as I can commit to eating a bit less, I still won’t feel guilty being non-vege … and when we run into issues of food production – electric bikes will be literally, lifesavers. I was surprised when Chris sold his Vespa shortly after going electric: I can totally understand why now. With a range of up to 50km [more possible with more battery packs, and as battery tech gets better] it will take me almost anywhere I’d normally consider going with my scooty anyways. And I can always take my charger with me if I want to go further.

Now all I have to worry about is overburdening Chris with new customers for his skills in this area.

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