We have electric bikes!
Last week we were so excited to try out three electric bikes we received from Trek: TM200 + Lowstep, Conduit +, and Neko +. I took home the TM200 + Lowstep and rode it into work the next day. It was so much fun.
The first thing I noticed was how fast the acceleration was from a standing start. It took very little energy to get the bike going at a good speed. Just round the corner from the shop is quite a steep hill which normally requires a certain level of grit to get up! However, on the TM200, I absolutely flew up at 15mph with not much effort at all. Electric bike motors are limited to 15.5mph, which means that the motor doesn't give you any extra help if you go above that under your own steam.
The bike has four modes: Turbo, Sport, Tour, and Eco. You can also switch the pedal assist off completely. Turbo gives you the most assistance but, as might be expected, uses up the most battery power. Depending on the length of your journeys and how quickly you need to get there, I found that the Tour and Eco modes were sufficient on my 6 mile commute on relatively flat terrain.
The bike also has 8 gears with a good range between the easiest and the hardest. I found 8 gears to be more than enough and the Shimano Gripshift gear-changer was very easy to use. I could also easily switch between the four motor modes with my left hand. The two buttons were operated with my left thumb, much like a normal gear-shifter. When I approached traffic lights, I twisted down to gear 3 with my right hand, and clicked up to Turbo mode with my left thumb so that I was ready to speed off when the lights turned green! As I picked up speed, I changed to the Tour or Eco mode, and shifted to an appropriate gear. The riding position is nice and upright, so it meant that I had a good view of the road. You're guaranteed a smooth ride with suspension in the forks as well as the seatpost. My commute took me the same amount of time as on my road bike, but with about 50% of the effort.
The bike comes with powerful front and rear lights which can be switched on using a single button on the motor control. The motor control is a small screen mounted on the handlebars, much like an ordinary cycle computer, which displays all the information you need, such as current mode, time, distance, and speed. The rack is heavy duty and comes with thick bungee cords. It had no problems taking my Ortlieb panniers filled up with my belongings. Another thing I really like about this bike is the substantial kickstand that it comes with. It's really sturdy and is easily flipped down with your foot.
The battery is mounted on the rear rack and cannot be removed without unlocking it with a key. Bosch guarantee the battery for 2 years, but suggest that it should last up to 10 years. On Eco mode, the battery will last more than 110 miles and 50 miles on Turbo mode. Also, unlike your phone battery, it's better not run it until the battery is completely flat. The battery takes around 3.5 hours to charge with the standard charger (provided), but note that this is from empty. You will more often be charging for an hour or so, as you won't run the battery right down. Bosch say that an 'active e-bike commuter' uses about 40kWh of electricity per year compared to 250kWh for a fridge and that each full charge of the battery costs only 8p!
When I got home, I realised there was an issue; I live in a first floor flat and there are also 10 steps going up to the front door of the building. The bike weighs 22kg, which is about double the weight of my current road bike. I did manage to get it up and down the stairs as a one off, but it is not something I would want to do every day. 22kg is not a huge amount to lift per se, but in unwieldy bike form, it feels heavy.
Overall, I love this bike. It's a joy to ride. The low step-through frame makes the bike even more user-friendly. I don't think I'll be trading in my road bike just yet, but it was nice to just set off without bothering with my usual bike checklist of lights, lycra, SPD shoes, water bottle etc. It's very much ready-to-ride. I really would recommend it for any type of rider apart unless they were racing. I always thought that riding an electric bike was somehow "cheating", but actually, you are in control of how hard you are working. It's still possible to set the bike to Turbo mode and still pedal really hard, working up a sweat - you'll just get to your destination much quicker than you would normally!