An eBike enthusiast tells us all about this mode of transport and why he uses them.
Where are you from?
I often tell people that I’m Scottish by birth, but Kiwi by choice! We’ve lived in Mt Eden for almost 15 years now. My wife and I moved from Glasgow to Auckland in 2002. We planned to stay two years, then head back to Scotland. But then we realised how great Auckland is!
Tell us about your e-bike…
It’s a particularly eye-catching (some might say eye-watering) shade of green! In truth, I’ve got several eBikes – I started up my new business toward the end of 2016 - Power to the Pedal. We offer electric bike guided tours and rentals in central Auckland. I use them regular bikes too. They say that the formula for the correct number of bikes that you should own is N+1, where N = the number of bikes you currently have… so, I’ve got a few regular bikes – including a road bike, a mountain bike, and a triathlon bike. To my mind, they’re all for distinct purposes, so are all essential to have (or at least that’s my excuse…).
What do you like about e-bikes?
I came across eBikes a few years ago. Initially I was sceptical – isn’t it ‘cheating’? But then I tried one. Put simply – they’re just fun. Sometimes you just want to enjoy the sensation of cruising on a bike without necessarily having to break a sweat. That’s where eBikes are perfect. They’re also a great solution for commuting. Battery technology is now at a stage where daily range really isn’t an issue. And you can cycle to work in the clothes you plan to wear all day – no need for showers and a change of clothing at the other end! Electric bikes are also proving a great way of getting people back out on the road who perhaps haven’t ridden in a long time, or who have physical challenges that make riding a regular bike difficult.
Why did you start an eBike tour and rental business?
I’d been on city cycle tours overseas and had really enjoyed them. I wanted to bring that experience to Auckland. To my mind, eBike tours have real advantages over other types of city tours – you are much more immersed in the environment of the city than you are sitting on a tour bus, and the eBikes allow you to see so much more of the city than you can on a walking tour or even on a tour using a regular bike (unless you’re a very ‘enthusiastic’ cyclist!). I’m a passionate advocate for Auckland and everything it has to offer. I believe that we live in an amazing city (that’s why Auckland’s is always in the ‘Top 10 Most Liveable Cities on Earth’ lists!). So I want to share an insider’s view with visitors to the city. And I think that touring the city by eBike is the ideal way to see the best of the city!
How bike-friendly is Auckland?
The government’s $200m Urban Cycleway Programme has transformed the cycling environment in Auckland in recent times. The new cycleways, which are constantly being added to, are world-class and have greatly improved the ease and safety of getting around the centre of Auckland. So Auckland is becoming a really bike-friendly city. Future additions like the planned Sky Path across the Harbour Bridge will continue that transformation. I genuinely believe that Auckland can become a great cycling city – like Vancouver, Copenhagen, Amsterdam etc – but we need to maintain the momentum and get even more people out on bikes, using our amazing cycleways. I hope I can contribute to that in a small way, by making cycling more visible around the city centre and giving as many people as possible the opportunity to find out what eBikes have to offer.
What’s your favourite cycleway in Auckland?
It’s difficult to beat Te Ara I Whiti (the Lightpath) at night – the light show is very cool! But I’d have to say that the Grafton Gully cycleway is my current favourite. The ability to get from the top of Queen Street down to Beach Road in a matter of minutes, by-passing endless traffic lights, saves a huge amount of time on my eBike commute from Mt Eden to Power to the Pedal’s base at Gore St in the CBD.
Are eBikes expensive?
They are a bit like cars or motorbikes – you can spend as much, or as little, as you like on them! High-end eBikes can easily cost $7−8k or more. And electric bikes come in all shapes and sizes – cruisers, city bikes, compact frames, mountain bikes, fat bikes etc., so price will also vary depending on what type of bike you are looking for. However, as a rule of thumb, I tell people you should be able to get something decent/reliable for around $2500. Anything less than that and you are likely to be compromising on the quality and durability of the battery (usually the most expensive part on an eBike) or the frame and components. Now, obviously that’s still a reasonable amount of money to spend on a bike but you can make on-going savings on things like parking and petrol if you use your eBike for the commute instead of a car. And you’ll be getting something that’s endlessly smile-inducing!
Do you think eBikes will become popular in Auckland?
I think they already are! As well as getting plenty of customers from overseas and from NZ on Power to the Pedal’s eBikes, I’m seeing more and more eBikes out on the road and on the ferries to Devonport and Waiheke. The feedback I consistently get from my customers is that they are amazed how much fun they have on an eBike, and that they are seriously considering getting one themselves. So I’d encourage people to try one out and join Auckland’s cycle revolution!