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BEN WEHRMAN

This post is brought to you by the amazing humans at Switched On Bikes in Wellington, New Zealand, who lent me this trusty steed for my entire stay in NZ’s capital city! If you’re ever in need of an electric bike rental during your NZ travels, make sure to reach out to them via their website, SwitchedOnBikes.co.nz.
electric bike rental
Did I mention they’re Wellington’s #1 Rated Tour on TripAdvisor? Give ’em a call for your electric bike rental! (0800 386 877)

 

Hello friends,

You probably know by now that I’m a huge fan of electric vehicles, and the role they’re playing in transitioning the world away from fossil fuels.

But my obsession with EVs goes beyond cars. That’s why I was so excited when I heard back from Switched On Bikes in Wellington, New Zealand, offering me a sweet electric bike to play with during my stay on the North Island!

Ladies and gentlemen, I introduce to you…Korra the Corratec!

electric bike
My first electric bike: the Corratec Life S! Super funky, super fast, and super fun.

I’d never ridden an electric bike before this one, so I was hyped to say the least.

2 months and many great memories later, I’m excited to share with you all: 18 things I learned from riding an electric bike 200 miles through New Zealand!

1. The speed difference is JARRING, in the best way

I knew there’d be a bit of a boost, but holy cow you can FLY on this thing! The Corratec had 5 different modes, each getting increasingly boosty:

  1. Off
  2. Eco
  3. Tour
  4. Sport
  5. Turbo

All E-bikes are different obviously, but using my bike as an example, here’s a rough comparison:

Casual riding speed on a normal bike: 13.5 MPH (or 22 KPH)

Casual riding speed on E-bike turbo mode: 20 MPH (or 32 KPH)

That’s a nearly 50% difference…but it feels like a LOT more while riding!

Again, that’s casual cruising — as in not breaking a sweat, checking-the-Bitcoin-price-on-my-phone speed.

2. You can GO places.

Thanks to the big boost in speed, it blew my mind how much distance I could cover on this thing.

Using the speeds above as a baseline, let’s assume you’re planning an 8-hour full-day adventure with a friend. The rough distance you could cover on each bike during that 8 hour ride, assuming my approximate speed numbers would be:

Normal bike: 108 miles (174 KPH), or Seattle to Bellingham

Electric bike: 160 miles (258 KPH), or Seattle to downtown Vancouver, Canada

Obviously that’s a pretty hardcore example, but if you’re using it for daily work/shopping commutes, the time savings you’ll gain from these speedy trips will add up quick.

electric bike rental
Day 1: Rocky views at Point Halswell, ~15 miles from my Airbnb in Petone

3. Long trips are much less stressful

Not only can you cover more ground, but you’ll feel far less stressed about going on the longer-distance trips.

Why? Let’s say you’re planning an ambitious day trip, but you end up leaving later than expected.

On a normal bike, you’ll be sweating bullets as the sun goes down at the end of the day, knowing that the combination of lower light and exhausted legs will lead to anxiety on the return trip (especially if you’re riding on public roads with cars).

On an E-bike, you don’t have to sweat it. Turbo Mode is your get out of jail free card, giving you a much-needed speed boost on your return trip.

In my own experience, I’ve always pushed myself to make it to my destination without using the electric motor (or maybe just Eco mode). That way, you can put in as hard of a workout as you like, without needing to worry about saving half your energy for the return trip. Life is good when you have Turbo mode to carry you home!

4. It breathes new life into any city

When you live in one place for a long time, it’s easy to get complacent about the amount of adventures at your disposal.

Trust me: even if you feel like you’ve seen everything there is to see in your hometown, humor me on this one, and take a trip on your favorite road on an electric bike. Once you feel the freedom of the wind flowing through your hair and the sun beaming on your face, you’ll know what I mean — the feeling of rejuvenation for the once stale is unmistakable!

5. Extra cargo? No problem.

When you’re on a regular bike, it’s kind of a pain in the ass to carry stuff with you. Whether you’re using a backpack or a saddlebag, you can feel the added weight very easily, especially when climbing hills.

My rental bike came with a saddlebag, which turned out to be extremely useful. I put it to the test by filling it to the brim with stuff (food, water, camera, rain jacket, lock, etc.) during my adventures, and as expected, the added weight was easily counteracted by the electric motor.

electric bike bag
My usual day-trip load: Camera, lock, snacks, water bottle, and gloves for the chilly ride home

For many people, this could be the decision-maker for opting for an E-bike instead of a car. you may not have enough space for a massive Costco haul, but thanks to the motor assist cancelling out the additional cargo weight, an E-bike should have you covered for 90% of your daily trips!

6. You get a much better workout while carrying an electric bike!

OK, that might be a slightly rosey way to put it…

There’s no doubt these things are heavier than normal bikes. If your routine requires you to carry your bike up a large flight of stairs every day, I’d recommend renting one out yourself to make sure it’s doable for you before making the purchase.

I learned this the hard way after getting hopelessly lost in Belmont Regional Park in Hutt Valley, NZ. Carrying this beast up multiple 100+ staircases is not the most relaxing experience, but it was a hell of a bonus workout!

7. It’s far more accessible to the average human

No doubt, a small percentage of the hardcore biker crowd will gawk at electric bikes, since they’re “easier.”

Forget that. Electric bikes are so much more practical for the average human being, since you don’t need to have tree trunk legs to commute from A to B before your coffee gets cold.

This will lead to:

  • More people being introduced to an active lifestyle
  • More people deciding to buy a bike instead of a car

This extended accessibility will be a massive huge blow to our fossil-fuel-addicted transportation system, which is a win for EVERYONE.

electric bicycle
Day 12: Hopelessly lost with a dead battery in the hills of Belmont Regional Park ~10 miles from Airbnb

8. It’s PERFECT for group rides with wide-ranging skill levels

Going off the previous point, E-bikes will make group rides far more practical.

With standard bikes, it’s tough. Some riders in your friend group may be brand new, while others are veterans. So regardless of the speed the group moves, someone will be outside of their normal comfort level.

This is where having multiple speed modes is a beautiful thing. By balancing lower-skill riders with higher-speed settings, you can easily level the playing field for all riders in the group!

Remember that the Corratec I rode had 5 different speed modes:

  1. Off
  2. Eco
  3. Tour
  4. Sport
  5. Turbo

Now, let’s make up an example family of 3:

  • 9 year old Tommy, who’s brand new to biking
  • Mom, who rides every once in a while, but struggles on the bigger hills
  • Dad, a biking veteran who’s been riding his whole life

To flatten the skill difference, all you have to do is utilize the speed modes as a simple handicap system:

Dad: Off
Mom: Tour
Tommy: Turbo

Simple as that!

This will make large group rides among family or friends much more fun, since the experienced riders won’t have to constantly slow down, and the slower riders won’t have to kill themselves to keep up. Just a few speed setting tweaks and the skill gap will be leveled off for the full ride!

wellington bike rental
Day 14: Downtown Wellington adventure with Jaye, ~10 miles from Airbnb

9. It’s far safer on roads

Fact: The majority of bike accidents happen in low-speed environments, where it’s difficult for riders to accelerate from a stop in the same way that cars do.
Source

Riding a normal bike on a public road is spooky, since cars are all zooming past you at 2-4x your speed.

When riding this electric bike around Wellington, I felt significantly safer. Instead of needing to heave my bodyweight onto the pedal after forgetting to downshift coming into the stoplight, the E-bike popped off the line with gusto after every stop. Being able to zip and zoom around corners and intersections at a similar speed to a car isn’t just fun–it’s much safer.

electric bike rental
Day 25: Last leaves of Autumn in Upper Hutt, ~15 miles from Airbnb

10. Electric bike technology will increase safety for ALL small-scale commuters

Alright, this one’s a little more in depth, so listen up:

As battery technology improves across ALL electric transport subsectors (e-scooters → E-bikes → E-cars → E-semi trucks, and so on), prices will drop for all (better battery efficiency means lower prices).

battery prices decreasing
Cheaper batteries = accelerated move away from gas-guzzling cars. Source: BloombergNEF

As this trend continues, EVs will become even more of a financial no-brainer for consumers.

With this accelerated adoption, car & truck companies companies like Tesla will have more cashflow to work with, which will accelerate their autonomous technology.

If you weren’t aware of how autonomous vehicles and safety intertwine, here’s a summary:

Robots are already safer drivers than humans, and the difference gap is increasing exponentially every day.

tesla autopilot safety
Most underrated perk of having over 1 million Teslas on the road? Extremely accurate sample size for HUMANS vs. AUTOPILOT safety data. The verdict: humans are simply not designed to drive giant metal boxes. Photo: CleanTechnica

Basically…humans have two eyeballs, and are easily distracted. Tesla autopilot has 8 eyeballs, is never distracted, and improves every day as state-of-the-art machine learning improves across the entire Tesla cloud network.

Don’t get duped by the news outlets fishing for headlines every time a Tesla crashes. The data is in, and human drivers will soon be a distant memory.

As this autonomous vehicle takeover unfolds, ALL small-scale commuters (pedestrians, scooterers, and bicyclists alike) will benefit. After decades of being endangered while sharing the road, they’ll finally be able to rest easy knowing they don’t have to blindly trust drunk, sleepy, texting human drivers to watch out for them!

I hope that all makes sense, but if not, here’s a quick summary:

  • More E-bikes means more battery investment across all sectors
  • More battery investment means faster adoption of EVs
  • Faster adoptions of EVs means faster transition to autonomous vehicles
  • Faster transition to autonomous vehicles means greater safety for all pedestrians, scooterers, and bicyclists alike!

11. You’ll want to wear extra layers in cold weather

These things FLY, so there’s more of a windchill factor than normal bikes. Since it’s currently winter in New Zealand, my hands about froze off each time my ride went into the nighttime.

If you’re looking into buying an E-bike, I highly recommend investing in some gloves and a windbreaker!

electric bike rental
Day 31: Sunset waves at Baring Head Lighthouse, ~20 miles from Airbnb. Froze my ass off on the way home from this one!

12. Charging is a piece of cake.

It’s kind of hilarious that I have to clarify this, but one of the most common concerns of folks new to the EV space is charging.

Have you ever plugged your cell phone into a wall charger? Great, you can charge an E-bike too. ✔

It’s helpful if you have an outlet where you plan on storing it, or else you’ll need to use an extension cord.

13. For many people, charging can be free

One of my first thoughts while contemplating buying an electric bike upon my return home to Seattle was: “won’t this cost me a bunch of extra money on my electricity bill?”

Well, not if you’re a clever planner (and ideally live in a more progressive city).

If you work in a fairly large office, you’ll have power outlets all over the place. And your boss would have to be a pretty huge dick to not let their employees plug their bike in to charge while they need to bring it inside anyway.

In addition to this, many small businesses are starting to add FREE EV charging to their parking lots, to bring in additional business (not to mention that gas stations will soon have no choice but to provide charging stations for cheap or no cost as well).

If/when I get my own E-bike, I’ll definitely be scoping out free charging opportunities wherever I can find them.

Worst case scenario, if workplaces drop the hammer on E-bike charging from offices, guess what?

Cheap, clean renewable energy is quickly gaining ground on dirty, expensive fossil fuels as an energy source globally. Once this transition is complete, high electricity costs will be a thing of the past.

giphy

14. “Range anxiety” is a non-factor

When coming up with excuses to not buy an electric car, skeptics love to cite “range anxiety” (the fear of running out of battery).

I won’t get into how dumb this argument is here (most EVs can go hundreds of miles per charge), but these concerns can be put to bed for E-bikes. Why? Because when the battery dies completely, guess what happens:

You got yourself a regular ol’ bike!

giphy

Slightly heavier with the battery, perhaps, but a bike nonetheless. So as my dad always says, “Quit your belly-achin’!”

15. Battery management is actually fun!

During my daily adventures on the Corratec, I didn’t just not worry about running out of range, I found managing the battery life to be sort of a fun game in itself!

electric bike range
Day 42: Nearing the 250km mark (150 miles)

When switching between different speed modes, the digital screen tells you how far you’ll be able to run the electric motor for each mode. As I rode between different types of terrain, from big hills, to offroad trails, to highways, I would switch between these modes frequently until I found the right setting for each situation.

Since you don’t have to stress about your bike losing its function after the battery dies (see #14), you can have some fun playing with different modes throughout the day, and finding the proper balance between speedy fun and range economics.

16. Future EV infrastructure will benefit electric bike riders enormously

OK so all this charging talk is fine and all for the daily commuter crowd, but what if you want to take one of these bad boys out for a long-haul road trip?

Well, thanks to my experience working at Tesla, I know a thing or two about what’s in store for the future of transportation. (Let’s just say…it’s going to benefit far more than just Tesla owners.)

tesla solar supercharger
Welcome to the future of fueling: 100% solar power! Photo: renewsable.net

Around the world, countries are beginning to transition their infrastructure away from fossil fuels (gas stations), and onto clean energy (charging stations). Even existing gas stations (as well as hotels, restaurants, fast food joints, etc.) are beginning to catch onto this trend, whether they like it or not:

germany EV charger
GEIL!! Photo: Electrek

This is fantastic news for safety, road noise, and planet earth…but what does it mean for electric bikes?

It means the prevalence of EV charging stations is about to explode across the globe, and these electricity hubs will be easily integratable with electric bikes, as well as all other forms of E-transport.

17. You won’t want to go back to normal bikes

This can be either a pro or a con depending on your perspective.

After zooming around at superspeed for 2 weeks, I’ll admit it’ll be tough to go back to a regular old bike.

If you’re a hardcore bicyclist and you get the majority of your exercise from it, be warned! You may need to re-activate that gym membership to counteract the drop in burnt calories!

wellington electric bike rental
Day 60: Water under the bridge – another great ride to Upper Hutt! (But this time, following the river the whole way). ~15 miles from Airbnb

18. The future’s gonna be freakin’ awesome

I know I’ve mentioned this before, but what a fantastic extra reminder.

Electric bikes at present are far more accessible athletically, AND safer to use for everyone.

Thanks to the rapid growth ahead for this tech, both of these factors will continue to improve, while the prices will simultaneously get cheaper as battery technologies improve.

Get hyped folks! I know I am 😀

-Ben

giphy
Thanks again to Switched On Bikes for hooking me up with this sweet ride! If you’re a Wellington, New Zealand local (or plan to travel there), you can find their shop on the waterfront a few minutes north of Te Papa Museum. For everyone else, I urge you to reach out to your local bike shop to schedule a rental! I guarantee you’ll have a blast, and feel great for supporting a small business.

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