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The rise of the e-bike

13 March 2018

Staff member Demaris with her e-bike outside AA Insurance House in Auckland.

Electric bicycles (e-bikes) are growing in popularity, with sales in New Zealand exceeding 20,000 last year. They’re used for both recreation and commuting. Office workers are enjoying biking to work without arriving all hot and sweaty. Staff at AA Insurance who use e-bikes say a more comfortable ride, fluid speed, higher sitting position and efficient braking are reasons they wouldn’t go back to a traditional push-pedal bike.

How do e-bikes work?

With an e-bike, the rider can choose to pedal alone or receive assistance from a built-in electric motor. Most are powered by a battery that’s attached to the frame or the rear rack. This battery can be recharged by plugging it into a normal wall socket using the e-bike’s charging cord – which looks a lot like a laptop charger.

E-bikes aren’t just popular due to their ease of use – unlike a motorcycle, they don’t require a license or registration to use. However, there are other considerations like power restrictions, so it pays to check-out the NZTA information page to ensure your e-bike meets requirements.

But, how far and how fast can you go on your e-bike?

In New Zealand, normal traffic speed restrictions apply. Cruising speeds vary greatly from bike to bike and some manufacturers limit the maximum speed, but you can expect to travel around 20-30km/h on flat ground. The distance you can go depends on the battery and how much you use it to do the pedalling for you. Most batteries have a charge indicator, generally you can expect to get around 50km out of a basic model before a recharge is needed.

The cost of an e-bike is a substantial investment. Basic models sell for around $2,000 new. High specification models – which are lighter and have more features – can retail for up to $10,000.

So, if you’re considering purchasing an e-bike or if you already own one, it’s important to make sure you have appropriate cover in place. At AA Insurance, e-bikes are treated as regular bikes and are covered under your contents policy up to a maximum value of $5,000 and for legal liability up to $2 million. If your e-bike is worth more, you may need to specify it on your policy or increase your level of cover. It’s worth checking the details of your cover with your insurer, to make sure you’re adequately insured.

Tips for happy pedalling:

  • When you get a new e-bike, have a few practice runs somewhere safe such as a park or field.
  • Ensure you’ve learned your gears before you take it on the road.
  • Remain vigilant of road traffic and wary of your speed.
  • Ensure you have warm clothing – especially on cool or windy days. Because you pedal less you often don’t get as hot.
  • Use a bike lock to deter theft. If you have a removable battery – even better - you can take it with you as the ultimate deterrent!
  • The brakes will need to be maintained more often than a regular bike because on an e-bike you tend to brake more often.
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