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Choosing an eBike

Twin Bikes Bicentennial Park 800px

So many brands, so many models! The ebike revolution is well under way but how do you choose?

This article is based on personal experience which might help others choose an ebike that meets their needs. It is a ‘user’ review, not an ‘expert’ review. My own two bikes are used as examples of opposite ends of the ebike spectrum: the Ordica Neo Mid-Drive 26” Step-thru, and the Merida eOne Sixty 800 full-suspension mountain bike (both from Sydney Electric Bikes).

Kurnell

One of the challenges for seniors when buying an electric-assist bike is guessing what type of riding they will be doing in the future. Many presume they will be riding mostly on sealed surfaces and choose a bike accordingly, only to later discover a passion for bush trails or other more rugged terrain. This is where bike frame design becomes an important consideration. Full suspension bikes are designed to handle a wider range of conditions while commuter and hybrid bikes are made for smoother sailing.

Lake Jindabyne

Lake Jindabyne bike trail

Terry Hills trail

Terry Hills Perimeter Trail

Retailers are often much younger people who may or may not appreciate the physical or health issues of senior riders. So, the more you know about your needs before entering a store the better your choice will be.

In addition to predicting the type of riding you will do, you need to factor in a range of personal and technical considerations. Some of the most important are:

Riding position: are you a ‘roadie’ accustomed to leaning forward over drop handlebars or does your back, wrist, and shoulders prefer a more upright posture.

Suspension comfort: are you physically comfortable with the bumps and shakes of a ‘hard-tail’ or firm suspension bike, or will you enjoy riding more with the suppleness of full suspension and a well padded saddle (tips for softer rides here).

Ease of mounting: are you comfortable hitching your leg over the rear wheel as you mount the bike or does your mobility and modesty prefer a step-thru frame design.

Tyre options: if you expect to ride on other than sealed paths then wider tyres with nobbly tread improve grip and safety.

Bike size and weight: if you need to transport your bike in a vehicle, will it fit and can you lift it safely to your car, over a trail gate, or up a flight of stairs (tips for transporting ebikes here).

Battery range: maybe you dont need more than an 11Ah battery with a stated range of 50km, but ebike riding is addictive and fun, and you might soon want more range.  It is cheaper to upgrade the battery at point of purchase.

Motor torque: if you ride in flat areas you may never need much power, but if you ride in hilly places motor torque rating becomes important.

Motor positiongenerally speaking, ebikes with motors mounted between the pedals (mid-drives) are more responsive and efficient. While they tend to be more expensive, it could save you from upgrading too soon.

Digital display unit: some units are bright and clear, others too small or unreadable in sunlight, especially for older eyes, so check carefully before buying.

Pannier rack and bag:  new ebikers are often surprised when they discover they want to ride more often, for longer, and in places they never imagined. A cargo bag is essential for carrying snacks, drinks, repair kit and clothing options. You can often get a better deal at the time of bike purchase.

Test riding options: shop only where test riding is welcomed, and test several types of bikes before choosing. It is easier and cheaper to request modifications before purchase, such as an upright handlebar, wider/softer saddle, and more suitable tyres.

COMMUTER EBIKES

Commuters are among the most common ebike frame design. Many allow you to mount the bike by stepping through the frame, rather than hitching your leg over the rear of the bike. They are usually referred to as ‘hard-tails’ (ie: no rear suspension) and the front suspension forks have limited travel or ‘springiness’. You can install seat-post suspension, but essentially commuter bikes are most suited to sealed or well-worn paths.

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Urban explorer: Taylor Square

I chose the Ordica because of its light weight (21kgs), excellent power-to-weight ratio, slim integrated battery, responsive and well-balanced mid-drive motor, and overall compact design. The riding position and seat are very comfortable (especially with a Thudbuster seat post), and the bike is easy to carry in the back of an SUV. The battery lasts about 90 kms using the two lowest assist settings, and power is delivered smoothly through its responsive torque sensor. It is a sweet bike to ride.

FULL SUSPENSION MTBs

 Most mountain bikes are designed for riding in challenging conditions, but they also offer great versatility. If a comfortable ride is a paramount consideration, then a full suspension bike is the way to go. If your back prefers riding more upright, you can install a stem riser to raise the handlebar. I swapped the original Merida low straight handlebar for an upright curved style, changed the spartan seat for a plush cruiser saddle, then installed a Thudbuster suspension post. I love the crunch of gravel under my tyres and enjoy getting off paved surfaces; the Merida opens up many riding options that would not be possible with other bikes.

Merida 1

I chose the Merida because of the suppleness of its full suspension system, the responsiveness of its high-torque mid-drive motor, and the overall comfort of the riding position. It is a larger bike which has both advantages and disadvantages: 3” tyres and heavier construction allow it to roll smoothly over a wide variety of surfaces. The battery lasts about 70kms on medium terrain. At over 30 kgs it is more difficult to transport and needs a heavy-duty bike carrier. However, on rugged, uneven trails and long tours, it is a delight to ride.

 SUMMARY

Both of these bikes are excellent performers and enjoyable to ride. Their mid-drive motors give them a well-balanced feel, they have powerful disc brakes, and each has the important ‘walk’ function which helps when pushing a bike up a steep incline.

I bought the Ordica after a full hip replacement when hitch-mounting the Merida became difficult. After full recovery, I’m now in the lucky position to be able to choose what style of ebike is best for the ride I plan today. Having a second bike also means I can take a riding partner, and my adult kids have never been so keen to ride with Dad.

New technology is allowing many seniors to resume, continue, or take up cycling. If you are thinking of getting an ebike, think beyond the square. They are addictive and can lead to a variety of cycling adventures.  Life looks better on two wheels.

Olympic Park

Olympic Park Homebush

21 replies »

  1. Thanks for all the great info looking for bike for the boss she stands a full 5′ would you suggest the Ordica Neo 24 or 26
    we are Seniors looking to venture further from our caravan on our travels.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for the great review, I am looking at the Ordica Neo 26 and have a question about load rating. I’m 6’1 and 100kg, would the Neo handle that ok?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I am a keen bike rider and have done a few rail trails in Victoria on a hybrid bike (Merida 3000 Cross). I wanted to do more demanding/longer rides and was thinking about an eBike, as my bike was not sufficiently comfortable over longer distances. I wasn’t considering a full-suspension bike until I read your material on bike selection. Up to that point, I thought that FS would be overkill for my needs. Your site was very helpful in considering the pros and cons, more so than the several retailers I spoke to. I have ended up with a TREK Powerfly LT 9 (2019), an FS bike. An interesting feature that came with the bike is a dropper seat post with remote control lever, enabling me to drop the seat height on the go for steeper descents.

    I am now self-isolating in Anglesea, a hilly coastal village with a large number of rideable back roads and small tracks. I had not contemplated riding on these, as I was going to use the bike for rail trails, as mentioned above; I would have been reluctant to ride the local roads and tracks had I not purchased an FS eBike. I was much influenced by your site in this, with you citing flexibility of use and greater comfort with an FS bike. Now I am having great fun on these tracks and roads.

    So thank you very much for your website. Well done. Cheers, John (age 71)

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    • What a great post, thank you John. People think that a full suspension bike is only for hard core mountain biking but that is not so. They are the most comfortable bike you can get, especially if you set one up for touring: ie; with soft wide gel saddle & low pressure tyres. A FS ebike opens up a previously unavailable world of biking, especially for seniors. A couple of weeks back I rode about 350kms in four days, not possible on a regular bike. Cheers, and have fun.

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  4. i am now following your site . i have purchased a Giant Trance 3+ Pro full suspension and have rode to a few places but look forward to doing some of the trip that you have gone on .
    Do you take your bike on train to transport to start your trip or do you carry on bike rack then start your ride ?
    I am looking forward to riding my e bike .

    Liked by 1 person

      • In NSW you can take a bicycle on the suburban & interurban lines, but should pay half fare. On the Xplorer and XPT you MUST dismantle your bike and box it to a weight under 20kg, which is a deterrent to many cyclists. Also they limit the number of bikes on any one train (XPT & Xplorer) to five bicycles, so no group travels. Victoria allows wheel on travel for bicycles, not sure of the other states. Indian Pacific allow boxed and unboxed i believe, but charge more for unboxed bikes.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Oh man that Merida eONE Sixty looks the goods! 🙂 I’ve been looking into into an e-assist mountain bike that my wife can ride with me on easy trails and that I can also use for the 70km-return trip commute for work more often. Not sure if the budget will stretch to the full-suspension (as much as I want it) so it may have to be a hardtail.

    Liked by 1 person

      • You can also get great four point suspension from a rigid frame. Two arms. two legs. Don’t be afraid to stand up on the pedals over rough terrain, although I must admit front suspension is great. Suspension all round adds to your weight, so best to keep rear suspension only if you are a serious off road or down hill dirt track rider. There are also energy losses to both front and rear suspension which can add up on a long ride. If you are investing in a gel saddle, ensure it is really good quality as the cheaper gel covers and seats van get very lumpy very quickly.
        It is also wise to remember, if you have a recurring ache or pain whilst riding, it may be time to have your seating arrangements evaluated.My wife began complaining of sore wrists at one stage, so a quick evaluation led to new ergonomic grips and a very minor handlebar height and reach adjustment and the noise from her bike ceased immediately.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Jenni; I’ve become a fan of the Ordica Neo for many reasons, but its important to keep in mind that some ebikes are great as path commuters but harsh on dirt. I did three things to make my Ordica more versatile: upgraded the 50mm travel forks to oil dampened 120mm forks; installed a Thudbuster seat suspension post; and put on 2.35in wide nobbly tyres. I often take mine off paths, but the stock standard one may not be a comfortable choice.

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  6. Both are significant factors. I would personally never choose a rear wheel hub drive for two main reasons: it pushes the weight balance point towards the rear of the bike and that affects its overall feel. A mid-drive is more efficient as it applies force right on the pedals, rather than through a chain line. Also mid-drive torque sensors are more responsive than rear-drive. As far as pedal assist is concerned, I do not like throttle controlled ebikes as you do not get any exercise if you use it. The Ordica has one and I simply unplugged it from the rear of the display unit. Thanks for your comments.

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  7. I thought a significant comparison when choosing a bike would have been a choice of pedal assist and rear wheel hub drive. I would welcome any comments

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  8. Hi, I used to cycle a lot when I was younger but now my hip is touchy, and the cycling movement is painful Is it fasible to consider an ebike when I might be using the power a lot of the time?? Thanks. Joanne
    .

    Liked by 1 person

    • eBikes have made it possible for many hip sufferers to enjoy cycling; and “using the power a lot” is what its there for Joanne. The good ebike retailers, like Sydney Electric Bikes, insist you have a thorough trial ride before deciding. So why dont you give it a go? And dont be shy with the power assist settings. Let me know how you go.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hi,

      Ebikes are excellent for situations like old age since most ebikes have auto peddle assist. This can be controlled by the levels of assist you want.

      I am pass 60’s and have knee issues and was keen to ride a bike for recreation but can’t pedal too hard now. The Ebike really put my bike riding days again!

      Hope this helps you.

      Liked by 1 person

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