My eBike – a review

I have a Giant Cypress with an after market, second generation, eLation electric pedal assist kit fitted.  Technology has moved along quickly since I bought this kit and what you would get today is probably worlds different.  Please consider this if you are using this review to decide if you want to buy your own eLation kit.

 

I bought the 200W eLation kit in late/early 2008/2009 on pre-order after seeing it both online and in action at a Green show.  200W is the largest legal size that is allowed on public roads in Australia.  The kit cost approximately $1.2K.  It came with a 12Ahr battery, charger, replacement front cranks, electric motor and instructions.  I didn’t feel I could assemble this kit myself and got my local bike shop to do it.  They had little troubling doing so and charged me $50.

Using the bike is fairly straight forward.  There are two ON switches, one for the battery which is a key switch which also locks the battery to the bike and the other on the handle bars near the throttle.  The throttle is a twist grip style.  I don’t think the motor really engages until you turn the throttle 50% on.  The throttle has to be held on in order to keep accelerating.  This requires effort and may not be suitable if you have hand strength / hand mobility restrictions.  There is also a charge indicator on the handle bars to tell you how much you have left.  It is just a traffic light type system with red meaning you will run out soon.  The battery is removable to you can take it off to charge or charge it in place.

The kit is splash/weather proof but not submergible and I have ridden it in tropical storms with out ill effect.  I personally try not to and will choose my other bike if I know the weather is going to be unfavourable.  This is probably not necessary and over cautious.

In general, it rides like a normal, if heavy, bike.  I tend to not accelerate on the kit when changing gears and go back to pedalling as this seems less clunky and grindy.  Much like a car, I guess.  The kit makes a clicking noise when you roll the bike backwards and there is some resistance but this doesn’t seem to be detrimental.

All in all, it is a very pleasant, fast and low effort ride.  I think the bike you choose could be critical to your enjoyment of the bike and success of the conversion.

Pros

  • Range.  My kit does approximately 40km per recharge if I pedal, 20km if I just sit back and let the motor do all the work.  If you pedal more and/or go slower, this will be increased.
  • Can use all your gears.  Great for getting the speed up or hitting that tough hill.
  • Pedal or not.  You don’t have to pedal or you can pedal.  Up to you.
  • Convenient.  Easy to use.
  • Fits most bikes.
  • It’s still a bike.  If you run out of juice, you are just pedalling a normal bike.
  • Supporting small business
  • No licence/rego requirements
  • On going costs.  You are only paying for electricity to recharge the battery.
  • Fun.  It’s fun to ride.

Cons

  • Heavy.  The kit is 9kg.  Think carefully about which bike you will affix it to or you will end up with a bike you can’t lift or easily manoeuvre.
  • Fragile.  I always feel nervous when moving this bike in the car.  I worry about the cables pulling loose or something getting bumped.
  • Complicated.  I have little bike fixing skills and even less electrical engineering skills.  I felt if something went wrong with the kit, I couldn’t fix it myself and doubt many local bike shops could.
  • Initial Cost.  It isn’t cheap.
  • Obvious.  My kit is super obvious but newer kits are much more discrete.

Best Uses

  • Commuting.  Don’t have to change clothes or get sweaty.  Low effort.
  • Shopping.  Hauling those bags/panniers full of stuff home.
  • Casual riding.  Just cruising around and being out on a bike.  It is fun.
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