Bicycles can change the world!
Q&A with e-bike enthusiast, Moruya’s John Bourne
By Gillian Macnamara, for the Southcoast Health and Sustainability Alliance
Why did you decide to buy an electric bike?
I’ve always been a keen cyclist. Until I retired, I used to ride my push bike to work. As I got older, I developed arthritis, but I thought I was still pretty fit. Then, when I retired six or seven years ago, I joined EUROBUG, the local cycling group, and I was stunned at how much faster the other riders were than me. Back then only a couple of people had e-bikes. I gradually got fitter. But, along with all the other members, I also got older! And as we all aged, more of us decided to buy e-bikes. Some people who had stopped riding with us bought e-bikes and returned to regular riding. It means that we can keep doing the lovely local rides, keep socializing, and maintaining our physical and mental health.
How long have you had your e-bike?
About four years. I have two, a ‘cross’ bike and a road bike. The cross bike was a demo model, so it was a bit cheaper, about $3,500. I bought it from Moruya Bicycles. Of course, you can pay a lot more, up to $15,000. The more expensive bikes are lighter.
Do you vary the amount of assistance you get from the motor?
Yes. I use low or economy a lot of the time but shift up to high when I need more help – on a steep hill for instance. The motor cuts out once you reach 25 kph – that’s the legal speed limit for e-bikes.
Do you use your e-bike for activities other than leisure?
Yes. I cycle from home to Moruya to do the shopping. It’s just a 2km ride but there’s a steep climb of about 50 metres on the return journey that I couldn’t manage on the push bike. With a backpack and two paniers, I can carry a fair bit of shopping. It’s a lot cheaper than taking the car, as well as being so much better for me and for the environment. Our house is off grid, so when I charge the
e-bike, I use electricity from our photovoltaic cells.
Are there any disadvantages to e-biking?
Well, there’s obviously more maintenance with an e-bike than a push bike. But still less than a car. There aren’t many bike racks around Moruya, and it can be difficult to find a place to secure your bike, whether it’s a push bike or an e-bike. Of course, you need to wear the right gear – a windproof Hi-Viz jacket and a helmet. Riding in the wind is fine as you have the motor, but heavy rain is not so good. And just one word of caution: if you cycle anywhere near a golf course, as I do regularly, watch out for mis-hit balls – they can be a hazard! But overall, for me, the advantages outweigh the disadvantages by a long way.
What advice would you give to other people considering swapping their cars for an e-bike for their regular commute?
Don’t put it off! There will always be new models and refinements, but you can get a decent bike now for a few thousand dollars. Go to a good bike shop and try some out. And look at second hand as well as new. If you have ridden a push bike, you’ll find an e-bike easy. They are a great way of getting healthy and reducing emissions. Brisbane, Canberra and Melbourne all have dedicated bike lanes and they are full during commuting times. It is definitely the way to go. Bicycles can change the world!