Back in June I bought the new company vehicle – an eZee Forza e-bike with a gutsy 34Ah battery, which I was assured by Electric Bike Team in Auckland that it would take me far and wide.
Since I got the bike I’ve used it a lot, and significantly reduced my around-town car travel, especially during the week. It’s made travel from Grey Lynn to my office in the Viaduct completely door to door, there inside 15 minutes and literally no sweat. The latter has meant that I’m also able to visit many clients without feeling the need to take a shower.
The Forza is not a thing of beauty, it’s heavy and solid and designed to be a good workhorse; a friend calls it the Landcruiser of e-bikes, built to last not to dazzle. And the battery is a beast – it weighs six kilograms on its own.
The battery has lasted well, I can go a week at a time without charging it, but I’d never really put it to the test, until today.
Last weekend I planted a couple of trees out at the family section at Karekare, and after a warm and dry week they were due a watering. And with a still, warm morning to wake up to, it was the ideal time to head out across the Waitakere Ranges and test the range and strength of the power pack under my seat.
I figured Westie hoons wouldn’t be up before 8 and on the road before 9, so with a 7am start I thought I’d get a couple of hours grace before I was at significant safety risk. So just before 7, wearing my most fluorescent of bike tops, I set off.
To start with, I was careful with the power settings, I wanted to be able to get there and back without having to pedal unassisted. But once I got to New Lynn and beginning the climb up to Titirangi, it was time to hit maximum power setting.
There are generally two types of e-bike motors, cadence and torque. Cadence will simply chug along at whatever power level it’s set to, regardless of how much effort you put in on the pedals. The lightest of touches will send the bike off at its power setting. Torque motors, which my Forza has, gives back proportional to the energy that you put in, as well as the power level that it’s set at. It’s a more natural way of riding, and requires you to put in some effort. It is also easier to go slow with, which when you’re on shared paths with pedestrians, is really helpful.
So if the cadence is like having cheerful minions pushing you along while you enjoy the scenery, the torque is more like a permanent tailwind to boost your effort.
With the torque tailwind I ascended to Titirangi easily, and still locking around 25kmh up the hill. From there it was on to Scenic Drive where the views are spectacular. The battery was doing fine, not even 10% used by that point.
The thing about riding in the Waitakere Ranges is that you don’t get to the top and go down the other side. You go up to the top of something, then down, then back up, then down, and so on until suddenly you’re going constantly down to sea level.
Anytime there was up involved, I was at full power, and the battery laughed in the face of everything it was presented with. And the disc brakes, god how I love disc brakes, were a joy down the narrow and steep decline of Lone Kauri Rd to Karekare.
I arrived at Karekare after about an hour and 45 minutes. I stayed there long enough to water the trees and brew a quick cup of tea, then hit the road again for the steepest incline. Karekare Rd is a tough one, a really steep and narrow road that only just lets two cars get past each other. The bike (and I) had to work hard here, never going above more than about 10kmh, but that’s about 5kmh more than I would manage on a road bike (not that I have ever tried). And there were no cars. None.
From the top of Karekare Rd is the long and glorious descent to Piha, the farthest point of the journey at about the 48km mark. There I had a coffee at the Piha Café, and rewarded myself with their apple and berry crumble. It’s a crumble that deserves some effort to get to (apologies, I forgot to take a photo of that piece of evidence!).
The return journey covered the inevitable steep incline and rolling hilltops along Piha Rd, and then descended to Henderson, before joining the northwestern cycleway near Lincoln Rd, where I was back again at sea level. It was a fairly uneventful trip, the Westies were well behaved except one going just too close and way too fast near the Scenic Dv intersection with Piha Rd.
By this point the battery was half full, and at max power I rattled along the cycleway to Daily Bread café in Pt Chev, for another coffee and their morning cardamom bun. The odometer was saying 85km and the battery still had plenty of juice. So I returned to the cycleway and rode through to the Lightpath in the city, then down to the Viaduct, and the return home.
All up, it was a 101km ride, with a total ascent of 20km and reaching a highest elevation of 402m. In four hours of actual riding time (i.e. without the tea, coffee and sweet treats), the ride averaged 25kmh, much faster than I would have managed on a road bike.
The battery still had at least a 25% charge left, despite not just the distance, but also the inclines it was having to pour its stored energy into.
And me? Well, it felt like a workout, certainly not a 100km road bike workout with 20km of uphill, but a good 60km ride on a gentler landscape.
I feel science was well-served today. As was the berry crumble.
And no, I don’t have shares in Electric Bike Team. But thanks team, I love the bike.
For those who saw a postscript in the last 24 hours regarding Electric Bike Hub withdrawing their eZee range, I have since discovered I was confusing Electric Bike Hub in Nelson with Electric Bike Team in Auckland. The Electric Bike Team have contacted me to say they still love the eZee range and have no intention of dropping the range. Apologies for confusion on my part.