Electric bike review by Mike Stapleton

by Cycling Veteran Mike Stapleton

I tested a Peter’s Pedals electric bike. Generally, I was impressed by this bikes' quality and performance. It is highly suitable for commuting. It also works for touring 50 to 60 miles per day.

Design and Features

First I'll review the design and quality of the components. Then I'll discuss the bike's handling, i.e. my experience of riding it.

Frame

This bike has a step-through aluminium frame. It is painted white with blue logos. The frame is relatively stiff. When starting it does not wobble.

Battery

The battery is housed behind the seat post and locks in place. To remove the battery, you use the quick release to remove the seat post.

The battery specification is 36v 10A Lithium Ion. A display, turned on by a push button, indicates the remaining power.

Cambridge Electric Transport provide a 1.8A battery charger. A red light indicates charging, a green light means fully charged, which takes 6 hours. Unfortunately, re-charging the battery at cafés is impractical as the charge rate is too low.

Brakes

The Vee Brakes are effective, easy and cheap to maintain. The stopping power is good.

Touching the brakes cuts the motor, so the bike quickly stops. For a group, e.g. a cycling club, this feature is bad for those riding close behind.

Computer control

The computer control and display is basic, entry-level. The features are:

  • Motor control;
  • Battery level display;
  • Light switch.

Gears

The gears are 6 speed dérailleur. 1st gear is about right. However, 6th gear is too low for touring riders.

The remaining gears are about right. They are appropriate for the available power levels. The gear changes are smooth, and the handlebar control is satisfactory. There is a gear selection display.

Pedals

The flat pedals are normal pedals. Experienced riders might replace them with half clips. These improve "location", and prevent feet slipping off the pedals when it rains.

Standard Equipment:

  • Handlebars: fine though basic;
  • Rack: very good;
  • Lights: excellent;
  • Saddle: soft, adequate even for a chap;
  • Wheels & tyres: good, robust;
  • Mudguards: excellent;
  • Chain guard: good;
  • Tool kit: excellent.

Handling

I love this bike. It feels really good riding solo. I am going to be really sad to return it.

This electric bike is a bit heavy. Starting the bike takes several pedal strokes, before the motor cuts in. This can be a problem when crossing traffic. The trick is to set it into a low gear before you stop.

Steering and stiffness is excellent.

Motor system

The computer control is standard for a wheel drive system. I've used a very similar system. However, the time for the motor to cut-in and drop out is too long for riders bunched together, e.g. cycling clubs. The time to cut-in, when you start pedalling, is significant.

The motor cut-in and drop-out times are OK for solo touring and commuting. They are not good for cycling club riders. When climbing, the electric bike goes faster than the club bikes. If you suddenly cut the motor power, the power change is significant. This power change is dangerous and highly disconcerting. In addition, the 15.5 mph limit is a legal requirement. On the flat, the bike is not as fast as club riders.

The other bike I tried had faster cut-in and drop-out times. Generally, crank-drive system don't have this problem. A level setting on the control panel largely determines the power level. Pedal pressure does not change the power level. The power change when the motor drops-out also does not happen on crank drives. The motor has a free wheel.

Range

I tested both low and mid modes. The tests took place on similar days, with little or no wind, on relatively flat countryside. Note that wind affects range, but this applies to all bikes.

Overall I find the range amazing and think the specification is excessively conservative.

The range in low-mode is about 100 miles. Admittedly, pedalling is fairly hard work, and my speed was around 10 mph. I would prefer 11mph, which could be easily programmed.

The mid-mode range is about 48 miles in hilly countryside on a windy day. Actually I rode quite hard for 38 miles, and used about 3/4 of the available power. I easily climbed the hill on Royston Lane, riding out to Littlebury. On a calm day, on flat countryside I achieved about 70 miles.

My mid-mode speed was around 14 mph, which is a bit fast. I would prefer 12-13 mph, which again could be easily programmed. In mid-mode, I could climb any Cambridgeshire hill using bottom gear.

Max-mode is only useful in very hilly area. It drains the battery quickly. On another ride I tried max mode on Chapel Hill Haslingfield. Max mode was really not necessary. Hence I'd say max-mode is a waste of time in Cambridgeshire. I would prefer the power output to be reduced.

Price

The price is fantastic. A better bike, that addresses some of the issues, costs over £1,500.

Mike Stapleton on Peter's Pedals electric bike
Mike Stapleton on Peter's Pedals electric bike

My electric bike experiences in Cambridge

How an electric bike changes daily behaviour, and it's impact on city transportation systems

By: Dr. Jan Storgards

My friend and entrepreneur Sean Moroney, CEO of Cambridge Electric Transport Ltd, asked me to review their electric bike in Summer 2017. Sean wanted to know how to improve the product and the riding experience.

Cambridge Electric Transport's mission is to change how we:

  • Commute to work;
  • Move around town;
  • Travel between villages.

So my review is not about features. I'll share my experience of upgrading from an ordinary hybrid city bicycle to an electric bicycle. In addition, I'll explain how my use of private and public transport changed. My behaviour changed for the better.

Hybrid city-bicycle cyclist

I live 2.5 miles outside Cambridge city centre, where I now work. At first I walked to work. I then purchased a bicycle, and on most weekdays cycled everywhere within the city.

I'd say I am in "normal condition". However, I often cycled too fast, and sometimes arrived feeling slightly sweaty. Like many cyclists, I believed if I switched to an assisted bicycle, I'd lose the exercise benefits.

Thus, I had no need for an electric bicycle. However, I twisted my ankle whilst running. Cycling to work became painful.......

Electric bicycle cyclist

I've used the electric bike for over 6 months. I like it. It fits my everyday needs, and it changed my opinion about electric bikes.

Now, I cycle more. It's still exercise, although a little lighter. I travel faster, so am more likely to commute by electric bicycle. I don't change clothes at work. More importantly riding the electric bicycle feels great. Riding it is so different to riding a conventional bike, a noisy moped or motorcycle, or driving a car.

My new role in traffic

My role in traffic changed, due to my increased speed, different user controls, and enhanced mechanics. Now I am:

  • In front of traffic, instead of behind it;
  • A faster cyclist, overtaking 'casual' cyclists,
    • Although nobody can beat those super-fast cyclists;
  • Enjoying overtaking cars during rush hour.

Electric bike purchase criteria

After a couple of weeks, I purchased the bike. Many electric bike designs are available. Some look nice, others look distinctive. My purchase criteria was:

  • Entry level pricing;
  • Basic design: something that looks like a push-bike;
  • Unisex step-through design, so my wife could use it;
  • Accessories:
    • Kickstand,
    • Mudguards,
    • Pannier rack,
    • Bell,
    • Front and back lights.

Additional features I would like:

  • Disc brakes: which I think are a necessity in city traffic;
  • Suspension: to cope with Cambridge's potholes and rough road surfaces;
  • Less weight. Although the design is robust, and the frame is guaranteed for three years, it:
    • Is not as agile as my other bike and
    • Weighs a relatively heavy 25kg;

My electric bike is perfect for the city. However, I can’t ride off-road since it:

  • Lacks suspension;
  • Is too heavy to cycle on muddy tracks.

My new behaviour

Most importantly, my first transport option is to cycle. I always cycle to meetings and to places within the city.

I still drive to the supermarket for our weekly shop. However when I'm shopping for small items, usually in a rush, I cycle rather than drive the one mile to the shop.

Usually, I cycle to work and back much faster than before. I don’t feel sweaty, nor exhausted. I don’t have to change clothes after arriving at work.

Cycling up Castle Hill is no problem. The engine is powerful and eases uphill cycling.

I don’t miss my old hybrid city bike. Perhaps I might use it in summer for cross country cycling, but that's about all.

Practical matters

For me, it's easy to charge and store the e-bike. as my garage has an electric power socket. It takes about five second to plug in the charger.

The battery has never run out whilst cycling around Cambridge. Cambridge Electric specify a 35 mile range on a full battery.

The weather doesn’t bother me. I have appropriate waterproofs. Anyway, for the last six months it hasn't rained much. Hailing from Scandinavia I find British weather rather mild.

Regulations limit an electric bikes' maximum motor-assisted speed to 15mph. You are allowed to pedal faster, but this speed is enough in the city.

Overall review of my electric cycling experience

I'd summarise my experience as follows:

Positive

  • For me, it's good value for money;
  • It offers a good return on investment. I saved money on:
    • Driving,
    • Taxis,
    • Buses,
    • Parking.
  • I saved time during rush hours;
  • I changed my cycling behavior,
    • My first priority is to travel by electric bicycle;
  • I enjoy cycling more

Challenges

My challenges include:

  • Electric bikes are quite expensive:
    • Compared to a standard £200-300 hybrid.
  • There are fewer designs compared to traditional bikes.
  • All electric bikes are quite heavy.
  • You have to be more careful in traffic, due to the:
    • Enhanced power,
    • Different control compared to a hybrid bike.

Challenges emerging after 6 months

The challenges that emerged after six months use include:

  • How to obtain spare keys?
  • Riding over bumps can cause the battery to disconnect. So:
    • The motor stops working,
    • The lights turn off,
    • Everything stops.
    • You might have to stop, and put the battery back in its place.
  • Sometimes if I cycle too strongly the chain comes off, so:
    • There is a risk of falling off,
    • I feel less in control.
  • I broke the front light stand, but:
    • It was my fault,
    • All the usual bike accessories are available.

My future needs and conclusions

I would like to persuade my wife to use ‘our’ e-bike. However, she doesn’t like the design and thinks e-cycling is not exercise. Nevertheless, before I discovered the joy of e-cycling, I held similar opinions.

We have a small baby girl. Soon we will be taking her to nursery. We need to find appropriate accessories that I can attach to the e-bike, which is easily solved.

However, my role in traffic will change. On an e-bike, I will be faster that average, but wider when towing a child trailer. My wife will also be (stuck) in the traffic as well.

My purchase criteria for my next electric bike will probably include:

  • A slightly higher budget, above £750;
  • Disc brakes: a must have;
  • Suspension;
  • A more distinctive appearance;
  • A slightly lighter weight.

Future urban needs

Clearly, when electric bikes are widely adopted urban traffic flows change, as does the role of commuters. Picture an everyday rush-house, when, e.g. 50% of current cyclist plus some car-drivers ride electric bikes.

Hence, there will be increasing pressure to improve the infrastructure to accommodate electric bikes. Electric bikes are not the same as conventional bikes, even if they appear similar. Soon new, innovative transportation vehicle will enter the urban environment, e.g. autonomous and human controlled vehicles.

I would like to see simulations that model this challenge.

Dr. Jan Storgards is Director of REACTOR. Anglia Ruskin University leads this regional development project which the European Regional Development Fund partially funds.

Dr. Jan Storgards: electric bike enthusiast
Dr Jan Storgards

Bidwells adopts electric bikes

We are delighted to announce that Bidwells purchased two electric bicycles, and are considering another two for client and staff use.

On the Bidwells website, there is a rather excellent article by Planning Partner, Rob Hopwood. Rob says:

"Bidwells asked me to [compare] a normal human-powered bicycle with a “power-assisted” electric bike over one working week....

As a fair-weather cyclist, I was always a bit concerned about getting caught in the rain or, on warm days, getting a bit sweaty in my shirt and tie.

I had meetings around Cambridge every day that week..... It also meant I could test the battery’s life expectancy within the 45 miles range prescribed per charge.

Going on the flat without the ‘power assist’ was like riding a normal bike, albeit heavier. But it was firm and smooth....

There were three power settings – low, medium and high, and the power-light came on as I selected ‘low’. It was a good that there was a short time lag while the battery engaged and I started to accelerate slowly.

I then powered on again to ‘medium’, getting used to the acceleration and thought let’s live a little and pressed on ‘high’. It was like someone gently pushing you from behind......

Because Cambridge is flat, you can save on the battery and turn it off and cycle as normal, great for getting more exercise and then when you come to a slope, go to the power assisted setting and accelerate uphill overtaking “racing bikes”.......

My longest journey of the week was about 15 miles, a round trip to the Cambridge Science Park, all within a single charge, I had no trouble at all, feeling fresh and alert after getting back to the office.

Key Points

I rode the Peter’s Pedals City E-bike provided by the Cambridge Electric Transport Company. Cost £700. Range 45 miles, 250w brushless rear motor, 36U lithium battery, max speed 25km per hour, recharge 4-6 hours.

  • Could use a bit of suspension to absorb pothole bounce;
  • Quicker local journey time than cars in Cambridge in the rush hour;
  • Exercise can be seen as a good thing;
  • Can switch off the battery and pedal like a normal bike;
  • .... at this price it’s a steal!"
Bidwells adopts electric bikes, with Sean Moroney of Cambridge Electric Transport, and Rob Hopwood Bidwells
Bidwells adopts electric bikes

Electric bicycle stolen

Entrepreneur Peter Dawe's e-bike was one of only four in use in the city.

A one-of-a-kind e-bike belonging to the “father of internet service providers” has been stolen in broad daylight on a busy Cambridge street.

Peter Dawe, tech entrepreneur and recent Combined Authority mayoral candidate, had his new Peter’s Pedals e-bike stolen from the Quayside area of Cambridge when he was attending a meeting on Monday.

Mr Dawe is an outspoken campaigner for innovative modes of transport, and the bikes, produced by Mr Dawe’s own company, can attain speeds of 25 kilometres per hour.

The full story was covered by the Cambridge Evening News

Electric bike and Peter Dawe Sean Moroney and Chris Massey
CET CEO Sean Moroney and Chairman Peter Dawe (right) present a Peter's Pedals e-bike to Jos van der Westhuizen (centre), a Cambridge University post-graduate student who won it at the 2017 Cambridge Transport Hack

Electric bike reviewed

Mike Scialom on The UK Property Forum reviews our Electric Bike. Key points include:

....... The first model in the range is the £700 eBike which proved to be a lot of fun in the week I had it on test – it’s surprising how quickly you can get used to going electric, not least because it’s a lot faster than pedal power and means you can whizz along the river effortlessly overtaking runners and push-bikers alike.

The practical details are straightforward: the eBike has a 250W brushless rear motor and is powered by a lithium battery which takes four hours to charge (closer to six if it needs a 100% recharge). Billed as a budget model, it has a 35-mile range with a top speed of 16mph. There’s built-in front and rear LED lights which you activate via push-buttons on an LED display panel on the left handlebar. The panel shows which of three speed modes you’re in and how much battery power you have left.

..... The saddle is comfortable and all the instrumentation is easy to use ..... it’s easy to ride and control – unlike the Haibike Nduro I tested a while back, which was an uncontrollable beast. But then that costs £6,000 – you could buy eight of these eBikes for that price and still have change for a spa holiday.....

The eBike is suitable for all ages, though at 25kg needs a bit of oomph to lift, but the rack above the rear wheel helps you hoik it over kerbs, and the stand makes it easy to park up. It’s simple to get the battery pack out and put it back. The charging-up process is very straightforward. There’s nothing here likely to go wrong.....

...... The eBike qualifies for the government-backed Cycle to Work scheme for employees, so ask your employer if that’s an option for you.

Electric bicycle from Cambridge Electric Transport reviewed in UK Property forum.
Electric bicycle reviewed

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