How to buy an e-Bike

a featured image

I have been asked what kind of bike I ride and how to choose one.

Gazelle Grenoble 2017, with vaude Aquaback plus.

I am over 50 years old, over 200cm tall and weigh more than 120 kilo before I dresss. Back when we still had an office, that was a 22km trip, each direction.

I need an upright sitting position, a soft and comfortable seat. I need to be able to carry luggage, and a return-home guarantee. I need to be able to get useful service on the bike, because at my age I prefer to use money instead of time to keep the bike running.

I did try the Cruiser HS by R+M, and that was a completely nifty bike. But it does use an insurance plate and a helmet, and I wanted something that could be ridden casually. And without the HS (which causes the inconvenience) the price for R+M was no longer justifyable. So I looked around at other solutions, and this was a good match.

My wife now has the 2020 model of the same type, with a step-through frame. That bike also has fixed lighting, so it can no longer lose adjustment, a better motor, a larger battery and a stepless gearbox.

The step-though frame has a different geometry than the one I use, and it would have it even at the same frame height: It is built for people with longer legs and shorter torso, so even adjusted correctly it feels wrong when I sit on it.

I also like my (older) battery system. The battery is easily removable, which is important if you want to keep it warm in weather with temperatures below 3C - batteries age faster and permanently lose capacity if you freeze them. It is also handy, if you want to charge it, and there is no outside charger in the bike parking lot. When removed, the battery system in my bike keeps the contacts protected and dry.

In the newer bikes, the battery is integrated part of the frame, and in Gazelle’s case goes out up. This leaves the frame upen and rain can enter. Gazelle is not stupid, the contacts are at the top and somewhat protected, but you still have water inside the frame.

Frame geometry matters. A bike frame needs to be fitted to your body, and then adjusted properly. Do not buy a bike from a catalog, nor without a test drive of at least an hour. There is no such thing as an average human , and because of that we have learned to build things adjustable. So get them fitted, properly adjusted and then try them out properly and listen to your body. This is not just about bikes, also keyboards, monitors and everything else that is close to the body need to be handled alike.

The Gazelle is made from standard parts, Bosch Motor, Magura brakes, Shimano gearbox, and so on. That makes replacement, adjustment and service easy: Any bike shop has these, and will be able to service them properly.

Also, the bike is entirely unconnected – it will work with the cellphone at home, stolen or empty and still take you home.

I mention this, because I am living in Hipster Ground Zero, and a lot of people look at VanMoof:

Awesome design, seriously bad ergonomic choices and a lot of quality issues.

This is a company that has a turnover of 100M, and operates at a spectacular loss. They are making a bike from first principle and custom parts. Standard parts will not fit, and only their service center can fix these bikes. They also have quality issues for their self-made parts.

Apple can pull this deep supply chain stunt off, but they are of course a 100B company with a lot of manufacturing expertise, and frankly an entirely different pricing model.

VanMoof also comes in a one-size-fits-nobody frame which seriously limits how it can be adjusted. The handlebar, too, can only be adjusted within close limits, and needs special tools to do so. The light is part of the frame, and permanently maladjusted: it produces glare instead of lighting the path.

Their bikes have a hub motor in the wrong wheel (the front wheel, which you use for steering), with no torque sensor. So driving is janky at best, outright dangerous in critical conditions.

The battery is not removable and will freeze to death, unless you can take it into a shed, cellar or your appartment. Which is also necessary to charge it.

But yes, it looks cool. Basically, this is a cinetic sculpture and not actually a vehicle.