There we were, after the club meeting- three septuagenarians discussing the relative merits of e-bikes. One was getting back into activity after a painful foot operation and saw the e-bike as giving him exercise and freedom.
He wasn't too sure about the battery being on the carrier as he thought the bike became a bit unbalanced. The second was considering purchasing one and was seeking advice.
I was the third participant and, as an owner for 18 months, I enthused about its capacity to rehabilitate a knee replacement over the past year.
We were talking about "pedal assist bikes". They require you to spin your legs to power them but have an electric motor to give you some help to get up to speed and cycle up hills.
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The electric motor must deliver no more than 300 watts of power which is the only regulation specific to e-bikes in New Zealand. Some European bikes motors cut out at 25km/h which tends to limit their speed. You can go faster, but you are by yourself and these are heavy machines.
There are over 100,000 e-bikes circling the roads, shared pathways and mountain bike tracks in New Zealand right now. Around 43,000 were imported in 2018 and numbers are on an exponential growth curve.
They vary in cost from $2500 upwards and basically you get what you pay for. The electronics are between $1600 and $2000 and the rest is in the quality of the bike.
There's a type of bike which suits you and whatever use you want to put it to - commuting, recreational riding or trail riding. They all need servicing, so ask the experts in the reputable stores.
For my wife and I, it's weekend recreational riding and the real joy is in climbing hills. You can get a decent workout but know that you are going to make it.
Being challenged to a race by a teenager on a conventional bike after topping Maunu Hill, had a pretty satisfying outcome for an old bugger.
This week it took 30 minutes from our place to the CBD at 8.30 in the morning. When cyclists are passing you and getting to town in 15 minutes, it is easy to contemplate the assisted homeward journey up Maunu Hill on an e-bike, as a potential daily commute.
Last year Auckland University did some research to explore the potential for electric bikes to improve Auckland's transport system.
E-bikers comfortably commuting 15km each way, with greater punctuality, improved mood and reduced commuting stress; multiple trips for multiple purposes was easier with an e-bike than with a car; a higher proportion of women use e-bikes than conventional cycles citing time reliability and flexibility as reasons; increased speed is both a risk and an opportunity with e-bikes and finally, e-bikes are not currently an accessible active transport technology for low-income commuters.
There were a number of recommendations identifying the need for: separate cycle lanes, differentiating pedestrians and cyclists where possible; An e-bike cut-out speed of 32km/h rather than 25km/h; urban road speed limits of 30km/h; reduce the cost of e-bikes and provide more secure bike parking and charging facilities.
E-bikes are an encouraging active commute opportunity for Whangārei, particularly with the attractive new shared pathways. But it's the recreational users that we see when out and about.
We wonder what sort of incentive our community leaders might have in mind to encourage the greater use of this fantastic new infrastructure in order to ease our congestion and parking issues.
Meantime, there's a whole new world of activity out there for ageing baby boomers. Let's get on our bikes and enjoy it.
John Williamson is chairman of Roadsafe Northland and Northland Road Safety Trust, a former national councillor for NZ Automobile Association and former Whangārei District Council member.