Thursday, June 2, 2011

New bike!

Just over a fortnight ago, I road-tested a Gazelle Innergy electric bike. I'd read about Gazelle bikes on Lovely Bicycle, so I was intrigued given I'd heard good things about the style of bike and the brand.

I tried two bikes at two different shops. The first was a diamond-frame (men's) bike in the largest size. I could barely get my leg over the damned thing and I couldn't get my bum on the seat. So much for that! I never did like diamond frames, and having one on a bike that's too big for you is a huge problem.

The second shop had a model in the smallest size, and it was a step-through (ladies') frame. It was still a bit high for me (they'd have to take the suspension post out for me to lower it enough for my short little legs), but I was actually able to get on to this one and take it for a spin!

The first thing I noticed was how different the upright posture feels. My Apollo is pretty good that way, but I still lean forward a bit on it. This one actually lets me sit upright properly, which is so much more comfortable for my shoulders and back muscles.

The next thing was the way the motor helps with riding uphill. It's fantastic. I tried it with the pedal assist off, and on the 3 other modes (normal, "eco", and boost). The difference is huge. This bike is heavier than mine (the battery adds weight, at the very least) so it would be harder to get going up a hill anyway, but with the motor engaged and helping you along it made that hill effortless. You can take off, uphill, in 6th gear! With this thing on, you don't even need gears! Well, ok, you do. But it's so much easier with the motor!

Now, steep hills aren't a free ride on this little beauty. You can't necessarily ride them the way you would on flat ground; you do still have to work, but it makes them easier enough that you don't lose all hope half-way along. I'm still getting exercise and working up a sweat, but without the sense of impending doom that comes along with it on a normal machine.

To give a slightly more thorough run-down on what it feels like to ride: There are 4 modes for the motor: Economy, Normal, Boost, and Off. Aside from the last, these are customisable and the dealer can set up how much power each of these gives you. The maximum oomph  is 250W, but in australia the maximum legal oomph is 200W, so that's what mine is set to. I don't know about the other two, except that they're less (and "off" obviously means that I'm not using it at all).

Economy: This is the mode that gives your battery the longest life expectancy. It's good for riding home on the flat when you're a bit tired, and pretty much nothing else.

Normal: This this one's decent for hills that you actually notice. It also helps you gain a bit of speed on the flat.

Boost: Good for all but the steepest hills, and excellent if you want to reach maximum speed really really quickly. In Australia, the maximum speed it can help you reach is 27.5km/hr, and then the motor cuts out.

Though the effect of the motor kicking in is really subtle, if you've been riding it with the motor engaged and then you switch it off, even on a flat, you really notice the change. It feels like the bike lags just a touch. It's hard to describe, but it kind of feels like the bike being miffed at you for making it do extra work on its own. Yes, these bikes appear to have personalities.

Anyway. Back to talking about the physical features of the machine:

Another thing I really like is how well-integrated everything is. The battery is kept under the rear rack, which looks much nicer than some other brands where it is kept just behind the seat post and quite frankly doesn't look very nice.

The bell is part of the handle, so it looks extremely tidy.

The wires all disappear inside the body of the bike. Now, this is fairly minor but it does do something for the aesthetics.

There is a little button hides the nut that you loosen to raise the handlebars. This is a very minor detail, but it is an important one. I like it because it shows that someone else out there realises that form is as important as function. Believe me, there are some fugly things out there because people forget this.

As you have probably guessed, I am now the proud owner of one of these beauties and hills are no longer bothering me anywhere near as much as they used to! I can actually make it home from work without feeling like I'm about to die!



  1. Ooh, shiny! The motor would have worked great when I lived in Pittsburgh, on a street with a 27 degree incline. Do you need a driver's license to ride them in Australia? In most places in the US, you don't need one, but in Maryland (my state) you do. Not that I would buy/ride one here, MD is quite flat. But if I ever moved back to Pittsburgh, I'm seriously considering one!

  2. No, you don't need a license in Australia, as long as you have pedals that do something and the motor doesn't exceed 200W :-)

    Also in Australia we seem to have an average sort of system for measuring hills. For instance, a hill that rises one metre for one horizontal metre has an incline of 100%. Following this formula, the hill I almost live on has an incline of 7%, which means that it goes up 7m over 100m along the horizon. It's massive. On the less steep part, my bike reaches 40km/hr (64miles/hr) over just a couple of hundred metres, if that gives you any sort of idea :-) And I have 2 or 3 that are similar on my trek.

    Yes, the system is confusing. I can sort of see why they did it that way, but I'm still not sure I entirely approve.

  3. Quincy, 40km/h isn't 64mph. You're doing the conversion backwards: 40km/h is 25mph. 64km/h would be 40mph.

    Which one of us is the maths and physics teacher? ;-p

  4. At 6:14am, NO-ONE is a maths and physics teacher! ;-p