Rambilicious 100% Ramble-y Goodness

10Jan/110

Bicycle ownership is hard. Bike shopping is harder.

A bit over 2 years ago I picked up a relatively cheap electric bicycle off eBay as an easy means of getting to and from the local shops occasionally, as well as a little bit of fitness and some much needed sunlight.

At the time my requirements were fairly simple. It needed to be roadworthy, road legal and have a range of at least 5km on battery alone. I hadn't owned a bike in 15 years so the kind of gear shifter or brake system or even the size of the frame weren't especially important. I'm an average height so an average sized bike would do.

I read around the internet and nobody had any horror stories about the Green E-Wheels bikes I found on eBay and the price seemed reasonable, so I bought one.

And, for the most part, it's served me well. I've had one flat tire due to a piece of glass, which can hardly be blamed on the bike. Earlier in the life of the bike I had a problem with the left crank coming loose which was temporarily solved by liberal application of threadlocker on the nut. This recently failed as well, necessitating a trip to the bike store and a replacement crank to replace the extremely worn one. Those're fairly expected problems with a bike and aren't really that disappointing.

What has been disappointing is the battery life. I had to replace the battery pack it came with after about a year, when it should have lasted more like two. I wasn't riding it every day and even if I was it should last around 600 recharge cycles from fully flat. And forget about the claimed 40km range. Under the most favourable conditions possible it might manage that distance but about half that was what I would judge the maximum range, though I rarely attempted such distances.

And now the replacement battery is already showing the early signs of dying. The ride to and from the bike shop, via the supermarket, is around 10km. The motor cut out more than a kilometre from home. The last kilometre was the easiest one, but with the battery barely coping with such a meagre distance it's probably not going to go that far very many more times.

And Green E-Wheels have stopped selling bikes and parts. So if I want a replacement for the battery I'm going to have to find someone who can replace the cells inside, or build me something that would be compatible. No easy task.

So I decided, with my gradually improving fitness levels, to look into getting a regular bike and maybe an electric conversion kit for those times I need to travel further than leg power alone will get me.

First port of call, the internet. It being a really great place to research such things without spending hours wandering a bike shop with no clue what to look for.

May have been better going in to my local bike shop and asking what they recommend for what I'm prepared to spend.It used to be you could get a road bike with skinny tires, a bunch of gears and curly handlebars. Or a mountain bike with fatter tires with knobbly bits, a bunch of gears and flat handlebars. Or a BMX with fat knobbly tires, no gears and to brake you pedal backwards to lock the back tire in place, more often used to do some skids.

Now you can get road bikes with flat handlebars, mountain bikes with smooth tires called Hybrids, BMX for bush bashing or gnarly trick attempting, recumbent bikes, tricycles with cargo baskets, single speed cruisers and even bikes that will fold up to the size of a small child, letting you store them in even the smallest car boot without being too uncomfortable for the small child.

Fortunately my requirements are still fairly simple so I managed to narrow it down to the new Hybrid model bikes. But even within that category things get confusing.

Merida has a Crossway series of Hybrid bikes that initially appealed to me. The bottom of the range is the Crossway 10-V, which is still a very nice bike, but it's the cheapest of the lot.

The next model up is the one that most interests me, the Crossway 20-V. It's priced around the $600 mark which is about as much as I think I'm comfortable spending. The next model up, the 100-D is $900, which is a fairly hefty jump.

Another manufacturer, Felt, also makes a variety of Hybrids. The QX70 is probably the one I'd get because the QX65 doesn't have front fork suspension and the QX80 is back up around $900.

So then I have a look at the Giant range of bikes. Their Cypress named bikes are the Hybrid line for them and the lowest model number is the Cypress 1 and even that has suspension on the front.

But that would be because the Cypress 1 is actually their top of the line Hybrid with the Cypress 2, 3 and 4 being progressively cheaper in price and specifications.

Then you have the Devinci line of Hybrids, where they've used the names of cities for the different models.

And that's the wide view of things. Once you start burrowing down into which bike comes with what tires, or which gear shifters they use, or V-brakes versus disc brakes...

Choosing a car to buy is much simpler in comparison. There's usually only one or two different variations for the one model of car and that's often just a Regular versus Sport selection. After that you can choose to add alloy wheels or mud flaps, all of which is spelled out for you quite clearly and you know what advantages the optional extras provide.

At this point I'm leaning towards the Merida Crossway 20-V. It's black, has front suspension forks, should be easily serviced at home or in the shop and generally looks well put together compared to the Green E-Wheels bike. The electric conversion kit should also fit onto the bike with ease and with the dropout front forks it should be possible to swap between having a motor assisted bike and a much lighter bike, whenever I want.

But the bike shop said they sell a lot more Giants...