A couple of years ago, I took the plunge into e-bike ownership – sharing some of the lessons I had learned from bringing a Blix Aveny into my life. Much like my experiences with a used Nissan Leaf, however, I am very aware that we too often talk about the shiny new tech in our lives, and not how that tech holds up two, three, or 10 years after the initial honeymoon period.
I thought it might, therefore, be time for an update.
First though, let me be clear: The pandemic is still around, and I barely go anywhere anymore. That’s why the past year or so has not seen me use my trusty green steed as much as I did when it was new. Nevertheless, I do cycle more than I did on my old, unassisted bike.
And there are a few lessons here that I think might be useful for others considering the leap:
E-Bikes Are Not Just Regular Bikes With a Motor
When I first got the Blix, I thought it would be much like regular cycling – just easier. In truth, though, I think e-bikes are better thought of as a different mode of transport entirely. Yes, the experience of free and fun mobility is resonant of cycling in general, but the fact that you can effortlessly hold your own with a lot of city traffic, tackle hills or headwinds without breaking a sweat, and generally zip about at speeds consistently higher than you’d likely do on a regular bike make it a significantly more practical option for reluctant cyclists like myself. (Like many e-bikes, the Blix Aveny is also specifically designed for utility and comfort over speed/exercise.)
On a related note, while I told myself I would use the motor sparingly and force myself to get some exercise, the truth is that I rarely ever do so. This machine is primarily a serious mode of transport for me, not an exercise machine, so I have overcome any lingering reluctance to set the pedal assist on “high” and get where I need to go. That’s not to say I don’t get any exercise. Last summer, I actually took to taking fast, highly assisted bike rides as a way to both escape the family and at least make a token effort at physical activity. It wasn’t exactly Lance Armstrong training territory, but I did regularly find myself out of breath and with an elevated heart rate. I just happened to be going faster and farther than I would have done before.
Parking and Charging Set-Up Matters
Most cyclists probably know this already, but where you park your bike and store your biking supplies will have a huge impact on how often you ride. This is doubly true of e-bikes, both because of the added weight they represent, and because you now have to find a convenient place to charge. (Increased risk of theft also plays a role.) So I’m lucky enough to have a relatively secure, off-street parking option that doesn’t involve schlepping the bike up or down stairs. If you’re thinking of getting an e-bike, I would highly recommend thinking through both where it’ll be parked, and how you’re going to charge. (It would be good to also encourage municipal solutions to this problem.)
Maintenance is Different But Manageable
I will say that, unlike my used Nissan Leaf, life with an e-bike has not been quite as maintenance free. While the first year or so involved nothing more than pumping tires and oiling chains, I ended up eventually experiencing issues with the automatic pedal assist not kicking in unless I was manually pressing the throttle. Because my local bike stores are not yet positioning themselves as e-bike experts, I was skeptical about bringing the bike there for e-bike specific issues. Fortunately, Blix’s tech support was extremely responsive via email. After a little back and forth, they eventually helped my not-very-tech-savvy self to identify a magnetic disk attached to crankset that had cracked and come loose. While replacement was possible, it turned out that a little gorilla glue was all it took – and it’s been holding steady ever since.
Don’t Cheat Your Children!
The final lesson I will offer is as a parent of biking-age kids. And that’s to say that while it might be tempting to engage pedal-assist when you’re out-and-about with kiddos, they will quickly call you out – and apparently, age is not an acceptable excuse. In fact, I’ve learned that when you’re cycling with a 9- and an 11-year-old, electric-assist is actually a bit of a pain – as it makes it hard to match the pace of little kids with little wheels. So now, when I am in parent biking mode, I’ve actually taken to leaving the battery at home. Not only does it force me to actually do some work (oh, the humanity!), but the Blix is also noticeably lighter to pedal when you’re not carrying that extra weight.
Overall, despite my current mostly-home-bound status, the e-bike continues to be a delightful addition to our mobility options. I can’t wait to actually ride it to a bar once again…