One of the off-putting things for potential commuters considering cycling to work every day is the idea of arriving hot and sweaty at work, especially if shower facilities at work are nor great. As discussed in a pervious blog, faster cyclists seem to have a better safety record according to some large scale research done last year. Hot, sweaty, stinky yet safely? Many people would still prefer the Tube or another less active means of getting where they’re going!
Simmering in the background has been the electric bike market. For around £2000 you can buy a fairly decent, if heavy electric bike that can let you get where you’re going with far less muscle energy than pedalling alone. Cost is frequently the killer – most people will only want to spend £500 on a bike, and the idea of buying a machine that costs similar sums to a second hand car can make them think twice. What about retrofitting an electric motor, known as a ‘bike booster’?
Bike Booster – small, medium or large?
As with almost everything else you buy, you get what you pay for when you’re looking at a retrofit system. Lower cost will often mean a heavier, slower system with a lower range where for £1500 you can buy something that is light, fast and has a decent range. Let’s look at three such systems.
Last week the Telegraph looked at a new retrofit electric bike system aimed at “City types: lawyers and bankers”, according to the developers of the ARCC e2-pod power system. For £1500 you get a system that includes a battery and power boosting motor that is controlled by a computer. The really neat idea is that the battery is a Bosch power tool battery that is really light and is cheaply replaced at the end of its lifecycle. However the system can only be fitted two top end models of bikes, so a machine will still cost you the wrong side of £2500. Not surprisingly, they have only sold 30 since the product was launched.
Most bikes can have a retrofitted system that can be bolted on to your £500 bike. They will add a lot of weight but again, will reduce the effort it takes you to get to work! Moving down the scale you can spend as little as £400 on a basic front wheel conversion kit, but would need to pay someone for the fitting. Your basic kit will give you a range of 20 miles (not unlike the ARCC system above) as well as a 250 watt motor. You pay extra for computer control systems that decide how much boost to give in a given situation.
Rear drive systems cost quite a bit more, and for up to £800 you can get a 1000 watt drive system. Starting at £700 including VAT you can have a mid drive system that drives the power through your pedals.
Whatever way you look at it, if you are considering going electric then you have to find a similar sum to the cost of your average bike itself to fund the conversion. Considering the bottom end electric bike is £1500 or so, then unless you’re converting an old bike, then it may well be worth looking at an electric bike that was designed and made for the purpose.