Tired of towing a small car behind your motorhome? Fed up with trying to pedal your cycle up steep hills? Too old to take up skateboarding?
Fear not. There are other solutions to the eternal big rig traveller’s local transport conundrum. For many grey nomads, electric bikes offer the perfect easily transportable, fun, accessible, affordable and hassle-free means of exploring the area around their camp.
Advances in technology, reductions in prices, and changes to legislation have all helped e-bikes earn a space in increasing numbers of Big Lap rigs.
The ingenious machines are basically bicyles with electric motors to assist propulsion. While there are many variations within the e-bike family, all retain the ability to be pedalled by the rider.
There are currently two main options in Australia. The 200 Watt ‘throttle’ electric bike allows the rider to control it by the use of the throttle, or by pedalling to make the motor work, or by using a combination of both. It means riders may use the throttle to get started on a ride, or to go up a hill … and it also means they don’t have to pedal all of the time. Hooray! It can also be useful to have that extra throttle control in pedestrian-heavy areas such as in caravan parks or on boardwalks.
The Pedelec is a pedal assist only e-bike option. Back in 2012, the Federal Government increased the allowable motor size for these bikes from 200 to 250 Watts, as long as top speed was limited to 25 km/h. Many pedal assist bikes allow you to select different levels of assistance, depending on how energetic you are feeling and how daunting the terrain you are about to cross is. As the Pedelec is pedalling only, the bike tends to have more range than those where throttle use is a temptation.
E-bikes use rechargeable batteries and, as a very rough guide, a standard 9 amp hour (Ah) battery provides a range of 30-40kms. A flat battery will take 2-4 hours to charge.
Although there are a wide variety of e-bike frames available, the space restrictions in caravans and motorhomes means folding bikes are particularly popular with nomads.
The huge divergence in the features, quality, accessories and warranty offered on e-bikes means prices can range from less than $1,000 up to several thousand dollars. As with all things though, you tend to get what you pay for … and it’s well worth conducting thorough research, closely analysing your needs, and buying from an established and reputable source.