The rise of e-bikes: Why this sustainable transport trend is here to stay

Claire Turnbull riding on Nelson Street Cycleway in Auckland

It’s no surprise e-bikes are surging in popularity, says Amy Prebble. You still get a good workout in the fresh air, but going uphill is effortless and you don’t arrive at work hot and sweaty.

The advantages of getting to work by bike rather than car are endless. You get to improve your health, support your immune system and reduce your carbon footprint all in one fell swoop.

Plus, leaving your car at home is a lot easier on the wallet than paying for petrol (and parking).

It’s no wonder that cycling is now the fastest growing mode of transport in several cities and towns across New Zealand. But many Kiwis still baulk at the idea of commuting by bike, believing it takes too much time, effort and, frankly, sweat.

E-bike spike

This is where e-bikes can be a game changer. They make hills achievable and distances seem shorter. They give you a boost taking off at intersections and help you avoid arriving to work soaked in sweat. And they are proving very popular.

Electrify NZ founder Michael Tritt, who owns eight electric bike stores throughout the country and also runs a distribution business that supplies a large number of independent bike stores, says the New Zealand market has grown about 25-fold in the last five years.

“Over the last financial year, we’ve doubled our sales,” he says. “The largest group of people who are buying e-bikes in New Zealand are still recreational riders, but there’s also been a long-term increase in e-bikes as a commuter option as well. That market isn’t as big as the leisure market but it’s definitely significant and growing.”

Michael says investment in cycling infrastructure makes a huge difference to whether people feel comfortable making the switch from car to bike.

“One of the main barriers to any type of biking is really perceived safety and where there is better infrastructure we definitely see better demand. The Northwestern cycleway [in Auckland], for example, is extremely popular and so we have a number of customers who are using that for a daily commute.”

Health benefits

But are e-bikes still good for you or are they just a convenient way to get around? Registered nutritionist and health expert Claire Turnbull believes that e-bikes are hugely beneficial for your general wellbeing.

“Getting to work by e-bike is definitely still a workout,” she says. “You can use the assistance or not, so it just gives you flexibility. And because you can cover greater distances, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re doing less exercise, it just allows you to go further in the same amount of time.

“There is a lot of tracking you can do on Bosch powered e-bikes, many of their on-board computers link with fitness and health apps so you can see for yourself, and the data will show, that it’s a good workout if you want it to be,” Claire says.

“I wouldn’t consider myself a natural cyclist. But with my e-bike, I can do distances I would never be able to do on a normal bike, particularly in normal work clothes. If I have to go to a meeting I still arrive not looking too shabby!

“One of the things we all need to do is make sure that we’re spending enough time outside, because exposure to natural light helps to regulate your circadian rhythm and your body clock. If you don’t get outside enough, you’re likely to struggle with your sleep, this in turn interferes with your appetite hormones. E-bikes mean that you don’t need to be an elite cyclist to enjoy all of these benefits and get to work on time. You can make your way to work in an enjoyable, healthy way.”


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