UPDATE October 7, 2022
This blog post has proved more popular than I expected at the time of writing (in January 2021), with many views and comments below. Thought I'd add a quick update on things since I wrote it. On the one hand I bought another Riese & Müller eBike - this time a MultiCharger Mixte for my wife. She wanted a step through the frame to make it easier for her to wear a skirt/dress on her eBike and she loves it. That evening we picked it up:
She opted for the rear seat kit so the kids could sit on it (not that often as they don't think it's very cool!) but has tremendous carrying capacity and the updated front luggage rack is a lot well helpful with more space and heavier carrying capacity compared to the SuperCharger 2 we originally got. This comes with a single 750w battery, an Enviolo hub gear and a Gates carbon belt drive (although it's not a high-speed motor).
I continue to follow month to month usage of the car, the SuperCharger 2 and have now added the MultiCharger Mixte. I'm happy how we managed to go from two cars to one and significantly increase eBike usage.
Finally, I finally got my hands on a bike with a Rohloff hub and it's brilliant. I talk below towards the end of the original post about my preference to have a Rohloff on the SuperCharger 2 to maximize the value of the HighSpeed Bosch motor, and finally I have one - but this time on a non-electric gravel bike!
When the update is done, back to the original post:
I've wanted to write this for a long time, but didn't have the time. Now on January 2nd 2021 on vacation at the beach I thought it would be a good opportunity to write this down. It might get a little long, so I've broken it down into sections so you can jump to what interests you most:
- My interest in bikes
- eBike selection - find the right one for me
- What's next?
My interest in bikes
I have always loved riding my bike and used to ride my bike to school from a young age. I have a clear childhood memory of about 7 years old when I was first allowed to ride my bike the 500m or so to my local elementary school. I was so used to walking home after school that I did just that, and it wasn't until I got home that I realized I'd left my precious bike in the bike shed at school! What followed was a nervous run back to school hoping it hadn't been stolen but luckily it was still there, waiting for me. As I got older, biking to high school and gym training was the norm—I remember the chilly mornings and inky black nights driving home in the rain. Then I cycle to university and to work – I've always been a cyclist!
When I first started having disposable income, I explored other types of bikes and my first, less common, purchase was onePashley Roadster Sovereign, affectionately known as the “King of the Road”.
So many things appealed to me about this bike:
- The more upright driving style
- Dynamo hub in the front wheel that powers the front lamp (I quickly swapped out the incandescent bulb for a much brighter LED that contained a capacitor that stopped the light when I stopped at an intersection
- Hub gears and drum brakes – all things that have reduced component maintenance because while Ilove bikesI'm not very good at fixing them!
- TheBrooks-Sattel– Super comfortable for longer rides
- Built in "cafe lock" to easily secure the bike for a quick trip to a shop
In fact, I loved the bike so much that I ended up buying a one to matchPashley Princess Sovereignfor my wife on our 10th wedding anniversary:
Having constantly received many compliments on my bike, I briefly entertained the idea of importing some Pashley wheels from China, but after bringing back a few samples I realized that at the lower price point the build quality wouldn't be great Cycling experience for everyone.
A few years later I started racing and got a great offer for aCannondale-Synapsewith Shimano UItegra components and have done some longer (and faster) rides:
I had never paid much attention to the emerging eBike phenomenon until late 2019 when a bunch of friends started getting eMTB's and riding further and harder than ever. My parents bought a pairSpecialized Comoand like me, my dad loves to research purchases like this and he was determined to buy an eBike with an 'internal' battery - something built into the frame and not attached to the outside like an eyesore. This literally opened my eyes to the rapid development of eBikes and I started to think seriously about it.
eBike selection - find the right one for me
I started watchinga lotof YouTube videos on various eBike reviews and became a regular viewer ofChris Nolte's YouTube channel- he foundeddrive bicyclesand makes excellent videos and I've heard that I've learned about the different possibilities of eBikes.
From my previous cycling I had a lot of experience with traditional derailleur and chain drivetrains, some experience with internal gear hubs from my Pashley but now I've learned of options likeGates carbon belt drivesAndRohloff hubsand it helped me to find a selection criterion for an eBike:
- Internal batteries were non-negotiable.
- While I was pleased to see the ever-growing number of eBikes hitting the streets, I have to admit that the look of bolt-on battery backs was a departure. I wanted an eBike to look good and disguise the power source
- Versatility - the bike had to do "more" than just get me from A to B.
- I had been toying with the idea of seeing if our family could be a "one car family," something we had never been since the birth of our first child. It seemed an ambitious goal as parents of four children between the ages of 9 and 17. Consequently, an eBike had to be able to carry groceries and other “stuff”, bags to work/school and possibly even a younger child on the back.
- Low maintenance components.
- As mentioned, I really enjoy riding bikes, but I'm not a genius when it comes to fixing them. Buying a bike that would cover long distances without regular maintenance was tempting.
- Relatively upright driving style.
- If I had any hope of getting my wife on board with the idea of being a “one car family” then she would need to be able to eBike too and she was now completely used to the upright style of her Pashley and would never go back to a more aggressive mountain bike/commuter style riding position
- Speed limits - the faster the better.
- New Zealand is fortunate in that we have fewer restrictions when it comes to eBikes than many other countries, however most major brands have introduced models that reduce assistance at 28 or 32 km/h. Since I could comfortably ride my Cannondale at 30 km/h, I was interested in eBike models that can support up to 45 km/h
Although eBikes were becoming increasingly popular, I quickly realized that my selection criteria would likely narrow my choices significantly, but I was reluctant to compromise on what I felt were features that would ensure I got out and rode this bike whenever ( andwherever) possible.
This was the first eBike that met most of the criteriaTrek / Electra Café Moto Go. My research showed me that Electra was an independent bike company that built fun and comfortable rides and was acquired by Trek, which increased its distribution and support, but still stuck to Electra's original vision.
I test rode this bike 2-3x and liked it a lot. The innerNo Nuvinci Enviolopaired with theGates Carbon-Riemenantriebwas super plush and quiet, the relaxed riding position although not quite upright was fun to ride, it had a Brooks saddle and built-in lighting (although the lamp at the front was more show than function I found). Frustratingly, Trek only brought the 20 mph model to New Zealand (45 mph was sold in the US) and since it couldn't carry bags, it wasn't a starter for anything more than a great fun bike.
I then turned to themGiant and Muller Multicharger, inspired by videos like this one where people gave up their cars in favor of the Multicharger:
I realized pretty quickly that Riese and Müller eBikes are very customizable, so I can tick practically all the boxes of my selection criteria - for one price! Yes, they cost the price of a small car, but I thought it might endsubstituteThe second car, which I quickly realized, wasn't driven all that often. I have shown my two younger children how to get on their backs for short rides... but they flatly refused to be seen dead on the back of any eBike I might buy!
I looked at themBenno Boost-E, described as an "eTility" bike, a "do it all" hybrid of sorts, and again Chris from Propel Bikes and his great videos were there to influence me every step of the way with his conversation with the founder of Benno-Bikes:
The configurations of the Benno Boost were really impressive:
But again, my strict selection criteria began to limit me, as the Benno only came with a traditional derailleur and chain, and it was also speed-limited to 20mph. I began to wonder if I would need to compromise on some aspects of my selection criteria, but just as New Zealand's COVID-19 lockdown restrictions were beginning to lift, I got in touch with the teamChristchurch Electric Bikesand with my wife in tow, I set out for some test drives.
As luck (or fate) would have it, the team had a pair of Riese and Müller eBikes out front and ready for a test ride: theCompressor 2in the color Matte Curry and aSuperDelite. The SuperCharger 2 had Nuvinci's Enviolo drivetrain and belt drive, while the Delite had traditional derailleur gears.
The test rides were great – see the section below – and Riese and Müller really make the Mercedes of eBikes. We rode a pair of Benno Boosts afterwards, and while they are nice bikes, they just didn't quite match the R&M's riding experience despite being significantly more affordable.
One downside to Riese & Muller bikes is that they operate a 'build to order' model and COVID19 has only exacerbated wait times, stretching to almost 6 months in some cases. The great team ofChristchurch Electric Bikesmade me a deal on the floorstanding model of the SuperCharger2 that was used for test drives and it came home with me...
Thoughts on the Riese & Muller Supercharger 2
It was late May 2020 when I bought the Supercharger2 and have since taken it on many adventures with more planned. I wrote a blog and took some cool photos around Tekapo –watch it here
Although I had spoken of becoming a one car family, a situation arose with some family friends that resulted in us lending them our second car, so we're trying to have just one car now since September to have, and three months later it's going well. Given the significant price tag associated with each Riese and Muller bike, I needed to be able to calculate the return on investment (ROI), so I tracked the vehicles' odometer on the 1st of each month:
A few notes on the above vehicle usage:
- We bought the eBike for the winter – not the best time to ride in Christchurch due to rain and frost, but we still accumulated use, averaging 282 km/month with a peak in December 2020 of 392 km. I'm curious to see how that changes when we get into the summer months.
- Due to COVID19 I now work almost entirely from home and have virtually no domestic travel and as of January 2020 no international travel. The "need" for a second car to get me to the airport is currently significantly reduced, minimizing the impact of not having a second vehicle
- Although we have loaned the Prado to friends, the eBike has comfortably covered more miles than the car (which mostly sat in the garage or teaching my eldest daughter how to drive).
- My wife drives the SuperCharger2 to work (2-3 days a week) so it works quite well as a "commuter" albeit for short distances.
- We boughtOrtlieb Back Roller City Pannierson the eBike from the Christchurch Electric Bikes team and these were excellent for groceries and comfortably held $200 of groceries. Rainproof, they were a great investment and I plan to use them more for bikepacking adventures as well.
- Having recently moved house, I've used the SuperCharger2 to collect and bring home a variety of DIY items and other goods - it's proven to be exceptionally versatile.
- Christchurch isveryflat, but I took the SuperCharger2 sidewaysSummit Road circuita couple of times totaling around 650m over 50km and sections with 15% gradients which it managed admirably.
Given the winter months it wasn't ideal weather for longer trips far afield but in December my wife and I completed the tripLittle River Rail Trailtogether on the SuperCharger2 and a Specialized Como borrowed from my mom. Starting/finishing in the township of Lincoln, this was a distance of ~80km, right on the absolute limit of the Como's battery, while the SuperCharger2 indicated a remaining range of 109km!
Pros and cons of the Riese & Muller Supercharger2
I'm writing this with 6-7 months of experience on the bike now and I'll admit I'm a huge fan. This isn't an exhaustive list as there are other blogs and reviews, but this is from my personal experience:
- Battery life
- With 2 x 500Wh batteries housed internally, there's no need for "range anxiety" - this bike will get you where you need to go and you'll love getting there. I believe the newer versions have a 625wh battery in the down tube so you now have even more range.
- Integrated lighting
- A very bright always-on front LED and a clever rear light that gets brighter when you brake (by illuminating an extra LED) helps you feel safer on the road and means worry-free night-time cycling as you never turn off your lights be forgotten! I actually tilt the headlight up a bit when cycling during the day so oncoming vehicles can definitely see the full effect of the headlight
- Integrated lock
- The SuperCharger2 comes with theFaltschloss Abus 6000 Bordoand is locked with the same lock as the two batteries, so you can conveniently secure your bike (and the batteries if you wish to remove them) at any time). While the Folding Lock 6000 is great, the circumference is smaller than traditional chain/cable locks, so it sometimes takes clever thinking to attach it to an immovable object.
- driving comfort
- This is of course very subjective, but the geometry of the bike, the adjustability of the handlebars, theThudBuster seat post, Schwalbe tires work together for a great ride. As the bike weighs over 30kg there is a lot of bike pushing but it never feels like a chore given the comfort of the ride. My wife, who drives it to work, to the shops and to visit friends, is the best proof of this - if it was even remotely uncomfortable, she would take the car!
- Powertrain and components
- Again, the Supercharger2 is a premium eBike with a price to match, but all components are excellent and met my selection criteria. Mine came with the Gates Belt Drive, the Nuvinci Enviolo Hub and theBosch Performance Speedline Gen4- pretty much everything I wanted!
- After riding some eBikes that skip at 28 km/h or 32 km/h, I initially thought that might be ok. However, once I rode eBikes that could reach 45 km/h, I could never look back. TheBosch Performance Speedline Gen4is an absolute marvel of technology. Combined with the belt drive and Enviolo it's virtually silent and you can sit in the mid 30kph range with ease.
- Versatility & Utility
- As mentioned above, we carried everything from groceries in the Ortlieb panniers to tools and household items on the front rack. If you think “eBike first” when it comes to your means of transport, nothing is impossible: I even took our vacuum cleaner with me when we moved, very much under the curious eyes of the passing cars. Once you start cycling to more places, you will realizeHow much traffic is actually on the streets!Driving up into traffic saves so much time and being able to park right in front of the shop instead of walking out of the lot is fantastic.
- Choice based on effort
- It might be a small thing, but when I want to go somewhere and don't want to be hot or sweaty at all, maxing out on turbo gets me there quick and fresh. When I want to push myself and feel like I've ridden my bike, Eco allows me to build some muscle and feel like I've had a good bike ride.
- fun factor
- Every time I ride this bike I enjoy it. I grin, I'm happy, I feel good at my destination. From a mental health and wellbeing perspective, cycling is great and getting there faster and fresher is the icing on the cake. It's a pleasure to drive - I can't stress that enough.
- This is by no means a cheap bike. I can justify it as a vehicle replacement (and it has performed brilliantly as our second vehicle in almost 4 months) and it's made of top quality components, but it's still a lot of money. by saying thisI want to ride this bike every day– there's nothing that makes me feel like I've compromised on my selection criteria and it's just as fun to drive now as it was when I bought it. But it's still onemuchmoney for a bike!
- I bought the floor model with the Nuvinci Enviolo Hub, which has a reported 380 degree gear range. It's great, but I've found it doesn't have high enough gears to sit comfortably at 45km/h without requiring a very high cadence. Also, and this may be a personal preference, I don't like the grip shifter for shifting - I realize you can't have traditional shifters with a CVT hub as there are no indexed gears, but for me spinning the shifter is Tires. On the other hand, the Enviolo is virtually maintenance free and a master class in engineering (if I had my time again, I would choose that oneRohloff e14 Speedhubfor a larger gear range but still housed internally)
- North of 30 kg is this onedifficultbike – two internally housed batteries take care of that for you. While this weight there is amuchStability when riding at high speeds which inspires confidence in mixed terrain, moving the bike into position for park/lock requires a little muscle power. In addition, putting the bike on a bike rack on the car for transport is a tall order, usually requiring two people to avoid scratching the bike or car. If you are a smaller person, this would probably be beyond your limits.
- I bought a bike with the intention of being as low maintenance as possible and after a winter and spring ride it has proven to be just that. However, anticipating longer trips with camping in mind, I decided that in the event of a puncture or puncture, I needed to be able to change the rear tire myself. Disconnecting was easy according to a youtube video but reconnecting the gear cables proved tricky and I ended up needing some help from the great team atChristchurch Electric Bikes. I'm sure it was all my fault and I'll get better with practice, but it's not as easy as a traditional derailleur bike.
I can't really think of many other cons - I really like this bike!
My kids joke that eBikes have become my passion and a topic I'll be talking to anyone about anytime, and there's probably some truth to that. I have a few friends who are passionate about the environment and see any initiative to reduce car traffic on the road as a good thing. While this isn't my primary driver for getting into eBikes, I can see the benefits and when you add up the numbers of ever owning a second car again, the ROI for our family looks dubious. I signed upZilch(eCar Ridesharing Company in NZ) for occasions when I really need a second vehicle and there is a pick up zone about 800m from my house so easy collection point.
I have plans for some bikepacking adventures on the SuperCharger2 which seems to be the next step now that summer is here. TheWest Coast Wilderness Trailis a great starting candidate the way he isTasmans Great Taste Trail. Also, I gotBikepacking New Zealandfrom the Kennett Brothers for Christmas to feed the inspiration.
As mentioned above, I don't think I would buy an eBike that couldn't provide pedal assistance up to 45 km/h now that I have tried and enjoyed this speed and convenience of getting around and to best support this, would I really want a Rohloff Speedhub with its higher gear range:
Which puts me in a bit of a tricky position: it would be great to go on these adventures with a second person (wife, kid, friend), but given my rather narrow selection criteria, it's a luxury for me to be able to afford a second eBike, this one Meets requirements at the moment!
However, I believe that as eBikes become even more widely adopted, prices will come down, and I personally believe that more governments will consider expanding EV subsidies beyond cars to include eBikes as well –something this article from the newsNotes on. Certainly, EVs are beyond most people's budgets, while eBikes have a wider price range and lower entry point.
If you've made it this far you're a bit of a hero (or an eBike tragician like me) so I congratulate you and trust you're enjoying your ride as much as I have. Feel free to leave any questions in the comments below and I will answer!