I’ve got a pet theory that a drop bar road bike with a side order of motorised assistance could be the ultimate long-distance commuter, and I’ve put it to the test using Giant’s Road-E+.
This article was updated on 5 July 2017 with video.
E-bike versus… bus
I used to live about 13 miles from the BikeRadar office and I rode in fairly frequently. Last year, I moved to a house about 21 miles away and I’ve become more or less fully dependent on public transport because I’m lazy, and because riding — and the associated faff with kit and showering — just takes too long.
Drop it like it’s hot
Road-going e-bikes that actually resemble road bikes are still a very small niche, with just a handful of models on the market, of which the Giant Road-E+ is one. It is essentially a nicely specced aluminium road bike with a tidily integrated Yamaha motor unit and a huge battery.
On the e-bike, despite still travelling a good bit slower than the cars, I felt a whole lot safer. Putting in a fairly moderate effort, I was able to cruise up the gradient without getting out of the saddle or breaking a sweat.
Twenty five kay pee aitch
This is the third time I’ve written about the Road-E+ and once again it all comes back to the damned limiter. The fact is, 25km/h (15.5mph) is too slow for a road bike. It’s not an issue if your riding is all hills, but it’s genuinely irritating on mostly-flat roads.
I found myself tending to ride just slightly faster than the limiter a lot of the time, and then I’d ease, get a blip of power from the motor, speed up again, and then lose the assistance. Rinse and repeat.
It’s something you can certainly get used to but, a bit like driving an older automatic car, it’s a case of adapting to the behaviour of the machine rather than simply doing what feels natural.
Home, home on the range
As with electric cars, one of the major concerns for e-bikes is range, but it certainly wasn’t an issue for me.
I made absolutely no effort to preserve the battery, riding almost exclusively in the maximum-assistance Power mode, and a day’s commuting (roughly 68km or 42 miles) left me with 46 percent remaining charge according to the head unit.
Verdict — Road-E+ but not roadie?
So is a drop bar e-bike the ultimate long distance commuter? Yes, but no.
I’m still absolutely convinced about e-bikes’ potential as commuters generally, and a world where people choose to ride them instead of taking their cars everywhere would be a whole lot more pleasant. I don’t care if they’re considered ‘cheating’ by roadie purists — they’re a viable form of transport with some very real advantages.
The Road-E+’s ability to flatten hills while doing a passable impression of a road bike is genuinely pleasing, but you’ll certainly never forget that you’re riding something that’s fundamentally quite different to a normal bicycle.
An e-bike with drop bars that’s road legal in the UK is not ideal for a long flat commute, because a lot of the time the motor and battery will be dead weight, unless you make a conscious effort to ride really slowly.
If your commute involves serious hills or your fitness is low enough that 15.5mph doesn’t feel rather slow on a road bike, there’s a strong case to be made. For my purposes however, a bike costing this much money would be very difficult to justify for commuting.
There are of course people out there who have hacked their e-bikes to raise or even completely remove the limiter. I can’t condone this however it’s not legal and it could land you in seriously hot water in the event of an accident.
It’s a shame because even an increase to 18mph would make a huge difference to the riding experience, but it is what it is.
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