Electric or electric-assist bikes aren’t for everyone, but with sales up substantially all over the rest of Europe, they’re for a lot more people than they used to be.
The Puch E-Bike 8 is an electric motor assisted bike with three power assist levels (low, medium and high), three internal hub gears and lights. The gears shift automatically, and though the pedal assistance is powered by the main battery, the gear shifting and lights are powered by a front hub dynamo.
The Puch uses the Panasonic electric assist system, a well proven design, coupled to a Nexus Auto-D gear system. It works by having a motor behind and under the main crank assembly with a small sprocket on the output shaft.
When you pedal, a sensor on the crank axle determines the pedalling speed and uses the motor pulses to determine road speed. The motor essentially pulls on the bottom run of the chain, thus turning the crank as you pedal.
The ﬁrst thing most cyclists do is set off, feel the surge from the 250 watt motor, keep on pedalling, and then wonder where the assistance has gone. The simple answer is that it has detected that you’re pedalling quite quickly, so you must be doing okay by yourself and therefore you don’t need any assistance. To make the Panasonic system work with you more of the time, you simply need to pedal slower.
With the Auto-D system you don’t have manual control over the gears, but there is a handy dial you can turn to determine how soon the system changes gear for you. Turn it all the way to the plus mark and it will change gear sooner, letting you keep a lower crank rpm, and therefore have more assistance through the gears more of the time.
Even without the battery attached, the Puch is a pleasant bike to ride. It’s one of the things we feel strongly about with electric bikes – if that £250 (or more) battery dies, will you be left with something you’ll still enjoy riding? In the case of the Puch, it’s a good bike that happens to have a good pedal assist system ﬁtted to it.
And considering the rack, mudguards, Auto-D and so on, even the weight is pretty good at only just over 22kg (48.5lb). The battery took just under four-and-a-quarter hours to charge, and the best range we achieved during our testing was 64km.