Get on your e-bike

It’s Sunday and it’s rainy, windy and cold in Sydney. Normally I’d rug up and stay inside. But I’m out and about, riding a pedal-assist electric bike, conducting this review. The showers at the start get heavy en route. There is no rest for the wicked, and even less rest for the very wicked.

I pedal along the designated bike roads and dedicated paths from my apartment at Alexandria, in Sydney’s inner west, to The Australian’s office at Surry Hills.

But I’m upbeat. Riding up a particular hill at Redfern on a regular pushbike normally is hard work. On this e-bike riding is easy despite the headwind and squalls of rain.

This isn’t a moped or motorbike. You don’t operate pedal-assist and pedelec bikes with a hand throttle. Instead they have small electric motors that cut in as you pedal to make it easier. It’s as if someone at the back of the bike is pushing you along. Electric motor support stops when you attain a certain speed, typically 25km/hr by law.

This particular e-bike, a China-made Nishiro NRG II, is sold in Australia by and through eBay. It’s relatively cheap at $600-$800. While it is comfortable to ride, it lacks some of the power and responsiveness that other more expensive e-bikes have. But it does the job.

Quality pedal-assist e-bikes can cost you $4000 and can be a tad more zippy. But we made a decision to initially buy the cheaper one to see if we will become regular users. I’ll then feel it justifiable to shell out a few thousand dollars for a top-line one.

This bike requires some initial assembly. These days you don’t tighten nuts and bolts uniformly as one did years ago. Instead you use a torque wrench to tighten them to specific torque settings. These are expensive instruments, and typically cost more than $100, depending on quality. It is something you should budget for.

I also chose to spend $100 more and have the bike checked thoroughly by my trusted local bike shop before we started riding. I didn’t want any prospect of the bike falling apart when I or my stepdaughter are on the road.

There are lots of factors that determine the cost of an e-bike, as with any bike.

There’s the general quality of components, for starters.

And there’s where the motor resides. Mid-drive motors drive the crank and can make use of the bikes gears. Many bike sites regard them as more powerful.

You can hire Ford electric bikes on the street in San Francisco

Alternatively, the motor can be located inside one of the wheels. Some claim these motors are less powerful and wear out faster. The NRG II has a hub motor on the back wheel.

I saw a very novel version of a hub motor e-bike at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January called Electron Wheel. The manufacturer claims you can convert an ordinary bike into an e-bike in 30 seconds, using the quick-release mechanism to change the front wheel.

There’s the quality of the battery and ease of charge. The NRG II claims 800 charge-discharge battery cycles. We shall see. Some bikes allow you to remove the battery and charge it separately. You can leave your bike in the garage. Others like this cheapie have non-removable batteries. It’s a more complex process to replace them at end of life, and the whole bike has to be near a power point for charging.

Then there’s the brakes. The NRG II has disc brakes, and there’s front wheel suspension to lessen the impact of road bumps.

I tried several e-bikes recently, including an Australian built Velectrix Urban 2.0+ which looks an excellent option if you’re prepared to pay $1500 to $2000. It has a removable battery, a cited range of up to 60km and a recharge time of 3-4 hours. I found the Velectrix very responsive. The motor kicked in as I started.

In contrast, the NRG II takes up to eight hours to recharge. Still, that can be achieved overnight, and with a 40km range, I am not needing to recharge more than weekly.

Tech review for the I T section

There’s lots that I like about the budget NRG II, such as the comprehensive and amply illustrated 26-page manual. There’s five levels of pedal-assistance, a push-button electric horn and headlight that are linked to the battery, and a cruise-controlled feature that seeks to maintain the current speed at the press of a ­button.

There is also walk-assist. The electric motor kicks in to propel the bike slowly when you’re, say, walking it up a hill.

The motor isn’t as responsive as the Velectrix. It kicks in slowly as you go.

But it does the job of getting me from A to B effortlessly.

The NRG II lets me enjoy a mild workout. I monitored my trips to and from work with a Fitbit. I achieved a maximum speed of just under 26km/hr, with a heart rate of up to 140 bpm. My resting heart rate is around 57 bpm. But I’m no longer hot and sweaty from commute bike rides.

In the end, I think pedal-assist bikes are a great idea. Although they are not widely adopted yet, I believe they will become more popular as prices decrease.

Overseas, e-bikes are starting to appear as a city bike hire option. I saw several of them available for short-term hire in the pavement bike racks in San Francisco recently.

We’re also starting to see solar-powered e-bikes such as the Kvaern solar powered e-bike, an Indiegogo start-up project. Electric bikes powered by hydrogen fuel cells are also on the horizon.

Even if you’re not a dedicated cyclist, a pedal assist bike might tempt you, as it has me.

Nishiro NRG II 27.5-inch electric bike
Price: $600-800
Rating: 7/10

Commuting to work on a pedal assist e-bike

Published in The Australian newspaper.

Posted in Reviews.


  1. Hi Chris, Re your Nishiro NRG II 27.5-inch electric bike
    Do you have any idea as to have to change the battery? Ther is no infomation in the manual or the Mytopiastore website.
    The battery only has 800 cycle charges so if it can’t be changed that’s the end of the ebike. I called Mytopoia and they were unable to assist (didnt even seem to be aware of the issue).
    Also who is the battery manufacturer??
    NB There is currently a 20% off ebay offer which expires today:

    $640 plus freight

    • I don’t know how to change it except to say take photos of the contacts on the current battery before disconnecting it. I will be coming up to do this too & will get back in contact with you. Cheers.

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