EBIKES: OUR JOURNEY SO FAR
We made the decision pretty early on in our travel planning that if we did the camper van gig, we wanted eBikes as well. We've now done about 400km on the bikes, and below are our thoughts so far.
We've ridden eBikes a few times in the past when travelling (in Cambodia, Australia, Czech to name a few) and loved the experience. I wouldn't go as far as to say we are unfit, but gym visits don't often appear on our schedule (or ever). We find eBikes provide most of the benefits of bikes, being able to go where you please, be active and travel at greater speeds and distances than on foot, however, they provide the added bonus of increasing the distance we are able to travel in a day without (most of the time) arriving at destinations sweaty and exhausted. We've already done 60km rides in one day and, short of a few steep climbs, have barely broken a sweat. The main goal of the bikes for us is not fitness, rather convenience and accessibility, so they were an easy decision to make.
Why Rad Rhinos?
This decision was a tough one for us. Like their non-electric counterparts, there are so many options out there for the consumer when it comes to buying an eBike. An internet search will bring up endless styles and configurations (and prices) to choose between. Rad Rhino is made by a Seattle Based company who have set up shop in Europe (Utrecht, Netherlands). Their US model is called the Rad Rover, and their EU model the Rad Rhino. The nuts and bolts of the bikes are the same (as far as I am aware). Same battery, same motor, same frame, with the EU model featuring a few additions to make it a touch more 'European' - ie. a cargo rack and fenders. I won't discuss in detail the features of the bikes as this can all be found on their websites (links below) but I will share some of the reasons we love them and some of the challenges we've had thus far taking bikes on the road.
What we love so far on the bikes:
The bikes just feel really good. With so many components in an eBike, there is potential for it to feel like everything is going to fall off. These bikes do not feel this way at all and when riding them they feel well constructed. We've had no issues whatsoever with the bikes that can't be fixed within a 30 second time frame and the supplied toolkit.
This is new to us. Australia unfortunately has some of the tightest eBike regulations around, and bikes featuring a throttle are generally a no-no. The Rad Rhino features a hand throttle which powers the motor allowing for non-pedalled use of the bike. We don't frequently use this while coasting, but it comes in hugely handy when starting off from a stationary position, particularly at lights and in traffic where you don't want to worry about foot pedalling and can focus on navigating. It's also an absolute blast if you feel like being lazy and getting that 'motorbike' feel.
A huge draw card for us was the 750w power the bikes put out. When riding in the Netherlands or Belgium, we didn't really put the power to much use but as we headed to the south of France and Spain, it became apparent how important this power would be. Rolling hills which traditionally would have us hopping off our bikes and walking with them (we had to do this a lot when cycling Burgandy on 'regular' bikes) became well within our grasp and we were able to cruise long distances without stopping, travelling on all terrains.
The fat tyres
These are a double edged sword (you'll see why below) but we do love them. The 4 inch fat tyres are huge. Much bigger than we even imagined them being but the added fun and comfort is pretty awesome. These tyres comfortably cruise on all terrain. They’re particularly beneficial for cobbled streets that would send jolts to your core on a traditional bike. We've taken them seriously off road and have loved the way they adapt to any environment.
Our challenges so far
The fat tires (again)
While the fat tires are awesome, they were a bit of a pain to start off with. Our van rack has a Fiamma Lift rack with two bike rails. The weight limit of the rack is 60kg, which the bikes without the battery fall under no problem. However, the racks and straps are designed for traditional bike tires which these are definitely not. The rack itself costs around 700 Euro so replacing it with a specially designed fat tire rack wasn't an option we wanted to look at, so we had to make a few modifications to the rack in order to fix the bikes in safely. It wasn't hard or expensive, mainly just making use of a couple of longer pull straps. We tried attaching some plastic guttering to increase the channel size, but found this actually made the bikes less secure. We've found just by resting them onto the channel they naturally become wedged in the gap.
Protecting from the elements
This has been a nightmarish chain of events for us. Being eBikes, protecting them from the weather is pretty important. While they are definitely water resistant and will handle a ride in the the rain, they are not (and fairly so) designed for the pressure washer equivalent spray that comes off truck tires as you drive through the rain. We've tried two covers so far to protect them from the rain, and they have been very challenging to use. The Fiamma Pro cover ripped within half an hour of driving and another, despite being made for 'four bikes' still struggles to effectively cover the bikes without the use of some tarps and 150 bungee cords. We've just ordered our third and hopefully final cover online - so stay tuned for our experiences there.