Why average speed is more important than headline grabbing top speeds when it comes to electric bikes

March 26, 2014

"The hare and the terminator"

Specialized grabbed recent electric bike headlines with the Australian launch of their Specialized Turbo electric bike. With a top speed of 45 KPH under power it is not street legal in Australia (Australian law requires all Pedal Assist electric bikes to stop helping you at 25 KPH)

So is 25 KPH fast enough for your electric bike? Hopefully this short story will help you decide.

It’s easy to get excited by top speeds on bikes both electric and non-electric. A real example was this weekend. Sam (my wife) and I took a ride into town to grab a coffee. It was only 8Kms down the road, so not a big ride by any means. Sam jumped on the electric bike and I decided I would ride in on my non-electric road bike as a comparison.

On the flat I was happy to see a steady 38 to 40 KPH when I glanced down at my speedo. The gradient then started to rise. Before I knew it I could hear Sam (aka The Terminator) approaching, and then quickly passing me as I struggled to maintain my speed up the hill.

The road started to flatten and I slowly caught and then passed Sam as I wound my speed back up to 35+KPH. But before long, the next rise appeared on the horizon and the “Terminator” struck again!

Fuelled with coffee I was determined to be first back home for the return journey. It was neck and neck at the first hill (I was climbing out of the saddle this time giving it 100% effort so as not to lose ground). Sam (The Terminator) then announced that she had to stop and tie her shoelace, but not to worry she would catch me up!

Seizing my opportunity I changed up 2 gears and put the hammer down (not very sporting I know, and certainly not in keeping with Grand Tour etiquette).

Head down, pedalling hard I was confident that I would be first back. What I hadn’t factored in was the steady head wind on the way home and could feel my speed slowly dropping. On the final hill less than 500 meters from home The Terminator struck again! We pulled into the driveway seconds apart, but worlds apart in terms of composure. I was red faced and blowing hard, whilst Sam was fresh as a daisy.

So is 25 KPH fast enough for your electric bike? If the road had been flat all the way, and had it been a still day, then there is no doubt that I would have been faster on my non-electric road bike. And that’s the point, in and around Brisbane there aren’t many totally flat suburbs, or many totally still days.

So if you are worried that 25 KPH isn’t fast enough for your electric bike, don’t be. Unless you’re a super fit racer already, you’ll find your journey times come down and your fun factor goes up every time you jump on your electric bike.

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