Note for an updated/ add on to this review please read my "One Year On" review. It is still useful background to read this article first.
I've been thinking about getting a new electric bike for some time now as my old ebike went well past its end of days, but I just couldn't find one that ticked all the boxes I was looking for ... until I stumbled across the Lekker E-Amsterdam 2nd Generation Commuter eBike.
It looked on paper to be the perfect bike - it looked like a well thought out and designed bike, not just a bike with a battery attached to it, and it came with an internal rear hub, a larger capacity battery (with a stated 70km range), carbon belt drive, fenders, lights, built in bike lock and racks (OK, so I had to buy those additionally, but they were all designed to work and fit together). It was exactly what I was looking for in a commuter bike when I have a round trip of around 45km per day.
So in November last year I forked out around $4000 for my pre-order bike with all the bells and whistles (including $127 for shipping and handling to Hobart) and waited for the arrival in early December.
Then the early December arrival slipped a couple of weeks, and then it slipped past Christmas to January, then it was going to come next week and finally it arrived at the Start of Februay - nearly 2 months after I ordered it.
This delay was made even more painful by the fact that a collegue at work decided to buy an eBike as well just before Christmas and three days after he made that decision he was riding around on a Giant Fastroad E+ bike which just looked gorgeous ... while I was still waiting, waiting, waiting ...
It turned up in a huge box (the delivery man had quite the grumble about how difficult it was to deliver given it had no handles) but true to Lekker's promise it was largely put together with the only things I needed to do were take off a lot of wrapping, add pedals and front lights and take lots of protective covering off the bike.
So I've now taken it for a few commutes into town, and here's first impressions (the good and the bad). I intend to write a follow up article in a few months to see what I get used to and what I don't.
- Size - I am 185cm tall and I went for the 58cm frame (after much agonising). I'm not sure if I made the right choice yet as first impressions are that the riding style is very upright (which is a positive as if I'd gone for the 54cm frame it would be too upright) but the top bar is ridiculously high compared to any other bike I own and I have to lean it to the side to get onto it comfortably (big negative).
- Gear Changes - I'm going straight to this one as it is currently the biggest negative by far for me. Like any bike, as you approach a hill you have to get the fine line right between changing down the gears, and doing this before you need to put to much pressure on the gear change. This just doesn't seem to work on the Lekker and I have now had to walk up three hills that I have never walked up in my life on a normal bike. So what happens? I hit the bottom of the hill in say gear 6, with power on 3 or 4. I then ease off on the pedalling and change down a gear, but because the electric engine is still providing power it can take a second or so before you feel the gear actually change down. On steeper hills with more power (4 or 5) I have found that I literally can't change down gears until the bike has come to a stand still, and in a few of these occasions when I then pedal, for some reason the power doesn't come in and I can't generate enough power to keep going. I'm discussing with Lekker whether I have a faulty bike or whether this is what all electric assist with nexus internal hubs do, but it is a real negative for me as I am finding myself having to change into really small gears, really early to get up a hill.
- Lights (Spanninga) - the rear light seems pretty weak, but I haven't had the chance to try it in the dark yet. The front light looks OK for making me visible, though I'm not so sure how it will go in winter when I need to be able to see 20 or 30 metres in front of me on dark roads in Tassie. We'll see. The thing that really annoyed me with the lights is that I couldn't figure out how to turn them on. I searched Lekker's and Spanninga's website online, I googled it, and couldn't find anything telling me how to do it. Eventually an email to Lekker and I found I just need to hold the "+" power key for a few seconds to turn the lights on and off.
- Seat - This one is a jury out for me. I hated it on the first couple of rides as it felt very squishy, but I am now getting used to it. I did want to move it back a bit as even with the 58cm frame I find the position a bit too upright, however it is already as far back as allowed (not sure how taller people would go). I think I will be looking at installing a longer stem, maybe even an adjustable one as I am finding that I am more over the top of the pedals than I am used to from my other bikes and this is putting more weigtht on my hands.
- Power Assist - The big positive. I am loving the power assist. It has five settings and I do most of my riding in power setting "3" which still means I get some exercise and have to do some work, and the fact that power assist cuts out at 25km/hr means that on the flats I am actually doing quite a bit of work. I then flick the bike up into "4" or "5" when I get to longer, steeper hills (of which there are three on my ride into work). It is really easy to change power settings and overall it is making a ride, which given my current fitness I would stuggle to do, very managable. I do get overtaken on the flat cycle path by roadies and those on electric bikes which haven't been speed limited, but I am keeping up with and overtaking those same riders on the hills. My ride home (23kms) is taking me about 50 minutes and I am getting a good workout. This is about the same as I was doing the ride when I was at my fittest (and I am far from my fittest now). By comparison, the drive + walk or drive + ride in peak conditions is probably around 35-40 minutes so this is a good way for me to get exercise.
- Battery Life - A key reason I chose the 2nd Generation E-Amsterdam was that it came with the option of the Samsung 14.5Ah battery (+$300) which had a reported range of 70km. I should say I also bought a second battery charger (+$88) to keep at work just in case. So far, the jury is out on this one. On two of the rides, I have only used up 2 of the 8 bars of battery, but on 2 others I have used up half the battery charge riding just 23kms, and I can't figure out the reason for they wide variance in battery use ... time will tell on this one.
- Battery Charging Cap - this is one of those small things which is really frustrating me: I just find that the cap on the samsung battery is really hard to get off and put back on. In one case it took me what felt like forever to get my fingernail under the cap to lift it up so I could plug the charger in, and once I got so frustrated trying to put the cap back on that I just rode off without it on. I'm hoping there is some trick to this that I just haven't figured out, but at the moment, not liking it.
- Tyres and Fenders - So first thing firsts - this is the first bike I have ever owned with fenders, so what may be annoying me may just be normal and I may get used to it, but two things that are niggling at me with the fenders is that the front fender keeps moving to the left so isn't aligned with the tyre and I have to keep pushing it to the right, but more importantly I have two small gravel sections on my ride and the tyres really seem to pick up the smaller stones and so I get a lot of grating as the stones get stuck between the fenders and the tyres. It happens a lot. I have just ordered a couple of Rene Herse Snoqualmie Pass (700C x 44) tyres for ths bike both to see if this fixes this rock problem and also because the ride on the bike is very rough and I'm hoping this might smooth it out a bit.
- Racks - I've put one of my Ortlieb Panniers on the rear rack and that seems to be going well. I installed the front rack, but have now thrown that away as a waste of money for two reason - one it slopes forward when installed which I really don't like, but also because I've had to take the bike in my car twice and as the front tyre can't be removed it is a really heavy and difficult bike to get in the back of the SUV and a front rack would make that impossible.
- Carbon Drive Chain - so far so good. Time will be the test on this one.
- AXA Defender + Plug-in Chain Combination (+$108) - so far I am really liking the wheel lock. I haven't really need to use it, but I've always like the idea of a quick and easy way of preventing bike theft this way and although they are heavy, it is going well.
This is the battery cap - very hard to get both on and off.
So where am in my ebike thinking after the first week of riding ...
There's lots of niggles with this bike which are annoying me - the gear changing up hills in particular, but right now - I've still got a smile on my dial and I'm typing this on a Sunday excited about the fact that come Monday I will be jumping back on my bike, not my car, for the ride into work, and that's a big tick from me.