Tips & Tech
Should I have disk brakes? Other brakes?
The short answer is: it depends.
There is an often made claim that for raw stopping power and all-round practicality, disk brakes are best. In reality, however, any type of braking system can stop your bike, and the best choice for you may not be a disc brake.
There are several different types of braking systems on the market (and, within each type, there are differences between the various brands and models). The various brakes will have their own features. But if we step outside the spec sheets for a moment, you will see that choosing a suitable brake for you will depend greatly on what you use your bike for. And that's not all.
Whether you are comparing callipers with disc brakes, or anything else, a properly-tuned brake will beat a poorly tuned brake, hands down, any day of the week. Therefore, it is not only a matter of choosing a certain type of brake: the single most important thing is to keep your brakes well maintained, whatever brake you have. And, of course, your stopping power will also be affected by variables like your tires and the conditions on the ground.
With all this in mind, we wrote this little article to answer a few FAQs simultaneously. You might be shopping for a bike (should you get the one with disc brakes or the other one?). You might be considering upgrading or servicing your brakes (we've included some useful tips along the way). Or you might just like reading things. Whatever it is, here are our thoughts. Needless to say, if you want any more guidance from people who know and love bikes, please contact us!
Here we go!
You may recall the humble coaster brake (also known as a pedal brake) from your early childhood. This brake works on the back wheel when you push the pedals backwards. It has excellent stopping power, is virtually maintenance free, and visually unobtrusive. These brakes are an excellent choice for a leisurely bike used for commuting or pleasure. Because the mechanism is enclosed, it is not affected by rain and does not produce the black brake grime you might see on rim brakes.
If your ride involves long fast descents, this is not the best brake for you – the coaster brake's design provides less heat dissipation than other systems, meaning the brake can overheat during prolonged hard use.
Drum brakes, M-brakes and roller brakes
Drum brakes, M-brakes and roller brakes all belong to the same family of brakes and work on the same principle. The braking mechanism is enclosed in a low-profile drum attached to the hub, and the brake comes on when you pull the brake-lever with your fingers. Similarly to a coaster brake, the mechanism is low-maintenance, largely weather-proof, and clean. Unlike a coaster brake, it can be used on both the front and back wheels. This system is perfect for leisurely urban use, and is popular on classic European bikes. Some brake models offer heat dissipating fins, making them better suited for heavy-duty braking. For harder braking, this system requires more force to be applied to the lever as compared to other systems (those with smaller hands or arthritis for example may find this difficult).
Rim brakes: V-brakes, Cantilever Brakes and Calliper Brakes
V-brakes, cantilevers and callipers all work by applying friction to the braking surface of the bike’s wheel. All of these systems have some excellent advantages. To work at their best, these brakes require a clean and straight braking surface (rim), good pads, and periodic adjustment. Good quality cables and compressionless cable housing will improve things too.
If you are a heavy user, you may find that you go through brake pads quickly. For pure bliss, consider upgrading your ‘factory’ pads to Kool Stops with replaceable cartridges. These pads last noticeably longer, give you better braking power, and are easy to change (just slip the old out of its cartridge and slip in the new one). As an added bonus, these fine quality brake pads are cleaner – meaning less 'brake grime' on your bike as the pads wear down.
V-brakes produce decent power and come in a range of models that include some ‘budget friendly’ options. This makes V-brakes popular on a wide range of bikes, from commuter bikes, to tourers, to cargo bikes. Check out the Yuba Mundo v4. These brakes will require periodic adjustment, including adjusting cable tension and brake balance, and changing pads. This is do-able for the mechanically minded, and our workshop is happy to help you with some tips.
Cantilever brakes work similarly to V-brakes. These brakes were the gold standard in the 90’s, but have since been largely supplanted with the more powerful V-brakes. Now they remain the preserve of cyclocross and some touring bikes, thanks to cantilevers’ generous tyre clearance. Keep in mind that some cantilever brakes can be trickier to adjust compared to V-brakes, due to their cabling set-up and brake pad adjustment.
In their modern incarnation, calliper brakes are powerful: easily powerful enough to lock a wheel. However, with power, these brakes also offer excellent modulation – meaning that you can control very finely just how much braking force you apply. And, as a bonus, they also look sexy. Who can argue with a Linus Dutchi?
Calliper brakes weren't always so highly regarded and, consequently, sometimes suffer from a bad rap. In days of old, manufacturers used steel rims with hard brake pads, leading to poor braking (there are, in fact, lots of these older bikes still around). Even now, some kids' bikes and very low-budget bikes use this set-up with weak callipers that flex visibly when applied. Avoid these lower-quality set-ups.
Hydraulic rim brakes
Hydraulic systems offer excellent power, and hydraulic rim brakes are especially powerful: this is because they use the radius of the entire wheel as leverage when braking, and use the entire surface of the rim for heat dissipation (hydraulic disc brakes, in contrast, make do with a brake disc, which offers a smaller braking surface and less leverage on the wheel). Using the entire rim as a braking surface also allows for excellent modulation of power. For a shining example, check out the German and wonderful Kalkhoff Jubilee.
Hydraulic rim brakes seldom require maintenance (significantly less often than cable brakes). Brake pads tend to last for a long time, and are simple to replace (clip out the old, and clip in the new). As with any hydraulic system, when the time comes for hydraulic system bleeding and adjustment, most will want to have this done by a workshop with the right experience and tools.
Disk Brakes: The Hydraulic and the Mechanical
Disc brakes work by squeezing a brake disc or rotor, which is attached to the wheel hub. Disc brakes can offer excellent stopping force, and are less affected by weather than rim brakes. Because disc brakes do not use the surface of the rim, they are not affected by wheels being out of true. This makes disc brakes an attractive choice for especially demanding conditions: long descents, all weather riding, or heavy loads. Check out the mega-powerful Magura four-piston brakes on the Bullitt cargo bike. Not all riders will require this additional power, and disc brakes on the spec sheet will add to the price of a new bike.
There are broadly two types of disc brakes: mechanical and hydraulic.
Mechanical disk brakes are activated by a cable, in similar way to a V-brake. As the brake pads wear, the brake needs to be adjusted to compensate. The lower-end models will tend to have poorer stopping power. Higher end models, such as Avid’s BB7 (for example, on the Surly Disc Trucker), are very dependable and offer very good performance.
Hydraulic disk brakes are activated by hydraulic fluid pushing from the brake lever, through the brake hose, into the brake calliper - similar to a car. There are two different types of hydraulic systems: DOT fluid and mineral oil (mineral oil systems tend to be less onerous to maintain: check out the Shimano mineral oil brakes on the Yuba Spicy Curry cargo bike). As the brake pads wear, the pistons in the brake calliper advance, thereby adjusting automatically. This eliminates a part of the regular maintenance required by cable-actuated braking systems. Nonetheless, to work their best, all disc brakes will require attention from time to time.
To work properly, disc brakes require a disc that is straight and clean. To that end, take care not let the brake disc touch anything when transporting your bike, and keep your chain lube well away from the discs. Your brake pads should ordinarily last longer than many rim brake systems, but they are a consumable part and will need to be replaced before they are gone.
When changing pads, keep in mind that compared to other brake systems, disc brakes work on fairly small clearances. This means they can require very fine adjustment to brake effectively and at the same time not 'drag' on the disc when disengaged (this is especially relevant for those that remove and reinstall wheels for transport). In addition, hydraulic systems may occasionally need to be bled, to purge air bubbles from the system or replace fluid. All of this means that when the time for a tune-up comes around, most riders will want to have this done in the workshop.
That's a wrap
So should you have disc brakes? Other brakes? We hope that this article has been helpful. Of course, if you're still in doubt, contact us!
Internal Vs External gears
You may have noticed that internally geared hubs are becoming more and more popular on bicycles. Internal gears have been around since the early 20th century and became hugely popular in the 1930’s. So why did everyone switch to derailleurs? And why should you reconsider an internal hub?
The derailleur and the internal gear hub were actually invented around the same time. A 2-speed hub was patented by William Reilly of Salford, England in 1896 and French bicyclist Paul De Vivie invented a 2-speed derailleur in 1905 which he used on his rides in the Alps. The initial designs were both a bit clumsy and difficult to shift but the two technologies yielded essentially the same result. While advancements in derailleur technology meant bikes could have more gears, for years internal hubs were limited to about 3 gears such as on the well known Sturmey Archer hubs. They were still quite popular on utility and urban bikes and remained the gearing system of choice in European countries where bikes were used mainly for transportation rather than sport or leisure. They were reliable, almost maintenance free and practically bomb-proof. But at the time they couldn’t provide a wide range of gears.
While the derailleur and cassette still dominate today’s bike market, there has been constant advancement in internal gear hub technology. Once limited to 3 gears, internally geared hubs are now offered in 8, 11 and 14 speed models. These new internals can even cover the same gear range as a 24 speed cassette and derailleur system. Now that internal gear hubs have broken free from their previous limitations there are many reasons to consider using one on your bike.
One of the biggest advantages of the internal gear hub is that all the moving parts responsible for shifting are completely contained in a sealed unit – the hub. This means they’re completely protected from water, dirt, road salt and grime. With no outside contaminants to possibly muck up your shifting mechanism, you can always count on your internal hub to shift smoothly from one gear to the next. An exposed derailleur also runs the risk of being bent or broken, and a derailleur hanging down from your dropouts is fairly prone to being knocked out of adjustment. An internal hub, on the other hand, is pretty difficult to damage.
Maintenance and Longevity
Internal gear hubs are easier to maintain than standard derailleur systems. The main thing you need to do is keep the proper tension on your chain and lubricate it periodically. With a derailleur and cassette system you have to clean your rear cogs and derailleur regularly to keep them shifting smoothly. It’s not uncommon to have to adjust the limit screws on your derailleur from time to time either. And while keeping the chain and single cog on an internally geared hub clean is important, it isn’t nearly as much work.
Since the chain on an internal hub is always in a straight line and doesn’t have multiple gear wheels and pulleys to pass over, it also creates less wear and tear. Every time you shift from one cog to the next with a traditional derailleur, the chain actually flexes and twists a bit. You’ll find you need to replace your chain much more often with this system and may even need to replace your rear cogs at some point. With your internal hub, even if you do need to replace the chain or single cog, it’s a lot simpler without the derailleur getting in your way.
I may have saved the best for last here. Have you ever come to a stop on your bike and realised you’re still in much too high of a gear to start in? With an internally geared hub you can shift gears while stationary. Unlike a traditional derailleur system, you don’t need to be pedaling to change gears. This can be great for riding in stop and go city traffic and can also make it a lot easier to down shift on a steep uphill.
Choosing the right bike for you
Buying a new bike can be complicated, even before you factor in the price tags of some two-wheeled racehorses out there. Here is a simple guide to assist when the process seems overwhelming.
1) Simplicity- Maybe you’re new to cycling or just want a bike to ride around town on. Remember, simplicity is key. Don’t be fooled by selling features such as “suspension forks” and “twenty something” gears. Look out for bikes that have internal gear hubs, as they are reliable and low maintenance, saving you both time and money in the future.
2) Looks ARE important- you have to want to ride it. Everyone checks out their own bike from across the road. Don’t feel ashamed to ask what colours it comes in, and have a look at baskets too. Be proud of your ride and roll in style.
3) How does it feel- Not just how it rides, but how does it make you feel? Do you feel a sense of freedom whilst pedalling? Hopefully the answer is yes.
4) Is it the right bike at the right price- Get the bike you want, even if it means waiting a few weeks/months. You won’t regret waiting to get “The One”, however you will probably feel some dissatisfaction if you compromise. Take a deep breath, remember a good simple bike will last a long time and be worth every cent.
5) Much of New Zealand is hilly, you may ask whether an upright bike with 3 or 8 gears going to be OK. The short answer is Yes. There are certainly bikes out there that are more athletic. You must remember even if you have to hop off and walk the steepest bits, it’s still worth it overall. Get those legs turning and you might just surprise yourself. With most of our range it is also possible to lower the whole range of gears to give you a very low gear for hillclimbing. Get in touch if you think this may be important for you.
6) Your friend says you need to get a bike with disc brakes, what’s up with that? Disc brakes are especially good in wet and muddy conditions and have become ubiquitous on mountain bikes and some space age commuter bikes. They are great, but let’s not be quick to make absolute rules here. Disc brakes can also be noisy and fiddly to set up. Rim brakes have more than enough stopping power to bring you safely to a standstill, even from warp speed. It depends on your needs.
7) Details Matter. We know how difficult it can be to assess the quality of a bike from a photo on the web. We also know that if you are getting into biking the technical specs probably wont help you much either. Heres some advice about a few important details which are easily overlooked:
- Alloy parts vs Chromed steel. Often lower price level bikes will have chromed steel cranks, stem, handlebars or rack. New Zealand's salty air means these parts rust very quickly. If you are shopping online call and ask the shop or online vendor about these parts and what material they are made of. You want your bike to function and look good much longer than just the first summer. Alloy parts don't have this issue and will last and look nicer much, much longer while also being lighter ;)
- Wheels. Your wheels do all the work and take a beating over bumps and kerbs. When people build custom bikes with us we always say to spend the money on a good set of rims with quality spokes to make a wheel that will last. If you are considering buying a bike online check whether the spokes are "stainless steel" and whether the rims are "double walled" these two key things are the benchmark of a wheel built to last.
- Brakes. To the untrained eye all caliper brakes look the same. unfortunately they do not all work the same. We suggest you look out for trusted brands such as either shimano or tektro brand brake calipers and "dual pivot" style calipers.
How to tune a rear derailleur
How to tune a Rear derailleur step by step, assuming that there is no damage to your frame, gears or cables. If in doubt, check out our troubleshooting page for more info.
Dont get hung up
First things first, get your rear wheel of the ground in such a fashion that you can turn the pedals and easily reach the shifters and derailleurs, a workshop stand is great but you can improvise with rope tied to the rafters, or hang your bike off a low hanging branch or rail by the seat (get creative). It is REALLY useful to have your bike the right way up for this job. Once you are happy that your bike is reasonably secure, it is time to start tuning.
Get in tune
Start off by shifting your rear derailleur (RH shifter) into the hardest gear (smallest cog on rear wheel) whilst turning the pedals with your hand.
1) Undo the pinch bolt two turns on your derailleur so that the cable is loose.
2) While rotating the pedals, turn the H screw clockwise until the derailleur starts to shift into the next gear up, then back it off so the chain is happy on the smallest cog.
3) While turning the pedals, carefully push derailleur up and let it fall back into place, it is reluctant to fall into smallest gear, loosen H screw and repeat until it returns easily.
4) You have now established the upper limit screw which sets up the rest of the gear tune.
5) Screw in the barrel adjuster (found on either the derailleur or shifter) clockwise until it done up snug, back it off two turns.
6) Pull the cable end firmly and tighten pinch bolt (doesn't need to be crazy tight, just snug).
7) While turning the pedals at an approximate normal riding cadence, give the shifter one click. If the chain doesn't move up a gear, wind the barrel adjuster out a 1/2 turn and start again. Repeat until one click of the shifter = one gear change.
8) Set the lower limit by turning the L screw clockwise most of the way in.
9) Shift through the gears gently until the shifter stops. You will probably be in the 2nd or 3rd gear from the biggest cog.
10) Turn L screw anticlockwise 1\2 turn at a time until you are able to shift into the biggest cog, but no further.
11) Now with both of your outer limit screws set up you can tune using cable tension.
12) Shift through the gears. If it is slow to shift from smaller to bigger cogs, tighten cable by winding barrel adjuster OUT. If it is slow to shift from big to small cogs, loosen cable by winding barrel adjuster IN.
13) By now your gears should be shifting well on the rear cassette. If they are not, go back to the troubleshooting page as there might be something that need repairing or replacing. Remember even the best bike mechanic can't tune broken gears.
14) Take you bike for a test ride and readjust cable tension as necessary (things may settle into place over time).JOB WELL DONE!
How to fix a flat.
Do punctures leave you feeling deflated?
Tools for the job:
An innertube of the correct size and valve type.
A pump. A floor pump is the fastest but any pump will do.
Two tyre levers. (spoons will do in an emergency, ask your grandma first)
14 or 15mm spanner, for bikes with wheel nuts only.
Puncture kit, incase you flat again.
- Get those brakes out of the way
Unless your tyre is a flat as a lake, you may need to undo the brake to be able to remove your wheel. Road caliper brakes have a small lever that opens the brake further, on some older road bikes this is found on the lever. With V-brakes, the silver bendy pipe thing can be released by squeezing the brakes arm together with your fingers and unhooking it. Cantilever brakes are similar too, squeeze and unhook. If you’ve got disc brakes, you didn't need to read this because you don't need to do anything.
- PREPARE the rear wheel
Flat rear tyre? If your bike has a rear derailleur, click into your hardest gear (smallest cog on the back wheel). If your bike is singlespeed or hub-geared, undo the wheel nuts and let the wheel slide forward to slacken chain, some wheels slide out forwards and some backwards, follow your nose as to which yours is. For internal gear hubs you'll have to remove shift cable or chain and possibly undo coaster brake arm from the non-chain side. In short, your wheel has to become separate from your bike so any cables/bolts have to go.
- Get hung up, or flip out
You can either hang your bike by the seat on a gate or low hanging branch etc (get creative). Otherwise it is common practice to flip it on its back like a dead ant. This would be a good time to take off your pannier bags if you haven't already. If you're on concrete, watch out you don't scratch up your nice Brooks saddle or bell. Grass is best.
- Whip it out!
Undo the quick release lever. Sometimes you also need to unscrew it a few turns to let the wheel come out. you can do this by holding the quick release lever and unscrewing the round nut on the opposite side. Lift the wheel out. For the rear wheel, pull the derailleur back out of the way and lift the wheel up and out, don't be shy about it either - you're running the show here.
- Unhook the bead
With the wheel off the bike, insert one tyre lever under the edge of the tyre and lever it off the rim. Now hold this lever or hook it to a spoke while you insert the second tyre lever about 6-10cm away on the same side. Lever up the bead, then run the second lever around the rim, lifting off the tyre completely on ONE side only.
- Get your tube out
Remove the valve cap and any other threaded things you find on your valve stem, (you may have none) then remove the tube. Unless the source of the puncture is obvious, such as a tack pin stuck in the tyre, pump some air into the tube. Run the tube past your ear, listening for escaping air. Can’t hear anything? Wet your lips and feed the tube past them to feel for escaping air. You may also find that when you go to pump your tube up it won't inflate at all, this indicates you've got a fairly good puncture and it should be visible.
- Tread carefully
If you've found a leak, line the valve stem back up with the valve hole in the rim. Unless you flipped the inner tube horizontally, the hole in the tube – which you’ve just found – will line up with whatever caused it. Run your fingers carefully around the inside of the tyre to see if the sharp object is still there. If so, remove it – a knife helps. If you don’t find anything, feel around the rest of the tyre just in case. if your tyre is looking a bit "used" it might not be doing it's job properly, causing you to get flats that are avoidable.
- Fit new tube
Pack away the punctured tube for fixing at home. Pump a little air into the new tube, enough to give it some shape. Fit the valve through the valve hole, then feed the rest of the tube into the tyre. You CAN patch a tube and refit it on the go however more often then not you'll end up with a flat in the next 10 mins. It is recommended always to carry a new tube and repair the other at home.
- Refit tyre
Starting opposite the valve, to make fitting easier, tuck the tyre bead back into the rim with the thumbs of both hands. Work both hands around the tyre, in opposite directions, tucking in the tyre bead as you go. You’ll fit most of the tyre like this. If the tyre keeps springing out of the rim – some puncture resistant tyres will try their best to escape the rim seat - don't panic and be patient, two hands is enough to fit any tyre.
- Almost there
As you get near to the valve, opposite from where you started, the tyre may become tight. It’s tempting to reach for tyre levers at this point. RESIST THE URGE. You run the risk of pinching the tube and puncturing it. First let the air out of the tube so it won’t resist you. Then work around the already fitted section of tyre, squeezing it's sides into the centre of the rim. The centre of the rim is actually smaller than where the inflated tyre will sit, so getting it in there makes it easier to fit. Eventually you’ll be able to lever it on with your thumbs. If not, flip the wheel to face away from you and roll the tyre towards you using one or both hands.
- Check your progress
Check that the tube isn’t trapped under the bead at the valve by pressing the valve up into the valve hole. Pump up the tyre a little to give it some shape. Spin the wheel to ensure the tyre is mounted evenly on the rim. If not, you’ll need to push and pull the tyre side to side until it fits neatly. Then inflate the tyre until it’s firm. Refit valve cap etc. As you pump the tyre, check for bulges or flat spots, if there is a bulge, let the air out and roll the tyre around on the rim with your hands, sometimes this take a few goes to get right.
- Slap it in
Front wheel: Make sure the quick release lever is open. Place the wheel back in the bike. Push down on the wheel to ensure it’s sitting snug in the frame. Tighten the round nut on the other end of the quick release enough that the lever starts to snug tight when it’s about half way closed. Closing it fully should require firm pressure. TIP: if you use the flat of you palm to close the quick release it should leave a mark on your palm for a few seconds.
Rear wheel: Pull the derailleur back, align the smallest sprocket with the ‘top’ side of your chain (i.e. nearest the ground, when the bike is upside down), and put the wheel into the frame. Push the wheel firmly into the dropouts, then do up the quick release securely.
Singlespeed or hub-gear rear wheel: Put the wheel into the dropouts, pushing it forward so you can refit the chain. Pull it back in the dropouts to tension the chain, check wheel alignment, then tighten the wheel nuts. Reconnect the gear cable, if any.
- Take a BRAKE
Finally, ensure your brakes are reconnected. To test them give the levers a few squeezes, take a quick look at your bike. Does it look good? Yeah it does...
Removing rust from Chrome
Older bikes typically have a lot of chromed parts. Chrome is beautiful but it rusts easily. The most commonly chromed parts are handlebars and rims. Here are some ways to remove rust from Chrome.
- Aluminium foil: Yep, that’s right. Tear a strip off the roll and scrunch it lightly. Now use this as a polishing pad and rub it on those old rusty handlebars. Watch as the shine returns.
- Autosol: Autosol can be bought at Repco or hardware stores. It’s like a particularly abrasive Jif type scouring compound and polish. Good for removing light rust and tarnish. Autosol also works well on old paint. It restores the shine while leaving the patina.
- Fine Wire Brushes: You can buy inexpensive sets of these at your local hardware store. These are great for getting in between spokes and hard to reach places.
- 800 grit emery paper: This is not our first choice as it takes the shine off but it does sand away the rust (and Chrome if you are not careful). Generally we recommend using the previous 3 steps and letting the aged character of a few rust spots speak of the history and character of your bike.
- Sandblasting and re-chroming: If you are serious about your restoration then a new dip of chrome is unquestionably the best result. Be prepared to dig deep, it's not cheap. Also realise that new chrome looks odd unless everything has been restored to the same degree. How far are you going to take it? Plan your effort and your spend before embarking.
Rear derailleur trouble-shooting
My gears don't shift at all:
If the shifter clicks, check for a snapped cable or loose derailleur pinch bolt. If the shifter feels stuck your cable may have rusted shut or have a nasty kink and will need to be replaced.
My gears are slow to shift down for the uphills:
Cable tension may need tightening, you can try this by turning the barrel adjuster found either on the derailleur or shifter, 1/2 turn ANTI-clockwise at a time until it shifts.
My gears are slow to return when shifting into you speedy downhill gears:
1) Cable may be sticky causing a lazy shift.
2) Derailleur hanger may have been bent inwards- with the bike the standing up the derailleur should be in plane with the seat tube.
3) The chain could be dirty. A clean chain shifts a lot better.
4) Your cable tension might be too tight. Loosen by turning barrel adjuster clockwise 1/2 turn at a time until it shifts properly.
My chain falls off into spokes:
1) The most likely cause is a bent derailleur hanger which is a job for a bike shop.
2) Alternatively, the L screw needs to be tightened, this sets the lower limit of derailleur movement.
My chain makes noise when in the lowest gear on cassette (biggest cog):
1) B tension screw need to be tightened
2) Front derailleur is rubbing (very common)
3) Tooth count on rear cassette exceeds derailleurs range causing it to max out.
I'm juggling between too much and not enough cable tension to make my bike shift:
1) This is usually caused by a slightly bent derailleur hanger or derailleur cage. making fine tuning impossible. This is a job for a shop.
2) The cable is sticky and needs replacing.
3) You have a mismatch of derailleur and shifter that are not compatible. This is (hopefully) only the case if you've built the bike yourself or bought it second hand.
My gears are tuned beautifully but when I pedal hard they slip:
1) A well worn set of gears will slip under load. They will need to be replaced.
2) Your chain might be too long or have stretched over time.3) You may have a stiff link or two, check this by pedaling backwards with your hand and watching the rear derailleur for a lump in the chain.
Can I assemble my new bike myself?
Ideally we recommend professional assembly by a qualified mechanic to ensure you get the best life out of your bike. Some of our cargo bikes and all of our Bromptons ship fully assembled. Linus and Surly bikes ship partially assembled.
If you are a confident home mechanic then you may choose to assemble your bike yourself. You will need the right tools and some bike grease in order to do this correctly. We do recommend that you take your bike to a qualified bike mechanic for a safety check, but be warned that it may result in more workshop hours if you don't get it right.
Shipping & Returns
How much will it cost to ship?
Zero, Nada, Zilch.
Whatever language you speak it's all the same price. Free to anywhere within New Zealand.
How long will my order take to arrive?
Shipping times vary by product and by your location. Here are some general rules of thumb.
- Accessories - 2-3 days.
- Bicycles - 3-5 days.
- Cargo bikes - 7 to 10 days
- Brompton Bikes - 10 - 20 days from confirmed order. 3-5 days for in stock models.
If your delivery is time-critical or you have particular delivery instructions then please give us a call or send us an email at email@example.com
Can I assemble my new bike myself?
Ideally we recommend professional assembly by a qualified mechanic to ensure you get the best life out of your bike. Some of our cargo bikes and all of our Bromptons ship fully assembled. Linus and Surly bikes ship partially assembled.
If you are a confident home mechanic then you may choose to assemble your bike yourself. You will need the right tools and some bike grease in order to do this correctly. We do recommend that you take your bike to a qualified bike mechanic for a safety check, but be warned that it may result in more workshop hours if you don't get it right.
What's the best way to transport my children?
We often have parents asking us how they can carry their children by bike. This is a topic that’s dear to our hearts (given our personal experience of transporting our little ones). Most kids love being on a bike, and for many families this presents a practical and healthy alternative to a second car. With this in mind, we have written this very brief overview of the options that are available. There is, of course, plenty more that can be written on this topic, and we are always happy to chat to you about it.
We have divided the choices into three practical categories: Bike Seats, Cargo Bikes, and Bike Trailers.
Bike Seats - Front or Back
Kids’ bike seats are an easy choice - you can in most cases fit a kids’ bike seat to your existing bike. There are a several types and brands available. We stock Thule Yepp bicycle safety seats. Thule is a Swedish company with an obsessive focus on safety that makes beautiful and practical seats.
There are two types of kids’ bike seats. A front seat is attached at the front of your bike, so that your child is between your arms. The rear seat is mounted behind you. You choice is often going to be dictated by the weight of your child. As a rule, front seats are for smaller kids, and rear seats are for bigger kids.
Front seats made by Thule are suitable for kids aged from nine months (or when they can sit up by themselves) to three years (subject to a limit of 15kg). This is the Yepp Mini range. The seat attaches to the bike’s steerer or stem with a quick-release bracket. This makes it easy to detach the seat when you are not using it.
Rear seats made by Thule are suitable for kids up to 6 years or 22kg. This is the Yepp Maxi range. The seat is attached to the bike’s rear luggage rack. Some bikes come with luggage racks that are already compatible (have a look at the Yuba Spicy Curry in our shop as an example); other luggage racks can be fitted with a Yepp adapter. For bikes without a luggage rack, there is a quick-release bracket that attaches to the bike’s seat-tube.
Cargo bike - Long Tails, or Front Boxes
If you want some permanent carrying capacity, consider a dedicated cargo bike. There are two types: long tails, and front boxes. Our range includes Yuba, Bullitt, Christiania, Benno and Tern.
A long tail cargo bike looks like a normal sturdy bike with an elongated rear end (as an example, have a look at the Yuba Spicy Curry in our shop). These bikes have impressive carrying capacity, and a big range of modular accessories. You can fit a kids’ bike seat (see the section on kids’ bike seats above) together with other load-carrying items like running boards or heavy duty baskets. The bikes are built strong to handle the extra weight, and have some clever tricks (the Yuba Spicy Curry, for example, has a smaller rear wheel for a lower centre of gravity and more strength). In the world of cargo-bikes, the stand-out advantage of the long-tail is that it both robust and rides exactly like a normal bike.
A front box cargo bike will have a large cargo compartment in the front that can be outfitted with manufacturer-specific kids’ seats and belts (and there’ll still be plenty of space for groceries!). There are two different types of front boxes. Three-wheeled versions (have a look at our Christiania Light) will have two wheels at the front. These are very comfortable, but wider and less maneuverable. Two-wheeled versions (have a look at our Bullitt range) are more agile. The steering set-up on these bikes can make it into quite a different animal to handle, and less confident cyclists will need some time to get used to this. We have a great article on two-wheelers vs three-wheelers here [https://www.bicyclejunction.co.nz/pages/faq-two-wheels-or-three].
A bike trailer can be a good compromise in place of a dedicated cargo bike - use your normal bike and attach the trailer when it is needed. We stock trailers from Swedish brand Thule. Ingeniously, these trailers can be converted to a stroller by swapping the trailer arm for a front wheel.
Some additional thoughts
First and foremost, be safe with your precious cargo.
Secondly, consider how the additional weight will affect your biking, especially if your ride involves hills. Electric pedal-assist will make a big difference. There are many e-bike options available in our shop. As always, we would be happy to chat.
How much will the cargo bikes carry?
In general here are the various load capacities by type. Often your legs will hold the key to whether these loads are achievable. 100kg in the cargo bay takes a bit of power to wind up.
Trike = 100Kg plus rider
Long John = 80 - 100kg plus rider
Short John = 40 - 70kg plus rider
Longtail = 80kg plus rider
The specific load capacities for our bikes are listed with the product specs. If you have particular concerns about the loads you intend to carry then give us a call to discuss.
Is a two-wheel or three-wheel cargo bike best for me?
Trikes or Bikes.
Most of us are used to riding bicycles. They've typically been our main form of cycle since we were 3. As such we've become accustomed to how bikes ride. We've learned to gain speed in order to balance, put our foot down when we stop and lean the bike over when we turn. These things have become so natural for us we forget we are doing them. Sometimes when people try a cargo trike for the first time they forget it handles completely differently. This can be quite disconcerting to the unsuspecting rider.
Trikes are of course different to bikes and each has their own strengths. I usually explain the difference this way.
If you had only ever ridden a trike and you tried to ride a bicycle. would you know or remember to put your foot down when you stop and would you feel natural riding it on your first few times. Would you feel safe on that first outing or would you take a few rides to adjust?
The answer of course for most people is "probably not" Riding a trike takes a little bit of getting used to as does riding a bicycle for the first time. Once you have adjusted to it, it feels very natural. Some people adjust quicker than others. I have found that many keen cyclists have found the adjustment more difficult than novices because the novices have less frame of reference or expectation of how it should feel. Two wheelers suit some and three wheelers others. They are quite hard to compare directly as they are different beasts.
Here are some of the pros and cons of each:
- Able to ride at faster speeds than a three wheeler
- Not affected by road camber
- Leans into corners
- Carries less load by volume but same by weight
- Can't ride as slowly up a hill as a three wheeler (due to the need to maintain pace to balance)
- Harder to park/hillstart/cruise slowly along a walkway.
- Harder to turn around (larger turn circle)
- Load capacity much greater volume than two wheeler
- Ease of parking/hillstarting/ cruising slowly in trafficked areas/ riding slowly up hills (no need to have speed for balancing and easy just to put the brake on and rest a moment)
- Versatility and functionality
- Ability to turn manually (lift seat and swing around) in tight spaces even when loaded
- Cannot ride as fast as two wheeler
- Cambers and turns take some getting used to
- Cannot fit through gaps in traffic as well as two wheeler
Typically we recommend that if you want to ride long distances or ride fast then a two wheeler is the preferred option. Otherwise you just cannot compare the practicality and ease of a three wheeler.
Will I be able to get up the hills on a cargo bike?
Some Cargo Bikes are better than others for hill-climbing. If you will frequently be riding your Cargo bike up a hill it is important to consider which type is more suitable for your purpose and geography. In some cases the right bike is not the one you would expect.
Bullitts and Omniums are lightweight and fast. They are great for riding long distances, and depending on the model they generally have the widest range of gears of all our Cargo bikes. However, if they will often be loaded with 80kg on the front, the light weight of the bike may not make a big difference to your hill-climb.
Three-wheelers may not ride as fast but do have the benefit of being able to be ridden very, very slow in a very low gear. On a two-wheeler you need to ride a minimum speed up the hill to keep balance, whereas on a three wheeler you can ride as slow as you like and rest when you want by simply applying the brakes.
We can adjust your gear range up or down according to your local terrain. On most of our cargo bikes there are several gearing options to choose from. We can guide you in determining the right match.
Another option is to add an electric kit. This is particularly popular on two-wheelers as you have the benefit of being able to ride fast downhill while having the power and speed to travel uphill with a load.
What is the history of Brompton Bikes?
BROMPTON BICYCLE, A BRIEF HISTORY:
Designing a folding bicycle has attracted many, and Andrew Ritchie was yet another to have a go. Busy trying to earn his keep (landscaping and selling plants), he did little about the idea until a chance meeting in 1975 with a would-be backer of the then fledgling Bickerton folding bicycle. He thought he could do better and came up with a new approach: it looked promising and he managed to obtain backing from a few friends to produce prototypes, and the company, Brompton Bicycle, was formed. The idea (naive, as it turned out) was to interest an established UK company in taking up the idea under licence. In due course prototypes 1, 2 and 3 appeared (all made in Andrew's bedroom in a flat in London overlooking the Brompton Oratory - hence the name "Brompton") and he started canvassing industry in search of a licensee.
There was plenty of interest but also plenty of sound reasons for turning the idea down: the search ended in failure. The alternative was for Andrew to start manufacture himself, and this needed money. The search for this venture capital also failed. So 5 years on, the future looked unpromising. In the end, friends came to the rescue: 30 were persuaded to buy a bicycle in advance, and Andrew undertook to make them. It was a ridiculously low budget, but eventually some rudimentary tooling was in place and the 30 bikes duly appeared. Others wanted to buy them, and Andrew, encouraged, decided to start low-volume production, albeit with bare minimum tooling. Brompton Bicycle was in business!
This was fine, but hard work, and without capital the business could break even, but it was difficult to expand. Andrew and his board again went in search of venture capital, in the hope that backers could be found. By then nearly 500 Brompton bicycles had been made and sold. Once again it failed. As it was not worth continuing the pilot production, this was stopped in 1982.
The company was solvent, and Andrew Ritchie was convinced, having sold all the pilot output, that the product had a future. So, he pressed on looking for a way to get back into production on a better footing: he had to earn a living in another way (as at other times earlier in the project), so progress was slow. Eventually, at the end of 1986, with contributions from former customers, in particular from Julian Vereker (founder of Naim Audio, a successful maker of audio equipment), Brompton raised enough money to tool up and get started with manufacture proper. The first production bikes appeared out of a Railway Arch in Brentford at the beginning of 1988.
Since then, the order book has been full, and the company has grown steadily and successfully, with around two thirds of sales going abroad. Inevitably more and more space has been needed, and there have so far been three moves, first taking over a neighboring Railway Arch, then moving to larger premises in Chiswick at the end of 1993, and in 1998, into a spacious factory, once again back in Brentford. In 2008 Will Butler Adams took over from Andrew Ritchie as MD, Will’s main goal being to create a modern and highly efficient production facility in West London, so as to meet the growing demand.
In 1995 Brompton received a Queen's Award for Exports. More recently, in October 2009, Andrew Ritchie was honored by the Duke of Edinburgh, and awarded the Prince Philip Designer’s Award.
Brompton users have by and large been most enthusiastic, many finding that it offers a completely new way of travelling about, and now, with customers worldwide increasingly discovering the usefulness and fun of the Brompton concept, the future for this remarkable English-made product looks promising.
What handlebars should I choose for my Brompton
The first decision you must make when considering which Brompton to buy is which type of handlebar is right for you. This will largely depend on the type of riding you wish to do as well as the riding position to which you are most accustomed.
Most people choose the mid height M option for a comfortable and fairly upright ride. Others who are more accustomed to riding mountain bikes or road bikes prefer the sportier S version. If you intend to ride long distances, perhaps touring, then P type may be the choice for you.
M TYPE Classic handlebar shape, offering a comfortable ride.
S TYPE A lower, more sporty ride position.
H TYPE Same classic style as the M Type but with a higher stem, perfect for riders who prefer a more upright riding position.
P TYPE A versatile handlebar offering the flexibility of several grip positions.
Once you have made your handlebar choice you can move on to the choice of gearing.
What spares should I take when touring by Brompton?
You should have the following parts if you plan to use a Brompton where spares aren’t locally available. The list is a guide only, and does not cover every eventuality.
Part numbers are given where there is no choice: otherwise choose parts which are appropriate to the model in question, e.g. Sturmey or Sram, derailleur or non-derailleur.
1. Small parts, essential to enable the bike to be ridden and used
Suspension block, "QSUSPBA"
Cables, to suit model
Chain tensioner nut
Hinge clamp assembly, "QHCA"
Gear indicator chain, hub-gear
Spokes, "QSPOKFSS", &, for rear, to suit
- Small parts, essential for satisfactory folding
Handlebar catch, "QHBCA"
Lower stop disc, "QLSDA"
Main roller, "QROLM" & "QROLMBOLTS"
- Small parts, non-essential (either because they can probably sourced locally, or because bike remains useable without them)
Mudflaps, "QMGFLAPF", "QMGFLAPR"
Inner tube, "QTUB"
Elastic cords (rear-rack), "QSHOCKA"
Dynamo, "QVDYNO-RH" ("QVDYNO-LH" for L-version)
Brake pads, "QBRPAD"
Rear rack roller (rubber), "QROLRA"
Tyres: well worth having if their bulk is not important.
Rim: a replacement rim is unlikely to be available except from a Brompton dealer.
What is the lead time for delivery of Bromptons?
There are literally hundreds of variations of Bromptons. We carry a selection of the most popular styles but most bikes are shipped to order. This means if you order a Brompton there will usually be a 2-3 week delivery lead time from confirmed order. We generally carry M6L, M3L and S2E in stock in limited colours. These can often be dispatched in a matter of a few days.
For full custom bespoke orders there is a manufacturers lead time of 8-10 weeks.
If you know which Brompton you wish to buy and time is critical then give us a holler and we can give you an accurate ETA.
How do I choose the Brompton that's right for me?
With so many variations available it can be a bit hard to figure out the right Brompton setup.
Fortunately, Brompton has made it simple with some effective web tools to get you started.
The first we recommend is the "Help Me Choose" tool linked here: https://www.brompton.com/Buy/Help-me-choose This will guide you through the elementary choices to get to a bike that suits you.
Once you have done this you can go to the Brompton Bike Builder and refine your choice with different gearing ratios and luggage options. You can find the bike-builder here: https://www.brompton.com/Buy/Build-your-Brompton
You can save your build and send your spec to us. Once we have your spec we can price it up for you and give you an expected timeframe for delivery.
If this all still seems too complicated then just pick up the phone and call Sam or Dan at the shop. They can also guide you through the options over the phone.
You can also refer to our other FAQ articles which answer some of the more specific questions around handlebar choice, gearing and equipment choices.
Where can I test ride a Brompton?
You can always test ride a Brompton at our Newtown store.
We realise Newtown is not a handy location for many of you living elsewhere in NZ. We have semi-regular test days in Auckland and Christchurch. Get in touch if you would like to be on the list for the next road-trip. If you are not in Auckland or Christchurch get in touch anyway and we'll see what we can arrange.
Bromptons are so easy for us to travel with that we love to get out and about and show them off.
How far will an e-bike go on a single battery charge?
Some of the e-bike models we stock have a manufacturer-claimed range of up to 190km.
The actual distance you can ride on a single charge will vary according to several factors, including the size of the battery, your weight, how much or how hard you pedal, how hilly it is, headwind/tailwind, air temperature etc. So it is possible to use up a battery charge over a much smaller distance.
We explain this in a little more detail below. You can also get an excellent overview of how this works using this nifty ‘range calculator’ made by Bosch.
Pedal Power: most e-bikes are designed to help you only while you pedal. Therefore, the more muscle power you use, the less power is taken from the battery and the more range you’ll achieve. This is especially relevant when accelerating or climbing steep gradients. If your e-bike has a throttle (which allows you to get power without pedaling), relying on the throttle will eat through your battery charge faster. When a throttle is installed there can be a tendency for this to happen.
Terrain and Rider Weight: If you use your e-bike in hilly areas, expect less range from your battery. Similarly, heavier riders or people carrying heavy loads can also expect reduced range.
Speed and wind resistance: Windy days can reduce range. This is because of increased air resistance. Similarly, if your e-bike offers assistance over 25km/h (many European models do not), you will see reduced range at higher speeds: you are likely to do twice the range at 25km/h than at 35km/h.
On many of our bikes it is possible to choose a battery capacity suitable to the range you wish to ride. This is particularly important for someone with a long commute or an intent to take the bike touring on cycle trails.
For more info see the battery size FAQ.
How fast will my electric bike go?
In New Zealand, the legal power output for a road-going electric bike is 300 watts. A 300 watt electric bike will typically go about 32-35km/h unassisted. Most NZ production electric bikes go about this fast. A 300 watt mid drive system like the Lekkie Summit can go faster as it uses the bikes gears as well as human input to obtain higher speeds.
There are systems available that can go much faster, but the bicycle must be registered to go on public roads. We believe electric bikes should make the ride more enjoyable but not necessarily more exciting. If you are looking for a high power unit to take off-road we can point you in the right direction.
(For more information about our Lekkie kits check out www.lekkie.bike)
Hub-Drive or Mid-Drive Electric?
Choosing the right motor is a matter of what suits your bike and what suits your riding style. Here are some factors for your consideration.
Hub motor – Explorer System
A hub motor system has good acceleration and hill climbing torque. It suits people that want an easy to use system with good range and smooth performance. You could think of it as the “automatic” system.
- Easy twist and go use.
- Keeps original gears.
- No additional chain wear.
- Maintenance free.
- Suits bikes with derailleur gears.
- Suits bikes with 26″ or 29″ wheels.
Mid drive motor – Summit System
A mid drive system has the advantage of driving through the bicycle gears. This allows for a greater torque and speed range. Great for people who want to ride as fast as possible or climb as steep as possible. Also it can fit to a wider range of bikes. Think of it as the “manual” system.
- More technical ride, gear changing needed for best performance.
- Additional wear on chain and sprockets.
- Suits bikes with internal hub gears.
- Suits all wheel sizes.
- Motor weight is kept central in the frame.
- Keep original wheels.
- Greater top speed and climbing ability.
(You can find more info about our Electric Kits at www.lekkie.bike)
What is an e-bike? How does it work? How do I ride it?
An e-bike is a bicycle with electric motor to help you along. You ride it much like you ride a normal bicycle, but with less effort.
Broadly speaking, there are two types of e-bike.
‘Factory’ e-bikes are bikes that designed from the ground up as e-bikes: our range includes Kalkhoff, Moustache, Faraday and others.
‘Kit’ e-bikes are ordinary bicycles with an electric motor kit retrofitted. We offer a Lekkie motor kit, which we can fit on many of the bikes we stock, or even install on your own bike.
Both of these types of e-bikes can come in many styles, from commuter bikes to full-suspension mountain bikes, and everything in between. Our focus is on urban and cargo bikes, used for commuting, transport, or pleasure. To that end, we stock bikes that have a focus on quality, are beautiful to look at, and will last a long time.
An e-bike motor works by automatically switching on the (quiet) motor when you pedal. There are two different types of motor: motors that are in the wheel hub, and motors that are in the crank. Both types have their pros and cons - it all depends on the type of riding you're planning on doing.
As a rule, crank motors provide a more authentic bicycle experience. This is because the motor senses how much power you are putting into the pedals (using a torque sensor), and responds proportionally (that is, the harder you pedal, the more the motor helps you). This makes you feel like you have extra strong legs! Crank motors tend to be more responsive than wheel hub motors, and allow the bicycle to roll more freely without the additional drag of a motor in the hub. We stock several e-bike models with crank motors made by Bosch and the German-produced Impulse. We also offer a crank motor kit: the Lekkie Summit.
Wheel hub motors offer a simpler design. Most wheel hub motors do not sense how much power you are making with your legs, so they will generally be either ‘on’ or ‘off’ (though one exception is the beautiful Faraday, which has a separate torque sensor in the crank). We stock several e-bike models with wheel hub motors including Vintage Electric and Faraday. We also offer a wheel hub motor kit: the Lekkie Explorer.
All of our e-bikes allow you to adjust how much power you want, or to switch off the power altogether and ride it like a non-electric bike. The Lekkie kits also have an optional thumb throttle, which allows you to apply power without pedaling.
What other electric bike features should I know about?
All of the e-bike models we stock have an LCD display that shows you information such as your speed, distance traveled, power setting and battery level. Specific features will vary, but some models also have a USB port for charging your mobile, integrated lights, and ‘walk assist’ (a low-power mode you can use when you need to push your bike).
The battery attaches to the bike with a lock. Take the key out from the lock before riding, to make sure the battery is seated in place and does not surprise you by accidentally falling out while you ride.
On most e-bike models, the motor will stop when you stop pedaling or use the brakes.
On many e-bike models, the motor will also give a lull in power when you change gears. This is to help with a smoother gear shift (and will remind you also to ease off the pedals a little for a moment).
On most e-bike models, the display is removable so that you can take it with you when parking. The display is robust, but it does contain electronics and we encourage you to take care when fitting and removing it. On some models, the display can be secured to the bike with a special screw to discourage theft.
On certain European e-bike models, the motor will stop helping you above 25km/h.
Isn’t riding an electric bike cheating? What about training?
This is a common misconception. In fact, e-bike users end up spending much more time on their bikes than users of non-electric bikes. You can still pedal as much and as hard as you want, but you can also be rewarded with a pleasant boost when you feel like it. This makes biking even more fun. It also removes one of the obstacles to people using their bikes to commute to work, and makes e-biking a great way to get back into training and improve fitness.
Everybody who has ridden a bike to work is familiar with that feeling on a Friday night after a long week and the wind is blowing: "i'll just take a cab or bus, i'm too tired" With an electric bike those arguments will disappear. Without a thought you will jump on and ride home, enjoying the freedom and liberation it gives you.
For many people, getting back in the saddle after a long hiatus is hard work. It takes a long time until your fitness is built up to the point where the ride is actually enjoyable. For most people, particularly those with busy lives, it is too much of a hurdle to overcome. Electric bikes allow you to enjoy the ride from day one. Allowing you time to gradually build your fitness and rely on the motor less. Its lower intensity but more frequent.
Electric bike battery size - how is it measured and what does it mean?
As a rule of thumb, bigger battery size (capacity) means more distance travelled (range). Therefore, battery capacity is an important specification for an electric bike. Capacity is most often stated in amp hours (Ah). Some manufacturers describe capacity in watt-hours (Wh). In order to compare apples with apples, you will need to divide the watt hours figure by the battery’s voltage (V) (which is also usually stated prominently in the e-bike’s specifications). The majority of modern e-bikes run on 36 volts. As an example, an e-bike with a 36V/400wh system from Bosch has 11.6Ah.
What sizes are available? Some manufacturers offer big 17Ah batteries (like our Kalkhoff Agattu). Other e-bikes will have smaller batteries (the light and beautiful Faraday Cortland has just over 7Ah).
In practical terms, a smaller battery is sufficient for those people who use their bikes for shorter rides. Bigger batteries are best for those who have a longer commute, enjoy extended weekend bike outings, or like to use a little more help from the motor. To get better idea of the range you can get from different batteries, have a look at the battery range FAQ.
How long does it take to charge an electric bike battery?
It can take between 2 and 6 hours to charge a battery from completely empty to completely full. The actual time depends on the size and type of the battery. For example, the commonly-used Bosch 400Wh battery takes 3.5 hours to charge to 100%. You will get to 50% charge in 1.5 hours.
For the first 3 charges of a new electric bike battery we recommend charging for a full 10 hours to bring the battery to its full potential capacity.
How much does it cost to charge an electric bike battery?
Very little. On average, it should cost less than 7 cents (yes, 7 cents) to fully charge a medium-sized battery such as the Bosch 400Wh PowerPack (this is based on the latest NZ average KWh price published by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Development at the time of writing). Given the range on a single battery charge, this makes e-biking the most economical form of power-assisted transport.
How do I look after my ebike battery?
There are some simple points you should note in order to get the most from your e-bike battery. We will go over these points with you when handing you the keys to your new e-bike.
- A new battery will reach its full capacity after around 10 full charge/discharge cycles.
- The first three charges should be long - 12 hours or more.
- After these first three charges, you can maximize the battery’s life by charging it regularly (you do not have to wait for the battery to fully empty itself before you recharge it, regular ‘top-up’ charging is best).
- When your bike is not used for long periods of time, the battery should be charged at least once every two months. Longer periods without charge will deplete the battery’s capacity.
- You can remove the battery from the bike for charging or storage.
Will I have to replace the battery on my electric bike at some point?
Most likely not. Battery technology has come a long way, and the average cyclist can expect their battery to last for many years, or at least as long as the rest of their bike.
Modern e-bike batteries are designed to withstand hundreds of charge and discharge cycles while maintaining their capacity. Certain manufacturers guarantee a minimum number of charges and discharges before capacity begins to diminish: for example, Bosch states that their batteries are designed for an 8-9 year life-cycle with 1000 full charge/discharge cycles, and guarantees at least 500 full charge/discharge cycles over two years, before battery capacity begins to diminish. Of course, it helps matters greatly if you keep the battery in good health .
If we dig a little deeper, a full charge/discharge cycle does not include the ordinary ‘top-up’ charge that most people do in the normal course of using their bikes. It takes several of these ‘top-up’ charges to make up a full charge/discharge cycle.
Once battery capacity does begin to diminish, the battery will still continue to function but the amount of charge it can hold will begin to reduce over time, meaning that you will travel less distance on one single charge.The upshot of all this is that a battery can go through potentially thousands of charges while quietly soldiering on and doing its job.
Can you ride an e-bike in the rain?
Yes you can. The electrical system on the bike is water-resistant and is designed to tolerate rain. That said, manufacturers generally recommend not to leave the bike unnecessarily exposed to prolonged downpours, so as to avoid condensation in the display and other electrical components. Park under a roof where possible.
Speaking of water, when washing your bike most manufacturers recommend that you remove the battery and avoid using high-pressure water spray.
Can you ride an electric bike like a normal bike?
Yes you can. All of the electric bike models we stock allow you to choose how much help you want by simply pressing a button on the handlebar. If you want to use only your legs, you can choose zero assistance. All of our bikes can be ridden without the electrics switched on.
We do find there is a tendency to use the motor when it is there. We also find that on the higher quality bikes you are in fact more likely to pedal harder and have more exercise. There is a simple explanation for this.
Torque sensing vs Cadence Sensing.
Less complicated and less expensive cadence sensing is used on less expensive bikes. Though a cadence sensor is preferable to a low quality torque sensor it does not measure how much effort you are using to pedal. As such, if the pedals are going around the motor is assisting you according to the assistance setting you have predetermined on the screen. There is a tendency simply to pedal lightly and gain all the assistance at full power, meaning you get less of a workout.
A good quality torque sensor makes infinite adjustments to the amount of assistance it gives you, based on how hard you tread on the pedals. Tread harder and it will help you more, tread softly and it will back off the power. With high quality torque sensing such as in our Bosch, Shimano, Kalkhoff and Faraday bikes it feels fluid with your pedal strokes and almost encourages you to tread harder, but only as much as you are comfortable with. The technology disappears and you simply feel the joy of riding, albeit with superhuman legs. After riding one of these bikes i always feel as though i have been out for a good bike ride, yet i haven't had to struggle up any hills. It is fluid, just like riding a bike.
As a general rule, a bike with a crank motor (as opposed to a wheel motor) will provide a more authentic ‘real-bike experience’ when the motor is off. This is because bikes with crank motors use normal bicycle wheels, whereas some lesser quality wheel motors can cause a small amount of drag as motor is turned by the wheel.
Some of our bikes have a throttle. Some of our customers like to use their electric bikes with assistance set to zero and only use the throttle when they get to a hill or are starting out from an intersection. This is a great way to ensure you are still getting your exercise without the sweat of grinding up that last hill home.
The proof is in the pudding and really theres no better way to explain the differences than hopping on a bike for a test ride.
Will an electric bike recharge as you ride?
It can. Technology exists that allows an electric bike to recharge its own battery through braking: when you use the brakes, a brake sensor triggers the motor to kick into ‘reverse mode’ and use the energy of the bicycle’s forward motion to charge the battery (instead of dissipating this energy as heat through the brakes). This technology is called regenerative braking. It is common on electric cars, but less common on electric bicycles.
Some of the bikes we stock, such as Vintage Electric Bikes do have this feature. We have also fitted Cargo Bikes with Regenerative braking.
While it is possible and provides an effective form of engine braking it does not give a very good return on power. For this reason the additional complexity and weight of a regenerative system vs the return is often negligible. The main advantage in installing on a cargobike is providing engine braking while carrying heavy loads down steep hills. This save wearing brake pads unduly and give a small return in battery power.
Sometimes people ask whether our electric bikes will recharge while pedalling. Although it is conceivable that this could be done, because of the low 10% return on input, you would need to pedal 10km to give 1km charge. For this reason all our electric bikes simply plug into the wall to charge. A typical charge takes around 4 hours and costs around 25c.
You can read more about charging and battery capacity in our other FAQ's
How often does an e-bike need to be serviced?
An e-bike is as simple to maintain as a non-electric bike. The electrical system does not require you to carry out any ‘maintenance’ as such - just remember to look after the battery (have a look at this FAQ for more detail: How do I look after my e-bike battery?). As with a non-electric bike, to keep it in top shape and maintain the manufacturer’s warranty cover, we recommended the following service interval:
- Complimentary ‘wearing in’ service/check: six weeks or 200 km after purchase, whichever comes first. This service is free of charge, and we encourage you to bring your bike in;
- Complimentary six months service/check or 1500km after purchase. Whichever comes first. We also offer this service for free and strongly encourage you bring your bike in.
- Regular electrical check/service: once per year; and
- General Bicycle Service: dependent on use.
If you use your e-bike regularly, we recommend a Full Service once a year, together with an electrical service, plus additional servicing as needed during the year.
If you use your e-bike infrequently, a full service (general service and electrical service) once a year will suffice (but please remember to top up your battery regularly - see this FAQ).
For all e-bike services, please deliver your battery, keys and charger together with your e-bike.
Do I need to register my e-bike? What about insurance?
Ordinary e-bikes do not need to be registered. By ‘ordinary’, we mean e-bikes that have a motor output rated 300W or less. Most manufacturers’ motors, and all of the models we stock, fall within this limit. Here is the official word.
Many standard contents insurance policies will cover bicycles. We recommend that you confirm with your insurer that your policy includes bicycles and provides coverage up to an appropriate value.
How much will my e-bike weigh?
The lighter Faraday bikes start at just over 18kg. The bigger German bikes with larger batteries can weigh over 23kg. Overall, the motor and battery can add from around 4 to 6 kilos over a non-electric bike of the same style. Of course, you don’t notice the extra weight when you ride, thanks to the electric motor.
Why spend $3-5k on an electric bike when you can buy one for $2k
The e-bikes we stock have a focus on quality, are beautiful to look at, and will last a long time. Nonetheless, this does not mean that they are the most expensive e-bikes on the market. Like you, we are also mindful of prices. Here we offer a list of things to consider when choosing an e-bike model and a shop to buy it from.
Will the bike last a long time? Market leaders in e-bike technology such as Bosch and Impulse have invested massively in research and development. Their motor units are sealed and maintenance-free. Their batteries have a long lifespan. They stand behind their products and offer guarantees that are not limited to the statutory minimum. This means that you get more years for your dollars.
Will you enjoy using this e-bike? You will notice right away the difference in feel between a high quality motor and the older technology used in the downmarket products. The higher quality motors are not only quieter, more responsive and more powerful, but deliver their power more naturally thanks to the more refined torque sensors. You will get more use from a bike you enjoy riding.
Our bike prices start in the mid-range because in the lower price points there is generally a quality trade off. Be it lesser quality wheels or a poorly balanced steering, there will likely be something that is done to shave costs resulting in a bike that may not give enjoyment and a long service life. In our starting price point bikes we prefer to sacrifice features rather than quality. Thats why you will see cadence sensing rather than an inferior quality torque sensor on our Lekkie bikes. In return for this saving you get high quality double-walled alloy rims and stainless steel spokes.
Does it look and feel good? We believe that if the bike both looks and feels good people are compelled to ride more often. They feel a sense of pride when out riding and want to get out more often. We believe people who ride beautiful and well functioning bikes inspire others to riding. This is an important part of our shop philosophy, that ridership will increase faster if people are inspired to ride and less so because they feel a social responsibilty. So get out there, looking and feeling good and others will take your lead!
When looking to buy an electric bike consider also who will service it. There are many online sellers and retailers who do not have a service department. Once it is sold you may be on your own. All our bikes come with a free 6 week check and 6 month service. We sell quality bikes because we want you to have ongoing enjoyment. We back up this statement with ongoing service. We have not only a bike workshop but we are an electric bike service centre for all main brands of electric bikes.
We talk about the following criteria when considering which bikes we will sell: Features, Quality, Price, Beauty
You can only ever have three for a given bike. We will never sell a bike which does not include Quality.
Features are things like Disc brakes, Built in lights, Torque sensing. They are the tech that if done with quality will make your bike a joy to ride. If not done with quality they will make your bike a drag to maintain. That's why we only add features if they are of a good quality. We prefer simple quality over inferior complexity.
Quality is easily stated and not to be confused with features. What we mean when we say quality is durable, reliable and well functioning equipment. Quality is the only thing we will not sacrifice on our range.
Price is also important. We recognise that everyone has a different budget to work with. Thats why we offer kits to convert your existing bike to electric. If you already own a good quality bike then there is good value in this. What we won't do is cram a lot of features into a lesser quality bike just to meet a price.
Beauty is important to us because we believe it helps drive your enjoyment of your bike as well as inspiring others to riding. However we would never sell a bike which only had beauty as merit. As the Germans say; no form without function. A beautiful bike is no help if it is not enjoyable to ride and reliable.
HELP - I can't choose which bike!
We all have differing requirements of our electric bikes and there are many shapes, sizes and styles to choose from. It can be tricky to decipher these many options into the right choice for you. While our electric bike FAQ's will help to guide you, sometimes its also good to have the field of options narrowed down.
We've come up with some questions that can help to trim the field. Take the questionnaire below and we can suggest a some e-bike options that my suit your needs.
Bikepacking - Ins and Outs
What is bike packing and why would I try it?
Bikepacking is a term used loosely to describe riding on your bike and then sleeping somewhere that is not your house. You can stay in a tent, cabin, hotel or even go full wilderness if the weather is right, and unlike most cycling disciplines there is no right or wrong way, only your way. No pace is too slow and no distance too short. If you’re already doing some long rides, choose two that are close in proximity and join them up with a camping experience in the middle. If you’re fairly new to cycling, or concerned about your fitness level, a good place to start is to book a campsite or hotel with only a short amount of riding from the start. Remember to utilize services like ferries and trains that carry bikes as this can cut out the areas you know so well and get you into the sticks.
What should my basic wellington overnight kit look like, based on a 30-70km ride?
Bike - usually with two wheels and a few gears.
Panniers, framebags, carrier racks, DIY beer crate carrier- choose one or some of these.
Small daypack on your back.
Tent/bivvy- something waterproof, smaller is better but use whatever you have.
Sleeping bag- I use a basic Kathmandu bag that I’ve had for about 10 years.
Clothes - Warm- polypro/merino is great.
First aid kit + sun block and Insect spray
Torch - I usually use the blinky lights off my bike
Food- lots of it, you’ll eat more than you think… I leave the gas stove at home and opt for precooked……yum.
Map- in a waterproof bag for rainy navigation or cue sheets you’ve prepared earlier.
Wallet and phone - good as a bailout option.
Go out and have fun riding your bike, start with something that you know is achievable and take some friends.
Where can I test ride your bikes?
You can test ride all our bikes at our shop in Newtown, Wellington. However, our shop is just a small community bike shop and we don't have room for all our styles in store at one time. If you would like to come try a specific bike, particularly if it is a cargo bike, it is best to drop us a line first so we can be sure to have one available on the shop floor for you.
If you live outside Wellington it is still possible to test ride some of our bikes. We do have a network of shops who stock some of our range. Get in touch and let us know where you are and what you'd like to try and we'll be able to point you in the right direction.
Glow Worm Electric Bicycles
29 East St
09 368 5899
Do you hire bikes?
Yes we do!
We have a small fleet of both second hand and new bikes available for hire in store. Send us an email if you would like to book a bike for a cruise around Wellington. Our rates are $45.00 per full day.
We also have a fleet of Cargo Bikes available for hire. So if you would like to try living by bike for a week or if you just need to move that couch you bought on trade-me without burning fossil fuels then drop us a line.[powr-form-builder id=8a631b39_1478903194]
And other mysteries
How do I convince my mate to let me film him jumping Death Canyon on a rocket propelled bike? Do you sell Spokie Dokies? Is Bicycle Junction entering a team in the Tour de France next year? All good questions. Click on the link below and fire your questions through if we haven't managed to answer them above.Enquire