Road Bike v E-Bike for Daily Commute

Posted by Tom | Blog post

What’s it like commuting on an e-bike? Our front-of-house guy Tom finds out.

To set the background I am a keen cyclist and own a Giant TCR2 road bike with handmade wheels. I ride this bike every day to work and back and on varying length rides at weekends; between 10 miles and 60 ish miles.

I have been working at Bespoke Biking for 4 weeks; this last week I used one of our Cube electric bikes for my commute from work to home and then back into work the following morning.

This short piece aims to put forward my personal experience between the 2 bikes.

GIANT TCR2

I have owned this bike for 7 years and the only modifications I have made to it are handmade wheels and cleat pedals.

I have ridden this bike in all weather and conditions across the New Forest, Farley Mount, to Frome, between London and Southampton, on all road types – city roads, country lanes, the A36 to Salisbury, up hill and down dale.

This is a light road bike, responsive steering, great gearing and on the commute to work I have found it an easy bike to ride on the clear roads, but also in the congestion easy to stop and, more importantly, to get moving again without holding up the traffic.

While it is only a relatively short commute, between Chandler’s Ford and Winchester, at 6.6 miles, it includes a number of short steep hills, longer hills and flats giving a mix of riding styles.

As with any ‘manual’ bike it doesn’t matter how short the ride is, or how cool it is, you will inevitably arrive at your destination having perspired a bit and therefore requiring a clean shirt, deodorant and sometimes a wash/shower. Although this will be proportional to the amount of effort put into the cycling.

I find that cycling is a great stress reliever and clears the mind during the ride. Riding gives a sense of achievement and through the development of Strava you can easily keep track of the total ride and specific segment times/efforts.

The commute on my road bike takes, on average, 29 minutes averaging 13.5mph.

CUBE E-BIKE

With the E-bikes that we have a Bespoke Biking the electric motor does not replace the need for pedalling. What the motor does is assist any pedalling to provide additional power/speed.

The range of the bikes, within the lowest setting – eco is approximately 70 miles. However, this setting provides the least assistance to the rider and their cycling.

The three higher settings reduce the overall range of the bike, while providing greater assistance and higher average speed while cycling.

Approximate range on the different settings (this is affected by how much you use the motor and the number of hills):

Tour – 44 miles
Sport – 34 miles
Turbo – 29 miles

In addition to the 4 motor settings there are also 9 gears.

When riding the e-bikes I wanted to see for myself how it would compare with the usual commute on my Giant with regards to speed, ease of use, comfort and rideability.

During the ride I used a variety of the motor settings and the digital display shows how much ‘assistance’ is being giving on top of your actual pedalling.

What I found on the ride was that between the Sport and Turbo settings with minimal pedalling effort I was able to maintain 15-16 mph easily, which compared well to my lighter road bike.

The brakes on the bike are disc brakes and have a lot better stopping power than the caliper brakes on the Giant.

At junctions and traffic lights there is the added benefit of the motor providing the starting assistance required to make an immediate start, doubled with not having to clip in any cleats on the pedals.

By finding the right combination of gearing and motor settings it is a smooth ride up and incline no matter how steep.

On the downside when travelling downhill the motor almost acts like a brake. Even when you are pedalling it is almost as if there is an in built top speed for the bike.

I found that over 15mph the front wheel, and as a consequence the steering, became jittery. While this was not to the extent that it became dangerous it was a little unnerving; the bike has been checked over and there is nothing amiss with the wheel, tyre pressure, hub or stem/handlebars.

In comparing the recorded times on Strava, for the hill climbs through Otterbourne I was over a minute quicker on each hill. In comparing the whole commute, in both directions, the ride was actually 2 minutes slower.

With regards to the range of the bike I found that by changing between settings that the practical range was approximately 17 miles. I did not charge the bike overnight and upon arriving at work the range indicator was down to 4 miles.

So while I wasn’t as sweaty upon arriving at my destination, due to the riding being easier, there are distinct disadvantages to riding the e-bike when compared to my road bike.

From my experience I believe that the e-bike would be perfectly suited to someone relatively inexperienced at cycling who wants to have a relaxed slower ride. When wanting to use it as a serious commuting bike to get to work as quickly as a road bike I don’t think it compares to riding my Giant.