Whether you’re a veteran cyclist looking for a way to get to the office sweat-free, or a newbie looking for a beginner-friendly introduction to cycling, an E-bike could be a great option. These bicycles feature an electric motor to help you pedal along with relative ease, taking the hard work out of your morning commute, daily exercise or weekend trip into nature.
However, there’s still pedalling involved. These aren’t electric motorbikes!
In this article, we take a look at everything you need to know about electric bikes (E-bikes), what to consider when picking a model for yourself, as well as some of the best models on the market.
Electric bicycles: What is an E-bike?
An E-bike is a pedal bicycle with an electric motor that can help with the hard work. With most E-bikes, as you pedal the motor provides assistance to whatever degree you select. This offers a host of benefits over a standard bicycle.
For many of us, cycling offers a relaxing way to enjoy a sunny day. But often, after a few hours, you’re hot, tired, and things aren’t so relaxing anymore. Or perhaps, that pleasant trail has one steep hill smack bang in the middle of it! Either way, an electric bike can help.
There are also commuters looking to avoid traffic and save on fuel. An E-bike can help you do all that, without having to arrive at work a sweaty mess!
And, of course, cycling is a great means of exercise, but many people simply aren’t in a position to ride significant distances at a time. An electric bike can certainly help you get into shape, allowing you to ride for hours on end, and customise the level of assistance, whatever your fitness levels!
E-Bikes: pedelec vs throttle
There are two main categories of e-bikes – those that provide pedal assistance, and those that have a throttle.
Pedelec bikes (Pedal assist E-bikes)
The standard type of E-bike, and the one most commonly seen on bike trails, is a pedelec (ped for pedal, elec for electric) bike. These are also known as EPACs (electronically power-assisted cycles).
These are electric bikes that use a small electric motor to assist you when pedalling. That means you don’t have the option to put your feet up and cruise moped-style. But, with the help of the motor, your pedalling can be near effort-free. Typically, these bikes allow you to adjust the level of assistance they provide. So when faced with a steep hill, you can turn the assistance level all the way up to help your cruise, rather than puff, your way to the summit.
Throttle electric bikes
As the name suggests, these electric bikes have a throttle so that, when you get tired of pedalling, you can cruise around moped-style. When the throttle is engaged, you are not required to pedal at all. For this reason, the design of throttle electric bikes commonly resembles less of a mountain, commuter or city bike than they do a moped/bicycle hybrid.
It’s worth noting that these bikes must still have pedals, otherwise they would fall under the electric motorbike category. Typically, these bikes can also operate like a pedal-assist model.
Electric bikes: what styles are on offer?
While there are two broad categories of electric bikes (pedelec vs throttle) there are many styles to choose from:
Sometimes known as Dutch bikes, these have low step-through frames, so they are easy to mount and dismount. They also feature curved handlebars that come back to meet you, so you can sit upright while riding. Ideal for comfortable city cruising, they were originally designed as a convenient and comfortable mode of transport for bustling Dutch streets.
This is more your typical bike, ideal for longer rides on cycling trails, or for those who want to cycle for fitness purposes. These sport flat handlebars, narrower tyres and a racier riding position. They’re faster and more comfortable than city bikes, including when going up hills.
As the name suggests, these are electric mountain bikes. They often sport similar designs to recreational/commuter bikes, but with thicker tyres and more suspension.
Foldable electric bikes
Due to their foldable designs, they can look a little odd, and they are certainly not the ideal choice for fitness cyclists or travelling long distances. But they can be a great city bike, and are convenient for when you want to take a bus or train ride mid-commute. This makes them suitable for office workers who need something to use at either end of their train commutes, or apartment dwellers with limited storage space.
Although even when folded, their batteries mean that they are not particularly light.
Typically sporting a design similar to a city bike, but longer and sturdier to accommodate more cargo capacity.
→Related article: EV Power Plans: The Best Power Plans for Electric Vehicles
Which type of electric bike is right for me?
This boils down to what your bike is being used for.
If you want something to cruise to the local shops on or to get from A to B, a city/Dutch bike might be ideal. The step-through frame is comfortable, and the upright position is great for having full control in tight CBD spaces. In this case, you may also find throttle electric bikes are an option, as the design is also suitable for city cruising.
If you want something that can also be used for longer commutes, or even weekend cycles, then you may want something with a more flat and aerodynamic design. This will also suit someone who wants to cycle for exercise purposes. For those hoping to spend their weekends on dirt trails and off-roading, an electric mountain bike is a must.
At the end of the day, your best bet is to visit a bike shop and discuss your needs with the experts. Let them know your budget, your preferences, what you intend to use the bike for, and they’ll likely point you in the right direction.
How much does an electric bike cost?
E-bikes don’t come cheap. The cheapest models on the market tend to start upwards of $1000, and even then E-bikes in that price range are few and far between. The majority of models sit around the $2000-$5000 mark. Although some can cost a lot more.
When you consider you can get a quality bicycle for a fraction of that, E-bikes certainly aren’t a cheap purchase, so it’s worth considering whether you really need one!
Things to consider when buying an E-bike
- Style – do you want a standard frame or a step-through? Something akin to a city bike, mountain bike or a speedy commuter? And, of course, do you like the look of it? There are even foldable bikes perfect for the train!
- Suitability – where will you be riding it? If you want to take it off-road, does it have appropriate tyres, suspension, etc. Will it be used for weekday commutes or do you plan to cycle for hours on end?
- Range – luckily, once your battery dies, you’re not left in the cold. But you are left to pedal by yourself. Is the range enough for what you need? Keep in mind the level of powered assistance you choose will impact the range, so don’t have the assistance set higher than necessary.
- Gears or single-speed – some electric bikes have gears so that when the motor is off, you can still get the full cycling experience. If you’re looking to use cycling as a means of fitness and an electric bike is an entry point, having gears may mean your bike has a longer lifespan.
- Charging – how long does it take to charge? Can the battery be removed and charged without the need for plugging in the whole bike?
- Security – is there electronic locking, alarms, GPS, etc?
- Display – what information does the display offer? Is it bright enough to be clearly visible in direct sunlight?
- Cargo capacity – are you hoping to use your bike for groceries and luggage? Does it have designated baskets/bags? What is the total load capacity of the bike?
- Top speed – at a certain speed, the electric motor will stop giving you extra support. Is this limit suitable for you?
Best electric bikes NZ
Below is a selection of some popular electric bikes available in New Zealand. This is by no means a comprehensive list and should only be used as a starting point. All prices listed are taken from retailer websites and are accurate at the time of writing (October 2022).
Moustache Off 2 Open ($6295*)
Made in France, Moustache bikes are some of the best quality electric bikes around. The Off 2 Open has an ultra-low step-through frame, while still providing stability and strength without adding extra weighty metal, as common in the design of cheaper step-through bikes. Its Bosch motor ensures quality performance and longevity, the front suspension provides comfort, and an optional rear luggage rack provides plenty of room for your bags.
Sinch Jaunt 2 ($5199.99*)
An excellent hybrid bike that’s as comfortable on dirt trails as it is on city streets. The Jaunt 2 features wide 27.5 x 2.35 tyres, 9-speed Shimano gearing, a Shimano E6100 motor and E8050 battery It is fitted with a Suntour 100mm suspension fork, a comfy suspension seat post, lights, mudguards and a rear carrier rack. It also offers up to 185km of range!
Wattwheels Bighorn series (from $2999*)
Wattwheels is a New Zealand company that makes some of the best E-bikes on the market. The Bighorn series offers a range of bikes perfect for city commutes and trail riding.
Wattwheels Bighorn bikes are available as a step-through or top tube, offer 60km-100km+ of range, and the MD models can hit a whopping top speed of 45km/h! The Bighorn MD is an excellent choice for those keen to get cycling through nature on the weekends, while the Bighorn Urban is perfect for those predominantly using it as a commuter.
Notably, these bikes also feature throttle assist, for when you’re too tired to pedal at all!
Plus, for those wanting pure style for their Sunday morning coffee run, the Wattwheels Omnia is a stunning standard-frame commuter bike that is so sleek and minimalist you’d barely know it’s an E-bike at all!
NCM C5 ($1799*)
Speaking of bikes perfect for trendy cafe coffee runs, the NCM C5 is a (comparatively) affordable option. The minimal design looks great, although it doesn’t offer many perks: a lack of suspension means you’ll want to stick to paved areas. It does, however, offer enough range and style for all your inner-city needs and, as long as you stick to the beaten path, plenty of comfort, too.
E-rider City Mini ($1599*)
By no means the best or comfiest choice for a weekend bike trail, it’s still a great option for the daily commute. Its compact foldable design means you won’t be out of place on the rush hour train ride. Zip from your door to the station, and the station to the office in comfort.
If you are after a smaller, lighter and affordable city commuter, the City Mini might just be for you.
Compare electricity providers with Canstar Blue
If you have an E-bike, or are thinking about getting one, the right power plan is paramount. But finding the right provider can be a real challenge. Less than half of Kiwis believe they are getting a good deal on their power, yet only 12% of us have actually changed our electricity provider in the last 12-months.
If you are looking to change electricity providers, or are unsure if you are getting the best deal, Canstar Blue can help. We rate NZ power companies for customer satisfaction and value for money, see the table below for some of the results, or you can click on the button below for the full results of our survey.
Canstar Blue’s latest review of NZ power companies compares them on customer satisfaction. The table below is an abridged version of our full results, available here.
^ By clicking on a brand or 'details' button, you will leave Canstar Blue and be taken to either a product provider website or a Canstar Blue NZ brand page. You agree that Canstar Blue NZ’s terms and conditions apply (without limitation) to your use of this service,to any referral to a product provider from our website, and any transaction that follows. Canstar Blue may earn a fee for referrals from its website tables, and from sponsorship (advertising) of certain products. Payment of sponsorship fees does not influence the star rating that Canstar Blue awards to a sponsored product. Fees payable by product providers for referrals and sponsorship may vary between providers, website position, and revenue model. Sponsorship fees may be higher than referral fees. Sponsored products are clearly disclosed as such on website pages. They may appear in a number of areas of the website such as in comparison tables, on hub pages and in articles. Sponsored products may be displayed in a fixed position in a table, regardless of the product’s rating, price or other attributes. The table position of a sponsored product does not indicate any ranking, rating or endorsement by Canstar Blue. See How we are funded for further details.
Canstar Blue NZ Research finalised in April 2023, published in June 2023.
See Our Ratings Methodology
About the author of this page
This report was written by Canstar Content Producer, Andrew Broadley. Andrew is an experienced writer with a wide range of industry experience. Starting out, he cut his teeth working as a writer for print and online magazines, and he has worked in both journalism and editorial roles. His content has covered lifestyle and culture, marketing and, more recently, finance for Canstar.