The good news for cyclists interested in buying: The bicycle shops are full again. There are still delivery problems with e-bike components, such as batteries, displays or chips, and not every customer wish is fulfilled in the shop. Nevertheless, no one has to walk home again, provided their wallet is well filled. The bad news is: Prices remain high.
Due to the distortions in the global market as a result of the Covid pandemic, bicycles and e-bikes are more expensive than ever. In addition, the sea route has become the eye of the needle. To get frames or components into domestic assembly halls, manufacturers still have to dig deep into their pockets. In 2019, shipping a 40-foot container from Shanghai to Rotterdam cost about 2,000 US dollars. In the meantime, the shipping costs multiplied to almost 15,000 US dollars.
The situation has eased somewhat, but now the energy crisis is fuelling the price rise. On the customer side, purchasing power is decreasing at the same time because citizens have less money in their pockets due to high inflation. Many of them have to tighten their belts now. Those who still want to buy an e-bike will look for good deals. And there are some: On the Internet, but also at discounters, department stores or DIY shops. But the latter do not have a good reputation and even the internet bargain often turns out to be a bad buy.
What to keep in mind when buying?
Specialist shops are still strong in Germany. 76 percent of the bicycles and e-bikes sold in 2021 in Germany went to the buyers via specialist shops, according to the German Bicycle Industry Association (ZIV). Sales through internet mail order companies (20 per cent), (self-service) department stores, DIY shops and discounters (4 per cent) have actually been declining for years. Because there are a lot of things to consider when buying an e-bike without qualified advice and a test ride. We talked to a German bicycle expert from Zedler-Institut für Fahrradtechnik und -sicherheit (a company dealing with bicycle technology and safety) about the risks this can bring and what to keep in mind. Actually, a large comparative test with particularly low priced e-bikes was supposed to appear here, but many manufacturers apparently shied away from the direct comparison and finally cancelled. We took a close look at three participants who didn't want to hide and, let's be clear, don't have to hide either.
Motor and equipment
Our test bikes cost between 1,600 and 2,300 Euros. All of them are powered by drive systems from Chinese production, Jeep and Tenways by rear drive systems, the AEG mid-mounted drive system was developed by Prophete together with Bafang. The Tenways is the only drive system that is equipped with a torque sensor and dynamically adjusts the motor assistance to the force applied to the pedal. This feels noticeably more natural than the other two drive systems, which only react to movement of the crank and deliver a certain amount of motor assistance. But if you don't mind it, it's not necessarily a bad thing. The equipment of the test bikes is partly simple or severely reduced, as with the Tenways, although in this case it is part of the concept and not a shortcoming. Apart from the Prophete with 461 Wh, the energy storage units are comparatively small. This lowers the price and weight, but the stated range of up to 70 km (Tenways, 252 Wh) is quite sufficient for use as a city and commuter e-bike. The road behaviour of the test bikes was highly variable, but very good with all models. The two low-step through models are also suitable for touring, and if you don't mind the aforementioned, somewhat static motor characteristics, the Prophete is a particularly good introduction to riding an e-bike.
Author: Ingo Effing