Which type of cycling do you prefer? Do you rather chose a trekking, touring, mountain, cross, Dutch or city bike? With electrical assistance or without? This range makes your decision not really easier. The question to be answered before buying a bike should be: What do I want to do with the bike?, says Dirk Zedler who together with his team writes about 850 expert reports and 1000 test reports per year for the entire sector. Those who fancy cycling along the riverside rather do not need an e-bike. Those, however, who need it for commuting without producing too much sweat should think about it. As soon as you face a couple of altitude metres, it is worth thinking about a pedelec, states Zedler. A trekking bike with or without electric assistance for all round use is always a good choice. It provides so many gears and you can also take a forest trail. The following tips are mainly meant for buying a trekking bike.
When it comes to gears Zedler recommends chains instead of hubs. Derailleur gears with their mostly 27 or 30 speeds and their fine gear ratio offer a wider range. There you always find the right gear when climbing or downhilling. This is something, multi-speed hubs cannot provide. Multi-speed hubs are for people who never change their cycle routine. Any surprises like nasty climbs are difficult to deal with. In Ludwigsburg already, it is difficult to climb Asperger Strasse or from river Neckar into the city with a multi-speed hub. On the other hand, in Frankfurt or Berlin cycling with a multi-speed hub can be quite an advantage due to the back-pedal brake and the little maintenance required.
The brake should be a hydraulic brake either as rim or disc brake. The latter has a better brake response, is more reliable in moist weather conditions, stays clear in muddy conditions and requires less manual force.
When it comes to suspension for Zedler it is the tyre which is the most important component. The more volume and the wider, the better the suspension, the comfort and the puncture resistance. At speeds of more than 25 kmh wider tyres had, however, aerodynamic disadvantages. Many manufacturers fit their bicycles with suspension forks which, according to Zedler, had only an alibi function. Particularly the less expensive models would require much maintenance. In Zedler’s opinion, most of the suspended seatposts did not make sense either: It sounds good, but a noticeable effect is only given at the moment when you sit on the saddle.
More comfort is provided by suspended saddles themselves. As the individual ergonomic needs are of major importance, the only thing you can do is to test them. If I don’t sit comfortably, I don’t want to ride. For Zedler, the possibility to test different saddles would be a selection criterion for the right bicycle dealer.
Lighting is a must and should be firmly mounted. Battery-operated lights were always empty when you need them, as everyone knows, states Zedler. LED lighting is a standard today, it should have a lux value of 30 at least. A lux value of 40 is recommended when you ride a lot cross-country and in the dark. Another plus is stand light which remains switched on when you stop. Riding with lights on during the day offers more safety, too. Today’s dynamos are mostly built into the front wheel hub which is an advantage for the cyclist. Formerly used sidewall dynamos used to be an annoyance because they failed as soon as it started to rain or simply produced unbearable loud noises.
When it comes to buying an e-bike Zedler points out that technology has developed at a rapid pace during the past years. Buying a 2016 model is still ok for the expert. He advises however against buying e-bikes built in 2013 or earlier. He sees worlds apart between riding behaviour and performance. Systems with sophisticated sensors would recognize the rider’s wish much better and would start off with the first foot on the pedal. The motor doesn’t propel further, if you stop pedalling, thus reducing accidents.
The rechargeable battery should be a high-value one of an experienced, serious manufacturer. "The cheap ones have reached the end of their power storage life after three to four years." You should know, however, that batteries in general have a service life of no more than six to seven years, regardless of whether they are used or not. “Neither sensors, nor electronics can be seen from outside, they have however their price.” A good quality e-bike starts at about 2,000 Euros.
And Zedler has another last tip: The bicycle should be ready to use directly upon purchase. "Saving the costs for mudguards, luggage carriers, locks or the lighting system are the wrong way."
Author: Michael Müller
Photo: Holm Wolschendorf