Transitioning to a Car-Lite Life - getting the Most Value from E-bikes (part 3)

Getting the most value out of your new e-bike might mean using it to replace as many car journeys as possible. How can you do that? Aren’t bicycles and cars fundamentally different? Yes, they are but that doesn’t mean that an electric bike can’t become the low-carbon car alternative that you and the planet deserve.

How Much Can You Carry on an E-bike?

It depends on the model of course. Many e-bikes have a very high ‘total system weight’. This describes the total permissible weight when you add up the weight of the bike, the rider and anything else being carried.

The Kalkhoff electric bikes that we stock have a system weight of 130kg which in practical terms means you can carry approximately 20kg of cargo if you weigh 85kg (13st 5lbs). That’s the equivalent of a full supermarket ‘Bag for Life’.

Full panniers on an electric bike

Other electric bikes like the Tern GSD or the Makki are specifically designed for carrying cargo or passengers. The GSD can take 100kg on the rear rack alone, while the Makki’s front carrier can take up to 250kg!

If carrying cargo is an important part of your riding, you will have to make peace with the fact that the bike won’t be light. However, the convenience of running errands by electric bike far outweigh (pardon the pun) this concern.


Ready for Any Weather

Electric bikes can be used in any weather. You might find the mileage per battery charge drops slightly in the coldest parts of winter, but other than that, they are all-weather machines.

Whether the rider is an all-weather rider is another matter. However, if you want to get the most value out of your electric bike, it really makes a difference to find ways to enjoy riding even when it’s chilly or raining.

For cold weather, a tube scarf made of merino wool is fantastic. It keeps your neck warm and can be pulled up over your nose too. Your face has many more temperature receptors compared to other parts of your body so keep it warm on winter rides and you can convince your body it’s actually spring.

Electric bikes for all weathers

Your hands will need to be kept warm too. It only needs to be 12 Celsius (about 53 Fahrenheit) or below for your hands to lose dexterity. Again, merino wool is a great material. It can be woven quite thinly and yet give you good protection from the cold.

There are lots of cycling jackets available that are light weight and can be packed into the smallest of bags. While we don’t stock cycle clothing, we can recommend brands like Altura and Basil for such items.



Which E-bikes are Best for Carrying Kids?

The best child carrying bikes have already been mentioned. The Tern GSD and the Makki are the best as they are the easiest to get kids onto. The Tern works really well with the Thule-branded child seats but also has its own range of seats that can be adapted as the children grow.

The Makki is even simpler as there are seats inside the front carrier. Kids can just hop in and enjoy the ride.

Carrying two children by electric bike

If the price tag of those bikes is a little high for your budget, we would recommend a stepthrough Kalkhoff or Gazelle with a Bosch Performance motor. The stepthrough allows you to get on and off easily, even when the child seat is occupied, and the Performance motor will help you get the weight of the bike and the passenger going without putting strain through your joints.


Under-Appreciated Benefits of Ditching the Car

Focusing on the benefits of going by e-bike will help you transition to a car-lite lifestyle.

  • Off-road shortcuts. Electric bikes can go where cars can’t, where conventional bikes struggle, and where walking takes too long. If there is an off-road shortcut, you can take your electric bike through it (as long as you obey local bylaws).
  • You see so much more. Biking in general gives you full, panoramic views of your riding destination. You can cycle through even familiar neighbourhoods and notice things you’d never noticed in your car.
  • Connect to your community. When you’re on a bike and you see someone you know walking on the street, you can actually say hello without rolling down a window and shouting. It’s lovely and keeps you connected to the wider world; you’re not in a ‘bubble’ like when you’re driving. You also tend to shop locally when you ride a bike. It means you have more opportunities to ‘put your money where your home is’ and support your local economy.

Taking an off-road shortcut


Getting Used to Riding in Traffic

You may not be used to riding a bike in traffic, and the drivers around you might not be used to driving with cyclists around either.

In the end, once you’ve made the decision to ride in traffic, you may have to accept that it will feel uncomfortable for the first dozen or so rides. It will take a while for your ‘riding brain’ to develop, but trust that it will.

A man riding an electric bike on a road

Keep your focus on your riding, rather than the cars around you. You can’t control any of the cars or buses or trucks, but you can control your steering, your pace, where you’re looking. Focus on your ‘controllables’, and that will make you feel more confident. 

What will also help is that cyclists do have priority over cars as clarified in the latest Highway Code.

- - - 

You may be interested in 

Getting the Most Value from E-bikes, Part 1 - Multipurpose E-bikes 

Getting the Most Value from E-bikes, Part 2 - Keeping Your E-bike 'Ride Ready'

Most popularBeginners' Guide to Electric Bikes