I’ve been meaning to write this for a while and yet have been short of time. Now, on 2nd January 2021 holidaying by the beach, I thought it might be a good chance to write this down. It could get a little long, so I’ve broken it into sections so you can skip around to what interests you most:
- My interest in bikes
- eBike selection – finding what was right for me
- Thoughts on the Riese & Muller Supercharger 2
- What’s next?
My Interest In Bikes
I’ve always loved riding bikes and from a young age was using a bike to ride to school. I have one clear childhood memory from around age 7yrs or so, when I was allowed to ride my bike the 500m or so my local primary school for the first time. I was so used to walking home after school that’s precisely what I did, only realising I’d left my precious bike at school in the bike sheds once I got home! What followed was a nervous run back to school, hoping it had not been stolen, but fortunately it was still there waiting for me. As I got older, biking to high school and sports practices was the norm – I remember the frosty mornings and the inky nights biking home in the rain. Then it was biking to university and work – I’ve always been a cyclist!
Once I started having some disposable income I explored other types of bikes and my first less common purchase was a Pashley Roadster Sovereign, affectionately known as ‘the king of the road’.
So many things appealed to me about this bike:
- The more upright riding style
- Dynamo hub in the front wheel powering the front lamp (I quickly swapped out the incandescent bulb for a much brighter LED that contained a capacitor that kept the light on when stopped at an intersection
- Internal gearing hub and drum brakes – all things that reduced the componentry maintenance because, whilst I love bikes I’m not especially good at repairing them!
- The Brooks saddle – super comfortable for longer rides
- Built in ‘cafe lock’ to easily secure the bike for a quick dash into a store
In fact, I loved the bike so much I ended up purchasing a matching Pashley Princess Sovereign for my wife for our 10th wedding anniversary:
I briefly entertained the idea of importing some Pashley ‘look a like’ bikes from China after I continually received lots of compliments on my bike, however after bringing in a couple of samples I realised the build quality at the lower price point would not be a great cycling experience for anyone.
A few years later, I embarked on some road cycling and got a great deal on a Cannondale Synapse with Shimano UItegra componentry throughout and have undertaken some longer (and faster) rides:
I had never paid a lot of attention to the emerging eBike phenomenon until late 2019 when a few friends started to get eMTB and were going further and harder than ever before. My parents bought a pair of Specialized Como and, like me, my Dad loves to do research on purchases like this and he was determined to get an eBike with an ‘internal’ battery – something built into the frame and not attached to the exterior like an eyesore. This literally opened my eyes to the rapid evolution happening in eBikes and I started to seriously consider one.
eBike Selection – Finding What Was Right For Me
I started to watch a lot of YouTube videos on various eBike reviews and became a regular viewer of Chris Nolte’s YouTube Channel – he founded Propel Bikes and makes excellent videos and it was hear that I learnt about the various options on eBikes.
From my previous cycling, I had a lot of experience with traditional derailleur and chain drive trains, some experience with internal gear hubs from my Pashley, but I now learnt of options like Gates’ Carbon Belt Drives and Rohloff Hubs and it helped me come up with a selection criteria for an eBike:
- Internal batteries were non-negotiable.
- Whilst I was delighted to see the ever expanding numbers of eBikes on the roads, I confess look of bolted on battery backs was a turn off. I wanted an eBike to look good and to disguise the power source
- Versatility – the bike needed to be able to ‘do more’ than just get me from A to B.
- I had been toying with the idea of seeing whether our family could be a ‘one car family’, something we had never been since the arrival of our first child. It seemed an ambitious goal as parents to four children aged between 9 & 17 years of age. Consequently, an eBike needed to be able to take groceries and other ‘stuff’, bags to work/school and possibly even a younger child on the back.
- Componentry built for low maintenance.
- As mentioned earlier, I love riding bikes but I am not a whizz when it comes to repairing them. Buying a bike that would go long distances without regular maintenance was appealing.
- Relatively upright riding style.
- If I had any hope of getting my wife onboard with the idea of being a ‘one car family’ then she would have to be able to ride the eBike too and she was now fully accustomed to the upright style of her Pashley and would never revert to a more aggressive mountain bike/commuter style riding position
- Speed Restrictions – the faster the better.
- New Zealand is fortunate that we have fewer restrictions than many countries when it comes to eBikes, nevertheless most of the major brands were bringing in models that cut assistance at 28 or 32kph. Given I could comfortably ride my Cannondale at 30kph, I was interested in models of eBike that could power assist up to 45kph
Despite eBikes burgeoning in popularity, I realised quickly that my selection criteria was likely to narrow my choice considerably yet I was reluctant to compromise I what I felt were features that would ensure I got out and rode this bike whenever (and wherever) possible.
The first eBike that ticked most of the boxes was the Trek / Electra Cafe Moto Go. My research taught me Electra was an independent bike company that built fun, comfortable rides and had been acquired by Trek that increased their distribution and support but maintained a commitment to the original vision of Electra.
I test rode this bike 2-3x and there was a lot to like about it. The internal Nuvinci Enviolo hub paired with the Gates Carbon Belt Drive was super smooth and quiet, the relaxed seating position, whilst not quite upright, was fun to ride, it had a Brooks saddle and an integrated lighting setup (although the lamp at the front was more for show than function I found). Frustratingly, Trek was only bringing the 32kph model into NZ (45kph was being sold in the US) and given it could carry no bags it was a non-starter for anything more than a great fun bike to ride.
I then turned to the Riese and Muller Multicharger, inspired by videos like this one where people were quitting their cars in favour of the Multicharger:
I realised quite quickly that Riese and Muller eBikes were highly customisable, allowing me to tick virtually every box of my selection criteria – at a price! Yes, they cost the price of a small car, but I figured it might end up replacing the second car that I was rapidly realising was not being driven all that often. I showed my two younger kids how they could sit on the back for short rides … but they flat out refused to be seen dead on the back of any eBike I might purchase!
I checked out the Benno Boost-E, described as an ‘eTility’ bike, a sort of ‘do anything’ hybrid and again, Chris from Propel Bikes and his awesome videos were there to influence me every step of the way with his chat with the founder of Benno bikes:
The configurations of the Benno Boost was truly impressive:
Again, however, my stringent selection criteria started limiting me as the Benno only came with a traditional derailleur and chain and was also speed limited to 32kph. I was beginning to wonder whether I would need to start compromising on some aspects of my selection criteria, but just as the COVID19 lockdown restrictions started to lift in New Zealand, I connected with the team at Christchurch Electric Bicycles and, with my wife in tow, headed down for some test rides.
As luck (or fate) would have it, the team had pair of Riese and Muller eBikes out front and ready to test ride: the Supercharger 2 in the Matte Curry colourway and a SuperDelite. The SuperCharger 2 had the Enviolo drivetrain from Nuvinci and a belt drive, whilst the Delite had a traditional derailleur set up.
The test rides were awesome – see the section below – and Riese and Muller really are making the Mercedes of eBikes. We rode a pair of Benno Boost afterwards and, whilst lovely bikes, they just didn’t match the riding experience of the R&M, albeit they are considerably more affordable.
One downside of the Riese & Muller bikes is that they operate a ‘build to order’ model, and COVID19 was only exacerbating wait times, stretching out to nearly 6 months in some cases. The awesome team at Christchurch Electric Bikes cut me a deal on the floor model of the SuperCharger2 that had been used for test rides and it was coming home with me…..
Thoughts On The Riese & Muller Supercharger 2
It was the end of May 2020 that I bought the Supercharger2 and have subsequently taken it on many adventures, with more in the planning. I wrote a blog and captured some cool photos around Tekapo – check it out here.
Even though I’d been talking about becoming a one car family, a situation came up with some family friends that ended up us loaning them our second car so we are now trialing having only one car since September and three months on it’s going ok. Given the considerable price tag attached to any Riese and Muller bike, I needed to be able to calculate the Return on Investment (ROI) so have been tracking the odometer of the vehicles on the 1st of each month:
A few observations on the above vehicle usage:
- We bought the eBike going into winter – not the best time to be riding in Christchurch due to rain and frosts, yet we still piled on the usage, average 282km/month with a peak in December 2020 of 392km. I’m looking forward to seeing how this changes as we come into the summer months.
- Due to COVID19, I’m working almost exclusively from home now with virtually no domestic travel, and zero international travel since January 2020. The ‘need’ for a second car to get me to the airport is significantly reduced right now, minimizing the impact of not having a second vehicle
- Even though we have loaned the Prado to friends, the eBike was comfortably doing more kilometers than the car (which was mostly sitting in the garage or being used to teach my eldest daughter to drive)
- My wife rides the SuperCharger2 to work (2-3 days a week), so it’s functioning as a ‘commuter’ quite nicely, albeit for short distances.
- We bought Ortlieb Back Roller City Panniers with the eBike from the team at Christchurch Electric Bikes and these have been excellent for groceries, comfortably holding $200 of food in them. Rain proof, they’ve been a great investment and I want to use them more for bike packing adventures too.
- Having recently moved house, I’ve used the SuperCharger2 to collect various DIY items and other goods and bring home – it’s proved exceptionally versatile.
- Christchurch is very flat, but I’ve taken the SuperCharger2 across the Summit Road circuit a couple of times that has total elevation of around 650m over 50km and sections with 15% gradient and it coped admirably.
Given the winter months, it’s not been ideal weather for longer trips further afield, however in December my wife and I did complete the Little River Rail Trail together on the SuperCharger2 and a borrowed Specialized Como from my mum. Starting/finishing at the township of Lincoln this was ~80km in distance, right on the absolute limit of the battery of the Como, whilst the SuperCharger2 read 109km range left!
Pros & Cons of the Riese & Muller Supercharger2
I’m writing this with 6-7 months experience on the bike now and I admit, I’m a huge fan. This won’t be an exhaustive list as there are other blogs and reviews out there, but this is coming from my personal experience:
- Battery life
- With 2x 500wh internally housed batteries, there is no need for ‘range anxiety’ – this bike will take you where you need to go and you’ll love getting there. I believe the newer versions have included a 625wh battery in the downtube so you’ll get even more range now.
- Integrated lighting
- A very bright, always on, front LED and a clever rear light that gets brighter when braking (by lighting up additional LED) helps you feel safer on the road and means worry free cycling at night as you’ll never forget your lights! I actually tilt the front light up a bit when biking in the day so that the oncoming vehicles definitely see the full effect of the front light
- Integrated lock
- The SuperCharger2 comes with the Abus 6000 Bordo folding lock and is keyed with the same lock as the two batteries making it convenient to secure your bike (and batteries if you wished to remove them) at any time). Whilst the 6000 folding lock is great, the circumference is smaller than traditional chain/cable locks so at times clever thinking is required to attach to an immovable object.
- Comfort of the ride
- This is clearly very subjective, but the geometry of the bike, adjustability of the handle bars, the ThudBuster seatpost, Schwalbe tyres all combine to make for a great ride. Given the bike tops 30kg, there’s a lot of bike to push along but it never feels a chore given the comfort of riding it. The best testament to this is my wife who rides it to work, shopping trips and to see friends – if it was remotely uncomfortable, she would take the car!
- Drivetrain and componentry
- Again, the Supercharger2 is a premium eBike with a price point to match, however all of the componentry is excellent and ticked the boxes on my selection criteria. My one came with the Gates Belt Drive, the Nuvinci Enviolo Hub and the Bosch Performance Speedline Gen4 – pretty much everything I wanted!
- After having ridden a number of eBikes that cut out at 28kph or 32kph I initially thought that might be ok. However, once I rode eBikes that could hit 45kph I could never look back. The Bosch Performance Speedline Gen4 is an absolute marvel of engineering. When combined with the belt drive and Enviolo, it’s virtually silent and you can sit in the mid-30kph without any problems at all.
- Versatility & Usefulness
- As mentioned above, we’ve taken everything from groceries in the Ortlieb panniers, to tools and household items on the front rack. Once you start thinking ‘eBike first’ in terms of your mode of transport nothing is impossible: I even took our vacuum cleaner on it when shifting houses, much to the curious stares of the cars going past. Also, once you start riding your bike to more places you realise just how much traffic there actually is on the roads! Scooting up the inside of the traffic saves so much time and being able to park right outside the shop rather than walking from the carpark is fantastic.
- Choice on level of effort
- It may be a small thing, but if I want to go somewhere and not be at all hot or sweaty, maximum boost on Turbo gets me there fast and fresh. If I want to put some effort in and feel like I’ve ridden my bike, then Eco allows me to put some muscle in and feel like I’ve had a good bike ride.
- Fun Factor
- Every single time I ride this bike I enjoy it. I’m grinning, I’m happy, I feel good at the destination. From a mental health and wellbeing perspective, riding a bike is great and getting to your destination faster and fresher is the icing on the cake. It’s a joy to ride – I can not overstate that enough.
- This is not a cheap bike by any stretch. I can justify it as a vehicle replacement (and it has admirably coped as our second vehicle for nearly 4 months now) and it’s made of premium componentry, but it’s still a lot of money. In saying that, I want to ride this bike every day – there is nothing about it that makes me feel like I’ve compromised on my selection criteria and it’s as fun to ride now as when I first bought it. But it’s still a lot of money for a bike!
- Gear range
- I bought the floor model that had the Enviolo Hub from Nuvinci in it that has a reported 380 degree range of gears. It’s awesome, but I’ve found that it does not have quite high enough gears to comfortably sit at 45kph without requiring a very high cadence. Also, and this may be personal preference, I don’t like the grip shifter for changing gears – I realise with a CVT hub you can’t really have traditional shifters a there is no indexed gears, but for me, twisting the shifter is tireson. On the upside, the Enviolo is virtually maintenance free and is a masterclass in engineering (if I had my time again, I’d choose the Rohloff e14 Speedhub for a wider gear range but still internally housed)
- North of 30kg, this is a heavy bike – two internally housed batteries will do that for you. Whilst this weight gives it a lot of stability when travelling at high speeds which provides confidence on mixed terrain, moving the bike into position to park/lock it requires a bit of muscle. Furthermore, putting the bike onto a bike rack on the car to transport is a big job usually requiring two people to avoid scratching the bike or car. If you’re a smaller person, this would likely be beyond you.
- I bought a bike with the intention of being as low maintenance as possible, and after a winter and spring of riding, it’s proven to be exactly that. However, in anticipation of some longer riding with camping in mind, I decided I needed to be able to change the rear tyre by myself in case of a flat or puncture. Getting it off was easy following a YouTube video, but reconnecting the gear cables proved challenging and I needed some assistance in the end from the great team at Christchurch Electric Bikes. I’m sure it was all my error and I’ll get better with practice, but it’s not as easy as a traditional derailleur bike.
I can’t really think of too many other downsides – I really do like this bike!
My kids joke that eBikes have become my hobby horse and a topic I’ll talk about to anyone at any time and there is probably some truth in this. I have a few friends that are passionate about the environment and see any initiative to reduce cars on the road as a good thing. Whilst this is not my primary driver for getting into eBikes I can see the upside, and when doing the numbers on ever owning a second car again, the ROI for our family looks dubious. I’ve signed up to Zilch (eCar ridesharing company in NZ) for occasions where I really need a second vehicle, and there is a pickup zone around 800m from my house so an easy collection point.
I have plans for some bikepacking adventures on the SuperCharger2 that seems like the next step now that summer is here. The West Coast Wilderness Trail is a great starting contender as is Tasman’s Great Taste Trail. Additionally, I got Bikepacking Aotearoa by the Kennett Brothers for Christmas to feed the inspiration.
As mentioned above, I don’t think I’d get an eBike that could not pedal assist to 45kph now that I’ve tasted and enjoyed that speed and convenience of getting around and to best support this, I’d really want a Rohloff Speedhub with its higher gear range:
Which leaves me in a bit of a tricky position: it would be great to do these adventures with a second person (wife, child ,friend) but given my pretty narrow selection criteria affording a second eBike that meets these standards is a luxury beyond me right now!
That said, I believe the pricing of eBikes will come down with even wider adoption, and my personal belief is that more governments will consider extending subsidies on Electric Vehicles beyond just cars and include eBikes in this too – something this article from the news hints at. Certainly, EV are beyond the budget of most people, whereas the range of price for eBikes is wider and has a lower entry point.
If you’ve made it this far you’re a bit of a hero (or an eBike tragic like myself) so I congratulate you and trust you get as much enjoyment out of your ride as I do. Feel free to drop questions in the comments below and I’ll respond!