Electrically assisted bicycles is a great way to save money while burning off some extra calories! When you take a stroll down the street mums riding electrically assisted bicycles are bound to soar by. The number of people purchasing electrically assisted bicycles escalated after the March 11 earthquake in 2011; as people sought alternative transportation methods from metro and train. After trying one recently honestly I can’t imagine anyone would go back to a regular bicycle after the experience. The bicycles are super convenient for commuting to work, shopping or transporting up children. However purchasing electrically assisted bicycles can cost as much as a second handed car. So if you are looking to make the investment, here are some tips to consider when purchasing. If you would like to rent a bike for a day to see how it feels, try renting one of the Tokyo community electric bikes.
Purchasing electrically assisted bicycles : Tips
1. Top questions to ask when buying electrically assisted bicycles.
- What is the Ah (amps per hour)?
- How far a distance can a full battery cover?
- How long it takes to recharge the battery?
- How much weight the bike can hold?
2. Which brand electrically assisted bicycles is best
There are three main companies that sell electrically assisted bicycles in Japan; Yamaha, Panasonic, and Bridgestone. Bridgestone and Yamaha have partnered with each other. Bridgestone specializes in the bike frame, while Yamaha specializes in the bike battery. This is why a large number of the bikes have similar designs as well as features. Panasonic makes their own battery and frame. As competition is fierce, the quality of the bikes is pretty much the same. Therefore, you can choose the bike seat along with the frame you fancy without worrying much about the quality.
Salespeople do recommend Bridgestone or Yamaha for non-native Japanese speakers. This is because the remote is easier to channel without knowing the language.
3. Where to buy and the prices
We recommend you buy from an authorised dealer of electrically assisted bikes to assure proper warranty and aftercare. Buying the cheapest from an unknown retailer or used can result in unexpected expenses later.
We recommend Aeon bike store (Shinagawa Seaside Station), BIC CAMERA (Yurakucho), Daikanyama T-site (Daikayama) and Don Quijote (Roppongi). The salespeople are typically friendly, but their English skills are limited, so we recommend bringing a Japanese-speaking-friend along. Additionally, we recommend you to visit a store which allows test rides such as the Aeon bike store at Shinagawa Seaside Station and Daikanyama T-site. After test riding, you can always buy online or at another store if the price is better.
The price of electrically assisted bicycles ranges from around 110,000 JPY ($1,000 USD dollars) to 160,000 JPY ($1,500 USD). The main price difference factor is the Ah, ampere hour of the battery. Typically a bike with a lower Ah will cost less while a bike with a higher Ah will cost more. Ah range from 4.0 to 16.0 Ah. Read more about what level Ah you should purchase below.
Tip: In Don Quijote, you can purchase electrically assisted bicycles for less than 90,000 JPY (tax inc.). The bike is made by the three main companies as well however, the battery is around 6.6 Ah. If you are looking for a bike for occasional use, check them out! *Note: Not all Don Quijote stores have electrically assisted bicycles in stock.
Purchasing electrically assisted bicycles : More Tips
4. High Ah vs. low Ah (Amp hours)
Think of Ah as the storage tank for electricity. The higher the Ah, the more space the battery has to store the electricity. Vice versa, the lower the Ah, the less space there is. A high Ah battery will be able to sustain usage for a longer time before you have to recharge it, while the opposite is true for the lower Ah battery.
If you are using the bike occasionally, for example, to buy groceries a few times a week, an 8.0 to 9.0 Ah battery would be enough. If you are going to commute to work or send children to school for daily use, the bike technician recommends a 12.0 to 16.0 Ah battery. In Japan, customers normally buy 8.7 Ah (Batteries normally go up to 16.0 Ah at regular bike stores).
5. Big wheels or small wheels
Smaller wheel bikes have a lower gravity; they are more stable hence better suited for mothers who carry little ones. Normally a smaller wheel means you have to peddle more to cover the same distance as a larger wheel. However since we are talking about purchasing electrically assisted bicycles, you don’t have to take this into consideration.
Larger wheels are a better fit for taller people as the height between the paddle and the handlebars is larger. There is an option to purchase a bike with a smaller front wheel and a larger rear wheel which could accommodate both needs. If you are over 170 cms, we recommend taking a trial ride before buying to assess fit.
6. One or two children seats
There are two kinds of children seats; a smaller kind for children up to one-year-old (15 kg), the other for older children from 2 to 6 years old (22kg). Many bikes can adjust to one, two or no children seats. Talk to the salesman to buy a bike which is suited for the number of children seats you need – not all bikes can accommodate two child seats. It is highly recommended that you buy children seats with the bike, making sure you buy the same brand. You may also avoid legal issues by doing so too.
7. For taller people
It can be difficult to purchase electrically assisted bicycles for taller people in Japan since Japanese are normally petite. The technician mentioned that the distance between the handle and seat is the same. So if you are tall and looking to purchase a larger wheeled bike (27 inches) would more comfortable. Adjusting the seat height always helps too.
Purchasing electrically assisted bicycles: Our recommendations
The following are five best-selling electrically assisted bicycles sold in Japan:
Yamaha PA 26K – For one child under the age of one, or two children, or no children. The wheel in the front is 24 inches, the rear is 26 inches. The bike has wide handles, which makes it easier to ride on your own or with children.
Yamaha PA 27 CL5 – A 27 inch wheeled bike for taller people. Also suited for those who have a child from 2-6 years old or no children.
Yamaha PA 26RL – A bike suited for parents with a child around 2-6 years old or no children.
Panasonic BE-ELMA63 – A great Panasonic choice for parents with one child.
Bridgestone HY626C – A Bridgestone Hydee suitable for parent and child
Purchasing electrically assisted bicycles: FAQ
1. How do I charge the battery?
To charge the battery you remove the battery from the bicycle, then charge in the standalone charge station which plugs into any standard wall socket.
2. How often does the battery have to be charged?
This depends on how often you use the bike. If you use it on a daily basis, the battery may need to be charged every day. A fully depleted battery takes approximately 5 hours to recharge.
3. How long will the battery last before it has to be replaced?
A battery can be charged around 700 to 900 times. If you use, in addition to charging the battery daily, it lasts around 2.5 to 3 years. If you use while charging it every other day it can last up to 5 or 6 years if well looked after.
4. What to look out for when I replace my battery?
If your battery runs out, you can replace the battery by buying a new one. Batteries are expensive ranging from 20,000 JPY ($200 USD) to 40,000 JPY ($400 USD) some even more. (The price of the battery is also based on Ah, lower Ah costing less while higher Ah costing more)
You can replace the new battery with the number, Ah, you desire as long as the battery is the same brand as before. Even if your bike was 12.7Ah Yamaha battery, you can replace it with an 8.7Ah battery from Yamaha. If your bike is from Panasonic, the battery will show “LI8.7N.C.” for a 8.7Ah battery.
5. How can I prolong the life of my battery?
To increase life span, charge the battery when there is around 20% battery left. If you charge is when the percentage is too high or too low, the battery will get exhausted thus shortening its life.
If the weather gets too hot or too cold (more than 27 degrees Celsius or lower than 20 Celsius) it is recommended to take the battery home with you.
If it rains or snows, park you bike indoors or under a covered space. The water would rust the metal.
In places like Tokyo where humidity in summer is high, taking the battery home would not help as the spot connecting the battery to the bike will rust and can’t be reattached. In this case, buy a cover and leave your battery inside the bike.
6. How much does the battery assist me?
There are three assistance levels, High, Normal, and Low. The higher the level, the more assistance, and the less length your battery can cover. The lower the level, the less assistance and the more length your battery can cover.
7. What can I see on the screen?
There is an on/off button, light switch, assistance levels, numbers of KM left and percentage of battery left.
8. Will riding in the rain damage my bike?
Riding in the rain will not damage the bike. If you are really concerned, you can purchase a cover for the front of your bike. However, after riding it is always a good idea to dry your bike, especially the battery.
When you press the buttons on the screen, use fingers instead of nails. Often the plastic protection cover breaks allowing rain or water in the atmosphere to seep inside and damage the machine.
Purchasing electrically assisted bicycles
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