Step Through Conversion
What made you decide to build a Lekkie bike?
I needed a new bike to suit my lifestyle better than my current Dawes hybrid. The Dawes has drop handlebars and a cross bar, and has been a wonderful bike for 12 years. I ride a lot, but found I was choosing to walk or take the bus whenever I needed to get to a meeting or I was wearing a skirt. Wellington is very hilly and arriving at every meeting looking sweaty wasn’t on. I have a very mobile job, so arriving at work and showering before spending the whole day at a desk is very infrequent.
I decided after a lot of anguish (how was my Dawes going to feel about being put out to pasture….?) to look for a new bike that suited my life these days.
What bike did you choose and why?
I tried out 23 different bikes around Wellington. I decided that I needed a ‘step through’ frame so I could easily wear a skirt, clean (ideally internal) gears, brakes and chain so I didn’t get grease all over my work clothes, a basket so I didn’t have to wear a rucksack and get sweatier and be very low maintenance (realistically it might get a service once per year but I was never going to be cleaning and sprucing it every weekend – it needed to be a workhorse).
However, this is Wellington and I live up a really steep hill, so I also needed very good quality gears and brakes. The gears take a lot of punishing as we toil up these hills and there is a busy junction at the bottom of my hill…I need to be able to stop! I needed a gear set that wouldn’t need replacing every 1-2 years.
I cycled up steep hills from many Wellington bike shops, and none of the step through bikes had good enough gears to get me up my hill. None of the bikes with internal gearing had low enough gears to get up the hill either.
I tried out the Pilen bike at Bicycle Junction as it fulfilled the need for low maintenance and high spec, but it was too heavy to get even halfway up the hill. They kindly replaced the gears with a lower set and this helped, but it was really hard work (and not getting too sweaty was one of my initial criteria).
I tried very hard to not buy an electric bike – I’d become unfit, I would be soft, etc etc….but I was unable to buy a ‘normal’ bike that would do the job. I could have a mountain or road bike, but usually with no basket, external gears and a crossbar……
What system did you choose and why?
I tried out the Pedago and the Mustache electric bikes and they were OK. The Pedago felt like an inferior quality bike and the electrics were ‘clunky’ – it was tricky to get more ‘boost’ up the hill, and the ‘turbo’ was quite frightening. They were also very big bikes, and I found it difficult to get around the tight corner on my steep, uphill zigzag path. They were cheaper than my eventual purchase, but I would have to add a basket, lights etc.
The mustache is a fine bike and a very smooth ride. Still needed accessorizing with a basket and lights etc and was much more expensive. However, by this time, I was resigned to spending a lot of money!!
I tried out the large ‘male’ pilen with the Lekkie motor from Bicycle Junction and was pleasantly surprised. It seemed as good as the mustache for smoothness and power, but turned out to be quieter when cycling up the hill. I couldn’t get around the tight corners, but hoped this was because it was too big for me and the ‘ladies’ Pilen would be OK….
Where did you have it installed?
I talked long and hard to Bicycle Junction (who were very patient with me). It was nerve racking spending that much money on something that I couldn’t really try out. But the Pilen was a good bike, and had everything I needed except the uumph to get up the hill, and the Lekkie motor seemed quiet and sturdy….
It took a couple of weeks to get it installed and I remember champing at the bit, as by this time I was very excited…
What modifications or accessories have you added to your bike?
Because the Pilen already had most things I needed – basket, internal brakes, chain and gears, back and front lights, stand, internal lock (really handy), there wasn’t much more for me to do. I bought a back basket so that I can carry more stuff and that has been excellent. I struggled to find a waterproof system for the baskets, but then discovered my old pannier covers would fit. I secured them to the bike with plastic ties and they go on and off really easily. I also bought a combination lock for times when I need to leave my helmet with the bike, but mostly I just use the internal lock.
The chain guard had to be modified to accommodate the motor, but Dan seemed to be able to fix this with little fuss.
How has the Lekkie bike changed your life?
For the last 3-5 years I’ve only used my bike at the weekends and for recreational bike rides. I have a Bob Yak trailer and occasionally I’d take it to the supermarket, or on holiday, but mostly I re-organised my life around walking, buses and the occasional car trip.
Now I ride my bike every day. I lock it in the hospital bike shed (only using the internal lock). It is very heavy, so I reason a thief would need two people and a van to steal it…and hopefully won’t bother! I nip in and out of Wellington City all the time and have even started cycling to Kenepuru and Hutt Hospitals on it. (There are quite a few hills between here and Kenepuru!).
What is the most interesting moment you have had as a Lekkie bike owner?
Car drivers seem to give me a wider berth and more respect than they did on my drop handlebar bike. I don’t know if it’s the size of the Pilen/Lekkie or if it’s because I’m upright, wearing a skirt and look like a ‘normal person’ rather than a ‘cyclist’.
What comments do you have for people considering creating a Lekkie bike?
It’s fabulous. If you can afford it (consider the cost of little car, no buses and time saved as well!) then do go ahead. You do need to have the ability to charge it easily and it is too heavy to be lifted up steps every day, so you need to be able to cycle to it’s home. It has changed my life, and I love being out on it every day. (Even in Wellington’s terrible weather…).