Published by Lyn on 12 August 2016
Our electric bikes expert Richard Peace reviews the Wallerang electric bike, an ebike option with automatic gear changing.
Electric bikes are great for touring, especially long tours with heavy loads that you might not otherwise consider. (See here for our overview of ebike touring in France). Always fancied cycle camping in France but not the extra gear you have to take from place to place? Want to take the children in tow? An electric bike will allow you to do all that and more and get as much or as little exercise as you want (they are not motorcycles with pedals you do still have put some effort in).
They are also great for local trips: quick hops to the supermarket to bring back heavier loads, to cut time off longer commutes, or to level out local hills a bit.
Billed as being suitable for Nordic conditions, the Wallerang comes from Sweden's main electric bike firm Eco-Ride. Whilst it's not really equipped for snow drifts and ice (for example, there's no snow tyre option) it is a fine electric bike nonetheless.
It's based around Shimano STEPS pedelec crank motor system which is located around the pedal cranks. It doesn't lack power, and together with the battery on the downtube, it means the weight is kept centrally and low down, so the bike feels very natural to ride.
There are three power levels and I found myself riding in the lowest level (or turning the motor off) most of the time. This meant getting a good range of around 50 miles with a light load and a good workout into the bargain, but still being able to storm up steeper hills when I needed to by blipping up the power with the bar-mounted thumb control.
I had the software upgraded at a local dealer so that the electronic Di2 shifting allowed the option of automatic gear changing (a free upgrade to this is in fact available to all Shimano Steps electric bikes). I found this upgrade to the electronically controlled 8 hub gears worked surprisingly well. It needs fairly careful pedalling up very steep hills to aid smooth changing, but it means you can just get on the bike and pedal without worrying about what gear you should be in. Great for less experienced riders or those who just like care-free riding. If you don't like it, you can change back to manual gears at the touch of a button.
The bike itself was comfortable and very smooth-handling with great stopping power from the hydraulic disk brakes and fast yet comfortable Kenda Koast tyres. The optional, removable carrying system of front and rear racks is notable too, though thinner tubing would have allowed them to accommodate a greater range of panniers.
At 21kg the bike (including battery and beefy optional carrying racks) is reasonable next to comparable e-bikes as it also features high-quality lights and mudguards. The riding position is sporty yet comfortable.
There are cheaper Shimano STEPS equipped bikes out there but the Wallerang looks well-built enough and comfortably equipped for longer tours as well as everyday duty, and the extra carrying capacity is most welcome.
It really is a complete package as it also features high quality LED lighting powered from the main on-board battery and has sturdy mudguards and kickstand to boot.
Richard Peace is the co-author of Electric Bicycles: The Complete Guide (UK, US) and founder of cycle publishers Excellent Books. He is author of Cycling Southern France (UK, US) and Cycling Northern France (UK, US), and contributes to A to B magazine, Bike Europe and Eurobike Show Daily.