Occasionally I get to go on a bike ride for fun, but more often than not I’m dashing home from work at lunch time to take the dog out for a walk. Living on an island I’ve noticed that the wind really seems to pick up along the river, and it always seems to be against me, rather than giving me a helping hand: When it’s really strong cycling against it seems like cycling through thick mud!
My old bike was getting on a bit and was a proper mountain bike, not really designed for predominantly road use, so when I started a new job I decided to take advantage of the companies cycle to work (C2W) scheme and get a new one. I looked at all types of bikes from racers to hybrids, and whilst I was looking into it I thought I should cover all bases and try an electric bike, or e-bike.
Having never ridden one before I wasn’t really sure what to expect: was it going to be an underwhelming experience with a token motor which provided very little real power, or would it be like having a silent motorbike?!
I did a bit of research and decided that I wanted something which looked like a normal bike, rather than a lot of electric ones which look like fold away bikes. There were a couple of options, including offerings from Trek, but nowhere could get a demonstrator for me to try which was frustrating. Then by chance I came across the Electric Bike Sales Shop, just off of Whiteladies Road. They had by far the best range of bikes I’d seen on my search, and their staff really knew what they were talking about.
I was introduced to a German brand called Haibike, who specialise in e-bikes and offer both the top motors (Bosch and Yamaha; normally a bike manufacturer’s tried to one of the other). The bikes looked great and seemed well spec’d so I took one out for a ride.
Initially the bike felt heavy (due to the additional weight of the motor and battery pack), but once on the move that was quickly forgotten. There’s four levels of assistance: High, Standard, Eco and SuperEco: The more assistance you demand, the quicker you deplete the battery. I went straight for the high setting (come on, you know you would too!). Along the flats it felt as if you were getting a gentle push, but on a hill you really appreciate the benefit of the 250 watt motor! Even in the hardest gear setting a good sized hill is a breeze. I’ve yet to try Park Street or Jacob’s Well Road, but I’m confident I’ll fly up them.
The amount of power assistance you get depends how hard you peddle, so if you’re just cruising along you don’t get much, but if you’re going for it, or the bike detects the extra torque you’re applying as a result of being on a hill, then you get a great big shove. Mine has good strong hydraulic brakes and nine gears, which is more than enough. Being a bit heavier than a normal bike, an e-bike does crash over big potholes a bit, but I was used to a mountain bike with soft suspension and big tires, so perhaps for road bike users this won’t be too different an experience.
I was sold straight away so filled in the necessary papers at work for the C2W scheme and my new bike was ready to collect a couple of days later. The benefit of using this scheme is that you don’t pay the VAT, and it comes out of your pay monthly so you don’t pay tax or national insurance on the value of your bike (and any accessories you order at the time of purchase): This can represent a saving of hundreds of pounds. It’s also worth mentioning that there appears to be a £1,000 limit on the C2W scheme, but this is just the maximum amount they’ll insure; you can get a bike of whatever value you like.
I’m chuffed to bits with my new e-bike: It makes light work of any hills or headwinds and allows me to get to work with minimal effort and not arrive hot and bothered. On the high assistance setting I get about a 25 mile range, but this goes up considerably on the lower (but still useful) settings. A full battery charge takes a couple of hours and the handy on board computer tells you all the vital stats like battery level, power assist level, assistance setting, speed and distance covered.
If you’re considering getting a new bike then I can’t recommend strongly enough that you at least try an e-bike, and the guys at https://www.electricbikesales.co.uk/ couldn’t be more helpful.
And here’s Steph, in a box: