Journalist, commentator, economist and now e- bike aficionado
I was probably around four or five when I learned how to ride a proper bicycle, two wheels not three, and no stabilisers. It was in the yard of my dad’s family farm in Norway, struggling to stay upright on a pig-iron heavy lady’s bone shaker. My older brother Dave was running along behind, clutching the saddle to keep me vertical – until he wasn’t. I sensed his absence and knew, immediately, that I could now ride a bike. And all that meant in terms of freedom.
I’ve been riding bikes ever since – rushing around suburban pavements to meet up with childhood friends; tearing down forest paths against the stop-watch with cow-horn handlebars and no sense of mortality. Commuter cycling to the station, sticking the bike in a slam door guard’s van and then hurtling across London sans helmet, sans fear (and still without a sense of mortality).
And latterly, mostly on hybrids, be-jeaned and be-shorted . Unlike wrapped-in-Lycra friends, who spent more on their wheels than I did on a whole bike. But I’m not sure they enjoyed the sights, smells and sounds of the countryside any more than me. Mostly they always looked unhappy and in pain.
And then, well, I got older. Hills and headwinds conspired to curb my enthusiasm. The bicycle stayed in the garage, garnering cobwebs. I started thinking about mortality.
It was a chance encounter with the bike of my chum Lindsay’s wife that changed everything. Lynda’s bicycle had a motor! Four power settings so naturally, being male, I went straight to the top one and took off down their cul-de-sac like Barry Sheene. Later I learned that, legally, the battery-powered motors must cut out at 15.5 mph. But of course, you can get to that mind-bending velocity as slowly or quickly as you like.
Anyway, it changed my life. Straddling my e-bike, I have been on many day rides (even during Covid) and, pre-plague, on a few longer trips: the Peace Trail around the Ypres battlefields for example, and 150-odd miles across North Devon. Both in the excellent company of said Lindsay, who now has his own e-bike.
So here, as they say, is the science.
An e-bike is not a moped. It’s a normal bicycle aided by a battery charged electric motor. This is usually situated in the rear wheel hub. The battery is charged from a normal three pin plug and takes a few hours to go from zero to full. Charging will cost no more than 10p.
The bike has gears (usually 7/8) and you still have to pedal. The heart beat rises! At the end of a full day you feel knackered and in need of beer!
There are usually four power modes, so you can choose how much you want to be assisted. As you would expect, the higher power you choose, the less the range. Battery capacities vary. I found that on a fairly hilly route (eg up to Exmoor and down again), I could easily do 50 miles. But the size of the battery is an important consideration, dependent on what sort of cycle trips you are planning.
There is as big a range of e-bikes as there is for the ordinary variety: hybrids, mountains, fold-ups…
And, of course, prices vary hugely.
I’d go for mid-range. One of the big price drivers with traditional bikes is weight. So you pay more for less (a bit like designer bikinis). But weight isn’t really so important when you have a motor. I reckon you can get a very decent ebike for around £1500.
So – it’s good for you.
It’s good for the environment (especially if it stops you getting in the car).
And it’s good for your smile!
What’s not to like?
- Sales of electric bikes tripled during the UK’s Covid summer (Halfords)
- UK consumers bought 100,000 ebikes in 2020, up 40% on the previous year (Mintel)
- Ebike sales are expected to more than double by 2025, to 6.5 million units (The Confederation of the European Bicycle Industry – Yes! It exists!)
- The UK government is planning subsidies to encourage ebike buying which could see prices slashed by 30% (The Times)
#e-bike #cycling #health #lifestyle #ypres