The rise and rise of e-bikes

| 12th June 2013
It's week two riding an e-bike to work and it looks like a romance might be blossoming between Susan Clark and her borrowed bike......
It's only been a week but already I am feeling better, healthier, fitter and even a little trimmer

I have a nasty ripened mango-shaped and size bruise on my bottom. Raising just one eyebrow, my husband has casually enquired how I might have acquired this? In all honesty, I am not sure but I have a hunch it might be linked with my recent acquisition (on loan) of a supercharged e-bike which I have now spent a whole week using to cycle to and from work.

In that week, I have mastered (a) starting, including tricky Devon hill-starts (b) the use of the throttle up said hills and (c) managing not to motor straight for the hedge every time there is another form of transport and/or life (lorry, car, caravan, hearse, dog plus its walker and even police car) on the same patch of road.

The police car was a worry. It kind of snuck up behind me on the one day I somehow managed to lose my cycle helmet somewhere between home and work. I have not yet mastered either (a) stopping suddenly with any kind of balance or grace or (b) turning my head nonchalantly over my shoulder to check out what kind of vehicle is behind and so said police car was practically alongside me before I knew we were sharing the road.

I panicked (I still panic a bit when there is anything other than me on the road) but this panic was because I didn't know if its illegal to cycle in the UK without a helmet (it isn't but I didn't know that). So I stopped (badly) which is most likely how I bruised my bottom and loitered in someone else's driveway in the hope the policeman would think I had arrived home which did the trick and the policeman gave me a nice wave as he passed by.

Having used the bike every day now since June 1st, I am beginning to feel we have bonded. Bruised bottom and nervous disposition aside, I have become more confident about being on the road on an electric bike and I might, this week, even release my steely grip from the brakes when we hurtle down one of those hills.

I notice I am feeling better; healthier, fitter and even a little trimmer. I am really only cycling half an hour a day and to be honest, a good 10 minutes of that is almost all downhill but I do pedal and I do work on those hills and it is starting to pay off. These are hills I wouldn't dream of tackling unless I was on an e-bike (picking up the jargon too) and so I can see how for someone like me, the e-bike would be a great option for getting to and from work.

It's only been a week but already I am feeling better, healthier, fitter and even a little trimmer

Last year saw the sale of 25,000 e-bikes in the UK and although this is reportedly just a fraction of their sales across Europe as the styling and technology improves, they are becoming more refined, more reliable and more attractive.

The bike works by assisting your pedaling and the Compy I am riding gives you an eight-gear and three power (low, medium or high) plus manual throttle so you control how much power you need and get. Here in the UK we have a legal speed limit for e-bikes of 15.5mph (25kph) which is unlikely to pose a problem to a slow coach like me but which might make for disappointment for a regular cyclist who is already used to faster speeds. You can still accelerate beyond this speed but only by pedaling furiously. You won't be being assisted and the bike will feel really heavy.

So, I am looking forward to another week of riding to and from work.

This morning, I could smell the wild garlic growing in the hedgerows as I cycled by and I definitely appreciate the thinking time that cycling, instead of driving to work gives me. It takes about 20 minutes which is half the time it takes me to walk and so I am starting to think that an e-bike might just be making its way onto my end of summer birthday wish list...

Just don't tell the husband.

Susan Clark is the Managing Editor of the Ecologist. Her e-bike is on loan from Power Pedals South West


For more on the model she is riding see here

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