A partial convert speaks…

Today I took my car in for a service, and, since the dealer is on the far side of town and I couldn’t face the hassle of loading and unloading a bike, I’d booked a courtesy car for the day. But as I walked into the showroom, there was a sign saying “Ask about our electric loan bikes.” So I did. And a little while later I was cruising home on a very nicely-built machine from A2B. Not sure of the exact model, but it was pretty similar to this:

a2bhybrid

Now, I’ve always been pretty skeptical about battery-boosted bicycles, thinking they were really for the elderly or lazy. But having done ten miles or so on one today, I’ve largely changed my mind. Here’s why:

  • It was a substantial bike: big tyres, good suspension, solidly made, with all the accessories. Because of its weight, you wouldn’t want to cycle it very far without the battery assistance. But with the power boost, it was an easy cycle, even up slopes, and gives you the benefits of more robust engineering: really good disk brakes, a solid carrier, a decent kickstand and large tyres which took kerbs, potholes and slippery patches in their stride. There was also plenty of battery power for some good lights, and a trip computer telling you various interesting bits of info as you went along.
  • You have to keep pedalling. Not very hard, I grant you, but this isn’t a motorbike: you do get some exercise – in fact, the battery only pushes you along when you are doing so. It’s not nearly the exercise you’d get from a regular bicycle, but remember, I had chosen to use this instead of a car, not instead of a bike. And a car would have given me no exercise at all. You can, of course, pedal harder if you want to, or turn down the level of assistance that the battery gives, if you feel the need to be more virtuous.
  • It was fast, even in the rain. What do I mean by that? Well, these things are normally limited to 15mph – not record-breaking by any means, but it’s a pretty good cycling speed when pottering around town. And the ease of getting up to that speed, and maintaining it, and resuming it when slowed down, meant that I actually moved from one place to another much faster than I would have done on my normal bike, unless I were really looking for a work-out. I was moving with the traffic, rather than having it whizz past me. And then, on the way back this evening, I was caught in a downpour. I realised that, had I been wearing full waterproofs, trousers and all, on my regular bike, I would have arrived at my destination sweating profusely. On this, I was really quite comfortable.

So, add all of that to that the fact that it was really rather fun, and I find myself looking at electric bikes in a new light. I genuinely believe I would use two wheels, rather than four, in many more situations if I had one of these. I would get less exercise than when I took my normal bike, but I’d get it much more often. And I’d be more willing to carry heavily-loaded panniers, and to cycle in inclement weather, than I am now.

All of which is good… but these things don’t come cheap. The one I used was somewhere in the £1500-2000 range, so I’m unlikely just to rush out and buy one. But I’m a lot more tempted now than I was before I tried it…

4 Comments

There’s a kickstarter project called FlyKly for an electric booster which fits around the hub of the rear wheel, allowing you to easily swap it in and out of a normal bike. Plus it has some nifty phone integration. $600 is more than my commuter bike cost, but it’s better than £1500!

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/flykly/flykly-smart-wheel

But you would get a LOT more exercise when the battery goes flat 🙂

My initial reaction to £1500-£2000 is also that it sounds expensive. How does it compare to the cost of the car service that you’ve just had and the fuel, tax and insurance costs of the same duration as the life of one of these bikes? I find it interesting how much I’m willing to spend on my car without a thought compared to how hard I think about spending small amounts on my bike for the same usage, e.g. mostly getting me around short(ish) distances.

Yes, it’s hard to balance these things. The service was £350 (cambelt replacement), but that was after nearly 50,000 miles.

As a loan vehicle, though, the electric bike is great… they don’t charge for it (pun unintentional!) so I saved 12 quid that way, and I then zoomed into the centre of town, where I didn’t have to pay for parking, over a pedestrian bridge where I couldn’t have taken a motorbike… and so on.

You can, of course, get cheaper electric bikes, too… but these are, I think, very highly rated ones.

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