Having moved from from a city surrounded by hills and the occasional mountain, to one of the flattest cities in the country, I thought that it might be a good time to purchase a bicycle. Hmm, that might be a bit of an over exaggeration… Having moved from a city centre within walking distance of work, to a city where I needed to commute four miles each way and with awful traffic, I thought it might be a good time to purchase a bicycle.
Luckily for me, I was reading the memo at the time, a sort of webzine of interesting things, and an article on electric bicycles had me hooked. The author described her dislike of cycling, her fear of the roads and her change of heart following road testing an electric bike – I knew it was for me.
Having just moved and wanting to become a ‘local’, I went to my local bike shop to enquire about what was available, they had one make, so I bought it – I was persuaded, as the shop owner told me that he had bought his wife one; if it was good enough for the wife of a bicycle shop owner, it was good enough for me.
I am lucky that my place of work has a very good bicycle scheme, allowing you to spend up to £2000 on a bike – my bike came in at a neat £2000, but as the alternative was a daily £4 park and ride ticket, it still worked out cheaper to cycle, even when I was paying off the bike.
The bike itself is an Electron Ridge and it can cycle 15mph at it’s ‘high’ level (the level I constantly ride it at), at this setting it can do 42 miles without needing to recharge the battery and longer on lower settings. The electrics work very well (the memo article had suggested not getting much below this as it tended to break relatively quickly) and although one of the mudguards cracked and it took me about three months to upgrade to ‘non-puncture’ tyres, which I would highly recommend, I have never looked back.
How to discuss my bike in public, however, is a challenge that continues. I live in a city in which many people cycle, there are good cycle paths and bad commuter traffic; everyone has a bike, not that many people have an electric bike. Even where bikes are commonplace, if you suggest that you commute to work by bicycle people look impressed – I guess they assume I look like some lycra-clad loon zooming along on some thin race bike, getting in my morning race. The reality is that I am merrily zooming to work whilst my legs slowly rotate, with ample time to look around me, smiling as I fly past ‘proper’ cyclists and speed past the cars.
So, I feel that I cannot leave them with this false impression, if I tell anyone I cycle to work I immediately follow it with “I have an electric bike”. Perhaps it is just normal and all owners of electric bikes feel the need to share their enthusiasm for this transportation with the world. However, if I’m not sure I do it for that reason (though I am enthusiastic about it), I think it’s because I feel guilty thinking that people will believe I am better/healthier than I am. I know this may sound ridiculous – as though anyone would care: if I drove to work, I wouldn’t feel the need to say “I have an electric car”. Perhaps it’s a bit different because you would never cycle a car. However, the point I am trying to make is that I share the information not always because I want to, but because I’m worried that if I don’t, people might think I am trying to hoodwink them.
Obviously in the case of entrenched societal guilt this is a pretty minor affair (in fact I can’t think of anything smaller – I even really like the fact I own an electric bike). However, I do find it interesting that I react in this way. I wonder if this is the reason that there are not more sales of electric bikes? Even though the alternative to cycling is likely to be driving, it still feels lazy to use an electric bike.
Top tips for buying an electric bike
- buy from a shop that sells more than one brand because the shop is likely to be more knowledgeable about electric bikes and can provide some helpful advice
- Definitely upgrade your tyres to ‘puncture prevent’ tyres – the tyres on an electric bike wear out more quickly because you are cycling so fast!
- Your brakes will wear out more quickly too – I haven’t quite got round to upgrading these yet.
- An electric bike is a heavy bike – I would not necessarily recommend it if you were hoping to sometimes use it without the electric assist.