The pros and cons of riding an e-bike
When I was younger, I had a small purple bike, styled on the popular Chopper model ridden by the bigger kids. It had a sticker on the frame that read ‘Pedal Power!’ Whenever I felt tired and my legs heavy, I would look down at the sticker and it seemed to have a magical power, spurring me on, giving an extra energy boost to furiously spin the pedals of my little bike.
Clicking the power button of an e-bike to increase the level of assistance and feeling the motor kick in like a push from a bobsleigh crew, I was reminded of the ‘Pedal Power!’ sticker and its seemingly miraculous effect.
We borrowed two e-bikes from Lang Toun Cycles Community Bike Shop at the end of October. The shop staff kindly fitted our child seat on mine, and my wife’s bike came with pannier bags containing locks, keys and chargers. On the day of collection, the staff made the required adjustments to ensure a good set-up and explained the functionality of the e-bikes. We were advised to charge them after each ride – and having experienced some ‘range anxiety’ on day two, we certainly stuck to that advice for the rest of the month.
Riding away from the shop with a tentative wobble, we headed for the esplanade to get to grips with the bikes away from traffic, adjusting to the upright riding position and experimenting with the gear shifter on one side and the power controls on the other to find that sweet spot that proved key to efficient e-biking.
- No need to wear special clothing (other than ensuring you are visible and safe)
- Motor assistance for hills, headwinds, carrying heavy loads/child, increased mileage and those with injuries/health conditions/disabilities
- Fun to ride and makes chores enjoyable
- Save on fuel costs and reduce impact on environment
- Comfortable and safe riding position
- ‘Range anxiety’ – making sure batteries have enough charge
- Heavy to manoeuvre/transport
- Expensive to buy (interest-free loans are available)
- May need more servicing than a regular bike
- Aesthetics may not please everyone (though there are a massive and increasing range of styles now)
The bikes had a ‘swan’s neck’ gentle curving frame without crossbar, for easy mount and dismount and a comfy ‘sit up and beg’ seated position (which, being in my forties, I can appreciate) that allows great visibility of what’s going in front and around you. You may not score any points for aesthetics, but any concerns about your image (or indeed the notion of an e-bike being ‘cheating’) soon melt away when you start deftly adjusting the controls to manage hills and headwinds with ease.
We were soon at the outskirts of town to run our errand, picking up some free food courtesy of OLIO, the food sharing app, and the generous people that use it to prevent food waste. With pannier bags bulging, we were on our way, soon to complete a successful maiden e-bike ride, grateful for the powered assist on the ascent towards home.
The next day we were back on the e-bikes, to the park, to the café, a leisurely circuit of the town, not a squeak of dissatisfaction from our toddler in the bike seat. When the ‘range anxiety’ kicked in, observing the red warning light of the battery meter, I found I could manage the bike with minimal or no assist on the flat or downhills, managing to conserve the battery for the steep climb homewards.
Over the rest of the month, we used the bikes for a shopping trip in town, a nursery drop off/pick up, and other trips for which we might ordinarily have used the car. As well as charging after each ride (don’t leave charging overnight) – we stored the bikes in a shed with a power source so did not need to remove the batteries – another piece of advice would be to make sure if using a child bike seat that it fits securely on the e-bike and don’t lean back when pedalling uphill with a child passenger as I felt the front wheel lift off the ground once or twice!
Overall we thought the e-bike experience was great and would consider buying one or two in the future – maybe a cargo e-bike – to reduce car use and enjoy cycling with that bit of added ‘Pedal Power!’
Simon Turner, Media Volunteer
Our e-bike library at Lang Toun Cycles offers a free month-long trial of an e-bike, with just a small deposit required.