Rob Hopwood, Partner, Planning, tests one of the latest Electric Bikes available.
See full review:
Philip K Dick’s thought-provoking novel might be relevant to this blog. He once said:
“Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.”
I am not going to try to define what this means and leave that for another day, it is too much to think about on a Monday morning. So, less of the science fiction, and let’s deal with the facts.
Bidwells (no stranger to providing bikes for clients and staff use) asked me to review the pros and cons of comparing a normal human-powered bicycle with a “power-assisted” electric bike over one working week with a view to considering a power-assisted bicycles for the firm, if it passed the test.
Cambridge is known as the “City of Cycling” not surprisingly because over one in five of all daily journeys are made by bicycle.
Cambridge is small, flat and, in theory, easy to get around on designated roads and cycleways; So, a good place to compare both bikes relative merits.
As a fair-weather cyclist, I was always a bit concerned about getting caught in the rain or, on warm days, getting a bit sweaty in my shirt and tie.
On my first day of my trial, I took charge of my 36-volt e-bike kindly loaned to me by Cambridge Electric Transport Company, and after I had been given the basic run through of the controls, I was then left to my own devises.
I had meetings around Cambridge every day that week and prayed for good weather - I was lucky! It also meant I could test the battery’s life expectancy within the 45 miles range prescribed per charge.
Going on the flat without the ‘power assist’ was like riding a normal bike, albeit heavier. But it was firm and smooth. But the real test was the kicking the power-assist into play and so I then pressed the “on” button with my thumb and I didn’t even need to take my hands off the handlebars. There were three power settings – low, medium and high, and the power-light came on as I selected ‘low’. It was a good that there was a short time lag while the battery engaged and I started to accelerate slowly.
I then powered on again to ‘medium’, getting used to the acceleration and thought let’s live a little and pressed on ‘high’. It was like someone gently pushing you from behind. I pedalled slowly whilst accelerating as one naturally does on a bicycle. It was difficult not to – what a revelation in revolution! If you stopped pedalling, the bike decelerated and so it was natural to continue pedalling, but without much effort.
Once I got to my meeting destination and locked up the bike up on the hoop outside, the battery could be locked too. The electric bike was heavier than a normal bike as it included the battery but was, in all other respects, like a conventional bicycle. The only downside was that there were plenty of potholes in the road and you can get a big shudder when you went down one of these – not the bike’s fault, but rather my poor driving and the state of the roads.
Because Cambridge is flat, you can save on the battery and turn it off and cycle as normal, great for getting more exercise and then when you come to a slope, go to the power assisted setting and accelerate uphill overtaking “racing bikes”. I even waved at one of them as I sailed by, a guy that then overtook me at the traffic lights, but again I accelerating away on full power, and with great glee said under my breath… ‘eat dirt - Mr!’
My longest journey of the week was about 15 miles, a round trip to the Cambridge Science Park, all within a single charge, I had no trouble at all, feeling fresh and alert after getting back to the office.
In summary, Do Androids Dream of Electric Bikes - I think not, but humans do!
So what are the results?
(5 stars is the maximum positive score)
I rode the Peter’s Pedals City E-bike provided by the Cambridge Electric Transport Company. Cost £700. Range 45 miles, 250w brushless rear motor, 36U lithium battery, max speed 25km per hour, recharge 4-6 hours.
- Could use a bit of suspension to absorb pothole bounce
- Quicker local journey time than cars in Cambridge in the rush hour
- Exercise can be seen as a good thing
- Can switch off the battery and pedal like a normal bike if you want to
- Cost will come down even further as more competition ensues for our road surface. But at this price it’s a steal!
- Wave and smile as you pass stationary traffic and human powered bicycles!
NB* Bidwells has now purchased two electric bicycles with a view to considering two more for client and staff use.