Pedal power: why it’s time to consider an electric bike


Testing the Cowboy 3 bike

I am an experienced cyclist, riding the roads of London since I was 10 (don’t tell my mum), cycling to work when I lIved in London and then commuting from the countryside on a collapsible train. But now I am working from Home (WFH) almost all the time. The distances to the places I need/want to go are greater than in London. I drIve more than I would like, but I prefer to ride a bike, so I am considering an electric bike.

Having cHatted with exhibitors at the London Bike Show and Swedish, Danish and Dutch bike shop owners, as well as seeing “normal people” (not “MAMILS” – Middle-aged Men in Lycra) going up hills or plummeting down faster than you. I would imagine they could pedal – I knew electric bikes were gaining popularity. And the statistics bear it out: The Bicycle Association, the UK’s national bicycle trade association, reports that since April 2020, more than 3.1 million bicycles have been purchased in Britain, about 15% more than in any of the last fIve years, and the e-bike market will nearly triple by 2023.

The idea that electric bikes cheat is incorrect. You don’t go anywhere without pedaling. The power is there to help, not do all the work, and legally you Can‘t go faster than 15mph in the UK. They are ideal for looking stylish without sweating, mountainous routes, physical restrictions, low physical condition, wandering further or Carrying heavy loads.

During the pandemic, the number of people on bicycles increased. In the first four months, despite fewer people commuting overall, cycling increased 100% on weekdays and up to 200% on weekends. People used two wheels for Exercise, to avoid public tranSportation, or because the WFH freed up time for more leisurely local travel. Last year the governMent launched a Cycle and Pedestrian Scheme to create better streets for cyclists and people, and allow people to cycle more safely, and a revised Highway Code is also on the way to improve safety for cyclists, pedestrians and horseMen.


Testing Uber’s Jump bikes in London

Testing and buying

The first electric bike I tried was the London Lime on-street e-bike sharing. Download the app, find a bike, assess your range, sCan your QR code and you’re good to go, for £1 initial hire, then 15p a minute. When you’re done, lock the bike and leave it anywhere (within reason). I was impressed with the ease with which I could accelerate to get away from the traffic Lights, uphill.

For a more realistic test, I borrowed a Cowboy 3 (retail price £1690) for the weekend: touring central London, going to a supermarket, visiting a pub in another town and speeding up a short, sTeep hill nearby ( 1:15, 6%), laughing at how easy it was. (I’ve done it without an engine, and it’sdifficult.) Again, I felt safer at higher speeds in fast traffic, negotiating roundabouts, and offndome of the traffic Lights. Traveling faster means it’s harder to sTop, but the hydraulic disc Brakes slowed me down with no wrist strain.

Cowboy e-bikes use torque, not gears, to adjust the power supply – push harder on the pedal for more power. They have built-in Lights, along with theft and crash/drop detection (motion sensor) and a non-greasy Carbon BELT insTead of a chain, so no Black-striped ankle. The app has useful features: bike location, shutdown, and accurate ride logging.

Book a test ride, with the bike delivered, HERE.

Lime in London or Milton Keynes; Bike Hour in Lincoln; Citybike in Liverpool; Share bikes in Exeter and Falmouth, or search for ‘electric bike hire’.

The Cycle 2 Work scheme, in which your employer lends you the money to buy a bike (plus a kit like helmet, Lights and lock), has abolished its £1,000 limit, putting e-bikes within easy reach. And although the idea is to cycle to work, no one stays outside your office checking.

Halfords offers 12 months of interest-free credit on electric bikes.

Cycling Weekly magazine has helpful buying guides.

Any downside?

Weight:Electric bikesCanBeing heavy, weighing up to 26kg, something to keep in mind if you have to lug it up stairs or take it on trains. And if you run out of power, coming Home is more difficult.

Range:maximum range depends on battery size, Weight, hills and speed, but Can be up to 80 miles.

Price:E-bikes start at around £1,000 and Can fetch 10 times that.

Loading:a full charge takes three and a half to four hours, although it will be 80% after an hour and a half.

Security:Electric bikes and their batteries are attrActive to thieves. Get a sturdy lock and keep the bikes out of sight, secured to an immovable object or rack in a shed or indoors.

tempted? Ride and try the new version of pedal power…

Adrienne Wyper is a Health and lifestyle writer and regular contributor to TNMA.