RiverTribe Cycling Correspondent Nick Hellen predicts a pedal power revolution
Shortly before she flew off in her bid to scale Everest with Ben Fogle, Victoria Pendleton gave me a rather unconventional demonstration of her new battery-powered e-bike.
We happened to be in a West End restaurant but the Olympic double gold cycling medallist didn’t let that deter her. Cheered on by the other diners, she deftly cruised around the room twice, laughing and blowing me a kiss.
If that seemed a bit naughty, imagine how I felt as I gave the e-bike a try, gliding effortlessly through the High Street traffic, leaving cyclists relying on low-tech pedal power flailing in my wake.
I’m not sure what was more fun: the surge of battery power which kicked in every time I turned the pedals, or the flummoxed faces of other cyclists as I cruised serenely past when the lights turned green.
Unfortunately, it felt like cheating. Every time I had a go, I drew the disapproving glances of other cyclists, as if I had plonked myself in the disabled seats on the bus.
When Bob Dylan went electric at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival, scandalised fans booed him for selling out. Is the e-bike going to be quite so divisive?
My 16-year old son had no such scruples. He swiftly commandeered the e-bike for his hilly, three-mile ride to school in Wimbledon. The upright riding position of Halford’s Carrera Crossfuse makes it feasible to carry a bulging backpack and games kit: the electric assist saves him from arriving dishevelled.
Would he be able to manoeuvre the 23.9 Kg vehicle without mishap – or, instead, overdo the electric boost, confusing other road users with his speed?
I needn’t have worried. The power, calibrated in three settings, touring, sport and turbo (the speediest at a nominal 15.5mph) only comes on when the pedals are turning.
The e-bike swiftly earned its placed as a family runabout- for everyone apart from me. So, I hatched a plan.
At this time of year many of us aim to sharpen our strength and stamina for the forthcoming season of races and lengthy sportive events. The last thing you need when you’re trying to get fit is a perky 400wh Bosch battery.
I’d promised my wife we’d take a break in the Peak District, but was also uncomfortably aware that the dreadful Spring weather had left me in sluggish shape. With a bit of persuasion, she agreed to take the e-bike to accompany me.
We turned out to be surprisingly well matched, Mr on his lightweight carbon steed and Mrs with her battery back-up. On a hilly, windswept route, an average speed of 15.5 mph is quite respectable. My wife must have had a decent workout herself, resisting the temptation to engage turbo mode unless strictly necessary, because after 60 miles the battery, although running low, still had some power.
Let the purists sneer, but I predict e-bike riders will spread peace on Britain’s rage-prone roads. Motorists don’t seem to like cyclists much – but why get aggressive with someone who needs battery-powered assistance? They might enjoy a laugh at the cyclists’ expense – but like Pendleton, the e-bike riders will cruise home with a smile on their face.
Nick Hellen rode a Halfords Carrera Crossfire electric bike, price £1,600 with an 80-mile battery range.