What is an ebike?
An electric bike looks like a regular bicycle but has a small motor and a battery to give you power-assisted pedalling. It makes pedalling up Bath’s hills effortless, and is a very fast way of getting from A to B. Ebikes typically have a range from 20 to 50 miles on one battery charge – easily enough for several days’ commuting.
By law, the speed of an ebike with the motor giving assistance is limited to 15.5mph, but there’s nothing to stop you going faster if you put in more pedal power yourself. You might be surprised how easy it is to exceed this speed going along the flat, and especially downhill.
How does an ebike work?
Using an ebike couldn’t be simpler: you just get on the bike and ride, and as you pedal the motor automatically provides additional power. You select the level of assistance from the control panel on the handlebar – lots if you are climbing a steep hill, feeling tired or carrying a heavy bag – and as you get fitter you can decrease the amount of assistance you use. If you’re riding along the flat or going downhill, you might want to turn the power off altogether and let your legs do all the work, but when you tire a simple press of a button will switch the motor back on.
Like a regular bicycle, most ebikes have gears on the back wheel, which enable you to make it easier or harder to pedal. So for a tough climb, change down into an easy gear, whack up the power setting, and off you zoom!
An ebike’s motor can be built into the wheels or into the frame, near the pedals cranks. It is powered by a fairly large lithium ion battery, which is either mounted on a rear rack or the frame itself. Charging the battery is a piece of cake – just plug in the laptop-style charging lead and leave it overnight or until the indicator shows it’s full (usually 3-6 hours). The average cost of electricity per charge is 7 pence. It’s also easy to remove the battery from the bike if you need to bring it inside to charge.
How long your battery lasts will depend on a variety of factors, namely the level of power assistance you select, the steepness of the terrain and the amount of weight on the bike. For example, if you ride along a flat towpath with no luggage using the lowest power setting, your battery will last a lot longer – and take you significantly further – than if you’re going up and down hills carrying a heavy laptop and using the turbo setting. There are charge indicators on the battery to show how much juice is left, and you’ll usually get a low battery warning on the controls too.
The ebike controls are usually mounted on the handlebar and include a display that shows your power level, speed, distance travelled and so on.
For a decent ebike you’re looking to spend at least £1,000, but when you compare that to the costs of running a car and parking, or paying for public transport, it’s actually pretty good value, even taking into account servicing and spares. Plus, it’s a lot more convenient – and fun! – riding a bicycle than sitting in traffic in a car.
By taking up this offer to loan you an ebike for 6 weeks, you can find out for yourself how easy they are to use and fit into your lifestyle. Why not give it a try!