This week I decided to ride to work as much as I could rather than driving. For a while now I’ve been doing a couple of days but the weather was looking warm and dry all week, so it was a great chance to get some miles in so I made the effort.
The problem with my commute across the city of Birmingham is that it’s physically and mentally quite stressful. Its 19-20 miles depending on the way I go which, on the face of it, isn’t far by any means but add to that the constant stopping and starting because of lights and junctions and the need to be alert and ‘switched on’ constantly checking drivers around you for 70 minutes solid, it’s just mentally draining. Give me quiet country lanes anytime.
Last week I had to report 3 drivers on one day alone
I’m not fit enough to do it both ways every day on my normal bike so Tuesday was the drive in and a ride home. Wednesday morning, on #WorldCarFreeDay, I rode into town to meet other commuters over coffee at Breakfast Club and then onto work. Wed night’s ride I decided to take one of our Ebikes home which is the point of this post. I’ll talk about that in a mo. Thursday I rode the Ebike back in and then rode home on my normal bike again. Back in Friday morning and drove home last night. Some decent mileage and hours in the saddle and a great opportunity to test ride an Ebike properly, so let’s talk about that.
Breakfast club is great. A bit of banter over coffee and a pastry makes the 6am alarm worth it and it breaks the ride up too. Everyone is welcome. Find it on Facebook here
First up was choosing an Electric Bike to ride. I’m spoilt. We have a demo fleet of about 10 in the shop. There are four mainstream Bosch motors amongst them, Active Line, Active Line Plus, Performance Line and Performance Line CX. They all have varying degrees of torque. (40Nm, 50Nm, 65Nm & 85Nm respectively). Without been too technical, the higher the torque the zippier the bike will feel on hills or where the motor is working to assist you. For example, pulling away from lights will seem quicker & easier on a higher torqued motor.
Now…I could have been a ponce and just opted for the most powerful and spoilt myself but I thought I’d be pragmatic and pitch for something in the middle, so Active Line Plus or Performance Line. In the end it came to the bike size and taking what motor was on it. I thought I was a 50cm frame and would have taken a 2021 Cube Touring One with the Active Line Plus motor but surprisingly I felt the 54cm option was a better fit for me (I’m 5ft 8, 32″ inside leg). That had the Performance Line motor so that was my ride home.
The bike was a 2021 Cube Touring EXC. Fully loaded with guards, lights, suspension and big fat 55m tyres. It only had a 400Wh battery on it though (normally has a 500 or 625) so range would be interesting being the smallest battery we sell on our bikes.
At the end of the day I got changed. I looked a bit of a twat in my lycra with trainers on but who cares really? It was really nice and warm. I started Strava on my phone, reset the trip distance on the Bosch head unit keeping an eye on the range and I was off.
The bike gets upto speed ie 15.5mph before the assistance tapers off, really quickly. It will do that in any mode but it can be an effort if you use a high gear. The key is to use your gears first and the assistance when you need it.
Straight down the Lichfield Road, the traffic was quite heavy initially. The first issue for me were the wide bars. I couldn’t sneak down the side of a queue of cars as easily but that’s just me. It also felt a bit slow. Like I wanted to push on like I do on my road bike but the weight of the bike under my own steam (above 15.5mph there is no assistance remember!) was holding me back. I reminded myself I’m not on a road bike so kick back and enjoy it instead. And I did to be honest once I lost my ‘riding is training’ mindset. I have to say the upright position, although feeling like a sail in the wind, was great for looking and checking around me. I was in touring mode. Low n Slow as I always say.
The ride through town was the same really. Plenty of stop starts from lights where the assistance was a revelation. Same on the hills up through Selly Oak and into Northfield. The bike made it feel really easy but with some effort. Throughout the ride home I was in mainly Sport & Tour mode. On the flats I could hold it just above the assistance threshold without much effort. Occasionally I used Turbo too, just to try it. Amazing.
When I got home I’d told myself it was going to be an 80 min ride, 10 mins longer than my road bike but in fact it was only 75 mins which is about 5 mins longer than normal but I can do that on my road bike too if I have a bad run of lights or I’m tired for example. I was pleasantly surprised as it felt so much slower.
Driving can take 50+ minutes sometimes
The BIG surprise though was I only used one bar of a 400Wh battery for just shy of 20 miles riding. I’d carried a charger home just in case. No need.
I didn’t bother charging the battery for the ride in the next morning. I left the house at 7.30am and I had much better ride this time. I think the sit up position gives the illusion of slower speed when it isn’t. The ride is more even too rather than fast then a slog up hills or into the wind. The ebike levelled the effort.
I got to work in 80 minutes. Bang on what I’d do on my road bike and I only used another bar for the 20 miles. How a 25kg+ Ebike with 55mm wide tyres can compete with my road bike is beyond me but it did. There you go all you naysayers about electric bikes. Chew on that fact!
My conclusions from my unscientific, very biased test are…
- I needed clipless pedals. Personal choice
- The saddle didn’t fit my tiny, peachy bum very well
- If I didn’t have to drive a company van I’d have an ebike for ‘easier’ commute days and ditch driving
- For less serious cyclists than me they are ‘enablers’ ,’gamechangers’ and a whole lot of fun. That’s a fact
It’s mad I’ve been working at an Electric Bike company for over a year and not really tried an ebike extensively but I’ve now confirmed that what I tell customers about them is true.
Check out our bikes here https://www.theelectricbikeshop.co.uk/
Yes, our friends are definitely electric!
Now enjoy a bit of Gary Numan on me.
One thought on “Are friends Electric?”
Especially for commuting, eBikes are a 100% a game changer! Back when I used to have to cycle commute on my road bike, it was “only” about 17 miles each way, but throw in a full day of work on my feet in between each ride and come Friday I was toasted. An eBike would have made a huge difference, even just being able to take it a couple of times a week to reduce the load. I wish the limit was a touch higher than 15-ish mph though.
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