R AT ED R I D ES
E-bikes Need some assistance on your cycle to work? Let an electric bike help…
ike snobs might fear it, but the truth is that, if there is a true cycle commuting revolution in the UK, it’s likely to be electrified. E-bikes break down the last barrier that people erect as a reason why the UK can’t be like the Netherlands in its cycling habits: “Oh, we can’t do that here, it’s far too hilly!” With an electrically assisted bike, those hills are tamed, as are the “Dutch hills” (headwinds). They still can’t keep the rain off, though… You might be considering an e-bike because you live in a hilly area, but there are other benefits besides. In traffic, acceleration is brisk and you can be confident of maintaining a good speed, even when the road starts pointing upwards. It’s true that electric bikes are limited by law to 15.5mph but that’s still faster than the average traffic speed in London! An e-bike might allow you to cover a longer distance between work and home. You certainly won’t have to worry about arriving hot and sweaty. You can carry heavier loads with ease, because the bike does the hard work for you. And for some people with health issues, e-bikes open the gates to cycle travel that have been closed to them. It’s possible to spend a considerable sum on a top-of-the-range electric ride. Cube’s flagship carbon-framed Elite C.62 Hybrid model comes in at almost £5,000. Since we’re well into secondhand car territory here, the benefits of cycling as a cost-effective alternative to the car or public transport start to erode somewhat. Luckily, there are plenty to be had at the more affordable end of the market, even around the £1,000 Cycle to Work scheme limit (you can still make use of the scheme, you simply pay the amount above £1,000 at time of purchase). The obvious question at this price point is, what’s compromised? The answer lies in two areas: the first is that, as with any conventional bike, different price points reflect differences in frame materials and the level of the groupsets (cranks, chain, cassette, brakes) and the wheels, saddle, handlebar and other equipment attached to that frame. Remember, though, “more expensive” does not necessarily translate to “more suitable for commuting”, just as you might not want to drive to work in a Ferrari. The second is in the area of the electricals themselves, and this in particular means the quality and power of the batteries and the motor. Since these make up a big proportion of the cost of the overall package, there is significant room for cost-cutting here. The quality and size of the battery limits how far you can travel on one charge, as well as contributing to the overall weight of the bike (which can be quite a lot, frankly). It may also affect how quickly you can recharge your bike, which might matter if you need a full battery to get you home again. As a rule of thumb, the more you pay, the better the battery you get. However, technology advances rapidly, and today’s budget e-bikes are capable machines.
Raleigh Forge Low Step £1250 | £1000 This is Raleigh’s cheapest electric bike, using a TransX power unit rather than the Bosch system fitted to its more expensive models. With three power-assist settings, the bike is capable of covering a maximum of 85km on a three-hour charge. The power system also runs the fitted lights. As with the Giant, there’s an 8-speed derailleur transmission, covered with a chainguard, and a substantial rear rack, which also houses the battery. The suspension fork will add to the already hefty weight, but might provide a welcome reduction in wrist fatigue over rougher cycle tracks. raleigh.co.uk
Kalkhoff Groove £1295 | £1045 You could easily mistake the Groove for an ordinary pushbike, so discreet is its power unit and so sleek its lines. It’s built at Kalkhoff’s German factory, which turns out half a million bikes a year. The battery and motor combination offers a maximum range of around 80km on lowest power assist setting. As wellsuited to city life as the other two bikes, the Groove is fitted with mudguards, a kickstand and built-in lightset. Unlike the others, it uses a Shimano Nexus 7-speed hub gear which keeps the transmission clean and simple. It also features a suspension fork and seatpost. kalkhoff-bikes.com/en
JARGON BUSTER Power assist If you really, really hate pedalling, a ‘full-power’ e-bike will spark into action with just the twist of a throttle – much like a moped. A ‘power assist’ e-bike requires you to pedal – only then will the electric motor kick in to help you.