Electric bikes prove cycling to the office need not be hard work

Charge up and go...
Charge up and go...
  • Falkirk Herald reporter tries out new electric bike
  • National Bike Week aims to encourage more commuters to leave the car at home

Many of us remember the first time we climbed on board a bike.

We were probably very young but after a few wobbles, we finally found our balance and learned a life-long skill.

Herald reporter Deborah gets in gear to test out the new bikes

Herald reporter Deborah gets in gear to test out the new bikes

But it was always reassuring to know that, until we did catch on, we had a parent’s hand or a pair of stabilizers to give us a bit of a boost.

If you’re like me, and in your 30s, then you’ll probably agree that my dad’s hand on my saddle or, more so, a pair of stabilizers is not really acceptable any more.

Pity, as my energy levels aren’t quite what they were, and it would be nice to know that when my legs give up the ghost, someone or something else would take over.

Enter the electric bike; a bicycle with an integrated electric motor offering varying amounts of propulsion.

If you’ve not heard of them, then you need to pay more attention as these clever, technologically-advanced machines are becoming big players in outdoor leisure, even, in some places, eating into the market share taken by conventional bikes.

But if you don’t subscribe to the Financial Times much, try glamour magazines.

You’ll find the A-listers are catching onto this trend; they want to be seen to be healthy and environmentally-conscious bike riders, but are less keen on being a big sweaty mess incase a photographer is around.

You also may have heard of them if you’re planning your retirement.

Like motor homes and luxury caravans, these are a cool new accessory for the forever young crowd.

They are an upmarket toy for someone who wants to enjoy the great outdoors, but who no longer have the stamina or ability of someone half their age.

Aside from all of the above, there’s yet another bonus to the electric bike.

If this week’s publicity for National Bike Week has worked at all, we should all be thinking about getting on a bike, either for leisure, health or to commute to work.

So, last week, I took up an offer from local bike shop owner Linton Smith to give the electric bike a try.

Powered by Bosch and boosting an alloy frame, a ten-gear gear shifter, Shimano dynamo lights, and 36-spoke wheels, ‘my’ Raleigh Motus is my new best friend.

It’s pedal-assist only, meaning the motor only kicks in when you pedal.

For safety, it will stop when then you squeeze the break or stop pedalling.

It has four levels of input, allowing you to chose how much help you would like.

I’m happy to say that I mostly opted for the eco setting - the lowest level.

It meant that I easily worked up a speed of nine miles an hour (mph) on a trip to the shops.

On longer distances, and on a higher setting, my speedometer read 17 mph, even though the battery cuts out at 15 mph.

I really enjoyed the sport and tour levels - you can glide effortlessly over pretty much any terrain or summit and it’s a lot of fun.

But a major advantage for me is that they make an almost impossible notion like commuting to work completely achieveable.

They also pretty much eliminate the fear of steep hills and inclines.

But I’m not the only one who’s smitten.

Sales of electric bikes have risen in recent years, with the new hi-tech models impressing riders.

Linton Smith, from GW Smith Cycles in Falkirk High Street, said: “Electric bikes have come on leaps and bounds. They first started selling them 20 years ago, with some of the earlier versions very clunky and not very sophisticated.

“But now the technology has really caught up.

“Now the idea of what people expect them to do is just what they do do.

“Raleigh has now entered into the e-bike market with a full range of electric cycles.

“They have waited until the battery and motor technology of the latest generation of e-bikes has developed to the point that they can meet and exceed the riders expectations.

“E-bike sales for Raleigh have doubled in the last year alone.

“Now the trend setters are getting behind the idea, and one of the fastest growing sectors is the electric mountain bike market, both in volume and value.

“And at GW Smith, we’d like to offer £100 worth of Raleigh accessories free when Falkirk Herald readers buy a Raleigh e-bike with this article.”

In Germany, where the climate is similar to Scotland, sales of electric bikes have soared, with the number almost tripling since 2007.

But, as with everything else, there are some downsides. E bikes are pricey, with models costing on average between £1000 and £2000, but you can find ones with a price tag of over £5500, the cost of a half-decent car.

Critics also say that they are heavy and have a long charger time.

But for this (very) amateur cyclist, I enjoyed the ride, and it was nice not to do all the work for once.