PEDAL POWER: Look out! Electric bikes
Electric bikes are boosting the future of cycling culture on our streets.
Cruising into work, enjoying the ride through central London. I arrive crisp and fresh, cool and calm. I am still peddling. There is a healthy element of blood coursing through my veins however I don’t break a sweat. The motor navigates me through the more challenging parts of my journey be they hilly or on the flat and the headwind is no longer a concern. This is savvy cycling, elevating its converts to a serene and satisfying place. Miles away from the lycra clad posers and the fixed gear dudes battling across town with something to prove. I love my electric bike.
Cyclists know that rush hour is no fun on either packed public transport or behind the wheel of a car. Those with their eyes keenly on the fast lane will see that the future of urban mobility has two wheels. Electric bikes – also known as e-bikes – have been the subject of substantial style and technological makeovers in recent years so that they not only look slick but are solid too. Light to hold yet firm to handle, they will manage your daily commute on a single charge. Smooth the way with added techy extras like activity data and real-time navigation.
Europeans have been quick to cotton on to the vehicle’s greener, cleaner, user-friendly virtues. Take a look at the commuters speeding along Copenhagen’s iconic Bicycle Snake up above the harbour; the bike lanes radiating out of Oslo’s soon to be the car-free centre; the protected cycle paths of Berlin, and notice they are burgeoning with e-bikes. Look to Belgium for inspiration too where over half of all bicycles sold are electronic. France where a government incentive scheme of 200 euro per purchased e-bike is giving a significant boost to national sales.
Legally required to cut out at 15 miles per hour, electric bikes sit halfway between a traditional bike and a moped. They combine the mechanics of a traditional bike with a motor that takes the effort out of pedalling. The motor tends to run on lithium-ion batteries. The more you pay for your bike the better the battery tends to be and the lighter the frame. Typically weighing in excess of 20 kilos, significantly more than a traditional bike. It often includes multiple power options which allow you to choose your style of riding as well as battery usage, for example, eco, sport, turbo,
After a 220% sales increase in the pedelec (another one of the bike’s monikers), Halfords dubbed 2017 the “year of the e-bike” and it looks like consumer interest here is on an upward trajectory. There is a huge range of choice on the highstreets, including the light and powerful Juicy Roller electric bike that ensures riders fly around town; the classic looks of the Pendleton Somerby Electric Bike, designed for cruising down country lanes or city streets; and Bridgestone’s RealStream electric mountain bike that makes light work of rugged terrain.
The pedelec is meeting the needs of every demographic too from the young and the fit to the old and infirm: parents hauling children home from school to commuters looking for a pleasant route to work; mountain bikers in the Alps to people popping down the shops. In the words of Olympic gold medallist Victoria Pendleton, e-bikes are a “game-changer” for their power to activate more people onto two wheels.
Transport gurus tend to cite cycling as a key solution to the congestion and pollution issues of our increasingly urbanised world and medical studies find that cycling to work can have extraordinary health benefits. We also know that millennials, seemingly willing to treat transportation as an on-demand service, consequently, they have an increasingly complicated relationship with car ownership. The e-bike is poised to freewheel into city life.
And, you don’t even have to own one of these bikes in order to use one. In hilly San Francisco, the city’s official bike-share programme, Ford GoBike, has gone electric. With an obvious future for e-bikes in the sharing economy, Uber has recently purchased US bike-hire firm Jump. This will allow people in European cities will soon be able to hire electric bicycles through the Uber app.
The car brands are stepping up their interest in the market as well. Typically lending their engineering expertise to e-bike models for the luxury sector. BMW’s urban mobility picture fully embraces electric and its Active Hybrid electric bike is a carefully considered piece of style and technology. Peugeot has just launched a stylish 18-kilo folding bike retailing at €1,999. Meanwhile, VW’s VW Bik.e is designed to let a driver take additional mobility with them and niftily folds down to fit into the spare tyre compartment of a regular car boot.
Technology is enabling a new breed of cyclists on our streets. It is allowing people to saddle up and journey far without having to commit to too much exercise. If manufacturers can develop an economical answer to the lightweight fold up, they will have cracked the market. The e-bike allows you to get where you want faster and calmer: a hassle-free workout that is fun to boot.