A couple of weeks ago, I got the chance to try out Raleigh’s new range of electronic bikes. I’ve been attracted to electronic bikes a few times, especially when fellow cyclists have whizzed past me on steep city roads!
However, getting to grips with an e-bike is a little different to your usual push bike.
My Standard (& Much Loved) Bicycle
It’s probably best to first explain that I’m a keen urban cyclist, but not much more than that. I have a Foffa Bicycle, which was both reasonably-priced and reasonable-looking enough for me to warrant handing over £300 for it. I even invested in a gold helmet, preferring something a little cuter than the stereotypical lycra.
Cycling around the city is a lot of fun, so long as you’re confident on the road. Having passed my driving test, I feel fine navigating the roads and also pushing past some of the more aggressive drivers when it’s my right of way.
Before I started working for myself, I would commute around 35 mins each way, following one of London’s nicest quiet-ways. I now mainly cycle for pleasure, and to meet with people across the city.
Getting To Grips with an e-Bike
When Raleigh invited me to try their new range of e-bikes, called Motus, I jumped at the chance. Their set of seven, battery-aided bicycles came out earlier this year, and touts itself as the new way to commute, get around the city, and even go on trail rides on the weekend.
But does it really live up to the hype? That was what I was hoping to find out!
1. You still have to pedal…
Yes, your bike will give you a boost, but it’s not going to take all the hard work out of cycling. And for good measure! According to Raleigh, you can still reap the fitness benefits of cycling with one of their e-bikes, but without too much strain on your body.
Assistance from the motor goes up to 15mph (the legal limit, otherwise you’d need a license!) and it really does make even the hilliest of journeys a breeze.
2. …but you can choose how much pedal power you get
There are five different settings on the bike to choose from. Working with a set of controls on my handlebars and a small, two-colour screen, I was able to choose how much of a boost I would get during my ride, and amend it as I went.
Just like changing gears, I found these settings pretty useful. On a standard, flat run, I would stick to the second-lowest setting called Tour, which would smooth out any uneven pedalling. On tougher climbs, ramping it up to the fourth, or even maximum setting meant I didn’t even break a sweat.
3. The battery requires charging
I was quite disappointed to find out the batteries in all of the Motus range e-bicycles require mains power charging. It seems quite counter-intuitive to me, wasting all that kinetic energy as you cycle, and instead requiring mains electricity and downtime at home.
If the battery ran out while out on a ride, the worst case would be having to cycle the heavy frame back home without any assistance. If you’ve ever tried London’s Boris Bikes, or Paris’ Velib’ bicycles, the Motus felt only a touch lighter than them.
4. These bikes are expensive
For my commuter/road bike, I paid £300. Considering the money I’ve saved on tube and bus rides, it’s definitely already made that money back at least twice over the last six months.
However, a Motus e-bike starts at £1100, almost four times that price. In the roughest of calculations, you’d have to cycle an average 30 minute London commute for 12 months solidly to earn that back.
Personally, I would say on price basis alone that the e-bikes are better suited to people with longer commutes (30+ minutes). And honestly, it would be those who already cycle, but don’t want to join the lycra patrol.
I just can’t see a beginner cyclist putting £1000+ to start commuting, when they aren’t familiar with cycling. And for those that are – is it really worth that much of a price jump?
5. Passion, Price, and Personal Preference
That being said, if you love cycling, I’m not sure you’d get on well with an e-bike. I know this is purely opinion, but e-bikes do take some of the effort, and reward, away from cycling.
On my journey, I spent a lot of the time feeling like I was on a bike tour, and that my bike was too heavy and precious to really push up hills and swerve around corners. Perhaps it was my model (there are also adventure and elite bikes in their electric bicycle range), but it didn’t quite have the same get-up-and-go as my prized Foffa.
In an ideal world, I would recommend e-bikes to lower-confidence riders, or as a step away from commuting by car, but the current price tag is a massive barrier for both markets. Would you really invest £1100 in an activity you don’t already know and love?