Time to get an electric bike?

Friday, 12 June 20206 minute read
Electric Vehicles

Time to get an electric bike? You bet it is.

You know that sensation when a sudden wow — a wild wonder-rush of adrenaline — leaves you with the most enormous grin on your face? It’s such a great feeling, right?

Here’s how to get one, legally: go and try an e-bike.

If you haven’t ridden one yet, you’ll be amazed. I guarantee you, you’ll be whooping ‘whooooooaaah!’ as you take your first few pedals, and, by the time you squeeze the brakes, you’ll have that perfectly-formed, beautiful and happy smile beaming right across your face.

And who doesn’t need a smile at the moment?

Electric bicycles are astonishingly good fun. They’re happy-making machines. And they’re extremely efficient at getting you around, too — fast.

With lockdown starting to ease, but with public transport being limited to 10–15% of its previous capacity for the foreseeable future (in London buses that would normally carry 87 people are restricted to 20), and with roads being closed to car traffic in many cities in favour of socially-distancing pedestrians, cyclists and some buses, millions of us have been pondering the same questions: “Do I dive down the back of the shed and dust off the old bike (the Government is giving away half a million £50 vouchers to help us refurb our old bikes)? Or is it time to invest in a new electric bicycle instead?”

I got seduced by the e-bike smile recently and splashed out.

I love it. I went for the Brompton Electric.

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We gave one away in a Pure Planet competition last year; I got to test ride one at the time and I was totally smitten. I ordered one late last year and it arrived just before Christmas. It transformed the way I got around pre-lockdown, and I’ve been using it for daily exercise (on those delightfully quieter roads) since.

I can zoom up hills, keep going for miles more than I otherwise would and, best of all, I feel the benefits of exercise and the fresh air without getting exhausted or — say it politely — sweaty.

It was just great for commuting to the office (remember those?) and for folding up to take on the train whenever I visited London for work (one day, this will happen again, I hope!).

It’s also good for nipping to the local shop — a journey, if I’m honest, which is too far to walk easily but too short to justify a car journey. E-biking makes much more sense. According to scientists at the Centre for Research into Energy Demand Solutions, e-bike use could save 30 million tonnes of CO2 emissions a year in England. E-bikes over their full lifecycle emit 22 grammes of CO2 equivalent greenhouse gases per kilometre according to the report, which compares to 104 g/km for a Nissan Leaf and 258 g/km for a typical petrol car.

E-bikes make cycling easier because they have an up-to 250 watt electric motor on board, which is powered by a rechargeable battery (using clean renewable electricity from Pure Planet, of course). You still have to pedal, the motor won’t work otherwise — they are not like mopeds. And power assistance cuts out when you reach 25 kph or 15.5mph. They don’t need road tax, a licence and anyone aged over 14 can ride one on the road. Range isn’t a problem — most e-bikes will cover 20–50 miles on a charge which costs a few pence. It means you can go as far as you like, because you can always keep pedalling if the battery runs out… around the world even, like Tanja and Denis Katzer.

In Cambodia on the Longest E-bike Expedition, Tanja and Denis Katzer/Riese & Müller

My e-bike wasn’t cheap, I admit. Electric bikes aren’t cheap, period …yet. But they’re getting there. Some e-bike prices are becoming much better value as more manufacturers switch production to electric.

I was lucky to have got mine through our Cycle to Work scheme here at Pure Planet. The government-backed cycle to work initiative means bikes and accessories can be bought tax free — saving a big chunk of cash — and made much more manageable by spreading payments interest-free over 12 months. If your company isn’t signed up to it yet, ask them to join — it could save you a fortune.

E-bikes were effectively excluded from the scheme until recently, but the government has recently updated its guidance and now they’re not. So, no excuses.

Here’s a bit more on how it all works from CycleScheme.

Since the coronavirus crisis struck, the government, cities and local authorities have all been unusually lined up on this one: they want us to walk and cycle more. And there’s a rush on to widen pavements, introduce more safe-space cycle lanes, and reclaim the roads from car traffic as fast as they can.

The authorities have seen what we’ve all seen recently: astonishingly crisp and healthily clean air; they’ve all heard The Unsilent Spring as birdsong became the soundtrack to our lives, instead of the relentless roar and rumble of traffic. And these things, too, are helping to rapidly advance a more sustainable transport infrastructure. The government wants to get us out of our cars and for cycling to double by 2025 to help reduce pollution, tackle climate change, and help us get healthier.

There’s even a new campaign to ensure the current boom in cycling continues as life leaves lockdown — Bike Is Best.

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So which e-bike to choose?

Get down to your local cycle store and take one out for a test ride (watch out for that e-bike smile). E-bikes come in all shapes and sizes: mountain, road, racing, touring, folding, cargo… and prices vary accordingly. You’ll have loads of choice.

Here’s our friends over at Fully Charged, Maddie and Greg, on some of the differences between e-bikes for a bit of inspiration.

Need more help? Check out these cycling charities:

And if you do have an old bike that you want to get rid of, consider gifting it. Take a look at Re-cycle which has drop off points around the country, or do a quick search to find something more local to you. We’re fortunate to have Julian House Bike Workshop near to Pure Planet’s office in Bath, for example.

So, what have got to lose, other than a few pounds — in cash and weight?

You’ll get outside into the fresh air more; you’ll get fitter and healthier; you’ll zip into and across town faster than you can any other way; you’ll be helping others socially distance by not taking up precious space on public transport. And you’ll be helping the climate with your zero carbon ride, too.

As a politician may almost have once said, get on yer e-bike!