By Ian Morris
A recent Express poll revealed some interesting facts about why more people don’t cycle to work. By far the most popular reason people gave was that they didn’t feel fit enough, with 33 per cent of people worrying they weren’t in good enough shape.
If that sounds like you, then there’s a solution you might not have heard about: an eBike. These bikes are enormously useful for a lot of things, but the ability to get you to work quickly and without tiring you out is what seemed compelling to me.
Other people enjoy eBikes to help them keep up with family and friends, and like keeping their sweat levels to a minimum.
Commuting by bike
After I had a go on the Carrera Transit Folding Bike, I was sold. Cycling is, and always has been, my favourite form of exercise.
But as much as I liked putting the folding bike on the train and using it to get to and from the stations at either end, I also wanted more. I wanted to cycle the whole way to work.
I live pretty much exactly 15 miles from the office. The ride in has some good cycle routes, some really average cycle routes and some bits where the cycle route is the gutter. Even so, I was keen – so I planned my journey in and psyched myself up.
It’s also worth mentioning that while I got a special trial from Halfords to write this article, you can too. There are two schemes running at Halfords stores. You can pop in to any store and enjoy a 30 minute trial of an eBike (more than enough time, I was sold in the first five) to see what they’re about and how they work.
What is an eBike?
An eBike, or electric bike, is one that has a small electric motor and a battery pack. But don’t expect to be whizzing along without any effort because eBikes are designed to help you, not do the whole thing for you.
That’s not a bad thing though, because the assistance is designed to help you when you need it most. Pulling away from traffic lights is great, you start peddling and the motor will give you a little extra nudge. It’s not overly forceful, but it means that as long as you are pedaling the bike will take on some of the work.
When you hit a hill and your speed drops below about 16mph then the motor will also kick in, helping to keep you moving. And of course, if you want more of a workout then you can switch all the assistance off and do the work yourself.
The upshot of all this is that you can commute to work and arrive quite relaxed because you haven’t had to work quite so hard. My experience of it was that it works an absolute treat.
Carrera Crossfuse Mens Electric Hybrid Bike, £1,600
My companion: the Carrera Crossfuse
The bike Halfords offered to lend me was the Carrera Crossfuse. This £1,600 beauty is capable of taking you up to 80 miles on a charge, it has skinny tyres for speed and a lovely tan saddle. It looks smart and has great features such as disc brakes and front suspension.
What really struck me when I started riding was just how clever the system was. There are torque sensors that are able to match the amount of electric power delivered to how much you’re pedaling. The result of this is that you never feel like the bike is going to get away from you. It’s a really nice feeling that’s often very subtle, only very occasionally will you even realise that the bike is helping you.
There are also nine gears to make things a bit easier. Initially, I sort of expected that pulling away in a low gear would be easier. In fact, the electric drive doesn’t kick in until you get going so you do need to change up before hitting traffic lights. What I loved though was the speed at which you pull away once you’re pedalling. You’ll beat cars and a lot of other cyclists and I had to stop myself yelling “turbo boost” every time.
A large display provides information about your current speed and shows the mode you’ve selected. There are a number of different options for electric assistance. Turbo is what I used mostly, but there are also Eco, Tour and Sport modes, too. These all vary the amount of assistence you get. You can, of course, turn off the electric drive entirely. I didn’t do this much though, as I was enjoying the help too much.
A display tells you how fast you’re going and what mode you have selected
Does it feel like cheating?
Obviously I was mindful of the fact that using electric power was reducing the amount of leg power I was using. It cut down, therefore, decreased the calorie burning, too. At first I felt like this might reduce the point of cycling, but what I ultimately realised was that I was still using more energy here than I would be on a train.
Other cyclists might shoot a disparaging look, but the reality of eBikes is that they can help us avoid public transport, our cars and generally make the roads a nicer place for cyclists in general. It’s also amusing beating the lycra crowd off the line with your electric power. And no, I didn’t brave the world of tight, figure-hugging clothing, but I did this to spare my fellow cyclists, more than anything. You can also cycle much further than usual without feeling like you need to change clothes, which was a relief.
Would I do this every day?
I would, mostly, enjoy the commute to work by eBike. Even during the heatwave I liked using the eBike more than I did public transport. Being outside is just nicer, and the breeze is cooling. I did regret my backpack, which was making me hot, but you could easily fit a luggage rack to the bike and remove this burden.
Arriving at the office I didn’t feel any more hot and bothered than I did coming by train and then on foot. So really, this whole experience felt better in every way. I certainly felt more awake at work for the exercise, too.
So yes, I would love to commute by eBike. I loved the Crossfuse so much that it’s going to hurt to hand it back.
Of course, this is an expensive bike and I’m aware perhaps out of reach for some budgets, but there are other options, too. The Carrera Crossfire-E Electric Hybrid Bike, for example, is currently £1,000 (save £250) which is a considerable saving for a bike that’s very close in ability to the Crossfuse.
Halfords prices for eBikes start from £600 and there are plenty to go for, from folding to mountain, in both men’s and women’s styles.