Electric bikes are for softies. Or at least that is what I thought.
electric bikes - I was a bit dismissive of the idea ...
I am a hardened middle aged cyclist, who does around 70 miles per week commuting around London and happily attacks the Italian Umbrian hills on my summer breaks. So when I was persuaded to try an electric bike by Tim Hudson of Inspired ITALY, who have developed a new business based on week-long cycling holiday tours in Italy around Umbria and Tuscany on electric bikes, I was a bit dismissive of the idea. Why bother with this electric stuff, when I am still fit enough to hammer up a hill on a road bike?
But of course I was wrong. The first thing to point out is that the Raleigh Motus Trekking electric bikes that Inspired ITALY uses do not give you a free ride. They boost your efforts, but do not entirely replace them. And the key point is that it is up to the rider to determine how much assistance they want from the eBike, as there are four settings ranging from Eco to Turbo. Of course, one can even turn off the whole Bosch made electric assist paraphernalia but that leaves a rather heavy bike to ride.
There are two big differences that the electric bike makes.
First, it enables even a moderately fit person to cycle pretty much everywhere. On our day out in the Umbrian hills, we went up some fairly steep sections which, even given my high level of fitness, I struggle up at the best of times. Now they proved to be easy or - because I did not choose the highest setting – required only a bit of effort to climb. And because the effort is so much less, one can spend time appreciating the splendour of the countryside. Bikes always enable their riders to be ‘at one’ with the environment and these Raleigh electric bikes, by removing the really hard effort normally required, allow one to progress through difficult terrain while still enjoying the trip.
Secondly, of course, the eBikes enable a far greater extended range. The effort of cycling in the hills on a normal bike limits the potential to cover a whole region in anything less than a couple of weeks or more. Thanks to being able to saunter up the hills – and the ebikes really do allow this – day trips of 40 or 50 miles are not onerous. And if one is tiring, one can put the bike on the maximum setting, which really requires very little effort even on hills.
"Thanks to being able to saunter up the hills – and the eBikes really do allow this – day trips of 40 or 50 miles are not onerous."
"... climbing half a dozen hills, visiting a remote restaurant and coasting down several long gentle slopes."
Therefore we spent a day climbing half a dozen hills, visiting a remote restaurant and coasting down several long gentle slopes. And thanks to the effort needed to keep going, one never gets cold and, at the end of the day, one feels quietly exercised without the stresses and strains of a hard day’s cycling.
For the moment, I will, as a fit 66 year old, stay on my road bike and attack those hills. But knowing that I will be able to spend deep into my old age still climbing up those gradients, with a little help from my friendly electric bike, is a great comfort.
Watch out for those 90 year old hill climbers on cycling holidays in Italy!