Ode to the E-Bike – what’s so great about them: our experiences
It’s official: I am madly in love with my e-bike. Dag and I each have one at our European base in Catalonia. To start with, at last I can keep up with him! And it’s been a game changer in terms of where I can cycle, opening up a huge playground. Those long steep hills that previously daunted me – no problem! Strong head winds – bring them on! We’ve astounded our neighbours by casually cycling to the beach, 30 km from our village and over a couple of high passes. A hour and a half each way, a lovely long swim in the middle – it makes for a perfect morning outing. By the time we’re home our batteries still have a third of their charge – on average they will last for 90 km.
E stands for exercise! Admittedly you get a boost while from the motor but our e-bikes only assist you up to 25 km per hour (in Europe at least). If you want to go faster it’s all up to your own leg muscles – no help from the motor!
To activate the e-assist, you have to pedal. As soon as you stop, the motor cuts out. But you can control the amount of boost you get. Each bike is different. My Bosch system has four modes: Eco, Tour, Sport and Turbo. (The latter I use on hills, so that I can cruise past Dag and leave him in the dust – he’s usually on Eco). He has the Yamaha system, which is quite different. It has rear and front derailleurs while mine only has a rear derailleur and fewer gears to mess with.
This is the beauty of e-bikes: cyclists with vastly different levels of strength and endurance can ride together, each at their own comfort (or challenge) level, even on the steepest hills. When we’re guiding trips this is great because we can keep the group together.
“Isn’t it cheating?” We’ve been asked this more than a few times. It depends on your perspective: we go further than we would if we had regular bikes and at the end of the day we have had a good workout. And the great thing is, we just go – wherever, whenever – without studying the maps to see if the climbs are too steep and without worrying about a strong head-wind coming up. In other words we get out there and ride much more often than we would otherwise.
It’s been a revelation for some guests on our bike tours in Catalonia and Rioja. Despite convalescing from a knee injury one guest was able to cycle with us and was amazed at how much she enjoyed it. She kept up with everyone and she felt so much stronger by the end of the trip. A few couples who previously didn’t cycle together because of their difference in ability were able to share the experience. As a result, several Hidden Places guests have become ardent e-bike fans and have bought their own.
On our Cambodia Cycling for K.I.D.S trip next January, we will have some e-bikes available. The terrain is mostly flat, but some participants might prefer a bit of assist on the longer rides, especially when it’s hot. Our webpage for this trip is now live, so please check it out: www.hiddenplaces.net/cambodia_a4c
For future trips we’re planning some spectacular, steep routes in mountainous areas where only the toughest riders would dare go. On your e-bike, you’ll be smiling all the way. And if you’re a seasoned rider who likes a real challenge, you’ll enjoy the grind on a regular road or hybrid bike.
Enough of all this writing – I’m heading out on a bike ride!