Until recently, mention the word “e-bike” in cycling circles and the next you’d hear was “cheat”. Bicycles are made for riding, for sweating, for effort. So what on earth is the point of one that spares your thighs and whisks you across town cleanly, cheaply and easily? Well, that’s an attitude that’s changing fast.
The past 18 months have seen a phenomenal growth in e-bikes. In 2016 alone 1.6m were sold in Europe. In Holland it’s estimated that almost half of all new bikes sold are now battery powered. Though this is all small fry compared to China where 32.8m were shifted in the same period. This boom has been fuelled by several factors: smart technology means batteries are now lighter, last longer and recharge more quickly; frames are being designed with integrated motors and power units as opposed to simply having the mechanics added post hoc; and most importantly a new wave of urban traveller is getting on to two wheels. These are people who don’t think of riding an e-bike as “cycling” as such, but as a simple, fun and green solution to getting around a congested city.
E-bikes usually cost up to £2,000 and weigh about 25kg. You don’t need a licence to ride one or to pass a dedicated test. They are either pedal-assist or throttle activated. A standard battery will give you a range of 25-50 miles and take three hours to charge from any household plug. Speed is limited to 15.5mph – if you pedal faster than that your engine won’t assist you. And you don’t need to wear a helmet (but you’d be crazy not to). To tempt you, here are six of the best.
Budnitz Model E: £3,240
Weighing in at just 13kg, this titanium-framed Budnitz is the world’s lightest (and possibly best looking) e-bike. Both the engine and battery are sealed into the polished rear hub (budnitzbicycles.com).
Specialized Turbo Levo FSR Comp 6 Fattie: £4,000
Lime green and massively strong, this off-roader is the Incredible Hulk of bikes. The battery is neatly concealed in the down tube and you can choose between eco, trail or turbo settings (evanscycles.com).
Gazelle Orange CX HMB: £2,599
It’s estimated almost half of all new bikes sold in Holland are electric – and this is one of the bestsellers. Classic, elegant and wondrously comfortable: it’s time to go Dutch (gazellebikes.co.uk).
Haibike xDuro Trekking 4.0: £3,600
This top-notch German brand made its name with powerful MTBs. Its latest model, however, is a rugged cruiser with the range to let you explore trails all day (haibike.com).
Biomega Oko: £1,735
The carbon-framed, Danish-designed Oko comes with either a 2- or 8-speed belt drive. The integrated guards are a blessing in the wet. Guess where the battery is hidden? (biomega.com).
Gocycle Portable G3: £3,499
The foldable Gocycle is loaded with smart tech, but it’s a simple bike to live with. No cables, no chains and no oil all mean no mess. If it’s stolen the motor can be remotely disabled with an app (gocycle.com).
Now don’t lose it…
E-bikes are not cheap. And sadly every time you lock your new frame up there will be someone casting an eye over it and wondering if they could steal it. You can make that as hard as possible with decent locks and chains, but if they get through those, what options remain? One solution is to fit a discreet Bluetooth tracker. The Tile is the worl’d best-selling tracker and you can fit it to anything that you might misplace – luggage, wallets, purses, backpacks, clothing. It then shares the location of those things via an app on your smartphone or tablet.
Users can ring your things with one of Tile’s four pre-set ringtones, or use it in reverse to find your phone – even if it’s on silent. You can also see the last place you had an item on a map, and if the item has been moved, use the Tile community to help them find it again.
Tile Mate costs £23 from Tile, Amazon, John Lewis, Argos, Curry’s PC World, Carphone Warehouse & Maplin and you can buy four-packs for £65.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010