E-Bikes – Members’ Experience

From Paul Randall:

Swytch e-Bike Conversion: I have a Swytch conversion. It arrived on Xmas eve and I fitted it on Boxing Day. (the picture is on route to Pateley). It took me about 2 hours in total to change wheels and fit all the electrics etc. No problems, clear instructions. Cost just over £400.

I have the economy version as I wanted something lightweight. I have a black rim and disc brakes. The power pack and controller are like a bar bag but they don’t seem to have compromised my bike handling. I haven’t tested it over a long distance yet, but it is only meant to cover 25 miles on average power.

There are 5 power levels which are easily adjustable as you ride and the power cuts out on mine at about 17mph. I’m not a speedy cyclist and am quite happy to cruise at 12mph so a lot of the time I just turn it off and turn it on when I get to a steep hill. Doing this I reckon I could do 40 miles plus, but just waiting for some decent weather to see.

The advantage of this conversion is you can ride it if you run out of juice. Also if I’m feeling fit it only takes me about 20 mins to change the wheel back to my old one and ride it as before. The disadvantage is the range if you want to go miles. It also it works on cadence and speed while a decent e-bike will work on torque so it will adjust to how hard you are finding pedalling.

For me on my go anywhere bike, road or off road it’s like cycling with a very strong tail wind and 2 wheel drive which helps traction off road.


From Michael Smith:

My aim was to reach the age of 70 and then get an e-bike. However living just outside Darley at the top of Stumps Lane most rides from home meant my return was either Stumps Lane, Birstwith / Hampsthwaite or Hardgroves Hill. All long steep hills going up! A typical short ride from home was 10-15 miles with 1000 to 1500 feet of ascent/decent. I’d long moved onto a Spa triple with granny, or should that be grandad gears, but didn’t feel the hills were getting any easier. During lockdown without Wheeleasy rides, cycling from home was getting to be a chore so I brought forward the e-bike decision. After various test rides and reading articles online I went for a Trek bike with the Fazua motor. I’ve done 400+ miles, It’s great fun and makes cycling from home enjoyable once again, providing that extra push when tackling hills. I’ve managed hills I’ve steered clear of for over 10 years. As for range, I can cover 40 miles with 4000 feet of sharp ascent/descents and get through a full charge, equally I’ve gone east (Boroughbridge/Easingwold) covering 40+ miles of undulating terrain, riding mostly with no power on 50% charge. As Mike Clark comments; e-bikes flatten Yorkshire and allow you to put in a much of your own power as you want.


From Peter Roberts:

To “E” or not to “E”.  As a novice in Wheel Easy’s early days, the 80/90 mile Sunday rides through the Dales and North York Moors following enthusiasts like Phill Stell and Eric Waters were a revelation and delight which only increased with repetition over successive years. But accessing such wonderful scenery invariably involves mountainous ascents which increase in difficulty to the point of impossible as one’s age cruises into late 70’s. But rather than downgrade the quality and variety of rides I decided to upgrade the equipment and bought an electric assisted version of the Focus Paralane carbon road bike with Shimano Ultegra
groupset.

A brace of long hills like Park Rash and Fleet Moss in one ride consumes a massive proportion of stored Watts but pedalling a bike weighing 15kg (ex bottle and bag) on flat and undulating sections between the hills, with power off to preserve the battery, does not require massive extra energy. Consequently the battery evens out the effort over a long hilly ride, you work a little harder without assistance on undulating sections and less on the steep climbs of which I have enjoyed many whilst repeating the highlights of those wonderful rides.

By contrast I soon experienced the disadvantage of the 15.5 mph power cut off for e bikes on a flat WE ride when my considerate colleagues maintained a steady 16mph peloton to Easingwold and
ever since have used my new, conventional, Cannondale Synapse for such routes. So it’s “horses for courses”; having an e bike in the stable means age does not restrict your enjoyment of our wonderful cycling territory and they are fun to ride. Keen cyclists should not associate them with loss of fitness. You will still drive yourself hard, the system only promises assistance, you provide the majority of input so if the torque sensor detects you easing off halfway up White Horse Bank the power will stop and so will you. The explosion in demand will stimulate manufacturers to research technical improvements, perhaps a regenerative braking system to charge the battery on descent and the e drive could become an integral part of a comprehensive electrical system powering lights, navigator, rear video camera and this month’s favourite, heated handlebars!

But I admit, the Cannondale Synapse will remain my all time favourite bike. There is just something beyond words about the basic pleasure of riding such an efficient self propelled machine; just a shame the propulsion unit is failing.


From Mike Clark:

My introduction to electric cycling was an hour on a hired KTM flat bar tourer from Bowlees visitor centre in Teesdale. That was enough to make me want one – and that’s the point – I WANTED one , I didn’t NEED one. And now we have four!

The first one we bought is a Volt Metro folding bike with a rear hub motor. Eileen and I share this (folders are great for sharing because everything adjusts easily). It sits by the garage door ready for a quick trip into the village, and now has a rear basket so the dog can ride too. And she does!

That was a success so we followed with a ‘cheap’ Carrera e-city from Halfords. Lower quality components but fine for limited use. We take the two folders when we, and the dog, go off in the camper van. Having two e-bikes means we can both ride similar distance and speed, and both tackle the same hills easily. We will usually make a round trip, with lots of stops, of 30 – 40 miles in a day. In a hilly area that is still within the capacity of the batteries.

It is worth noting that even ‘heavy’ folders – i.e. not Bromptons, Moultons or similar – only weigh around 17kg, as opposed to the 20+ kg of many full size e-bikes. This matters when camping, lifting on and off, weight limits and so forth. And the batteries come off.

For my 75th birthday I treated myself to an Orbea Gain from Chevin Cycles. Carbon frame and forks and the battery in the down tube which was unusual then, almost indistinguishable from any road bike. Another hub motor, but very quiet. That is a joy to ride, helped by exceptional service from Chevin. One can specify a lot on ordering – not just size but colours, bar width, steerer height (cut on site to fit me)… and I effectively ended up with a fitted bike on day one. Because the Gain is a road bike under 13kg with its pedals, mudguards, saddle bag (but minus pork pies) it can be ridden all day without troubling the motor. I have ridden 40 miles through the Wolds on a mere 10% of the available charge. It keeps a very accurate record of the state of charge. Warning lights come on when 25% battery is used, then 50%, 75% and 90%. But at any time the exact state of charge can be checked with a smartphone. I would have no hesitation in taking it on a hundred mile ride. But the joy comes in switching it on for an incline or a headwind. I have yet to find a hill to defeat it, but of course a one-in-five still takes some energetic pedalling too.

Having bought the Orbea, I didn’t know what to do with my old Specialized carbon hybrid. I could see that, given a choice, I would always choose the Orbea. So I took it along to Corcoach in Harrogate, where Andy built me a new rear wheel with a Keyde hub motor and fitted a 320Wh battery to the downtube. And that is now my winter bike. Still around 13 kg, it has a full rear rack, full length mudguards and a set of Schwalbe studded winter tyres, which sound like sizzling bacon but do stick to the road. The control system is different and less user friendly but it has huge torque (not a match for today’s crank motors, mind) and will fly up Otley Chevin. That’s handy if you live at the top !

E-bikes flatten Yorkshire. I still feel as though I get as much exercise as before, but my knees don’t complain afterwards. It is possible to buy an e-bike which will put in four times as much energy as the rider, but regular cyclists simply don’t need that. None of mine will do more than equal the effort I put in, and most of the time far less. Even a 20% boost equals a strong tail wind.


From Malcolm Margolis:

Gia and I were not experienced cyclists when we started Wheel Easy although we had cycled through childhood and at university and enjoyed sporadic rides with our young family. Wheel Easy opened up a whole new life of short rides, long rides, epic rides, friendly rides and cycling holidays. After we moved from Pannal into Harrogate in 2010 cycling became our everyday means of transport.

In those days just one Wheel Easy member used an electric bike. Peter McLean was a kidney transplant patient for whom an ebike was essential. In 2014 I had chemotherapy and followed his example. We had a motorhome and needed something that would fold up in the van. A Brompton seemed the ideal solution. We went to York on the train, bought a Brompton at Cycle Heaven at the station, and took it straight to Electric Transport Shop on Fossgate for an ebike conversion. A week later I collected it and rode it home, running out of battery just by Pannal Golf Club. I had to walk up the two remaining hills but it was a useful lesson and since then I always recharge the bike battery after all but the shortest rides. Later I bought a second battery, giving me an effective range of 40-80 miles, depending on terrain. I’ve ridden it up Buttertubs and Park Rash, taken it on the train and on many buses.

Small wheels do have their drawbacks. You feel all the bumps, and cattle grids are a challenge. Eventually I decided to invest in a full size bike and in 2016 bought a Bergamont from North Yorkshire Electric Bikes in Knaresborough. It is very comfortable, has eight hub gears and a Bosch battery with four power settings which can keep going for almost 100 miles on a relatively flat ride. It is step through which is a good thing as the 26 or so kg weight might be a problem if I had to get my leg over a cross bar. Otherwise I don’t notice the weight thanks to the motor. I use it for almost all my rides from home, for leisure, shopping etc. It requires a bit more effort than the Brompton which is powered by turning the throttle grip. That system was banned on new bikes sold after 2015, which must be pedal-assist. This is fine with me as it means I still get a light workout.

These bikes have enabled me to keep cycling. I’m convinced that electric bikes, which now come in all sorts of shapes and varieties, are a key part of the transport revolution which has to come.


 

From Fiona Walsh:

“Further to the request for members’ experiences of ebikes in November’s newsletter, please see my thoughts below.

The advantages of ebikes are well documented – taking up cycling after a break or injury, tackling otherwise daunting terrain/distances, boosting confidence in traffic etc.  Over the last few years, I have had practical experience of two commonly available types of pedal assisted ebike, (Bosch) bottom bracket drive with rear mounted battery and MAHLE Ebikemotion rear wheel drive with tube mounted battery.

Both are good, but they are not equivalent options.

Bosch assisted commuter bike

Has a powerful 300w motor and a max power output of 225% of pedal power.
Battery can be removed for charging.
Handlebar display with four power modes plus a walk mode.
The weight of 25kg is too heavy for regular transport by car or train or for touring.
However, its power and load bearing capacity make this bike ideal for commuter/shopping trips, or for steep climbs at high speed!

MAHLE Ebikemotion gravel bike

Panasonic battery mounted within downtube with motor on rear axle.
Battery cannot be removed for charging, so bike has to be situated near power source.  A removable battery extender can be fitted but these are expensive and add weight.
3 adjustable power levels giving up to 100% of pedal power.
It’s weight at approximately 14kg makes it ideal for touring (provided you are confident of finding a power source!) and for day rides.
Power button mounted on top tube is not as user friendly as a handlebar display.

How Long’s a Piece of String?

Of course both bikes can be ridden without assistance but the question I am most frequently asked (apart from “do you have to pedal?”!) is “how far can you go”?  And certainly FORO (Fear of Running Out) adds a certain frisson to any ride!  It is impossible to give an accurate answer, and mileage figures from bike salesmen should be treated with caution, but factors to consider include:

Route profile
Assistance level
Weight of bike, rider & baggage
Gear usage
Head wind
Tyres & tyre pressure
Speed

For both bikes, on a flattish ride and without an extender, I typically get 50 to 70 miles range.  On a very hilly ride, this will drop to 35 miles.”


From Philip Snowdon:

“I recently took the plunge and bought an Orbea Gain e bike, I have been using it for about six months now, mainly using  it for longer rides and even riding it with no assist at times.
The biggest difference I’ve noticed is the way I feel at the end of the ride, nowhere as tired as I used to feel, but knowing I’ve still done a ride. When using the bike you definitely get out of it what you put in.
The range of the bike is listed at about 62 miles. I tend to ride eco mode ( lowest power assist) and tend to get a range of about a 100 miles, obviously that is me doing a fair bit of work. It certainly has put a smile on my cycling face. The feeling of having a permanent tail wind comes to mind.
I attach a couple of photos of the bike. It is the aluminium frame with a 105 group set.”


From Joe Smith:

“I got my electric bike from Chevin Cycles at the end of October this year. Geraldine had been pushing me for some time to get one, as I was finding it difficult to keep up with her on her carbon Ribble. It’s a Cannondale Synapse Neo 2, with a 500Wh battery and a Bosch motor and drop bars : a tourer, really. I’ve done about 300 miles on it, and it’s a hoot. Very responsive, and not only can I keep up with Geraldine, I can leave her for dust up the hills if I choose to (surprisingly satisfying…). Yes, it’s heavy (about 21kg with saddle bag, pump, rack and kickstand), but I can still take it up and down the cellar stairs without too much difficulty. It probably has a range of 50 miles worst case, 100 miles best case.  What’s not no to like?”