A few months ago I had been thinking about selling my Pashley and buying a 2nd hand electric bike. I'd seen a few on Ebay, and it was very tempting. I read up a but about them, but ended up none the wiser. Most of the bikes were really big and chunky, when what I really wanted was an electrified version of my Pashley.
When looking for information online, I stumbled across an advert for The Cycle Show at the NEC, and a discounted ticket code. I decided to book tickets and use the intervening weeks as a cooling off period. Always a good thing with whims, I find.
At the beginning of this week, we had a discussion about whether or not to go. We've had a few other projects on the go, and taking a day out wasn't really a great idea. I looked at the online brochure, and could see that there were going to be a lot of manufacturers there, and there was a track to try out some of the bikes. We decided to go, as it would be a year before it came around again, it would be a great opportunity to see lots of them together, we had tickets, blah blah.
So, Friday arrived, and we set off. A good run down (up?) to the NEC, no queues for parking, a really pleasant day for strolling from the car park to the exhibition halls. We went straight to the "Electric Bike" village. I wandered forlornly looking at the stands. It had been a couple of months since I looked at them, and I couldn't even remember which manufacturers I was interested in. The bikes were chunky, clearly not aimed at me. It was a waste of time.
An electric trike caught my eye. Not that I had considered one, or was even really considering one. I just thought that would be fab for when I was older if I wanted to bring back proper shopping. The chap on the stand came over and asked if we wanted any help "No thanks" I said. "Yes" said DH. He then asked some questions about the design of electric bikes in general - the difference between having the power bit on the pedals or on the gears (that's my interpretation of what he asked, he used correct terminology).
The chap was really really helpful. His company was called Batribike, and they only sold the bikes with the motor thing on the hub, not on the middle bit of the bike. So, he explained why his company did this, what was good about it, what wasn't, and what to look for in the other style of bike (which they didn't make). He made it very easy for me to understand more what we should look for and what we should avoid.
So, we then went round all the stands having a look. I bemoaned the ugliness of the bikes. A young girl and her boyfriend stood beside me and she sneered, with the ignorant bliss of youth "what's the point of an electric bike. I mean, why don't people just get fit enough to pedal". I was tempted to turn round and say "What about those who are a bit arthritic? Or who don't want to go shopping and arrive dripping in sweat?", but I bit my tongue. I expect she'll work it out in a few years.
I was interested to see that Raleigh had a couple of new electric bikes which were designed to be much more like normal bikes.
With that, we joined the queue to use the test circuit.
Our first pair of bikes were the Raleighs.
I was amazed. Mine wasn't much heavier than Pashley (she is a heavy old girl). The riding position was comfortable, and it was really easy. Raleigh, as most of them, provide pedal assistance. You can choose how much assistance you want, but you need to contribute. I was really impressed at how easy, and how not-noisy, the bike was.
We then tried the Batribikes. Again, these were really easy to ride. These were cheaper than the Raleighs, because they had the motor on the rear wheel. With these, it was also possible to ride without any pedal power.
At this point I was thinking "yes. I think I want to get an electric bike".
We tried a pair of chunkier bikes, another make, very expensive. The ride was horrible. I mean, the position. The electric bit was fine, but I couldn't ride it.
Then I tried a "cheapy". The electrics on this weren't so great, not surprising given the difference in the price tag, but the position (handlebars, my back, that sort of thing) was really great.
We then went on to have a look at the bikes which had been identified as "Best Buy" in the Sunday Times. Before we did so, I said to DH that I was very suspicious of the ST Best Buys. Whenever they evaluate a subject I know something about, I find their "best buys" a poor choice, so I have no faith in them when it comes to something I know nothing about.
I got on the bike, powered up, and got off. I didn't like it. There wasn't any point taking it out for a test, because it just wasn't right. DH tried it, but came back and said he didn't like it much.
It was well worth going.
We left, and were home by 2.30pm.
We didn't buy a bike. That wasn't the point of going. But I think I will get one, maybe next Spring ready for the summer.