When pedal power just isn’t enough

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Electric bikes are the latest trend in eco-friendly transport that promises to make short work of the hills in towns like Tunbridge Wells, so Jason Stubbs of The Times has pulled one out to take a spin…

When I heard that the local experts Energize e-bikes wanted someone at Time to take one of their bikes for a spin and write a review, I quickly volunteered. I’m an avid cyclist with a particular passion for mountain biking, but one of my least favorite things about cycling is pedaling uphill. Surely an electric bike was the answer to my prayers?

Electric bikes have been around for decades, but in recent years advances in technology have made them lighter, more efficient and much more fun to ride and as a result their popularity has skyrocketed. Modern e-bikes work on a principle known as ‘pedal assist’ which means the bike won’t move unless you turn the pedals, but the electric motor makes this much, much easier than on a conventional bicycle.

A light push of the pedals and the bike provides all the extra power needed to make climbing the hills of a city like Tunbridge Wells an absolute breeze. The bike will only assist up to a speed of 15.5mph (because that’s as fast as the law allows for pedal assist), but most riders will probably find this more than enough for their needs. .

The Bergamont E-Ville SUV model given to me by Energize E-bikes on St John’s Road, Tunbridge Wells for the weekend was very different from the mountain bike I usually ride.

With an upright riding position, a wide and comfortable saddle and a luggage rack on the rear wheel, it was clearly designed for urban use.

The addition of Schwalbe off-road tires, front suspension and integrated mudguards also lets you know that the E-Ville can also go off-road if needed.

Stopping isn’t a problem either, as Shimano’s hydraulic disc brakes perform great on and off the road.

The styling might look a bit retro, but the black and acid green paint scheme gives a modern twist to the bike’s look.

‘The Bergamont E-Ville SUV model was given to me by Energize The e-bikes on St John’s Road were very different from the mountain bike I usually ride’

Shifting the 11 speeds is via paddles on the right side of the bars and on the left is a small LCD unit that lets you control the motor. This is also where the on/off switch is located as well as a selector to switch between the four power modes Eco, Tour, Sport and Turbo.

As you’d expect, the higher the setting, the more power the bike puts out, but that also means more power will be drained from the battery. While you are riding, this screen also displays your current speed and gives an indication of the remaining battery charge.

Depending on the manufacturer, you can expect to travel 30 to 60 miles on a fully charged battery. This will depend on the weight of the rider, how you ride and the type of terrain you ride on.

As I familiarized myself with the Bergamont with a short drive around the block, I was struck by how the upright riding position makes you feel extra tall and able to see and be seen.

This is extremely beneficial when cycling in traffic and, together with the feeling of comfort, solidity and stability of the bike when you ride it, generates a feeling of confidence. A quick potter in the shops wasn’t really what I had in mind for the powerful Bosch motor, so I decided to plan a longer, more challenging ride.

One of the greatest things about cycling is the feeling of freedom and the ability to explore.

Having an electric motor for the ride offers the ability to go further and not worry about how many hills there are between home and where you want to go.

The weather was nice for the weekend, so I decided to take the Bergamont on a small section of the South Downs Way to see how it would cope with some smooth off-road riding.

Starting from the outskirts of Eastbourne and heading west over the Downs, there can be few better places than the South Downs, taking in views of rolling farmland, chalk cliffs and the English Channel beyond. of the.

Steering the E-Ville off the tarmac and onto the mix of gravel, flint chalk and ornate dirt of the bridleways didn’t seem to take the bike out of its comfort zone at all.

The tires had plenty of grip, the front suspension soaked up the worst bumps, and the solid, stable feel the bike gave on the road remained.

As the trail dipped for the long, steep descent of a hill, the powerful Shimano disc brakes gave me complete control over the speed of the bike, keeping things steady and stable and allowing me to choose a smooth course at a reasonable speed for the bike.

The pretty village of Jevington in the Seven Sisters National Park involves quite a steep climb. That meant I was about to give the Bosch motor its first proper test.

The first time you ride a hill using a pedal-assist e-bike is always likely to put a smile on your face.

It brought back memories of being a little kid learning to ride a bike with an adult’s hand on my back pushing me forward.

The electric bike offers two options for tackling a hill. Either put it in sport or turbo mode, gently turn the pedals and move forward serenely. The rider is the effortlessly sleek swan and the electric motor is the invisible paddle feet.

Alternatively, you put some sweat into the climb and find yourself at the top in no time. Since I’ve done this route many times on a “normal” bike, I thought I’d take the slightly more difficult option and see what the bike would do.

It’s a hill I’ve done many times on a normal bike and for about half the effort I was able to travel at three times the speed I could handle without power assist.

I still had a little sweat at the top of the hill, but I also had a smile on my face. The more serene option has a lot to say though, why not just let the bike take the effort while you enjoy the glorious English countryside?

“Riding the e-bike brought back memories of being a little kid learning to ride a bike with an adult’s hand on my back pushing me forward”

Once I settled on top of the hill, I found myself in Friston Forest, which has an extensive network of cycle paths to explore, many of which are aimed at mountain bikers looking for thrills, but there are also a large number of softer and softer tracks. paths, perfectly adapted to the E-City that I was able to explore.

With the engine to help me, I could explore the leafy beauty of the forest (and it’s at its best, in my opinion, in spring and fall) at my leisure.

Knowing that I could easily pedal back from wherever I was going, I felt free to explore a few places I hadn’t ventured before. Not having to worry about feeling exhausted while pedaling home brought out the explorer in me!

The term “range anxiety” is relatively new and is commonly used by people driving electric cars, but it also applies to electric bicycles.

When planning a ride, it’s always wise to make sure you leave enough in the battery to get you home, but you also need to consider more than just the number of miles. Between me and the end of my ride was quite a long climb in the Jevington Downs. About a mile long and climbing over 400 feet vertically, and I had planned my ride pretty optimistically at the end.

I had a slight worry in the back of my mind when I started the climb. So far I’ve only used half the available battery power, but it was a big climb and I’m much heavier than the average rider.

As I put the bike in sport mode and started the climb, I thought back to the last time I tackled it on a conventional bike. It was torture. Something I endured gritting my teeth, a necessary evil.

With an e-bike it was a totally different experience. I could take in my surroundings, appreciate the tall grass at the edge of the trail swaying in the breeze, spot a herd of cattle grazing on the hill opposite, and listen to the birdsong.

Climbing a hill can actually be fun, who knew? Any range anxiety I may have had was quickly forgotten at the top of the climb. With more than enough power to get me the few remaining miles home, I paused to take in the scenery, then pedaled…

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