Or Goldilocks and the Three Bikes. (More than three bikes were tried, but I couldn’t resist some link to the fairy tale of how I found a bike that was just right.)
This year, I invested in an e-bike. It took me a long time to research this change to my daily commute routine, so I thought I would share what I learned to save someone else the trouble.
Here’s some context to help you decide whether it’s worth reading further.
When researching, I was just over 50 years old and about to start a job in a city 14 miles away. With the recent petrol price hike, concern about greener methods of travel and my menopause belly, I decided to explore the possibility of getting rid of the car. I needed a bike that would cope with 30 miles of round commute, the hellish hills around where I live and the average fitness of a middle-aged woman. I work in an office environment without shower facilities. So I was looking for a step-through frame I could pedal in a dress.
I’m going to give you this as a narrative. Driving home from work one day, I nipped into Certini. (A local bike shop.) The salesman suggested I try the Specialized Vado SL (SL stands for ‘Super Light’ apparently). I took his advice as the range of e-bikes is boggling. This was my first go on an e-bike, and I loved it immediately. The usual heartsink I’d experience at the approach of an uphill slope disappeared as the motor kicked in and gave the effect of going up on a cable car. Amazing.
I continued researching specifications and learned that to cope with distance and hills, I would need at least a 500wh battery and enough torque to respond to steep inclines. The SL, with its 250w battery, wasn’t enough.
I contacted Fully Charged. (For those who don’t know, Fully Charged will bring you a selection of bikes to test drive.) After chatting with the helpful sales guy, he arrived with three cycles from the recommended range (Moustache from their X-Road range) and a wild card (Riese and Muller Roadster Mixte Vario). I dismissed the Riese and Muller bike immediately as it was ugly.
After going on the three Samedi X-road bikes, I liked the middle of the range. It was pricey, but I was learning to invest in a bike that could do all I needed. As the salesman wiped down the bikes to go back in the van, I nipped on the Riese and Muller Roadster. This bike had a drive belt in place of a chain and continuous gear change. Three revolutions in, and I was hooked. I loved it. However, my heart broke when I found out about the price! (5K plus) There was no way I could justify it. I tried every way: ride-to-work scheme, interest-free loans, crying…
Weeks passed. I wandered in and out of Halfords – a colleague had suggested the Chris Boardman e-Bike in there (not a ‘step through)- but the salespeople couldn’t answer my questions. So, I returned to Certini again. This time, the man in the shop seemed to know his stuff. He suggested Specialized again, but this time the Vado 3.0. Although the entry-level of the range, he assured me it would do what I needed. What about the torque, I asked? If those hills are painful, I could see myself giving up quickly. Should be ok was the response.
“The battery or the torque isn’t as high as my lovely and unaffordable Riese and Muller…”
“Should be enough.”
“What if I’m carrying loads of weight in the panniers?”
“It should be ok.” (Specialized have a nifty calculator for weight, gradient, and distance that tells you if your battery/motor will do the job.)
“Will it get me there and back even with the steep hills?”
Hmmm. Should. Probably. Might. But by this time, I had had enough of speculating and researching and being no further forward. It was still expensive, but with summer fast slipping away and tempted by a four-year interest-free option, I made the decision and bought it.
The New Bike Comes Home
It arrived, and I remember thinking, “What a lump.” I know. I was still yearning for the Roadster Mixte Vario, which was agile and easy to handle. Hey ho – I had to live with the fact it was out of my price range and make the best of this one. The first short test ride went ok. It got me up the steep hill, no bother, and its heaviness is imperceptible when cycling it – it was only slightly less responsive.
My husband, a keen cyclist, also looked unimpressed. ‘It’s a bit of a beast.’ I went to bed that night with a heavy heart as I had just spent all our available funds on a bike I didn’t like. So me.
The First Commute to Work
I made preparations to make the first commute to work. The weather has been beyond dry, so I didn’t worry about getting wet. Donning a high-vis helmet and vest, an old pair of padded shorts under my skirt and one pannier, I set off, giving myself an hour and a half. It was glorious. I went careful and switched to eco mode as soon as I could handle the peddling. I arrived 50 minutes, fresh and following a quick hair brush and updo, ready for work. Hills were a doddle, and I soon learned that a trip to and from work still left 50% of the battery. With the extra power, I could use the sport and turbo mode more, making my journey more effortless. I also began appreciating the bike’s sturdiness on this relatively long journey. What a relief! It also only took 30 minutes longer than by car. Not bad!
After two days on the trot, my undercarriage was broken…never underestimate a good pair of padded cycling shorts! I was also caught out in a shower, so I purchased a waterproof poncho from Decathlon. It looks ridiculous in the wind (think aged batgirl), but with a bit of a belt to pull it all in, it’ll be great. It kept me and my bottom half dry and all for £40.
So, how am I getting on?
Alright! I’ve worked out that if I manage to cycle six days out of 20, I’ll have paid for the bike in the amount of petrol money saved. More than six days, I’m saving money. Cheaper, healthier, greener. And with an added feeling of self-righteousness! Ha ha!
I bumped into a girl on my Riese and Muller dream bike who said she found it hard to go up some of the steeper hills (no idea why), and I had a go on the Chris Boardman e-bike, which would be fine for the odd 10-mile cycle. Still, not the terrain and distance I needed a bike for. All in all, I am thrilled with my purchase.
I’ll let you know how the winter mornings and nights go!