So I can confirm it is an interesting experience when — as you’re bowling happily along a pitch dark country lane, feeling moderately pleased that the light you transferred from the Brompton onto the borrowed ebike seems to be lighting up the road ahead adequately, with a topped up battery that will easily get you home and a January chill in the air — you hit a pothole and watch your light catapult itself off the handlebars and cartwheel through the air to bounce off the bike and then the road into the verge just as all the power disappears from the motor leaving you effectively stranded.
Fortunately the light (a C&B Seen, if you’re interested) survived the experience and was easily reseated, but the e-assist remained stubbornly un-assisting as I tried all the different settings, switched it off and on again and experimentally tried pedalling without it (yeah. No. Not an option, especially with 34 quite testing miles in my legs already, and have I mentioned I live up a big hill?) It was only as I was contemplating returning back to my friend’s house (she who had lent me the bike in the first place) with my tail between my legs to abjectly apologise for breaking her bike and could I also have a lift home, that I remembered her mentioning that the battery did tend to unseat itself if you went over any rough stuff. Sure enough, it was half way off the rack and as soon as it was slotted back into place, power resumed and I could go on my merry way.
Yesterday saw me do my longest trip on the e-bike to date and it’s confirmed my initial impression that I’m not yet ready to go permanently electric. The round trip to Notso Bigtown is (depending on the route you take) about 39 miles and the most direct route (not counting the Big A Road because I’ve not got a death wish) involves the Old Military Road and hence a permanent headwind and climbing every sodding hill. This meant more time spent looking at the battery indicator than the scenery, which was a shame because it was another beautiful day (seasonally adjusted for January). It also meant keeping the assist on its lowest setting, however steep the hill or testing the headwind, making me realise afresh just how heavy the bike is. My battery-saving tactic of powering up to over 16 mph (the point where the motor drops out) on the rolling sections was also taking it out of my legs somewhat, given that I’m more usually found pottering along at 10 mph. All in all, it means that over longer distances with plenty of hills, the ebike isn’t really any easier than a lighter but unassisted one, at least for this particular rider. Either that or six weeks of e-assist have taken more out of my bike fitness than I expected.
I suppose with time you get a better sense of what is and isn’t feasible, but I suspect also that almost all ebike users will end up doing at least one Walk Of Shame when they let their optimism get ahead of their battery capacity. Indeed, having reached Papershop Village on my way home with two bars of battery left, and knowing that I had roughly 11 miles to go to get home, I was tempted to see if I could make it the whole way without topping up as I stopped off at my pal’s to sign her books and refuel with tea and gossip. However my desire not to have to push a bike that weighs about as much as a baby elephant up our hill prevailed over wanting to know just what a single charge can do. Maybe I’ll save that little experiment for when I finally get one of my own.
In truth, though, yesterday just made me realise how much I miss my old bike. It wasn’t perfect but over the years I’d got it set up for miles and miles of comfortable cycling. With dynamo lights that just worked (and, crucially, were attached to the bike), the absolute hammock-like comfort of my Brooks saddle, and the ability to refuel with jelly babies and pork pies, I had started to feel that together we could handle almost any distance, given enough time.
I cannot wait for the new-old bike to be ready so we can start to build that sort of partnership again…