It’s Bike Week. Here’s how I got back in the saddle again… with an e-bike
I’ve never worn lycra nor “chewed the handlebars,” but when I stopped cycling six years ago because of MS, I missed it.
So how did I manage to go on a cycling break last month?
Earlier this year, a good friend called and said she was planning to get a bunch of people together to go cycling for a few days in the Loire in France in May. Would we like to come along? The pace would be gentle, the food good and the wine even better.
I hemmed and hawed. My husband would love to join in the cycling, I told her, but I might have to sit it out. I didn’t want to slow everyone down due to my left leg weakness, dodgy balance and random fatigue.
Alison was having none of that. “Don’t worry. We’ll rent you an electric bike.”
So she did. And despite some trepidation (and a mild collision with a bike rack), I rode it and loved it. For the first time in years, I was on a level-playing field with everyone else.
I could pedal the bike when I wanted the fitness benefit – but when I faced a slope or my leg started acting up, I could switch it over to electric. Using it was also a big confidence-builder. Knowing I had back up made me go further and push myself harder. It was also wonderful to be in the real countryside – and in places, I normally couldn’t get to.
For the uninitiated an electric bike – or an e-bike – is a modified bicycle with a battery and a motor. It looks and functions just like a traditional bicycle, but if the user wants they can turn on a small electric motor which powers the vehicle independently. Top speed is 25 km/15 miles an hour.
No longer seen as “cheat-mobiles”, e-bikes have surged in popularity. In 2015 only a few thousand were sold in the UK; last year that figure jumped to 80,000 and this year that number is expected to be topped. The biggest buyers, says Halfords, are those over 55 years in age.
The bike motor can be charged, much like an electric car, using electricity. It has zero emissions – and is very environmental friendly. They come in different types: commuter, mountain, folding and leisure bike.
Also for those who find two wheels challenging because of balance issues – there are a number of options. I found this site useful: http://cyclingotherwise.co.uk
I have not (yet) bought an e-bike – so I am loathe to offer advice. All I know is that if you get a chance to rent or use one – have a go. It really does make life better.
By Rachel Horne