BikeBiz and MMB editor Alex Ballinger has been trialling his first ever e-bike. Here’s his thoughts on the power-assisted revolution
This piece first appeared in the June edition of BikeBiz magazine – get your free subscription here
I was getting some bemused looks, cruising along my nearest cycle track at 15.5mph on what can only be described as a pedal moped. For the past few weeks I have been making my e-bike debut, enjoying the endless benefits of electrically-assisted pedalling for the first time, aboard the newest model from British e-bike brand Eskuta.
The SX-250, released in April, is an unusual hybrid of motorbike and e-bike, offering the sturdiness, security, and comfort of a moped, but with pedals and a 250w motor, making it legal on UK roads without the need for tax, a licence, or insurance.
During my brief entry into the e-bike world this year, the benefits of powered pedalling have become immediately clear – from the practical to the financial. My first venture out on the Eskuta was to my local coffee shop for a morning latte, but soon I branched out to slightly more ambitious ventures, like a trip to the driving range laden with golf clubs, and even trying out the weekly shop.
The shop did prove slightly tricky, as even with the benefit of a back box I was still limited on space for my food shop, precariously balancing my bag for life on the footrests and hoping an unseen pothole wouldn’t send my four pinter of milk dashing across the tarmac.
That minor limitation notwithstanding, my eyes have been truly opened to all the joys of e-bikes, and it’s clear that e-bikes are not a brand-driven trend – they will be a significant shift in our industry. While both consumers and retailers are gradually adapting to the e-bike evolution of the trade, there is still some scepticism from buyers and sellers, and the real mission now is to convince the wider public that an e-bike could change their day-to-day life for the better.
However, based on conversations with friends, sparked by my slightly unusual chosen mode of transport, there appear to be two main sticking points to overcome when it comes to really demonstrating the benefits of e-bikes to the non-cycling crowd, aside from the ever-recurring theme of poor UK cycling infrastructure – the price point and battery range.
In years past e-bike riders have had to spend a lot to get the full benefits of power-assisted cycling, but thanks to a number of brands really trying to drive down the price point, the cost of lower end e-bikes is falling year after year (the SX-250 retails for £1,995).
But that is still a significant stack of cash to a non-cyclist, and may well be above the price range from those who would benefit most. And while the range of today’s e-bikes is generally enough to cover any individual city journey, the e-bike industry needs to convince the wider world that it can offer enough distance to fit into the lives of busy families, workers, and businesses, if we want them to ditch the car.
The task now for the cycling industry is to shout loudly about the benefits of electrically assisted riding, for the benefit of anyone even remotely willing to listen.