Sunday 19 March 2017 06.00 GMT
Until recently, mention the word “e-bike” in cycling circles and the next you’d hear was “cheat”. Bicycles are made for riding, for sweating, for effort. So what on earth is the point of one that spares your thighs and whisks you across town cleanly, cheaply and easily? Well, that’s an attitude that’s changing fast.
The past 18 months have seen a phenomenal growth in e-bikes. In 2016 alone 1.6m were sold in Europe. In Holland it’s estimated that almost half of all new bikes sold are now battery powered. Though this is all small fry compared to China where 32.8m were shifted in the same period. This boom has been fuelled by several factors: smart technology means batteries are now lighter, last longer and recharge more quickly; frames are being designed with integrated motors and power units as opposed to simply having the mechanics added post hoc; and most importantly a new wave of urban traveller is getting on to two wheels. These are people who don’t think of riding an e-bike as “cycling” as such, but as a simple, fun and green solution to getting around a congested city.
E-bikes usually cost up to £2,000 and weigh about 25kg. You don’t need a licence to ride one or to pass a dedicated test. They are either pedal-assist or throttle activated. A standard battery will give you a range of 25-50 miles and take three hours to charge from any household plug. Speed is limited to 15.5mph – if you pedal faster than that your engine won’t assist you. And you don’t need to wear a helmet (but you’d be crazy not to). To tempt you, here are six of the best.