On test: A2B electric bike
My views on e-bikes have been turned on their head after taking an A2B Obree electric bicycle for a test-ride.
When A2B asked if I would like to test-ride one of their e-bikes I confess I cringed at the idea. I like my bikes to be sleek, lightweight, carbon-fibre, high-speed mean machines and most of the e-bikes that I have seen are not that at all. I decided I wasn’t keen to be seen on a bike that looked heavy, old-fashioned and did not say: “Carbon bling.”
I also believe that the reason for cycling is to stay fit and in good shape and I imagined that an e-bike was simply for lazy people who had no desire to become fitter or lose weight.
But I stand corrected. I absolutely loved riding the A2B Obree e-bike and I can see many benefits to these bikes.
E-bikes are electric bikes. They are powered by a battery that sits, in the case of the A2B bike, to the rear of a bike on top of back-wheel mounted rack.
A rider needs to pedal an e-bike to make it move forwards but the pedalling can be assisted by the power generated by the rechargeable battery.
The motor is there to ease the burden of pedalling when you choose. So you might want to use the power to go uphill or to take the sweat away from a longer commute to work. If there is a headwind you can chose to add some power to make the pedalling easier.
The A2B e-bikes also have normal bike gears, as well as the power assistance, so it’s possible to choose the amount of input you put into the pedalling.
A2B bikes comes in a range of different styles and also offer different speed levels. For example, A2B’s Shima e-bike can reach speeds of almost 28mph.
While many bike brands have introduced e-bikes to their ranges, A2B e-bikes have been designed specifically to be electric bikes. They are not adapted from other bike frames or styles.
There are 11 e-bikes in the A2B collection.
Who might ride an e-bike?
Commuters who prefer to ditch the car for a bike but feel they have too far to go for a normal push bike.
People looking for a viable, environmentally friendly transport option.
People who live in hilly areas and want to reach somewhere faster and with less of the normal sweaty effort.
People who want to whizz around urban areas without using taxis, public transport etc.
People with restricted mobility or who can’t, for whatever reasons, drive a motorised vehicle.
The benefits of an e-bike
Safety: It’s claimed that because e-bikes have more power and acceleration than an ordinary bike you can avoid other traffic if required. I still think e-bikes have a similar vulnerability to ordinary bikes because you are not encased in a metal box but it’s true you can accelerate away from trouble if needed.
Healthy: If you do not do much exercise then being out on an e-bike is better than sitting on the couch. You will also find that you need to pedal an e-bike so there are some fitness benefits even when using some power to propel you, too.
Fun: It’s easy to forget you are exercising because an e-bike feels like a lot of fun. (I wasn’t sure about this point until I gave it a go myself!)
To explore: You can achieve much longer bike rides with the extra power of a battery. So if you might normally manage six to 10 miles on a pedal-only bike, you could easily achieve 30 miles on an e-bike and reach new places.
For comfort: You do not become as sweaty as you would while riding an ordinary bike and you can wear your normal clothes because there is less potential for sore butts and skin rubs. The sit-up frame style just feels a lot more comfortable than a racer.
Easy commuting: E-bikes are very handy for reaching the office, even if you live up to 15 or 20 miles away or if your route includes a lot of hills. The extra power given by the battery makes light work of such a long or hilly commute.
Eco friendly: E-bikes are zero-emissions vehicles because they emit no combustion by-products. Even taking into account the environmental effects of manufacture, e-bikes will have significantly lower environmental impact than conventional motorised vehicles.
What’s it like to ride an e-bike?
I have been testing the A2B Obree, which is named after Graeme Obree, “The Flying Scotsman”, who created radical bicycle designs and innovations.
The Obree is described as: “Boasting a lower centre of gravity to offer a more stable and comfortable ride and to give it a stronger, fashion-orientated look. “The model’s revolutionary German propulsion system and pedal assist ensure that it is always a pleasure to ride with confidence and ease.”
My first reaction was that although it looks quite funky for an e-bike it still lacked carbon bling appeal. It also felt very heavy when I tried to pick up the back end, where the battery and rear motor hub sit.
But from the moment that I sat on the bike and went for a pedal I really loved it. I set the bike in one gear (there is just one front cog and eight cogs at the back) and used the buttons on the handlebars to control the power input.
There is an easy-to-read gadget that sits on the handlebars and tells you how much power you are using and how many miles you have left in the battery if you continue to use that level of power.
The gadget includes an eSocialBike app, which is an on-board electronics tool that provides maintenance, navigation, troubleshooting and social interfaces.
When I requested less power for the bike the gadget told me I had about 50 miles left in the battery but when I added lots of power to whizz me up a hill I could see I had just 12 miles left if I continued to use the power at the same level.
I also discovered that pedalling hard added to the speed of the bike. I thought it would be more like a motorised scooter, whereby I could sit back, not pedal and the bike would take me where I wanted. Instead the bike does need to be pedalled to go forward and if you put some push into the pedalling you go much faster.
I had great fun trying to see how fast I could go and it was much more fun than I ever imagined it would be to whizz along leaving other cyclists for dust.
I went out for a ride with my neighbours, 12-year-old Jamie on his racer bike and his dad Richard on his mountain bike. These guys are fit and fairly fast but when I hit the power control and pushed harder on the pedals I went flying off ahead of them at quite a rate. Richard said he was surprised by how fast I zoomed away from them, even though they were pedalling quite hard.
Jamie tried to keep up with me on the flats and uphills but simply couldn’t. To be fair, on the downhills, once he had picked up some speed, we rode next to each other and I couldn’t easily get away from him.
The e-bikes seem to be best for uphills and for times when there is a strong headwind. Then they are a huge advantage over ordinary and lighter weight pedal bikes. If your were planning to go for a longer ride with friends and you were unsure about your ability you could easily keep up on an e-bike.
I reached speeds of up to 14 mph on uphills (even steep ones) and managed to reach 19mph on the flat. (The G-Force took the bike for a few laps of our local roads and reached 20mph. He came back with a manic smile on his face and said he greatly enjoyed the trip.)
One of my favourite parts of riding the e-bike was the look on the faces of people walking on pavements. They could see me going by on what looked like a heavy sit-up-and-beg bike yet they were amazed to see me speeding along. The fact that I was also wearing normal clothes, rather than cycling Lycra, only added to the effect.
The bike has been a huge bonus for me over the last week because I have been suffering with a bad chest infection. I have been on an almost zero exercise regime as I allow my body to fight off the illness. Yet I could still get about on the e-bike. I didn’t need to pedal very much to still reach destinations in about half the time.
Charging up the battery is easy. I simply lifted the battery (it is about the size of a large ice cream tub) and fairly heavy but is not too difficult to carry into the house. Once there you plug it in and it quickly recharges.
I am told, too, that the action of pedalling the bike adds charge to the battery although this action will never fully charge it. To fully charge it you need to plug it into the electricity.
If you are away from home there are a number of re-charging points offered through a growing Electric Bicycle Network. See Electric Bicycle Network There are plenty of these charge points in Scotland.
While I am not ready to invest upwards of £1,000 on my own e-bike just yet I can see they will become increasingly popular with all kinds of people. They are a great idea for getting to and from the office and if you are less able and want to explore further.
Try a hire-e-bike
There are several Scottish outlets that hire and sell A2B e-bikes. I recommend taking one for a ride because they are a highly enjoyable experience. Check out:
* Wheels Cycling Centre, Callander
* E-Motion Bikes, Cardona, near Peebles
For more info see A2B e-bikes
Thanks to Richard Cook, my amazing cameraman neighbour, for taking some pics of me on the A2B e-bike.