Me and my e-bike
A slope and a hedge
The battery is fully charged, that took 4 hours. I’ve repaired my puncture, that took half an hour and cost £17! I’ll explain that cock-up in due course but now it’s time to introduce Columbanus to his new world. It is a ‘he’ by the way, largely because it doesn’t listen. To get any response I need to feed him precise instructions, slowly.
It’s barely light as I leave the launch pad. The hour is carefully planned to frustrate prying eyes. (Turns out it’s a good job). I’m trying to avoid headlines; ‘Local hero looks like a complete pillock,’ for example. Sir Chris Hoy I am not – witness…….
I make an utter hash of coming off the drive. I’m wearing a nasty light-green reflective top, the kind of thing all the trendiest pedallers wear, but I’m a bit sketchy in the trouser department. They are old jogging bottoms. They’ve never been jogged in but they have done plenty of gardening. Past their best is generous. They are saggy.
The power control consists of ‘Off, 1, 2, 3.' Depicted by little LED lights. I’ve set it on number 1. Easing into things you realize.
It all works thus: when you press down on the pedal the ‘motor assist’ kicks in after a slight delay, half a second perhaps. In mode 1 there’s not a massive power boost, but it’s certainly noticeable. From the front of our house to the avenue it’s downhill quite steeply for about 15 yards so any acceleration is enhanced by the slope.
So.......picture this if you will. The left pedal is raised. I stand on it with my left foot, my weight naturally pushes down the pedal as I go. As the bike starts to move the motor kicks in and I go to hoist my right leg over the seat in order to locate my foot on the right pedal. Simple. Just like riding a bike.
Unfortunately, my saggy jogging bottoms get stuck on the back of the saddle so I can’t get my leg over. I’m now sprawled along the bike, accelerating down the slope, enhanced by the motor, utterly out of control. Lying along the length of the bike, rather like a head-first skeleton rider on The Cresta Run, I hurtle straight across the avenue into my neighbour’s hedge.
It’s six in the morning and I wonder whether I’m doing the right thing.
These are the hard yards. You'll have seen Olympic rowers winning gold in the summer sun, but the real hard gratf is done of sleety winter mornings in the pre-dawn murk. Endless hours honing technique and physique. Well, being tangled up in my neighbour's privet is the price I must pay for gliding, god-like around the neighbourhood.
I leave Columbanus propped up against the hedge and go and change into something less saggy before I kill myself. A lesson learned. Luckily we live on a quiet avenue where there is still 3 hours before people get moving. I’ve not been spotted! I reflect that it’s a good job we don’t live near a railway line or motorway! But, if nothing else, I have learned to treat my new bike with respect.
So, off we go. I’ve planned to do a six-miler. The same route I regularly walk. The handbook tells me the battery will be be good for up to 45km depending on the amount of ‘assistance’ I use, which will probably be quite a lot, at least to start with.
I’ve half a mile of main roads to cover before I get to the canal towpath. I have a headlight that is integral to the bike and a small flashing red rear light. In addition to my nasty, green reflective top, I have reflective bits on pedals and helmet. But I still feel like a sacrificial target for motorists. I’m used to travelling in a car and being exposed like this is unsettling. In fact, I think all motorists should experience the raw noise and power of their vehicles close up to appreciate just how much potential danger they are wielding in their silenced cocoons. Just drive with the window down for a while and you'll soon understand, particularly if there are trucks and busses about.
I go a couple of miles along the canal, including going up alongside 7 or 8 locks. These are steep little bits that previously caused my to really struggle. Now, on power setting two, I fly up them. Frankly, it’s marvellous. There is a ¾ mile lockless section at the canal’s summit and I zip along here at 15 miles per hour. Except when I pass dog walkers. Being a walker myself I know that a bike can be threatening on a narrow towpath so I slow right down when we pass.
The next stage is up over a disused section of B-road. Fairly steep, but again I shoot up it. Down the other side I join ‘public’ highway again and realize what an appalling state the road surfaces are in. Parts of it are seriously dangerous for bikes. Mine has fat off-road tyres but thin road-bike tyres I could see having a real problem. Of course, you can steer round a pothole, but you can’t when there’s a bus up your jacksie! Apart from a scuff on my hand from my visit to the hedge the only other injury this trip is when I stop quickly and dismount so a bus can come through a narrow gap the other way. I scrape my skin painfully on a pedal so I’m using some pretty outdoor language as I hobble home.
But, back home we are and trip one is under the belt. Verdict: great!
Note to self: Better get a first aid kit.