Me and my e-bike
My search begins on the internet of course. I can plan my cycling future with no physical effort whatsoever.
E-bikes are big business, the web is awash with them, or was. (As I write it's August 2020). So popular has biking become through the lock-down that many models are ‘out of stock’. The photos are still there but they have become e-ghosts.
It was all new to me. I discovered they cost from £500 up to £10k or more. The majority seem to be in the middle / lower price bracket, say £1,000 to £2,500. There are crank-driven or hub-driven models with a choice of different size motors. A variety of battery sizes giving different power and or range. There are road bikes, mountain bikes and hybrids. A choice of frame (step-through / crossbar) and wheel sizes and you can have one that folds up to pop in the boot of the car.
I learn there are basically two locations for the motor, in the crank (the central section low down between the pedals) or in the wheel hubs, more commonly the rear but occasionally the front. The crank models are for more serious (fitter, more adventurous) bikers and are much more expensive. So hub it is.
A ‘pedal assist’ e-bike is the where the rider pedals normally and the battery and motor combine to help you, adding to your own effort by varying degrees dependant on the setting you choose. Pedal assist means you can travel not only further and faster but also tackle hills without trouble. It's this last bit that really interests me because it's where I'm really struggling. I can walk, but barely run. On a normal bike I'm OK on the flat but no good on an incline. Remember the porky jogger?! (or joggler)
Now, the battery. We had lots of batteries when we had a boat, different types for different jobs. Deep cycle leisure batteries for the domestic supply, lights, pumps etc. and those with high cranking power for engine starting. Batteries were the heartbeat of our vessel when we were not connected to mains power and capacity and output had to be married to our requirements. I guessed it was the same with a bike. It's a relationship between volts, amps and watts, one that I'm not over-confident with. Matching battery with motor is important so I'll leave that to someone else.
Armed with a few ideas and my new-found knowledge I decide I need a face to face consult. There’s a bike shop local to where I live. It's about 250 yards away, very nearly walking distance! It's called The Ride Stuff and the proprietor is Paul. Turns out he’s a helpful lad, and a good man with whom to have a consult.
The shop is at the top of an external flight of stairs, metal fire-escape type. This is not ideal for me. By the time I'd lugged my stomach to the summit I was in need of a isotonic drink. Not ideal for a bike shop either you'd have thought, but there we are.
My initial thought had been a hybrid. I'd ruled out a road bike (droopy handlebars and knife-thin wheels) because I wanted to cycle on the canal towpaths and rougher tracks on the moors. In the end Paul persuaded me to get a mountain bike because they rule nothing out. Roads, hills, tracks, wherever. I agreed. He showed me one on the computer that had been selling well and had good feedback. They had been selling so well he hadn't got any in stock. In fact, there was nothing I could have immediately, the wait would be about five weeks.
That was slightly disappointing but a shorter wait than other places. And, I was supporting a local shop. Independent shopkeepers have had a tough enough time recently. I'd like to see our town, like many others, come out of the current mess at least as healthy as before. Besides I could use the intervening time to build up my massive (ly disappointing) thigh muscles while riding my daughter’s boneshaker.