e-Bikes are not cheating and here’s why…


Ok so let’s talk about e-bikes.

My local bike shop asked if I’d like to try an e-bike so of course, I jumped at the chance.  Now you guys know me, I cycle every day, rain or shine and yes I will confess there have been a couple of times when someone on an e-bike has passed me on a particularly tough hill and it was infuriating. But that’s more to do with my frustration at my abilities (and it doesn’t help if they giggle as they pass). See, recently, I’ve been struggling because I’m not getting to go to the gym and I’m doing very little other than cycling and so my fitness has really dropped. That means the cycle to work is getting harder and harder and poor Kate is stuck behind me. So I thought why not have a go and have some fun.

And boy did it put the fun back.

I borrowed a Kalkhoff Image 5 S Belt (2020) for a couple of days and used it as my main bike for both my daily commute and for nipping around campus. I’m not going to write an in-depth review specific to this bike here. What I want to do is just talk about what it’s like to ride an e-bike.

What is it like to ride an e-bike?

Well, to be honest, a lot of fun. I rode the bike for two days, in that time I did 4 commutes which involved hills. Two of them involved REALLY big hills. And I enjoyed those hills – I so wouldn’t normally. I hate the hills, but I do it ’cause it’s my commute, but there are days where the thought of it just about puts me off and sends me for the train or the car.

Now here is the thing, the e-bike has an engine, obviously, but it doesn’t actually propel you all by itself, you need to do some of that yourself, you need to pedal. What the engine does is give you a little bit of a boost while you pedal. If you stop pedalling, the engine cuts out. So on the flat, it was a little easier than my normal bike ride, but the hills were where it really came into its own. On the hills, I really noticed the assist. Like Kate was running along beside me giving me a push.

It felt like this…

And that’s the thing I want to talk about. This gave me two days this week where I absolutely wanted to cycle, regardless of that horrible cold snap, I wanted to cycle. I gave the bike back today and I’m already considering getting the train tomorrow because cycling has become so difficult.

So when people say e-bikes are cheating, who do they think is being cheated? I was certainly under no illusion that I was on an e-bike. I didn’t at any point get confused and think I had morphed into Chris Hoy overnight. So I don’t think I was cheated. I’m also pretty sure no e-bike rider has set out to cheat other people and fool them into thinking they are not on an e-bike either, after all, they are pretty recognisable. So no one is being cheated there.

Obviously I’m having a bit of fun here, I know exactly what people mean, they don’t actually mean cheating. They mean, you aren’t working as hard as me. And that’s true, in most cases, but why does that matter?

  • If you want to cycle as a training regime, then go for it. And I hope you enjoy it. Not everyone does though.
  • If you want to cycle because you enjoy being on a bike, then that’s fun too.
  • And if you want to cycle rather than drive or use public transport, then great, go mad.

All of those reasons are great reason to cycle, but no one reason is superior to the other.

I kind of feel like I need to put in a bit about how someone on a road bike isn’t putting in as much effort as me, so is that cheating? Or someone wearing clip-in shoes, when I don’t, are they cheating….. ok we’ll stop there. You get my point. Just cycle cause you enjoy it. It’s not a competition, unless it actually is, in that case, it would be cheating… otherwise, if an e-bike is what gets you cycling, then I can’t see anything wrong with that, in fact, I encourage it.

What can I expect?

Well, I think that depends on the bike.

The one I was riding has a belt drive instead of a chain. That meant I didn’t have to worry about getting oil on my jeans. Which I think should be standard these days.

It also has disc brakes which mean the stopping power on it was really good. I felt very in control.

The best bit for me was that it was a very upright, step-through frame. I have never cycled one of these before and I loved it. It was so comfortable. I REALLY loved it.

Now here is the techie bit (cause some folk like that stuff). This one had a 540kw battery, which meant it can get up to 180 kilometres on a charge. That’s loads. Granted, it does take 6 and a half hours to charge though. But it meant I wasn’t worried about it running out of battery on me.

Now that’s a thing. Even if it does run out of battery, you are not stranded. You can still pedal and treat it as a normal bike. Ok, a really heavy bike, but still you can pedal it. I know, I did it. But… this is where my one complaint lies. The lights (which are awesome) work from the battery, so no battery, no lights. I think that’s a bit dumb and there should be a backup dynamo.

So that’s my overall adventure on an e-bike this week. I have nothing but good things to say, so much so… look at this smile when I was talking about it on youtube.

So if you fancy testing one out, then I highly recommend giving it a go. If you are lucky enough to have a local bike shop offering this, then go talk to them. I used the Edinburgh Bicycle Cooperative for my trial if you have one near you then pop in and tell them I sent you. I think you will be very pleasantly surprised… but don’t complain to me about the massive hit on your bank balance if you end up falling in love and buying one…. ouch!

If you want to see just how enthusiastic I am about e-bikes, youtube video below where I am positively giddy with happiness.


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