While electric bikes have been a big thing on the Continent for a number of years, they’ve yet to really catch on in the UK. So much so that I, a writer at the the country’s biggest cycling magazine, had never actually ridden on until last week.
I travelled to the UK launch of the Shimano Steps electric bike groupset to take a first look at the new groupset, through my leg over a Saracen Juiced bike, and to find out what it’s actually like to ride an electric bike.
Like all countries within the EU, electric bikes in the UK cannot be fitted with a motor that is more powerful than 250 watts and the motor assist beyond a speed of 15.5mph (25kph). Then whenever you are travelling faster than this, the motor automatically cuts out.
Riding around in jeans and trainers might not seem like the most professional way to put a bike through it paces, but this is the sort of riding where electric bikes come into their own. It’s great fun to be able to put the motor into high mode and just cruise around at 15mph without breaking into a sweat, although it is a bit odd when you go over this speed and the motor cuts out, leaving you with riding basically just a very heavy bike.
This means that electric bikes aren’t for roadies looking for a bit of extra help to keep pace with the local chaingang, or for those who are training for fitness. Instead they’re great if you want something to commute into work and get around town at a decent lick without needing to change into cycling-specific gear and arrive into work hot and sweaty.