Electric or power-assisted bikes have received bad press in the past. Up until recently the technology just hasn’t quite been up to scratch. Batteries were cumbersome, the bikes heavy and difficult to maneuver and stories emerged of bikes failing completely, cutting out or not making it past their first 12-months.
Things have changed. The major players in the bicycle industry have stepped up to the plate and embraced power-assisted bikes; we’ve seen an exponential increase in the quality and importance of these machines.
We asked Jenny from Hampshire to help us out and give us the lowdown on her experience with her new Trek FX+ power-assisted bike - a bicycle she describes as, “the Porsche of bikes!” We followed her story from visiting her local Partner Store, through to her first ride to work.
At the bike shop
Visiting a bike shop for the first time can be daunting. Not knowing your seat post from your top tube can sometimes leave you feeling a little out of your depth, but that needn’t be the case. Our Partner Stores are always happy to talk to you about your cycling needs and help you identify which bike is best for you, as Jenny explains after her visit to East Street Cycles in Farnham, Surrey.
“I went to the shop and my bike was all ready for me to pick up. They didn't go through the workings of the bike straight away, as he thought I knew how to work it, but after I asked the questions he seemed to open up to the role and explained it all.”
Testing the bike
Making sure a bike is right for you is crucial. Everything from the size of the frame, the position of the saddle and even the width of the handlebars are vital and can have an effect on a bike’s suitability. With a power-assisted bike, prices tend to be higher than regular bikes so it’s especially important that you get the best advice before you buy.
“We went outside to test the levels of the power assist and check the seat, the only thing that I may need is a higher handle bar but that was all explained.”
Another thing to consider is the actual make-up of the bike itself. Taking into account what it is made of, its weight and any components specific to that bike are all important factors. With a power-assisted bike it’s even more important to test ride it and ensure that all of the features are suitably set-up for you.
“The bike on the whole is very light weight and has [lots of] gadgets. There is a sensor on the pedal so if I find a hill challenging and I haven't put the power assist up it will know and add more if needed (very clever). The lights can be switched on by the push of a button, which is on the handle bars, and what is great is if you are going down hill or on a straight you push the button and it will charge your battery as you go along.”
First ride to work
The first day you take your new bike for a spin on your work commute is always exhilarating. Coasting along past backed up traffic is by far one of the most satisfying feelings in the world! Your first commute may also be the first time you’ve ridden your bike for any length of time – this is when you’re likely to really feel how the bike performs and acclimatise yourself to any of its idiosyncrasies. Jenny’s first ride to work certainly affirmed the benefits of the bike she’d chosen.
“My first ride in was great. I didn't find I felt the bumps and ripples in the roads. I had gone through the booklet on how the bike worked with changing the gears etc. but found within 5 minutes it all felt to be in the right place. The handles are really comfortable as your palms fit neatly on them so you’re not moving around to work the gear change, you just flip the little thumb levers for easier gears. 27 gears at a touch of the fingertips.”
A power-assisted bike has its own benefits in particular. With a few extra bits of kit to contend with, how did it fare compared to a regular bike?
“The bike is so lightweight and even more so with the battery off. I like the way you can switch on the power of the battery yourself, so on some surfaces you really don't feel you need it as the bike is easy to ride.”
For those who have a particularly hilly commute, a power-assisted bike can really help. Those steep inclines are no longer something to avoid, and you’ll soon feel the benefit a power-assisted bike can offer.
“As soon as you feel that incline you put the battery power up to how much you feel you may need and go up the hill like it’s a flat road.”
For those with long commutes too, the beauty of a power-assisted bike is that you can regulate the amount of energy you expend. You don’t have to worry about overheating, or worrying you won’t make it to the office in one piece. As soon as you feel too much strain just switch on, or increase, the power and you’re sorted.
“You feel your legs working but without the pressure of it hurting or feeling too tired and the dreaded sweaty feeling is not there.”
The way forward
Power-assisted bikes really are a viable alternative for today’s commuters. They offer great flexibility, choice and successfully fill a gap in the market that other bikes cannot reach. As Jenny finished by saying, “roll on the fitness”. We couldn’t agree more.
We’ll catch up with Jenny again later in the year to see how she’s getting on. If you’ve ever considered a power-assisted bike, but have further questions about them, be sure to check back to see how she’s getting on!
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