Wednesday, 21 August 2019

My thoughts and feelings on cycling electric bikes.

This week my word of the week #WoTW is cycling, my new hobby.

The government are trying to get more people out of their cars for short journeys and encouraging us to cycle to work or down to the shops. A lot of employers including mine offer the cycle to work scheme which allows you to borrow money to buy a bike and accessories and then pay it back, tax and interest free, out of your wages over a year. While this may benefit full time workers as a part time worker I do not pay tax and therefore would not benefit from this. Plenty of information on this if you are interested you can google it. It use to be you could only borrow £1000 but now they are encouraging people onto electric bikes to make the ride easier then you can borrow more than that but it still needs to be paid back over a year, so an electric bike through this scheme would require rather large payments every month.

 Last year I had borrowed a folding electric bike. I had this one for two weeks. I had opted for a folding bike rather than a full size one to use out and about in the town but at the time I had it I had an issue with my boot lock and the garage locked it shut for me until they could sort it so for over a week of my two weeks it was not possible to transport the bike in my boot. Time I was getting home in November it was just about dark and as I live rural on 60mph roads taking it out locally did not appeal to me.

This bike was comfortable to cycle, the battery came on and off easy enough for charging and the bike itself adjusted easily to suit different heights of rider. I had tried it on various different types of surface from cycle paths to park paths  to rough gravelly paths. It did not fair well on the gravel type paths but then it was not designed for that.

I found the folding bike was more convenient to put in the boot rather than having to use a bike rack but I found it very heavy to lift into the boot. It did not stand while you were folding it so it was a juggling act and you have to re-assemble it to wheel it anywhere. It cycled smoothly and despite the small wheels it did not require huge amounts of effort to cycle it though I have to admit to most of what I cycled on was relatively flat. I was not keen on the fact when you went to pull away on the bike it would shoot forward with quite a lurch which made me uncomfortable when pulling away from junctions on the roads. I am sure with enough use you would get use to it.

It was easy to use the gears and settings. From eco which just helps out a bit to turbo which helps boost up hills and into a head wind. The bike came with mudguards and a rear rack that could be used for panniers. The battery is in the middle of the bike so helps to balance it better.

For security, every handy in today's climate it comes with a lock that prevents the back wheel from turning or being removed and I also got an extra chain with it. You can also remove the battery as well if you felt like it. 

This scheme run by the Energy Saving trust  is a lot more flexible and you have up to four years to pay back your loan. 
If you are considering purchasing an ebike there is a new, exciting funding opportunity available in Scotland through Energy Saving Trust. We offer an interest-free loan to buy an ebike. This scheme is funded by Transport Scotland (an agency of the Scottish Government). 
The eBike loan is for up to £6,000 with a repayment period of 4 years and covers the following (per household):
  • 2 x ebikes capped at £3,000 each
  • 1 x family ecargo bike capped at £6,000
  • 1 x adaptive ebike capped at £6,000
Anybody can apply to trial a bike through this agency and is a great way to try before you buy.

Please note the bike was clean when I got it, and I cleaned it before I took it back.

Last month I borrowed another bike, a none folding one this time. I was fortunate to get the chance to do this  through The Active Travel hub in Kilmarnock. The offer is currently open to employees of either East Ayrshire council or NHS Ayrshire and Arran, and as I fall into this category I decided to apply for one and see how I got on. The bike I had this time was a Raleigh Motus H model, no longer available but others in the range our.

Before we went I emptied the boot of my hatchback car with the intention of taking the bike locally off road to try it first. But the first hitch we hit was it did not fit. Had it been 26 inch wheels it would have done but being a 28 inch there was no way. So this gave me the dilemma of the only way to get it home was to cycle it. Was not comfortable with the idea of taking an unknown bike onto a main road in the middle of town, my pick up point was the train station, fed by three very busy roads. We drove up the bypass between home and picking it up and I did not fancy cycling back down a bypass.

Phoned DD1 to see if she could pick it up on her mini bus but she was not available for about five days at a time that fitted in with the hub's opening hours so she suggested I went back through Hurlford, and so I did. Made it home in one piece and despite being out of my comfort zone I thoroughly enjoyed the ride.

A friend of ours was nice enough to lend us a bike carrier, luckily we have a tow bar on the back so it was ideal. The first time we had it on the bike carrier we headed up some 60 mph roads as well as single track roads with passing places. The bike was not any wider than the car mirrors so if the car fitted through the bike would be ok. We went up to Loch Doon, and I did 13.5 miles while hubby and friend fished. I then locked the bike up to a metal fence and walked the dog. I some how managed to drop the key to the bike chain and had to double back to find it, luckily it was on a fluorescent orange key ring and I only had to double back a half mile.

This was where I realised the benefits of cycling, normally I drive the roads we don't use regularly and on single track roads there is no opportunity to admire the scenery as I drive by but have plenty of time to enjoy the views with cycling. I live in such a beautiful part of the world between coast line and countryside and seems a shame not to enjoy it at a leisurely pace. I decided slow and steady was better than fast and furious.

wandered off where we normally drive when at Loch Doon 

Loch Doon

the sun was going down as I cycled the back roads

In the time I had this bike I took it out locally quite a bit and just went with no idea of what route I was going to be going, followed a lot of the back roads and turned anywhere that looked interesting and ended up lost misplaced more than once but also ended up with 25 mile rides. Made the rides much more fun. The 28 inch wheels ate up the miles .This is where for me the electric bike came into it's own, having used map my walk on the cycle ride setting when I was out, there was no way back into the village without cycling a category 5 hill, the steepest of the categories, and have to admit to finding some of them a struggle even with the assistance the bike gave and I admitted defeat coming back in from the Stair direction just before the railway bridge the long steep climb was just to much and the bike got pushed for the last bit to the top. I would never have cycled any of these roads on a manual bike and 25 miles on an electric bike is healthier than sitting on the couch knitting.

I have also had the bike out on cycle paths and again wandered these willy nilly and ended up cycling for miles. This worked really well by taking husband and dog with me and leaving him with the car keys and getting him to pick me up miles away.
A lot of the cycle paths are not well marked and online tells you things like The Sir Chris Hoy cycle way runs from Hurlford to Galston, but does not tell you where you access it.
When cycling Eglington Park the other week I could not see signs for a cycle path, I know there is a way but having cycled all the way round the perimeter of the park I could not see a single sign pointing to a path so just went out onto the main road. Main roads are not everybody's cup of tea and certain people would not have left the safe comfort of the park and that seems such a shame. From Irvine I headed through Troon to Prestwick and back to Ayr and got hubby to pick me up in Ayr. He was going that was anyway as we had a friend who lives in Ayr with us. 25.5 miles done. Just took my time and stopped and started when I felt like it.

this sign made me smile 

tractor trails in a field 

the sun going down in Stair 

The castle in Eglington Park 

a pond at Shewalton woods 

the tide is well out over looking Ayr from Prestwick 

a reservoir at Loch Doon 

I had a weekend off work during the time I had the bike and DD3 and I set off for a trip to Cumbrae to cycle round the island. We met at Ayr train station and took the train. I had my panniers as I had found during the week that a back pack makes you sweat uncomfortably in the heat. The disadvantage of the panniers was when we left the bikes I had to take my valuables out of them. We actually went twice round the island, the first time none stop the second time we went the other way round as all the scenery was then on our side, making it much easier to stop at interesting bits or really pretty views. I also picked up a few geocaches while I was there. One half of the island is only single track roads and was full of walkers and cyclists but no traffic. From Millport back to the ferry port it was double track roads as this is the route the buses and traffic seem to use. It amazed us how much patience the bus drivers had, there seem to be no hassling or intimidating of either the cyclists or walkers as they sat behind them until they had a good gap to get past, shame all drivers can't be that considerate on the main land.

the view from the ferry 

hunt out the posts was fun 

we did not find all 5 of them 

DD3 stayed with the bikes while I hunted unsuccessfully  for a cache 

Lion Rock on Cumbrae

a heart on the beach made from leaves,the sky was getting more overcast. 

the cache from here was missing

crocodile rock at Millport

yarn bombing where I tied the bike up

yarn bombing all over Millport 

I loved having the bike. The freedom, great for clearing the head, benefits the cardio, and nice to do something for and by myself. The bike itself was a smooth easy ride and by week two of having it I was using the 7 gears much more than I did in the first week when I had been boosting up and down the electric settings. No juddering or delay on changing gears or up and down the electric settings. The bike was a low step so dead easy to get on and off for us older people with stiff joints. There was no noise from the battery or motor either. I have done organised bike rides with different styles of electric bikes and some of them are quite noisy when the electric setting is being used and the higher the setting the noisier it became, almost makes you think there is a vehicle behind you.

Would I buy one? Yes if I had the money I would. I would choose this one with the battery pack central to the bike rather than built into the carrier rack at the back. A nice low step bike with hydraulic disk brakes and a good long battery life. I did find the one I had back heavy with panniers on going up hills especially on an uneven surface.The rear battery also made it quite difficult to get my own pannier bags onto the bike, found I needed to take the battery out, fit them, and then fit the battery back in, not a major problem as the battery was on charge so off the bike anyway.  Have to say if I was buying one I would not scrimp on the bike lock on it as at one point I had locked my bike up with the lock provided with it, a number code one, as I thought it would save the hassle of losing the key a second time, but the one I had was faulty and would not come back off so it had to be cut off, and took less than 3 minutes to do that, rather worrying when your bike costs so much.

I would also buy a bike carrier that fits on lower to the tow bar as the bikes are rather heavy and was difficult to get onto the style I had, especially as the bike had no cross bar. I ended up with a row of bruises up both my arms from lifting it on and off. I would also make sure it had built in lights rather than a separate light board.

Borrowing this bike was a great way of finding what worked for me and what didn't which means if I ever get round to buying one it will be one I will be happy with for years. These bikes will keep getting both cheaper and better as more are sold and more of these issues are discovered and ironed out. I see both the Kilmarnock and Ayr travel hubs now both have electric bikes with the central battery. Hopefully The Active Travel Hub in Ayr will get on board with the same scheme and I can borrow a bike for another four weeks through them.

If you fancy a go why not look into what is local to you through similar sort sorts of schemes

Word of the Week linky


  1. A very thorough review ... love the idea of a power boost for the hard bits! #WotW

    1. believe me even with the power boosts some hard bits are still hard.

  2. What lovely views you managed to take it. I too understand the frustration of not finding a geocache. cycling is a great hobby, but even with an electric bike I'm afraid I wouldn't get very far. I didn't realise how expensive they are.
    Thanks for linking up to #wotw

    1. I got a lot further than I expected to be honest but was just loving it so much.

  3. This sounds like a great scheme to get more people cycling. Those views and scenery are enough to encourage people to get on their bikes alone. #WotW

    1. Totally agree when you drive a car everywhere it is so nice to slow the pace and enjoy what the world around me has to offer.

  4. Hi Elaine, an electric bike seems perfect like a perfect solution for people who want to get out and about on a bicycle but are maybe not too confident or aren't quite fit enough to take on challenging hills or longer distances and they are definitely better than sitting on the couch at home... That duck crossing sign made me smile and whatever yarn bombing it's another thing that mad e me smile.


    1. I would never have attempted any of this on a normal bike, my exercise bike will have to do

  5. You know I have started cycling over the last month or so and I am loving it! My fella and I don't drive so it's a great way to get about and fun to go with bike rides with the kids. I really should stop and take photos now and again! The one's you have taken are fab!
    It sounds like you made great use of the bike. I hope you do manage to get your own one day. x

    1. There were a lot of sights I passed that I should have stopped and taken pictures of but if you are cycling up a steep hill it is not quite so easy to start again once stopped.

  6. So lovely to try out different bikes and find out what works best for you. I do like the idea of an electric bike although what puts me off most about cycling is how busy the roads are near us, especially with HGVs. The last time I cycled (eight years ago!), some lorries passed by so close I could have reached out and touched them which was very scary. You do live in such a beautiful part of the world - what gorgeous views to admire while cycling. #WotW

    1. yes not all drivers are considerate of bikes and many will scare you. The back draft from a large vehicle can be quite dangerous, which is why I stuck to a lot of back roads and cycle paths.

  7. I didn't know you could borrow a bike and try it for a couple of weeks. What a good idea. I can see these becoming more popular, which, you are right, should bring the price down. I love walking and seeing sights that you miss in a car. Cycling would give this too. I love your part of the world, but also can appreciate how an electric bike would make those hills easier. #wotw

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