Feature

Back in the saddle

Green Lifestyle magazine

Cycling is booming, but for those who lack fitness for longer rides, or are terrified of traffic, it can still be rather daunting to jump on and pedal away. We wonder whether electric bikes are the answer.

electric-bike-test-ride

Emma says that dealing with road traffic was made a whole lot easier (and frankly, possible at all) with the electric bike’s ‘eco’, ‘normal’ or ‘boost’ options.

Credit: Caitlin Howlett

bike-path

Sydney’s new cycle paths make for a safe and cruisy ride through most of Sydney's CBD.

Credit: Emma Bowen

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My, oh, my, did I put this story off. Though I’m a regular weekender on my bike around my home in Sydney’s inner west, riding my bike to work scared the bejeezus out of me. It was the thought of the distance (14 km)… in peak hour… through the CBD… and over the Sydney Harbour Bridge, that gave me the heebie-jeebies. And of course, the fact that Sydney is one very hilly city indeed. So instead I bookend each of my work days with a 40-minute train ride.

Cue the electric bike. The ‘pedal-assist’ bicycle has had a bit of a stigma attached to it for quite some time. Good only for the lazy. Or dorks. And then there’s that buzzing sound they follow you with. But these two-wheelers are fast shaking off their daggy rep. Why? They make so much damn sense! (Handsome new designs are certainly helping their case too.) With most urban car trips being less than 5 km – a truly walkable or rideable distance – they are suited so perfectly to daily use. Yes I know, a regular old bike is better, given it uses no electricity, but for the many who are dragging their heels on the thought of riding everywhere (or anywhere) due to reasons of fitness, hills, sweatiness, speed, or other concerns, the electric bike is gradually becoming sweet salvation.

So… I borrowed one and rode to work. Having jumped online the night before and found the best route to work via www.bikely.com, I strapped on a helmet and got on my way. Weaving my way through my usual backstreets on the way into the city was a breeze – the difference though? Rather than my usual footpath escapades I had the confidence to ride on the road! As I pedalled, the boost bumped my ride up to a speedier and smoother urban traffic-happy 20-30 km/h. Starting at traffic lights and keeping a good pace was also a breeze with the extra assistance – something I can never manage on a regular bike enough to keep with traffic. The real cruisy section of the trip came with the sections I was able to cycle along the City of Sydney’s new bike paths – Clover Moore you’re a genius!

The bike paths led me up and over the Harbour Bridge – no sweat either! And then came the clincher… at the north end of the bridge where the only way down is several flights of stairs, with a ramp down the centre to wheel your bike down as you walk. While other cyclists scooted up and down with their lightweight bicycles, the 25 kg of the electric bike nearly got away from me as I led it (or rather, it pulled me) down the ramp. Guess I really do need a little more fitness for this whole electric bike shebang after all!

An hour and fifteen minutes from leaving my front door I rocked up at work – a little flustered and weathered, but not too shabby at all for such a lengthy ride. Electric bikes, my friends, are where it’s at. I’m calling it now: perhaps even the urban transport of the future. Particularly for us scaredy-cats.

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Emma’s test bike was the wonderful Gazelle Orange Plus Innergy XT, which retails for $2999 (www.gazellebicycles.com.au). Stockists include Sydney Electric Bikes and Electric Velocity, or jump on their website for one near you.