There’s a quiet revolution happening. Can you hear it? That gentle whirring and clicking of millions of wheels and pedals – and not a single pant, wheeze or spluttering cough. We’re not talking about the post-Olympic champions out for a leisurely cycle. Imagine people the same weight, fitness level and lung capacity as you, enjoying a sweat-free, pain-free, wheeze-free bike ride, breezing up hills and speeding through traffic at speeds of up to 15mph.
Electric bikes are on the up and up. A recent report from Pike Research predicts that global e-bike sales will surpass 47 million in 6 years’ time. China, the original heartland of the electric bicycle, will take the lion’s share of those sales, but popularity is increasing massively in the UK and across Europe, where more and more consumers are attracted by higher quality bikes specifically engineered for different needs and environments
Pike’s research showed that America was lagging behind in the e-bike race, with only 89,000 e-bikes sold this year (compared with 252,000 in Germany, for example). However, sales are set to more than triple between now and 2018, as infrastructure improves, manufacturing gets a better reputation and public awareness grows.
##Quality and quantity##
The European (and US) market suffered a flood of low-quality imported products that gave e-bikes a bad reputation. But in recent years, domestic companies have stepped up a gear to offer calibre frames for all types and terrains. High performance mountain bikes, luxury road cruisers, light collapsible commuter frames and bikes with child seats and trailers for the school run. A customised model has even been made for delivery companies.
What is particularly interesting in the UK is the sudden explosion of hire schemes in beauty spots all over the country, and the growth of e-bike tourism. Visitors to top destinations, including the Lake and Peak Districts, Dartmoor, the South Downs and Brecon Beacons can reach the highest peaks, the furthest cliffs and the most magnificent views with none of the hard work.
Urbanites don’t have to miss out either, with hire schemes in place across London – a great way to see the city in style. Many hire schemes, such as the one run by Just E Bikes along the Suffolk Heritage Coast, include charge points in numerous pubs and cafes along the way, and a hotel drop-off and collection service.
##What’s not to like?##
While electric cars have got a lot of attention (not always for the right reasons), the rise of their 2-wheeled counterpart has snuck by as inconspicuously as the bikes themselves. Copious column inches are devoted to electric car debates and complaints – the expense, the performance, the design, the issues with charge points. But there’s nothing bad to write about e-bikes; no debate. They just make good common sense:
- Want to save money? Switch your second car to an e-bike, or swap your pricey public transport season ticket, for a much cheaper commute
- Want to go green? E-bikes are as clean as a normal bike, requiring only a tiny input of energy to charge them, for which solar options are available
- Want to save time? How long are you sitting in traffic to get to work – when your office is only 5 miles away? 15mph is faster than crawling along in the fumes
- Want to save effort? For people who are already cycling a bit, an e-bike will give you all the same pleasure with none of the pains and struggles of hills, headwinds and long distances
- Want to get fit? Swap between electric or manual settings to vary your work out. Go electric to work, to avoid getting sweaty, then rely on your own steam to get home
- Thought you were too old or ill for cycling? If you are older, recovering from an injury, or have an ongoing medical condition, you can enjoy cycling again with an e-bike