In the UK, as I write this, we are currently in week two of a three-week lockdown to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Pubs and restaurants are shut as are schools. Supermarkets are operating a one-out, one-in policy in an effort to implement social distancing and some basics such as toilet rolls are in short supply.
If someone had told me two months ago that our lives were about to become completely different, I wouldn’t have believed it. That a virus affecting people in a Chinese city, thousands of miles from London would cause a pandemic that forces us into our homes seemed unthinkable.
Yet this is our new reality. Our new normal. The streets - at least the local roads - are deserted. Only those who can’t work from home go out, and people are scared of using public transport.
And this is precisely why now is the perfect time to buy an e-bike. As personal transport goes, it’s environmentally friendly, keeps you well away from packed commuter buses and trains and takes the strain off tired legs when covering long distances.
Maybe you’ve been considering one for a while, but been put off by the cost and the unknown factors. They aren’t cheap, that’s for sure, but they are definitely worth it.
Cycling is one of the activities you are still allowed to participate in, when you venture out on your state-mandated, one form of exercise per day. And as long as you cycle alone, you’re abiding by the rules of staying at least 2m away from others.
With hardly any local traffic about, it’s also the ideal time to get back on a bike and build up your confidence.
Will e-bikes get cheaper?
Prices are coming down: VanMoof has just dropped the price of its Electrified S2 and X2 from £3,198 to just £1,698. That’s almost 50% off and, although undoubtedly expensive to begin with, is a very well designed e-bike which is excellent value at the new, lower price.
VanMoof is about to launch the S2 and X2’s replacements which are rumoured to be at a very competitive price.
GoCycle has also knocked £500 / $600 off its GS electric bike, bringing that down to £1999 / $2199. (The reduction came into effect on 27 March and is being filtered down to dealers, so call and ask to get the new price which isn't showing on any websites yet.)
You can pay even less than this if your budget won’t stretch that far - check out the range of ebikes in Halfords for a start - but you do get what you pay for with an electric bike. When you’re paying less than about £700, you do start making compromises in terms of both the electrical parts and main bike components.
A good all-rounder is the Carrera Crossfire E. If you can grab one - stocks are low - the 2018 model is discounted to only £975.
Now that it’s spring and the warmth of the sun makes it a lot more bearable to head outdoors, cycling is one of the best things you can do to maintain and improve your fitness and is a much healthier choice than driving.
I suspect that the lockdown is going to last a lot longer than three weeks, too, and even when it’s over, experts are saying that social distancing is likely to be in force for many more months, if not a full year.
This means that habits are likely to change. If you are a commuter, instead of renewing your season ticket, why not use the money towards an e-bike?
In many cases, you can get a decent discount by buying one through your employer’s ride-to-work scheme. There are at least two of these in the UK, and can knock 25% or more off the price of a bike and enable you to pay monthly out of your salary.
Which is the best electric bike?
It’s a good question. If you’re going to buy an ebike, you need to spend your money wisely. There are many different types of electric bike including folding, touring, road, mountain and more. You need to decide what type of cycling you want to do in order to pick the most appropriate type.
Then, it’s important to read review of electric bikes to find out which are the best models to buy and then see if you can test ride the ones you’ve shortlisted. Many bike shops and manufacturers allow you to try out an ebike before buying.
There are a fair few myths and misconceptiosn about e-bikes, so let’s bust them now.
Can you ride an electric bike in the rain?
Yes. Although you need to be careful when washing an ebike, they should be built so the electronics can withstand being used in the rain.
Can you ride an ebike without the battery?
Yes. All ebikes we’ve seen have a mode where you can ride with no assistance from the motor.
They operate like an ordinary bike, and can continue to do so even if the battery runs out or is not attached to the bike.
Can electric bikes go up hills?
Yes. The performance of a given bike will depend upon the weight of the rider, the gradient of the slope and the power of the motor, but all good ebikes are designed to handle hills with ease.
Are electric bikes too heavy?
Ebikes do vary in weight a lot, and they are all - in general - heavier than their non-electric counterparts.
The heaviest ebikes weigh around 25kg, and this can be too heavy for some people to carry up a flight of steps. But they are not too heavy to ride. If you’re concerned about being able to lift an ebike, look for one whose weight is under around 16kg.
Do you still have to pedal an electric bike?
It depends. Although ‘throttle bikes’ exist, which are effectively electric mopeds, in the UK and Europe (and some other countries) such bikes are prohibited and aren’t legal to use on the road.
You can read more about the law on ebikes, but in the UK and Europe you do have to pedal an electric bike.