As I stood in the snow in Wimbledon on Thursday morning, delightedly laughing to myself, catching icy spiderwebs in my hands for the first time ever, it suddenly struck me that today I’d be test riding an e-bike. A day of firsts it would seem.
Perhaps it would not be the best day to be riding a motorized bike along the streets of London, I thought, as visions of myself skidding along the ground flashed into my head.
I was terrified. My visions were not the only thing psyching me out. As I’ve previously mentioned, not only had I NEVER ridden an e-bike before, I haven’t ridden a bike for nearly 8 years and know absolutely nothing about cycling on London’s busy streets.
The easiest option was to cancel the test ride. However, my personal challenge for January was ‘self-care’ and I’m yet to find a form of exercise I enjoy that doesn’t involve passing off lying flat on the floor as ‘Savasana’. So, reluctantly, I set off to VOLT™ London Bridge.
It was decided I’d take the Metro LS for a spin. Not only is it the lightest of all the bikes, but as I stand at my tallest at 5’2”, this model allows for a lower bike seat. The buttons for speed changes are easily reached by the thumb and are positioned next to a small screen which tells you your speed, battery level, throttle and light activation. A small chip to scan, which unlocks the bike and a friendly reminder not to break with just the front wheel unless I wanted to go head over heels.
And that was it. It all seemed too easy – but I wasn’t sure how I would fair once I was cycling under the pressures of the road.
Not long after I took off, I hit my first intersection and thankfully, there was another cyclist lined up at the front of the lights – I’d follow his lead. I certainly wasn’t ready for the rush of power I got when I started pedalling on green, making me appear as agile as a baby giraffe.
The first part of my route was the Q14 – Union Street in Southwark. And it wasn’t until I was halfway down that road that it hit me – this is really easy.
It was so easy in fact, that I had a chance to focus on my surroundings, including the two men standing in the bike lane. Unfortunately for all of us, I accidentally pushed the throttle, instead of the bell, so we all got the fright of our lives when I came wobbling past like a drunken bat out of hell.
With only moments to regain my composure from that “stylish moment”, I arrived at another intersection. Only this time, it was much bigger and there were a lot more people to watch if I made another mistake.
After a few minutes of observing other cyclists turning, I firmly decided that today was not the day I’d be navigating this one. I dismounted and decided to use the Metro LS’s useful “walk-assist” mode to push the bike to s point where I felt safe to jump on again and zip off.
Then, it caught my attention. The cycle superhighway.
I mean, I’ve seen them, but as a pedestrian with no cycling experience, it wasn’t something I particularly paid attention to.
There I was, flying along, enjoying the views over Blackfriars bridge with no muscle burn and a huge smile across my face. A long, blue stretch of traffic-free asphalt is not what I would normally associate with elation, but I was overcome.
My original idea to head along the superhighway alongside the Thames north-bank and back down Southwark Bridge was abandoned when I realised, I was enjoying the uninterrupted cycle. So, it was back over Blackfriars to face the terrifying intersection.
Mustering up a bit of Wednesday morning courage and making sure my observation skills were on maximum level, I pulled into the cyclist turning lane in the middle of the traffic.
One final push got me through without any incidents and I finally took a breath as I launched myself over speed humps. I’d made it. I’d survived. And I’d actually had a lot of fun!
So, is an e-bike worth the investment?
Although a short ride, the Metro-LS allowed me to try and enjoy an activity I would have otherwise passed up as ‘more effort than needed’ or ‘frightening’. It also meant that not only was I outside exercising, I was able to travel farther than I would have on a normal bike. (Believe me, I’ve since cycled on a regular bike and melted to a pool of lactic acid after 12 minutes).
I also now live in Central London, and since I’m a cycling novice, but wanting to ride home without stopping 40 times, an e-bike would be well worth the money. The speeds offer incremental training methods – using medium or low until you feel ready to extend the periods of pedal power. If you like life in the fast lane like myself, then this is a perfect (and affordable) alternative to owning a McLaren. I guess.
In short, yes, I believe the e-bike to be a valuable and enjoyable investment, but I am yet to cycle a long distance with it. Perhaps that will be my next challenge?