Monday, March 28, 2016

First impressions of an e-bike

We are on reasonable terms with the owner of our local bike bike shop. He has invested heavily in quality e-bikes - Flyer, Kalkhoff and Reise und Müller, to name just a few. He has three or four slightly older Flyers that would-be customers can borrow. The police road safety department in Mannheim our nearest big, well biggish, city offers short e-bike training courses for seniors. We signed up for one and have borrowed two of the Flyers from the bike shop for the course, which is on the Tuesday after Easter. The shop was closed from Good Friday until Easter Monday. We picked the bikes up on Thursday along with a pair of spare batteries. The batteries were old and somewhat ropey with a range of about 40 or so km using a mixture of standard and eco settings. We had a few days to acquaint ourselves with the bikes.

The bikes are eminently sensible hardtail city bikes with adequate baggage racks, hub gears, step over frames and an upright cycling position. They are a wolf in a sheep's clothing. They look like and are as practical as a grannie bike, however once underway one reaches 25kph very quickly even using the eco setting. The bikes are great. Continuous speeds of 20 or even 25 kph are possible against a head wind that would have us travelling at half this speed on a solely human-powered bike. They are eminently suitable for longer local trips.

Will we buy two? Not at the moment.  We have developed a mobility concept that fits our lifestyle well. We walk or cycle within Viernheim, mainly on our Brompton folding bikes or use the local bus. We both have pensioners' travel cards that give us free travel over a wide area once we have purchased them. They cost about €400 annually. For day walks we use our pensioners' travel cards to give us cheap travel into the Odenwald or the Palatinate Forest. Once in the hills the provision of local bus and trains there is good enough to allow us enough flexibility to enjoy linear walks. For multi-day bicycle tours we can use our touring bikes or even our Bromptons.  We do use the car occasionally to travel to places that cannot be reached easily by train or bus, e.g. Dinkelsbühl to talk to the Romantic Road Tourist Authority and for our annual trip to Britain.

We see at least two major problems:

  • The bikes are heavy to push or carry on to trains.
  • Where would we store them? At the moment our normal bikes are stored in the cellar and I can  just about manage to stagger up and downstairs with them, but Judith finds it just about impossible. We would like to install a bike garage at the front of the house, but we need planning permission for this.   

At the same time I think we will hire e-bikes when they make sense. If we were to write another cycle touring guide an e-bike would be a godsend.

  • If Cicerone, the best known British outdoor guide publishers ever asked us to update our Swiss Guide we would only take on the work if we could hire e-bikes.  It is eight or nine years since we wrote the last guides and neither Judith's or my pins have got stronger in this time.
  • As we wrote recently the Romantic Road has been extended to include Wertheim and we should investigate the route between Würzburg and Wertheim once the signposting has been redone. In which case I would be tempted to take local train to Würzburg from Mannheim and hire e-bikes there for day.

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