I get to grips with a bike with a battery!
As a cyclist I’ve always been a bit dismissive of eBikes and although it’s Bike Week in June I did question whether I could include this article under that guise!
However, after taking my first ride on an electrically assisted bike I can say that, without a doubt, that it is still a bicycle, and a pretty good one at that.
The bike in question is an Orbea Gain D40 Road eBike, lent to me by Rob from Igloo Cycles on Chatsworth Road. I was in buying some parts for my daughter’s bike when the Orbea caught my eye.
It looked like a road bike, but there was a strange larger hub in the rear wheel and an extra cable on the frame. Apart from that, there was very little to give away the battery and motor that powers the rear wheel – you can normally tell an eBike a mile away from the large battery, but not this.
A few days later I called in on Rob again to pick up the bike – he’d kindly agreed to let me demo the Orbea. The bright orange colour scheme with black deep rim wheels and Shimano 2×8 speed components look sharp and contemporary – apart from Rob’s gaudy yellow demo saddle! I’m assured that new bikes come with a more discreet black saddle.
I rushed home, donned my kit and off I went.
I like to ride but I’m a social, casual rider. I very rarely get more than two hours in the saddle. The day before I collected the Orbea, I did a 16 mile loop along Harewood Road; around the moors at the top, and back down to Chesterfield via Old Brampton.
I set off on the same route to enable a comparison. The first thing that struck me was how the bike surged along when spinning the cranks. I was climbing Harewood Road at a pace unknown to me … I was riding on the larger, outer chainring, normally reserved for the flat or downhill sections, in fact there was no need to change down to the smaller, easier chainring, for the entire ride!
Harewood Road from the Bull’s Head in Holymoorside to the crossroad at the top had taken me 13 minutes 9 seconds. On the previous ride it was 20 minutes 9 seconds; a full 7 minutes quicker, and what’s more I was feeling ridiculously fresh legged!
The bike has a single switch set into the top bar, near the handlebars. Hold it down and it lights up white to say: “I’m on”, then press it again to cycle through the available settings:
- Green (‘Eco’ – for more of a push)
- Orange (Medium)
- Red (‘Boost’ – for a definite feel of more power through the pedals)
Easy. You can link the bike to your smartphone to display all sorts of useful info about battery power, but I didn’t bother with this; getting by with the buttons’ change of colour which displays remaining power.
The good news is the bike feels just like a normal bike; the only slightly strange feeling is a tendency to want to ‘run on’ for a moment as you slow for a junction or come to a stop. Nothing to worry about, and something you soon learn to accommodate.
The motor only helps if the bike is doing less than 25 kmh (approx. 16mph), above this it ceases to assist. I was concerned about the additional weight of the drive system but you can’t really tell you’re pushing along the extra weight of the drive system. If you get out of the saddle for a sprint, the bike is eager to swing from side to side, the additional weight creating a noticeable pendulum effect. It’s nothing major, and after a couple of times you get used to it. The increase in pace is felt most notably when confronted with inclines.
Back to the ride, once at the top there followed a quick section around quiet flat roads on the moors around Beeley. One thing worthy of note, it was quite windy and should your speed drop below 25kmp the Orbea assists negating the slowing affect of the wind.
On the decent through Old Brampton, the 28mm large volume tyres on deep rims, coupled with the stiff aluminium frame, made for a much smoother, more confidence-inspiring ride in comparison with my road bike, and the cable-operated discs scrubbed off speed with ease. Generally, I felt much safer on this bike than my own, largely due to the way I wasn’t banging and crashing through every little imperfection in the road surface.
Once back at home: a quick check of the ride times showed the 16-mile loop which took me 1 hour 5 minutes on my regular bike, and had taken just 54 minutes on the Ordea.
It’s not all about the times and speed with an eBike. These bikes are great for opening up cycling options to people of all abilities.
An eBike could get you back into cycling if you’ve lost your fitness, through lack of time on the bike, due to older age or perhaps suffering from injury. They might also encourage you if you feel you’re too unfit to start, or simply want to enjoy a ride that’s slightly easier on the legs.
My calculations suggest a 17% reduction (or assistance) in effort, whichever way you want to look at it.
If you commute a short distance an eBike would be ideal. They’re less effort, you could avoid the queues and it wouldn’t take long for the bike to pay for itself in saved fuel costs. Prices for Orbea eBikes start at £1,299 for the ladies Katu – E50, and £1,699 for the men’s’ Keram 27 30 mountain bike, or the Gain F40 road bike.
The bike I rode is priced at £1,799 from Igloo Cycles on Chatsworth Road, and can be set up with straight handlebars to make it more commuter-friendly. Personally, I’d go for the All Road version; just a single chainring with drop bars, and ready to take you off on your first gravel adventure.
Don’t be fooled though, you still need to put in some effort, you don’t just twist a grip and off you go. I was so impressed that I thought about going back to Rob to get the charger, so I could take the Orbea on a longer route the following day!
420 Chatsworth Road
Chesterfield S40 3AA