Having been sidelined by a mix of winter illness and heavy workload*, I crawled out from under my rock a couple weeks ago to go for a bike ride. Not just any ride, but as a guinea pig for Switched On Bikes‘ tours. It was my reward for contributing some money as part of the their PledgeMe campaign. That, and stickers!
That Saturday morning was sunny and cold, which seemed to be the perfect combination for riding around Evans Bay. As it turned out, electric bikes can give enough extra boost that I didn’t really warm myself up with the activity. More on this shortly.
There were three of us on the ride. Ryan, from Switched On Bikes, was leading a pair of us around the harbour and back as a way of play-testing the tours that they’re offering, fine tuning the pacing, touristy informational stops and some of the awkward road crossings along the way.
The ride was incredibly pleasant. We were asked in advance about our confidence riding on the roads. My reply was that I was comfortable on the roads, but the motorists out there can be stupid at times. As it turned out, once we were going, I didn’t have to worry much about the cars around us. Some of this was based on the route, which largely hugged the water’s edge and made use of several cycle lanes and shared pathways, but there’s a factor attributable to riding an electric bike. Regardless of wind direction or incline we were able to maintain a decent pace, staying in the 20-25km/h range for most of it. That kept the speed differential between us and the cars reasonably minimal, helping ease any on-road friction.
I was actually surprised by the effectiveness of the electric motor on the bike I had. I’ve heard great things from people I’ve spoken to, but until riding one, you just don’t know. By the time we’d arrived at Shelly Bay for a coffee break, I’d noticed that it was still a bit chilly. The ride hadn’t warmed me up and I hadn’t really exercised my legs at all. On the return trip, we went under the airport, along the Leonie Gill Pathway and up Crawford Road. When we hit the uphill part, I was expecting to work for it, but it never happened. Even turning onto Alexandra Road and heading up to the Mount Victoria lookout, we kept around 20km/h, bumping the electric motor into a higher gear and I didn’t break a sweat. As I was told by Councillor Sarah Free, electric bikes eat hills for breakfast.
The end result is that electric bikes opens up a new world of cycling for people who don’t want to power through headwinds and hill climbs. This is cycling for anyone who just wants to get around and see more of the city than just the flat bits. It doesn’t solve the issue of on-road safety, but it does improve some of the issues around fast cars and slow bikes. Hats off to Ryan and Sofia for giving all of Wellington a chance to try them out.
* I know, it’s all excuses.