An Electric Bike Network for the Chilterns
I am a small lady cyclist, and I had turned up for my taster in jeans, so I wasn’t giving the Electric Bike Network (EBN) an easy job of satisfying my needs from the outset, and when they presented me with a medium-sized male-oriented mountain bike complete with full saddle bags, I looked at them sceptically.
I slung my leg over the back of the bike and found I could still touch the floor in the lowest saddle position. I quick glance over my shoulder as I pull away from the kerb and… whoosh! I was off! With, one quarter-turn pedal stroke the battery pack kicked in and set me rolling on my way. It came as a bit of a surprise at first, but you soon get used to speed at which it pulls off.
The Electric Bicycle Network (EBN) has been designed to enable people who might not otherwise get on a bicycle to enjoy cycling for leisure with the subtle assistance of an electrically-powered bike. As part of the Chilterns Sustainable Transport project, hosted by CTC and the local authorities, EBN hope to make the Chilterns their next tourist-friendly area to set up a network of electric bicycles. They already boast networks in Devon and the Lake District in the hope of breaking down some of those proven barriers to cycling, including the fear of not being fit enough and also not wishing to get hot and sweaty on a leisurely jaunt.
The CTC will be partnering with EBN to bring small hubs of electric bicycles to key areas of the Chilterns for people to hire. Users will find the bikes in useful locations, such as hotels and railway stations, and will then find charging points in key areas and food outlets to ensure they stay powered; however, the bikes boast the ability to tackle up to 80 miles in one charge.
The bike I was handed was a Giant Esprit Power. It has a relaxed, upright riding position for comfort and allows you to sit up and absorb the views. With the power-assist modes, there’s no need for an aggressive riding position to get you anywhere fast, and even the vaguest of bike fittings shouldn’t have you dismounting with any discomfort (other than maybe your bottom if you’re not used to a saddle!).
The Esprit collection will come set up with everything you need so that you don’t have to wear or bring any special kit to ride. A comfy padded seat, covered chain, integrated wheel lock, mud guards and roomy saddle-bags will have you good to go as soon as you hire. There are even a few 'step-through' models with a low slung top-tube (see pictured) for those who aren’t flexible enough to swing their leg over a bike or those in nice skirts who don’t want to show the world what’s underneath them.
The moment I stepped off the Esprit - sweat-free I might add - I had a wide grin for some time. It is frankly one of the most comfortable and easy-going bikes I’ve ever ridden, and I wouldn’t hesitate twice about encouraging my ageing relatives to have some fun in a nice hilly part of the Chilterns they’ve never seen before. One word of warning though: be sure you can ride a bike beforehand as there’s only so much a battery can help with when riding and the Esprit will have you exploring places you’ve never been before on a bike.