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This Electric Bike Made Us Feel Like Lance Armstrong (on drugs)

I was at the bottom of a steep bridge, just off the Great Eastern Road in Stratford; appropriately enough within spitting distance of the Olympic Park, scene of Sir Chris Hoy's cycling heroics in the 2012 Olympic Games. After an agonising wait, the lights turned from red to green and my ultra-serious lycra-clad adversary sped off like a wheeled whippet.

But he had not reckoned on my secret weapon. Initially pedalling, before the electric gear-change boost kicked in to aid me up to second, and then third, I unleashed the super nitro-boost.

Halfway up the incline I serenely, and comprehensively, outpaced my opponent, giving a pleasant nod to the chap expending every ounce of energy to my left, his face incredulous, trying to work out what the hell was going on as I effortlessly bombed off into the distance, waving to the imaginary crowds either side of me, hailing their new Bradley Wiggins.

God it felt good. No wonder Lance Armstrong got on the drugs. I never thought I'd sympathise with the disgraced cheat, but frankly, I couldn't blame the guy.

This was my first taste of what is predicted to become an ever-bigger part of Britain's roads: the electric bike. Having only taken up 'normal' cycling again mere weeks previously after finally reaching the end of the line (not literally, unless I was asleep) with the furnace of the Underground and investing in a bike, I was slightly apprehensive about trying one of these contraptions, especially as I had no idea exactly how they worked. But I needn't have worried.

GoCycle White

The GoCycle G2 Electric Bike

To summarise: the GoCycle 2 that I trialled for a week is a compact, ergonomically-designed electric bike with motors, battery and all the gadgetry safely encased away. You pedal it like a standard bike, with the motor sporadically kicking in to give you a helping hand through its three gears: the rush of first, up to second, then hitting third, which it moves into automatically, or at the touch of a button. There's also the aforementioned 'boost' button, which turns you fully electric - you don't need to pedal at all - but this drains the battery and is recommended for steep inclines only (or when you're trying to outpace annoying cyclists).

It's as simple as that: there's no element of your pedal power going back into the battery a la a dynamo - it would simply provide greater resistance in the short term and you'd waste energy during conversion to and from stored energy. You charge the battery using a standard household plug socket, and it only takes a few hours. I cycled for around 30 miles on one charge, so it's not too power-hungry at all.

After initially being sceptical, I was seriously impressed. The build quality was excellent, the big tyres could cope with anything and the extra weight of the bike wasn't a problem. Most importantly, it feels essentially like a normal bike - just one that gives you a helping hand as you're going along. Reaching the office or home, it still felt like you'd put a shift of exercise in, but you weren't quite as exhausted as normal. There was also the added bonus that - a serious consideration in London - if you ever needed to get out of a sticky road position situation, you had that extra bit of zip to do it easily.

Was it perfect? Not quite: it was a shame that the speeds at which the automatic gear changes happened couldn't be changed - I often felt like I was pedalling like roadrunner before it kicked into third (although, of course, manually changing gear was fairly easy) - and the hefty price tag (the GoCycle G2 retails at £2,799) meant that I never dared leave it outside, even with a lock on - in theory you can fold it up for indoor storage, but it's certainly not as compact as a Brompton. And for those who choose to start cycling specifically as a major exercise opportunity, this cheats you on a full workout.

But I can easily see this catching on as prices fall. It could entice in the cyclist who wants to dart about town and arrive at their meeting without being out of breath, or someone who is sick of the tube, but isn't quite ready for a daily 15 mile round-trip that will knacker them out. Where Italy has its scooters, London could quite conceivably have electric bikes. The capital will have to invest in converting its roads for cyclists, purely to cope with the constant influx of new people - and electric bikes are perfectly poised to capitalise on this. Frankly, we're amazed Boris hasn't got one of these puppies already.

Intrigued? Take a look at these - the top five electric bikes as sold by London experts Fully Charged - and see if you're ready to make the leap.

(Images: Fully Charged/Rex)



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