Gadgets

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.

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)

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

    Gi FlyBike

    Having just smashed its Kickstarter campaign, the Gi FlyBike is the newest folding electric bike on the block (or it will be when it arrives in June 2016). In addition to its power-assisted 25kph top speed, it also features a smartphone charger, smartlocking and tracking system (controlled by your mobile) and anti-puncture tyres. The price is a bit steep at £1,500, but you get a lot of bike for your buck

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    The Gocycle G2

    The Gocycle G2 (£2,799) is the ultimate bike to get about town on. Conceived by a former McLaren F1 engineer, it won the Red Dot Design Award in 2015. Its superlight magnesium alloy frame has its battery built within it, giving the bike a stylish look and feel. The bike can also be easily folded up and stored under your desk at work. www.fullycharged.com/Gocycle-G2

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    Raleigh Motus Low Step

    The Raleigh Motus Low Step (£1,999) is built to be comfortable on those longer journeys. It has a range of up to 100 miles and uses the Bosch Acitve Line motor, one of the best electric bike motor in the business. It is one of Raleigh’s best electric bikes to date. www.fullycharged.com/Raleigh-Motus-Low-Step

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    A2B Kuo

    The same price as an annual oyster card, although the Kuo (£995) doesn’t have the looks of the Gocycle its 250W rear hub motor still packs a punch and the bike can still be easily folded away. www.fullycharged.com/A2B-Kuo

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    Benelli Classica

    Built by the Italian motorcycle company Benelli, the beautiful Benelli Classica (£985) looks like a vintage step-through bicycle. With its back rack and the ability to fit a shopping cart to the front of it, it has plenty of space for shopping bags or even a child seat. www.fullycharged.com/Benelli-Classica-26

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    Haibike sDuro Hardseven SL

    The Haibike sDuro Hardseven SL (£1,850) makes for an interesting alternative. Unlike the other bikes listed here it is primarily a mountain bike. It includes a Yamaha Motor and Battery system and excellent front suspension. Perfect for anyone with a few hills in-between them and work. www.fullycharged.com/Haibike-sDuro-Hard-Seven-SL