Following the success of our Marwan Goes Electric blog, we found Daniela Bolle, a Research Development Manager at Stirling University. Daniela has kindly agreed to be the second guinea-pig on our electric bike: the Giant Escape Hybrid II (kindly provided at a discounted price by Edinburgh Bike Co-op).
Daniela will be riding the bike to commute to work, as well as during her free time and has kindly agreed to write about her experiences, so you can follow her progress and find out whether an electric bike is something you would like to try for yourself.
Read on to hear Daniela's story...
Wed 26 Oct
My first day with the electric bike.
First impressions: I was surprised that there's no "booster" button for the electric motor to kick in, but rather a constant "helping hand" pushing you along. Even more surprised was I at the speed this seems to want to push you to! Wow! I found myself braking all the time at first.
Then the way home - in a rush as usual and with the rain just starting - I was glad for the extra power and speed. It took me just over 10 minutes for an almost 6 km journey (nice to know the distance thanks to the little electronic "brain" of the bike). That is only 5 minutes more than it would take me by car. I even managed to overtake a racing bike (not for long though as it must have hurt the cyclist's pride and he overtook me again), and I was out of the rain and dry again in no time!
I look forward to my next day cycling now, although tomorrow I'll have to give it a miss ...
Friday 28 Oct
This morning I was really looking forward to the bike ride. And it’s been a lovely day too. How lucky!
With the electric bike, I decided that I have to cycle on the road, whereas when I take my own bike, I cycle on the pavement beside the A91 to be save from the traffic. The electric bike makes me feel more confident on the road, partly because it is more sturdy, faster and easier to cycle in a straight line without swerving. Still the rush hour traffic is a bit daunting and some cars almost touch you as they pass.
Then there was the climb uphill towards the Wallace Monument. This used to be the killer at the end of the journey. Not this time though: I get up there with just as much ease as the cycle on the flat. I switched down a few gears, but more for habit’s sake than out of necessity. And again: not much more than 10 minutes journey time from door to door. With my bike the morning journey would take me 25 minutes.
Can’t wait until the cycle home. And maybe I’ll use the bike a little over the weekend.
Monday, 31 October
Over the weekend, I showed off the bike to my family and neighbours. Everyone was suitably impressed. I think the trial is the best way to raise awareness of what such a bike is capable of.
Monday morning, I decided to try and cycle as I would with my own bike and went on the pavement alongside the A91. It meant that I went much more slowly than I had done previously, under 20 km/h. The ride was rather bumpy and interrupted. I took time to get off the bike every time the pavement stopped, fearing that I might otherwise get a puncture when hitting the curb at speed with the rather heavy back wheel.
This bike is clearly not made for uneven surfaces (as is this pavement), mainly I think because even 20 km/h is still rather fast and I could feel the vibration hurt my arms. At the end, I was looking forward to the hill, when I had to get back onto the road.
On my way home, I was again cycling on the road. So the choice is between the risks of speeding cars and an uncomfortable cycle. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have some decent cycle paths!
Tuesday, 1 November
Wednesday, 2 November
Today I had to transport the children, so unfortunately had to leave the bike at home in exchange for the car. Tough on such a sunny day.
Another good day with the bike. Coming home it was really windy and even with the electric bike I was working quite hard. Again, a day when I would have opted for my car if I only had my normal bike. After almost 120 km I now have to charge the battery.
Yesterday, I couldn’t cycle because of another meeting further afield. So today I’ve installed my freshly charged battery. I only left it on overnight and I’m ready to go for another 120 km or so! This morning’s cycle was uneventful. I took the children to school first on foot, pushing the bike, which is much nicer than driving them by car and they enjoy the extra time together and the walk. I then took off and was at work in no time. I think Marwan mentioned as well that with this bike you arrive at work without being all sweaty and exhausted. This means for me that I don’t need a shower before starting work, which again saves valuable time. After work today will be my first time cycling in the dark. See how this goes.
I am now about to return the bike and would draw the following conclusions:The cycling experience has been excellent. I would like to buy such a bike and, even at the price, would think that this is a real alternative to replacing the car. It overcomes most of the obstacles for using my bike, namely:
- Time: it reduces my travel speed from 25 to 10 minutes
- Exhaustion: it enables me to arrive fresh and not need a shower, which again saves me time
- Rainy days: again with the right gear and less time and hard work, rain is only a minor issue.What it didn’t overcome, and the days when I still opted for the car were:
- Business meetings away from workplace: if I did not have the alternative of the car, I would probably cycle to the station but with dress code etc. it just seemed too cumbersome for now.
- Children to transport: I’ve made my child-care arrangements so that this is only seldom required.
- Risks of the road: This, I think, is the main obstacle. I neither felt save in the dark nor in adverse weather conditions and even on a bright day, I felt exposed and at risk with traffic flying past my shoulder at 60 miles/hour. I believe that if the Council really wants to make a step change in converting people to use more environmentally-friendly forms of travel, like cycling, safe cycle paths have to be made a reality.
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