Electric dreams

Electric bikes are easy to use and make you look cool, but is it worth buying one?

Peter Edgerton

Imagine the scene: a mountain road, a steep uphill climb and a middle-aged baldy chap dressed in jeans and a T-shirt, cycling at nearly twenty miles per hour, leaving many a lycra-clad loser in his wake as he breezes by.

Now, I'm not one to boast, but the chap in question was, in fact, yours truly. Actually, I'm not one to boast because I can't boast - it was an electric bike I was on, undertaking a trial run with a view to maybe buying one. Should any readers be considering doing the same, let me offer a short review of the experience.

First, the plus points. An electric bike means you can pretend you're Eddie Merckx (sorry for going so far back in history but it's hard to think of any cyclist since 1990 who hasn't been besmirched by rumour and innuendo). You can also stick your arms out sideways like a nine-year old and yell "Look, Ma! No hands!" at bemused passers-by.

Secondly, as mentioned above, an electric bike enables you to overtake the puffing and panting Lycra Lads while you munch nonchalantly on a bacon butty and breath in and out in an ostentatiously regular manner. Of course, this might lead to derisive looks from your rivals, since they consider your choice of transport to be cheating. Worry not, since, normally, the only expression they're actually capable of is one of subdued anguish as their thighs burn to a crisp and their lungs quietly implode.

Another great thing about the electric bike is that some people don't even realise you're on one and are, consequently, profoundly impressed by your physical prowess. Stand by for random proposals of marriage from a wide range of pretty girls as you glide your way about town.

What about the downside? Well, you're cycling for a start. This immediately makes you extraordinarily self-centred as you're overcome by a sudden urge to ignore all red lights and ride across zebra crossings as if you were a pedestrian. You may also find yourself sporting a vaguely smug expression and looking down your nose at anyone not on two wheels. Including babies.

Also, an electric bike is a constant worry since their economic value/robability ratio is catnip to thieves. Thus, even if you stop for a beer and have the bike locked to your leg, you'll still be convinced of the distinct possibility that a man in a hooped jersey and carrying a bag marked 'swag', will spring from nowhere and whisk away your only means of getting home in the blink of an eye.

Frankly, the jury's out as far as this rider is concerned. My plan is to hire an e-bike on a couple more occasions and reach a definitive decision. Actually, I've already reached one - never to buy anything lycra, whatever happens.