Green Energy Cycles

I put an electric bicycle through its paces on the hills around Hexham, and consider the benefits of e-bikes.

Regular readers of this blog will know that I’m a fair weather cyclist. I’m ashamed to say that I don’t cycle to work as often as I should. After all, it’s only a 25 minute commute and I always feel invigorated by the fresh air. Nothing beats the long downhill freewheeling home on a sunny evening. But there’s the catch. I have to cycle up those same inclines on the ride into work, and I arrive sweaty and dishevelled! The wind and rain, not unknown to these parts, just make things worse.

It’s with this in mind that I’ve watched the recent developments in e-bikes with keen interest. Green Energy Cycles in Hexham started selling e-bikes this summer so I jumped at the chance to try one out. Last weekend I caught up with director Allister Marsh, a keen cyclist himself, who has been quick to see the potential market in the region for e-bikes. He started by explaining to me how the bikes fit into his wider business which supplies and installs stoves, biomass boilers and renewables from the Centre for Green Energy on the outskirts of the town.

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Allister Marsh of Green Energy Cycles with the KTM Macina e-bike

Under the pretence of giving me some pointers, Allister joined me for a cycle. He didn’t need any persuasion and I suspect he takes every opportunity to take these bikes for a spin. I took out a KTM Macina e-bike, whilst Allister rode a GoCycle folding commuter e-bike. After a quick safety briefing (just start slowly!), we headed North over the A69 towards Annick and Oakwood.

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KTM Macina Cross 10+ e-bike

The experience of riding an e-bike is a hard one to describe. Most are classed as ‘pedal assist’, so they don’t do anything until you start pedalling. When I did, the bike accelerated quickly with very little effort. The Bosch motor on the KTM is neatly contained within the pedal assembly, and sensors detect the speed and pressure that you’re applying. This gives a natural feel to the bike, which is best described as like having ‘super cycling powers’! The effort you apply is multiplied by the motor, but you’re always left in control. Due to regulations, the motor speed is limited to 15mph, so as I reached a decent pace on the flat, the motor eased off leaving me in charge of momentum.

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GoCycles G2 e-bike

The bike came into its own as we headed up the hill towards the Rat Inn. An incline that would have seen me standing up in the saddle of my own bike, and pushing hard just to keep moving, was effortless. I selected the ‘turbo’ power setting, kept peddling and relaxed. It was remarkable, and there was no risk of me breaking into a sweat. Call me lazy, but it made cycling up those hills enjoyable.

“E-bikes are going to get a lot of people out on the road.”Whilst they may not be for cycling purists, Allister sees e-bikes being attractive to a wide range of people. “E-bikes are going to get a lot of people out on the road,” he explains stressing their popular appeal. As well as commuters wanting an easier greener lifestyle, e-bikes are perfect for people with reduced mobility. They will also allow people to experience longer cycling trips without fear of running out of steam. I’ve no doubt they’re going to be a gateway into cycling for a lot of people, and that can only be a good thing. They’re expensive at the moment, but with Bosch bringing mass production to the market, they should come down in price.

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Bosch Powerline Motor built into the pedal assembly

The range an e-bike will take you on one charge varies depending on which power setting you select. The Bosch system on the KTM has four settings, from ‘eco’ which will assist you for 70 miles, but this drops to 28 miles with the ‘turbo’ setting. As a commuter living 5 miles from the office, it would mean only one recharge per week. The battery unlocks to make the 2 hour charging process straightforward, and the handlebar mounted control unit slides off for security. On the downside, the e-bike is noticeably heavier than a normal bike so I wouldn’t want to run out of juice on the way up a hill.

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The GoCycle folding e-bike has been designed to suit commuters and is lighter than many others.

As Allister and I rode back into Hexham we sat at the roundabout on the A69 for ages waiting for a gap in the traffic. It was a good reminder that traffic may still put a lot of people off cycling, something I wrote about back in June. Nevertheless, our cities are catching on to the need to provide meaningful cycling infrastructure and this is slowly improving, as North Tyneside has demonstrated with a 250% growth in bike journeys over the last 10 years. Having test driven the KTM, I’ve no doubt that e-bikes will have a big role to play in sustainable transport over the next decade. When I get my hands on on of these I might finally shake off my reputation as a fair weather cyclist!


I tested the KTM Macina Cross 10+ which is available from Green Energy Cycles for £1,999.
All photos by Tracing Green except images of Allister Marsh cycling and holding up the GoCycle, which were provided courtesy of Green Energy Cycles.
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About Adam Vaughan

Adam Vaughan is an architect with a passion for low-energy environment-friendly buildings. After working abroad in Paris and Dublin, Adam returned to his native Newcastle in 2005 to join JDDK Ltd, a practice with a reputation for environmentally low-impact design, where he is now a Director.

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