05 July, 2015

Hello Hawks

I've previously mentioned that I was planning on getting an electrically assisted bike and after much searching, mostly in my wallet, I found somewhere I thought worth a visit where I could view and ride some bikes (eBikeShed). My wife and I went there and finding that the bike that best suited me cost more than I had hoped to spend, we left without making a decision. Then the next day I ordered two!

It looks like they are going to do the job. 30 years ago 36 miles on a bike would not have been anything to get excited about but times have changed and yesterday's ride was hugely significant. It was a big test of endurance for the the bikes and for me. It particularly answered the question as to whether the bike could look after me if I "ran out legs" which I did soon after turning back from the halfway point at Spurstow where we plugged in the chargers for an hour. 

The journey home was brilliant, we set off home with around 75% of charge in the batteries, that is just enough to light up the last of the four charge lights. When we re-passed Bunbury locks and used full power to get up the steep hill the power level went down to just 2 lights. Then on the on the level again and under less load all 4 lights came on again, so power conservation seemed highly necessary. We were carefull for a good while but after about half way we decided to run for home and selected the middle level of pedal assist (options being low, med & high) and that made an immense difference to the overall speed and of course the amount of effort we had to put in. So as a consequence of the better surface (tarmac V grass), the wind behind us and making good use of the pedal assist we were home in a rather unexpected 2 hrs! Still very, very tired though! There's no doubt that without the help of the motor I wouldn't have been able to do the 4.75 hours outward journey on often bumpy grassy canal tow-paths in the first place and I wouldn't have been able to get home on the relatively smooth back roads either.

This all bodes well for the bikes fulfilling the purposes we wanted them for. Years ago my wife didn't have a chance of staying with me on a bike, I just wasn't comfortable going so slow, then it changed the other way around and my fatigue meant I could hardly keep up with her let alone go any distance but now we can ride together. Another gain of course is the benefit of getting some exercise.

Our ebikes are "FreeGo Hawks", one a crossbar version and one a step through. They have 36v 10Ah batteries giving a range of around 30 miles. The 7 gears cover a good range with 1st gear being extra low to help with hill climbs and it removes the need for a twin chain wheel gear. I think it's worth mentioning here that one of the other bikes I considered ("Roodog Explorer") seemed very nice and it was a difficult decision to decide which to go for. In the end the deal that I was offered meant the "FreeGo Hawks" were a little dearer but were more suitable for us. The "Roodog Explorers" are mountain bike types whilst the "FreeGo Hawks" are more akin to the Dutch sit up straight style which as I have a stiff neck most of the time would be better. In addition we liked the full mudguards, battery powered lights (including a brake light), chain guard, rear pannier and less of a kick when the torque controlled motor engages.

We have completed about 60 miles on the bikes now and so far we have found the low power setting good enough for general use with a twist of the throttle for extra power when needed. Medium power gives a good boost and contributes to a much faster journey over smoother surfaces. We haven't had the need to use full power except briefly on steep hills. Often we have allowed the assist to help get the bike up to speed and then pedalled beyond the range of the assistance given at that power level, then if there's a need to slow down it's an easy job to get going again as the power assist smoothly comes in. Another alternative is to use pedal power, just using the throttle to get moving and an occasional boost when needed. When tired I found using the throttle alone for some distance is beneficial in that I can take a rest whilst still moving then resume with power assisted pedalling after while; alternating this pattern seems to be a good way of getting a tired body home.