I've just got back from an appointment with my diabetes nurse who carried out a human MOT - bloods, foot check, general health check. Instead of jumping in the car today for the 6-ish mile round trip, I got on my electric bike.
With a variety of painful and exhausting health conditions I really thought my cycling days were over. I can hardly walk up even slight slopes never mind cycle up them. While on a trip to Caen in France last year I noticed that E-Bikes were everywhere with all ages, shapes and sizes whizzing around. There might even have been baguettes in baskets.
When I got back I did some research into the vast range of E-Bikes available in the uk which vary in price from a couple of hundred pounds up to thousands. My son in law recently bought one through a work subsidy scheme and he's delighted with his bike which makes commuting to the station and to his workplace in London much quicker and easier.
I decided I wanted a step-through style bike making mounting easier with my disabilities, one with a removable battery for security and of course I was looking for good battery life and range. I also preferred a folding bike with the idea I can shove it into the back of our vehicle or our caravan for days out/holidays.
I also liked the models with build in lights powered by the battery. I also liked the idea of gears and a selection of power modes, including one which helps you push it! Obviously I wanted a nice looking bike - I already have a wicker bike basket and I fancied something that matched that vibe.
After MUCH scouring across the web I found a second hand Ecosmo bike (which would have been out of my price range new) advertised on Ebay. British made and beautiful with brown leather-like handlebar grips and saddle and foldable complete with charger and in very good condition it seemed too good to be true. It literally ticked all of my boxes and was a great price!
We did add to the very reasonable cost by making a weekend out of picking it up near Brighton. I also purchased a really good bike lock, upgraded storage for it and a CCTV camera with an alarm and night vision which monitors where the bike is stored 24/7
I was so happy when it appeared to be as good as advertised - a quick whizz round to test it proved it was nippier than I expected and to be honest on really bad days only the slightest movement of the pedals enhanced by the motor makes it more like riding a motorbike than a bicycle. I would say that it is heavy and quite unwieldy when folded - I'm not sure I would want to lug it on and off a train in a hurry. But for what I mostly want it for, trundling to my nearest town and back to meet friends, do a bit of shopping or go to the doctors it's perfect!
I've really enjoyed my freedom on two wheels and have enjoyed trips out with my 22-year-old and my friend. Even with a chronic pain/fatigue condition and osteoarthritis I've not yet experienced any flare-ups apart from some pain in my hands - probably because I grip the handlebars for dear life.
I heartily recommend anyone with any physical disabilities consider this economical, healthy mode of transport - I have some top tips based on my experience of riding an E-bike with disabilities.
- Neoprene gel gloves. I found some in a charity shop and love the gel palms which minimise vibration and pressure on my sensitive painful hands. I still get cold hands even in good weather when riding but not unbearable.
- Wing mirrors. I have osteoarthritis spurs in my neck which means I find it difficult to turn my head. I bought wing mirrors (from Amazon) which attach to the handlebars which mean I can see what's behind me or coming alongside making me feel safer when riding, especially when turning or crossing junctions.
- Helmet. I have sensory issues so it was important for me to try cycle helmets on for that reason. It's wise to try before you buy anyway, or at least buy an adjustable helmet. Mine came from The Range and had a light built in which sadly died the first time I used it. You can buy "smart" Bluetooth helmets, some with microphones and remote controls for the handlebars for hands free calls, built in headphones /speakers and even an sos system. Expect to pay around £100 for these.
- Basket. I love my wicker basket and I chose one which is easily detachable with a handle. (Ebay) Today I piled my helmet, hi-vis jacket and charger into it and took it into the surgery. It does sit quite high and adds weight to the front but I love the look and the practicality of it.
- Panniers. Because I often pick up a bit of shopping while I am out, and I carry a water bottle, my diabetes kit and a substantial security lock, I've added panniers (Amazon) to avoid putting all the weight in the front basket. When shopping for panniers make sure you measure the length of them (fit depends on wheel size) and ensure your bike has pannier racks to keep the bags away from the wheels. I've gone for water resistant bags which clip shut.