Do Androids dream of electric bikes?

27th May 2018

This article is taken from our April issue of My Life magazine. You can read the whole magazine here, or to subscribe to receive a free copy via email or post please sign up here.

Ian, 70, from Whitley Bay, thought his days of riding bikes were over, until he tried an ebike

Before I was diagnosed with HCM in 2015 and had an ICD fitted, I loved cycling. When I went back to it months later, I found it too tiring and gave up. I thought I might never cycle again when a friend suggested I try his ebike. I knew nothing about ebikes, so my first ride in the streets around his home was a revelation - I was hooked and I bought my own shortly afterwards.

It has made such a difference to me that I thought others with cardiomyopathy might be interested.

An ebike is just a bike with a small (under 250W) electric motor powered from an on-board battery. The motor is located either in one of the wheelhubs or the pedal crank. In the latter position, a torque sensor measures the input from the rider and delivers power from the motor to match.

So riding an ebike under power feels rather like having another cyclist pedalling in tandem with you. You still have to pedal, but nothing like as energetically as you might otherwise. Batteries vary, but you can often get 30-40 miles on one charge and recharging takes 3-4 hours from a domestic supply. Ebikes come in four basic styles; folding, road, mountain and hybrid in a range of models and frame sizes.

The choice is surprisingly wide with almost any style suitable for people with cardiomyopathy. Folding, road and hybrid may be best for commuting and general leisure use and mountain for off-road.

Legally, you can ride an EAPC at 14 in England, Scotland and Wales and don’t need a motorcycle licence, nor do you need to register it, tax it, carry compulsory third party insurance, have an MOT or wear a motorcycle crash helmet! In Northern Ireland, the law is more strict. Ebikes typically cost between £500 and £3,000, depending on quality, but specialised machines cost much more.

You can insure your ebike as an extension of your house contents. If it’s worth more than a few hundred pounds, your insurers will charge and may also want to impose security conditions when the ebike is unattended. There are specialist insurers online who offer better deals on dearer ebikes, but they also impose security conditions. You can buy new ebikes from the internet and many big bike retailers also have a small selection. I found a specialist local dealer who had a good range and offered sound advice. He also does repairs and servicing.

If like me you haven’t cycled for a while because of your cardiomyopathy, but are medically fit to do so, an ebike might suit. You will get exercise and fresh air and cycling can be sociable too. I often go out with cyclists who do not have heart conditions and keep up with them without difficulty. So why not take a look yourself?

*An ebike is more properly known as an Electrically Assisted Pedal Cycle (EAPC)s