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On your bike

Rachel Clode

14th December, 2007

Rachel Clode tests out an electric bike, and finds a new best friend

I don’t think I have loved a bike as much as this since my parents re-sprayed my sister’s old Raleigh canary yellow for my eighth birthday.

The Powabyke is at once, useful, head turning and just a little bit heroic. Designed with the urban traveller in mind, the 24-speed Commuter bike I tested has a detachable lithium battery which provides optional power or power assistance on those long hills. At a cost of just 1.5p per mile on your electricity to run, you can use the bike at full power for approximately 2 hours, reaching a speed of 15 mph. 

As soon as I take the bike out it gets a lot of attention. At first this surprises me as with the large battery attached I thought it was rather lumpish-looking compared to a regular bike. Clearly this is not the case. People pull up next to me at lights, pedestrians shout out ‘nice bike’ and kids stop and stare in the park. I start to feel like I have the Ferrari of bikes, and all of this is before I accelerate!

I make my first excursion in battery-assisted cycling on a rainy hill at the end of the journey. With a turn of the key in the battery and a twist of the right handlebar accelerator, we’re off. I have to continue to pedal in order to maintain full power but with no resistance and little effort.

And so begins my month long love affair with my Powabyke. We go to the park, down to the shops, over the river, up and down the roads of London. No distance is too great for us. The only time we fall out is when I have to carry it up the stairs to my first floor flat. It is heavy and at the end of a long journey, power or not, it is a struggle. But I forgive it. 

If you have never tried an electric bike then you may find, like I did, that you will use it a lot more than a normal bike. You will take it on longer journeys and in worse weather, confident that if you get too tired to pedal conventionally, you will have enough power to get you back home. The average Powabyke user covers 1200 miles per annum, can replace 3 car journeys a week, and works out at just one tenth the cost of bus and car use. You have to be willing to pay out up front, though, as the Commuter costs £845 plus £300 for the lithium battery. With 30,000 existing Powabyke users in the UK, there’s some testimony to this bike’s potential for being your main means of transport. 

If you are short of that last minute and fairly generous gift this Christmas, you could make someone healthier, greener and perhaps a little happier this year by getting them a Powabyke. 

For details of UK stockists and for further information email or call 01225 443737

With thanks to Geoff, Steve and their team at Harrods for demonstrating and altering the Powabyke for my use.

Rachel Clode is a freelance journalist.

This article first appeared in the Ecologist December 2007


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