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Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Prudential RideLondon FreeCycle

On Saturday, central London was closed to traffic so that thousands of cyclists of all ages could enjoy many of the iconic landmarks in the City. BEBA (The British Electric Bicycle Association) had organised a space in the Green Park Festival for a few members to demonstrate what electric bikes are all about. The Prudential RideLondon organisers were keen for us to be there and show how inclusive cycling can be.

For us it was an early start, the alarm went off at 3.30 am, we had to get our vehicle to Green Park before the roads were closed. It was dark as we headed into the City but as we came through the financial district the many tall buildings were lit up against the brightening sky.

When we reached the Tower of London, the turning point for cyclists later in the day, London’s newest tall building The Shard was right behind it as I snapped away through the windscreen. As we reached the top of The Mall they were just closing the street, but our logoed up Batribike van was our passport through.

With all our bikes unloaded and the van safely parked there was time to take some “tourist’ shots. I can see from the photo data that I was taking pictures of Buckingham Palace at 7.19 am. The sun was shining and due to the road closures there was no one about. I was feeling very privileged to be there. Next stop breakfast, and then we were ready for the crowds.

I was amazed how quickly we were busy. The cycle route opened at 9.00, but before that visitors had already begun to arrive at our marquee. Many were curious to see what electric bikes were all about and many more were truly interested in how electric motor assistance could change the way they use bicycles. For many they are a way to keep cycling when they can’t continue on an ordinary cycle.

I had hoped that I might be able to cycle the route even though I was really there to work! At about half past eleven I managed to sneak off with the Batribike Diamond test ride bike and headed out to The Mall. Visitors to the stand had told us that the route was busy but still I was astonished when I first saw the sheer number of cyclists on the road.

I exited Green Park via the big gates next to the Victoria Memorial and joined the throng. There were metal barriers along the side of the road to keep the pedestrians back, they were obviously enjoying the occasion too as they were hanging over the barrier to take pictures of all the cyclists. I stopped at the side to take a picture looking back towards Buckingham Palace and the Victoria Memorial.

Further up there was a bit of a bottleneck. The tannoy system was advising everyone that they might have to put their feet down. We shuffled along at less than three miles an hour but no one complained; there was an air of excitement, a feeling of being present at an historic occasion. We shuffled on until we were nearly at Admiralty Arch and the crowds parted, we could cycle safely.

A short spurt and I was at Trafalgar Square and intrigued to see a sailing yacht. I have since found out that it is the flagship of the GB clipper race team the “Great Britain”. From there it was down on to the Embankment.

The diversity of cyclists was amazing, lycra clad racers mixed with families out for a gentle ride. Tiny tots with stabilisers rode beside vintage and novelty bikes, all were revelling in the atmosphere. Street bands playing a wide variety of music dotted the route and at each tunnel or bridge everyone rang their bells and whooped. I passed a man in period costume riding a miniature penny farthing, when he commented that he was “feeling the burn” I told him that I was riding electric. He was amazed, stating that he only understood steam!

After a wriggle out to St Pauls it was back to the river and on to the Tower where we looped round for the long waterside run to Westminster, down Birdcage Walk and back to Green Park. After a day in London it seems funny that these iconic names trip off the tongue so easily.

The Diamond LCD performed perfectly and I am really pleased that I was able to take part in the inaugural RideLondon.

At the end of the show at 5.00 all that remained was to pack up the bikes and wait for vehicle movements to be allowed. The sun was still shining as we headed off and I was still clicking away with the camera through the windscreen.

I see the event is already on the calendar for 9th August 2014, I certainly intend to be there.

Monday, 5 August 2013

Bewl Water Cycle Ride

We recently took the Diamond and Granite electric bikes on the 12.5 mile cycle route around Bewl reservoir. We were holidaying in Kent and took the opportunity to visit Bewl Water as we knew it had a cycle route that went all the way round.

There is a pay kiosk before you get to the car park and we duly paid our £4 each for bringing our own bikes. At the kiosk they gave us a map and some information leaflets. On reading that the round reservoir route is only suitable for mountain bikes I was a little worried that we weren’t going to be able to do it.

We parked up and looked at the bikes that the hire shop had available. They didn’t look too extreme but had some quite knobbly tyres. They didn’t appear to have any electric bikes for hire. I asked how muddy it was out on the track as it had rained the day before. Apparently it wasn’t too bad.

I had some bikes in the van as we were going to an event later in the week. I had however forgotten that I had been using a couple of them for demos the week before. When we got the Diamond LCD and the Granite LCD out I discovered that there were only two bars left on the Diamond battery. Not a problem, I was sure all would be fine.

We asked the chap next to us in the car park if he cycled there regularly and where did the route start. He asked if we were planning to ride the electric bikes, he was sure we would be fine but we would have to get off and push several sections were very steep.

We set off in an anti-clockwise direction following the signs in the car park. Unfortunately the route is not very well signed at all and we had to resort to the map on several occasions. Even going as far as to check our position on Google maps on the phone.

The first part of the track is through woods and is quite bumpy over tree roots. Once out into the open the route continues across grass and the views across the water are lovely. The weather was perfect for riding, not too hot but sunny.

The whole circuit has varied terrain, earth tracks, grass, cinder track and some road work (the roads were country lanes and we only saw one car) The ground conditions were fine for our bikes with no problems at all, although I suspect it could be quite muddy if there has been a lot of rain.

I did indeed walk up one short hill, but that wasn’t because the bike wouldn’t have made it. If I had been riding at the start of the hill I would have sailed up. Unfortunately there was a gate at the bottom that I dismounted to open. I decided to walk up and used the throttle option on the bike. This meant that the bike pulled itself up the hill as I walked beside it. Ralph waited for me at the top.

I also pushed it down one incline, it had been reinforced with wooden blocks, presumably to stop it being washed away, so it was more like steps.

There were several sections where there were views across the water, there were loads of sailing boats when we were there and a very picturesque oast house on one bank.

Returning to the start I still had two bars on the battery and had had a very enjoyable ride, the odometer showed that we had done fourteen miles. I used level one predominantly – I didn’t want to go too fast on the bumpy grass sections. Level two on a couple of the inclines and level three on the hilly road part. I never needed levels four or five.

It was a great test for the Diamond and Granite electric bikes and a lovely day out. I had loads of envious glances from some of the people who had hired ordinary bikes and had to get off and push as soon as they saw a hill.