The Pilgrims Way by Electric Bike – Part 2
After the day of my Pilgrims Way trip, the next ride was The Ridgeway , across part of central England. The Ridgeway is an ancient road, the best know section of which starts at Overton Hill, in Wiltshire and ends at Streatley and Goring on the River Thames in Berkshire. This was to be a two day ride and I expected to cover about 90 miles in total.
Catching the High Speed Train to London I cycled across London to Paddington Station, thinking how much nicer it would be riding along tractor ruts rather than trying to avoid cabbies and big red London buses attempting to squidge you into the kerb. The nice thing about the extra performance of the Haibike is that you can ride it a little like a motorcycle, well into the middle of the road with the traffic, until it speeds up to over 25 mph. Not that London traffic goes that fast for very long.
The train to Pewsey took about an hour and a half and gave me a chance to top up the battery using one of the power sockets First Great Western now have next to some seats. The short ride up to the start of the Ridgeway was along a rutted bridleway which needed sport mode but the extra power of the motor took a lot of the pain out of a steep hill that would have otherwise had me pushing.
I didn’t need to be at the B&B until after 17:00 so I decided to ride along to Barbary Castle. Once on the Ridgeway the status is byway open to all traffic, whilst in Wiltshire. The going varies from a wide and heavily rutted and sometimes muddy surface to a semi made fine loosely packed stone surface. Up on the Ridgeway its easy to clip along at a good pace aided by the Haibike’s Bosch motor. On the easy parts eco was sufficient but in more difficult going tour or occasionally sport were selected. On the worst parts I set the Rock Shock Revelation forks to the full 150 mm travel. This really helped and for the most part the bike handled everything the Ridgway threw at it. Having 300mm suspension travel on my Yamaha WR450, I’m used to having a a bike with proper off road suspension. The Haibike didn’t make me wish for my Yamaha’s greater travel and whilst I could still legally ride the WR on this part of the Ridgeway, that would change tomorrow.
As I was riding at a goodly pace down a stony byway the rear end started to go wiggly. Curses! A puncture! Removing the rear wheel is as easy on the Haibike, with its crank motor, as it is with a conventional bike. On my previous electric hub bike, rear wheel removal is much more fiddly. The inner tube had been split by a small sharp flint pushing through the tyre. Bad luck, but then again I find MTB tyres too soft and I go for downhill tyres and heavy duty inner tubes full of that green “slime” puncture proof gunge. My WR has a mousse in the rear and similar things are available for bicycles. I do hate punctures.
I rode up and through Barbury Castle thinking how the Saxons threw out the Romano British about 1500 years ago when this was an early fortress. I made a loop back the way I had come and rode through the ancient village of Avebury with its famous ring of standing stones.
My B&B was in nearby Beckhampton. I’d covered a little under 40 miles and had two battery blocks left. That went on charge and after a wash and change of clothes it was a across to the Wagon and Horses for dinner. When cycle touring its tricky carrying everything but using a combination of a rucksack and also a special triangular bag I use on another bike, I found I could adapt it to fit around the Haibike’s frame and battery. That held the charger and part of the lock. With something as valuable as an electric bike you don’t leave it unsecured.
After a comfy night and an early breakfast, I made my way to Avebury and spent some time walking around the stone ring. These were once buried by the medieval Christians who feared the Pagan significance of the stones. They have since been put back upright in modern times by people sensible enough not to be subjected to superstition. I marvelled at the timelessness of this but was also conscious of my need to keep to my own schedule and a train later that afternoon.
The Ridgeway was up another long byway I’d whizzed down the previous day. Tour mode was enough except for a really steep part where I had to go to sport mode. As always the extra push was welcome. Unassisted pedalling is just so bad for morale. I met a group of motorcyclists from the Wiltshire group of my motorcycle club, the Trail Riders Fellowship. We exchanged pleasantries and chatted about the Haibike. Up to about 2004 it was possible to ride the whole of the Ridgway on a motorcycle. In fact there was a TV series called the Ridgeriders made from 1999 to 2001, presented by Nick Knowles, which followed down the Ridgeway some well know personalities like rock stars (Robert Plant) and actresses (Paula Hamilton) on vintage and classic motorcycles. It had a soundtrack and music by the Albion Band. The TRF were riding some of the other byways that criss cross the Ridgeway. Sadly for them (and my WR450) once you get to Oxfordshire, the Ridgway becomes (controversially) a Restricted Byway and is now closed to motor vehicles. The Ridgeriders are now history.
But it was not closed to my Haibike and me!! Nevertheless, I think its important for all bike riders (motor/engined or not) to keep in mind the TRF Code of Conduct which in summary says, only ride where you are allowed, keep to below 25 mph, slow for walkers and if necessary stop for horses.
I even had a clause added which says that we should “acknowledge other users with a wave or greeting”. On a bike as stealthy as the Haibike a friendly “good morning or “good afternoon” is all that is necessary. Even if some Ramblers blank you.
I cracked on at a comfy pace of between 15 and 25 mph, but most importantly uphills could be maintained at nicely over 15 mph. The view was stunning and especially enjoyable from the saddle of a bike. Up on the Ridgeway you can see for miles about and there is a real sense of freedom. Riding down hill I was reassured by the powerful hold of the Magura MT2 brakes to keep progress in check.
I stopped at Waylands Smithy for a banana and drink. This is an old burial mound and is one of the many locations on the Ridgeway that gives this ancient road a real feeling of timelessness.
I occasionally came upon other cyclists. Again, no-one really noticed it was an electric bike. That was until you rode past them. There were one or two quickish riders, but I passed them (always saying “hi”) with a short burst in turbo mode. It was only if I stopped that they caught up and rode past; generally ignoring you!
The suspension and frame geometry seems to be spot on and I’ve not noticed any idiosyncrasies in that area. Nothing fell off (I’d reengineered the broken pedelec sensor after my last ride) or broke and yet the terrain is quite demanding. The bike took it all in its stride.
The mileage was now about 38 and I was down to the final battery block. Judicious use of eco and tour modes soon showed the computer telling me I had 2 miles of power left. Fortunately most of the ride off the Ridgeway to Streatley is downhill. I arrived in Streatley still with power available and pulled into a pub for a drink and sandwich. The total was 45 miles, mostly on unsurfaced green lanes. The bar staff let me charge the battery whilst I watched the River Thames flow past.
After an hour the battery had three blocks which would get me to the station at Goring, across London and home.
I arrived back home in Kent two hours later with well over 50 miles on the tripmeter. My legs ached but I’d enjoyed this Ridgeway ride much more than the last time when I was on an unpowered bike.
So where to next?
Thanks to Steve Neville – From the e-bikeshop team for this update.
(Powered off-road Two Wheeler enthusiast) on his Haibike FS AMT 26
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