Not a new phenomenon, cycles have had motors added to them in various guises for more than a century. It can be said though that never have they been so sophisticated, nor so efficient.
The bikes used were kindly loaned to us through Martin Brown of e-bikeshop.co.uk, and the manufacturer, Haibike. They chose the Hardseven 4.0, two models, the xDuro, powered by Bosch and the sDuro, with a Yamaha motor. Both share a number of common features, such as the frame, headsets, bars, tyres, but different suspension, crank and switchgear arrangements.
Where did it start?
On a bright July Sunday, we left West Sussex to join our hand-cyclist friend Rob and a support motor home driven by Chris in convoy, on a ride to the New Forest and the Dorset coastline.
The Coastline Challenge journey was undertaken to promote new ways to view and care for our oceans, and as the name suggested we followed coastal roads where possible. Urban cycling in towns such as Southampton and Portsmouth was a challenge due to the heavy traffic, road layout and hilly overpasses.
On occasion, the brakes were used to their full effect, in order to avoid elderly gentlemen and errant drivers. The Tektro brakes bite quickly and quite fiercely. Pausing for a pub lunch gave us an opportunity to replenish our own energy resources and those of the e-bike batteries.
The Yamaha used 60% battery life covering 40 miles at a regular speed of 15mph. The quick take offs and undulations of Southampton’s crowded A roads. Then the more gradual but ever present hills of the New Forest, coupled with a rider growing accustomed to their respective steeds, drained battery power more quickly than on other rides of the trip. The Bosch lost more charge on this leg, down to 20% when stopping for the lunchtime recharge. Once more accustomed to the riding rhythm the battery range improved, along with the enjoyment of letting the bikes amplify our efforts.
There are 3 modes of assistance on the Yamaha motor and 4 on the Bosch, the difference being the Turbo mode, giving up to 275% back to the pedals. This was useful in getting up to speed at roundabouts and hill climbs, coping with traffic etc.
The 3 main modes used interchangeably depending on the need- eco for flats, standard and high/sport for everything else, the latter especially useful for inclines, which are uncannily easy to climb. The xDuro Bosch control system and Intuvia Display are well designed and very easy to use.
Riding the eBikes?
We spent the next few days traveling together, or taking it in turns to cycle alongside our friend, Rob, on our journey west. From Sussex through Hampshire, Dorset and into Devon, using coastal roads where possible, the e-bikes performed faultlessly, each exhibiting individual characteristics over time.
At the end of each day, we arrived at the allocated camp site, pitched our tent, fed, washed up and got through the observations, photographs, maintenance, and other issues that might have arisen throughout the day.
To be able, for instance, to tackle some of the hills of the Jurassic Coast in Dorset, was a demonstration as to the capability and enjoyment these bikes offer. A reward on that particular stretch was arriving at the azure blue bay of the English Riviera at Torquay.
Riding to Lands End
Something that soon became apparent was the isolated nature of some of the campsites we visited. The further we traveled west, the less technology and electricity worked. Soon enough we would reach a site only to find no internet or phone access or just enough power to charge up the batteries. The views, however, were stunning at times.
From here we journeyed into Cornwall, on to Land’s End, where the opportunity to get us and the bikes in at the famous sign was taken. Setting off the next day from Geevor mine, it was a damp morning that saw us cycle from St Just to St Ives, along the north coast road.
Arguably one of the most enjoyable roads to cycle in Cornwall, the twists, turns, and hills provide a changing backdrop of villages, farms and sweeping views over the Atlantic. It was also the setting for the original version of ‘Straw Dogs’, and has its own eerie sense of foreboding…
Taking the coastal roads to St Agnes, we spent the night at Cligga Head before setting off for Tintagel. Cornwall can be wet at times but for this trip around we had one really bad day. Following heavy rain and high winds, upon reaching the camp site on Tintagel headland, it proved impossible to pitch the sleeping accommodation for the night. A friendly B&B next door proved welcoming.
The next few days journeying up the north Cornwall coast, through north Devon and Somerset, was accompanied by glorious sunshine. At this point, circumstances beyond our control necessitated a return to West Sussex, so we left the traveling band to carry on around the coastline, and took the bikes on the train. Packed with friendly commuters and cyclists, we managed to cram on.
The good looking and electric nature of the bikes are such that they started conversations about them wherever we went, and some interesting comments on build, performance, etc were expressed while we made our way back home. Back home, on the Sussex coastline, we had hoped to rejoin our friend Rob on his cycle tour further up country but was not to be. So, while doing our own things, we took the opportunity to utilize the bikes in a domestic environment.
How the bikes performed?
Temporarily shunning fossil fuel alternatives, the Haibike's became the preferred mode of transport for trips to the village shops, along the sea front day or night, and further afield. Having electrical assistance up to a maximum speed of approximately 17 mph allows for effortless short journeys, the sDuro’s Yamaha motor responding quickly from standing start. These e-bikes are superb up hills and down dales but also excel in the urban environment, a modern revolution in personal mobility. Those who enjoy the freedom of cycling, but not the effort sometimes involved, or those who might benefit from the motor assistance, will find these bikes just the thing for improving the quality of one’s life, health & enjoyment of the great outdoors.
Personally, living near the Sussex South Downs, we took the opportunity to try the bikes out and enjoy the scenery on offer. The all terrain ability of these machines makes for exhilarating fun & the outside more accessible.
To sum it all up?
During this review period, we had the fortune to be able to travel some of the most scenic roads in the south west of England. We took in miles of unspoiled rolling hills & stretching coastlines. We met with members of coastal communities, who, behind the scenes, for the most part, organize beach cleans, produce educational material, introduce plastic reduction schemes, monitor sea life and who create petitions for change in the way we care for our waters. They are inspirational people. We hope this review and accompanying photographs say enough to encourage you to try the e-bike experience. These particular Haibike's are excellent in design and performance and completely changed our lifestyle for the month. Thank you for the opportunity to do so.