I was very pleased to try an electric-assisted mountain bike as I’ve been thinking of buying a small petrol motocross bike (eg KTM 250 SX) for some fun off-road; the ‘problem’ is that e-bikes are much more widely welcome than motocross bikes. No amount of theorising is the same as being confronted with a rocky path. This is how my day with the e-bike turned out:
The Old Coach Road is one of those must-do roads in the North Lakes. It’s a Byway open to all traffic (BOAT) so is legal on foot, horse and for motors with two wheels or four. It’s steep and there are big stones, large grade gravel plus potholes and wash-outs. Goodness knows how the stagecoaches climbed the hill to Hausewell Brow (437 m.) with a team of horses: it must have been exciting at the best of times and usually downright terrifying. And the ride downhill must always have been a thrill ride.
It’s a long slog on foot and so a motor seems attractive. If I had a motocross bike, I would definitely want to ride this road. Meanwhile, there are electric mountain bikes offered for hire in Keswick so hiring one of these was my day out.
A mixed experience. The e-bike was great on tarmac around town and on the country roads up to Castlerigg stone circle. As I got a bit more adventurous, it threw the chain off but that was only the once: maybe I was more considerate to the bike after that, though it did throw me off on to the rocky road once as well. So I’ve a big bruise coming along nicely, happily nothing serious.
Riding off-road needs speed for stability over the gravel and the rocks. Not currently my strong point, though I’ve been out and about on my Marin bike quite a few times over the years. This e-bike has a 700 power rating motor (which is considered good grunt) but it seemed to me the electric assist didn’t help anything like enough: standing on the pedals has far more effect than the electric, even with “Turbo ” mode. I pushed the bike up and down a lot of the steep, rocky bits and where the road has been “resurfaced” with new, large grade gravel.
I did get up more total altitude gain/loss than I’ve ever done in a day on the Marin but I came home absolutely knackered, far more than I would have been from a similar ride on my own bike. It seemed that the electric-assist pushed me to work harder.
At Mariel Bridge, my lunchtime picnic place, I chatted with a local rider passing on his 250cc motocross petrol bike, similar to the models I have been checking out recently. He rode off making very light work of the section of the road that I had just struggled with. Point made.