How does a holiday on two wheels appeal? When you book your next lodge, log cabin or cottage break, why not consider spending some time on two wheels, rather than four? If you and the family don’t have your own bikes, you can easily hire them from a number of places in Northumberland and get to see the county from a whole new perspective. To make life even easier, ask about hiring some of the latest electric bikes – e-bikes, for short!
Er, what’s an e-bike?
Put simply, e-bikes – electric bikes – are the next generation of regular bikes. They are becoming increasingly popular thanks to advances in technology. The main difference between an e-bike and a regular one is that the e-bike has a battery, motor and display screen. An e-bike offers you power-assisted pedalling, for an easier, more pleasurable ride. You can tackle hills or longer stretches of road without tiring so quickly. However, e-bikes are not mopeds or scooters. They are still, in many ways, a push bike… just with extra oomph!
Technically speaking, an e-bike is an “electrically assisted pedal cycle” (EAPC). However, because pedal-assist automatically stops at 15.5 mph, you don’t need a licence. You don’t need to register the bike either, and there’s no vehicle tax. As long as your e-bike has pedals that propel it, an electric motor that cuts out at more than 15.5 mph when ‘on road’, and power that does not exceed 250 watts, then it can be ridden on any cycle path and everywhere that allows bikes. If you are considering hiring e-bikes for the family holiday, please bear in mind that you must be over 14 years of age to ride one.
E-bike your way to fitness
This week, I’m very excited to have become the proud owner of a brand new e-bike myself! A few years ago, in my late 50s, I had a total hip replacement. Shortly afterwards I decided to sell my faithful old mountain bike, believing I would never again have the strength in my hips and thighs to pedal the Northumberland hills. With two false hips, high impact activities (like running or aerobics) aren’t really an option for me, so in an effort to increase cardiovascular fitness, I started looking at alternatives. I realised ‘getting back in the saddle’ with an e-bike might now be the best way forward. If, like me, you’d like to get fitter but aren’t confident about your stamina levels, than an e-bike may offer a flexible solution, since the degree of effort you put in is entirely up to you. For example, you can start with pedal-assist until you get used to cycling again, then reduce reliance on it as you get stronger. In short, e-bikes offer all the fantastic health benefits of a regular bike, but with pedal-assist from the motor whenever you need it.
Great for your carbon footprint
A friend of mine has ridden an e-bike for a couple of years. This gave me the perfect chance to look one over and see whether it suited me. I started to research what was available and finally settled on a new model with Bosch power pack, 26” wheels and 9-speed Shimano gears and brakes. True, a brand new e-bike is not cheap, but you can get great deals on used (or demo) models. An e-bike is also more convenient than a regular push bike, so you might find yourself using it more often, making it quite cost-effective overall. Whether you’re using it on holiday, for commuting, or just a trip to the shops, pedal-assist can help you ride longer distances. That might mean you use the car a bit less and save on wear and tear, parking charges and fuel. In short, it’s great for your carbon footprint!
Stay safe and be prepared
Depending on the battery, how often you use pedal-assist and at what level, an e-bike can last for up to 110 miles on a single charge. My new e-bike has a lithium ion battery, very light and efficient with a sleek design. The motor is discreet too, with very little noise. When you do need to charge your battery, just plug it in for a few hours, then you’re good to go. All bikes, even non-electric ones, need regular care and maintenance and expect average wear and tear on the frame, wheels and gears. With the emphasis on ‘safety first’, here are few more things to bear in mind:
- When you go out, wear a few layers of good cycling gear, the more waterproof the better, to stay warm and dry.
- See and be seen, so make sure your e-bike has a bell and lights, front and rear.
- Avoid potholes – they’re dangerous to you and your bike! And some look just like puddles – so avoid puddles too!
- Keep your e-bike in good condition, and clean mud and grime off your chain after each ride
Plan your route
Now I’m the proud owner of a brand new e-bike, I’m starting to plan out routes and trails around the county that I’d like to enjoy. Northumberland has plenty of challenging ones but, equally, has many easier, flatter stretches along coastal routes, and even some free from major traffic. We are well into autumn, with winter just around the corner, so there are still clear, bright days ahead, but the weather is cooler and wetter, and it’s getting darker earlier every day. I’m factoring all of that into my choice of routes and length of ride.
Do your research
If you fancy going all-electric on your next Northumberland break, why not contact some bike hire companies first for advice? There are quite a few, but you could start with local firms like Breeze Bikes www.breezebikes.co.uk or Pedal Power www.pedal-power.co.uk at Coquet Enterprise Park, Amble. If you’re planning on spending a day further afield, say, at Kielder Water, try The Bike Place www.thebikeplace.co.uk near Kielder Castle. Check out organisations who can help you plan routes and terrain, like Sustrans : www.sustrans.org.uk/ncn/map or Cycle Northumberland : www.cyclenorthumberland.org.uk
Try this coastal trail
Finally, narrow down some trails you love, print them out and bring them with you. Here’s a lovely ride between Alnmouth village and Druridge Bay Visitor Centre that takes in some of Northumberland’s beautiful heritage coastline. The terrain is easy with no hills and the distance is about 9 miles.
Alnmouth to Druridge Bay
Leave Alnmouth and head west on Hipsburn Road (young or inexperienced cyclists should take care on this stretch). Once past the arched bridge over the River Aln, turn left through a gated entrance onto a traffic free path. Continue for about a mile, then head towards the coast, following the coastal path to Warkworth. Beyond Warkworth Castle, look for signs to Amble. Drop down the bank onto a roadside pavement path next to the River Coquet and weir. Signs lead you to Amble Marina and quiet streets. Pick up a traffic-calmed road to Low Hauxley, before joining the coastal path to Druridge Bay (7 mile stretch of sand between Amble & Cresswell, part of Druridge Bay Country Park). The park has many amenities including toilets, cafe & children’s play area, plus lake with surrounding meadows and woods – the perfect place to picnic.
Well, I hope that’s whetted your appetite for spending your next holiday here on two wheels and that, like me, you’ll soon be joining the e-bike revolution! If you’d like any other ideas or suggestions for how you can spend your break, just ask – we’re always here to help.
by Terri Harper, 18/10/2018