Empowered by one of East Ayrshire firm Cycle Station’s state-of-the-art e-bikes, Alex Burns recently led the charge on a tour of the picturesque yet hilly region

Truth be told, I’m not a huge fan of cycling. It always feels disproportionately tiring – particularly going uphill – and I often find myself too focused on the effort of moving the pedals to truly enjoy the scenery. 

So I wasn’t hugely excited about being told I was going to cycle up nearly 200 metres of elevation, on a baking hot spring day, to explore East Ayrshire’s cycle infrastructure.
That was until I was told I would be doing it on an e-bike. More specifically, a state-of-the-art Haibike Hardseven, a 250Wh e-bike with optimised suspension and four levels of power assistance. 

My bike was provided by local bike shop and hire firm Cycle Station, based in the village of Newmilns (though soon set to move to new premises in Darvel). 
Owner Alan Vass recommended a circular route in the hills above Darvel, encompassing Dyke Farm and the Lanfine Estate towards Newmilns, before returning along the River Irvine. 
I set off hesitantly approaching the steep incline above the valley – but was pleasantly surprised as the motored assistance soon kicked in. 

I opted for the highest level of battery power and found myself easily managing the long hilly section, turning the motor off for flat or downhill stretches. 
It meant I was able to enjoy the impressive viewpoints atop the hill, but without requiring a crippling exertion to get there.

But does this constitute ‘cheating’? Not according to Cycle Station owner Alan.
“An e-bike doesn’t do all the work for you,” he explains, “as you still have to turn the pedals and work the gears. You are getting assistance, but it’s just enabling you to do longer distances or different terrain than what you could do without it. You are still exercising, just seeing things that you wouldn’t otherwise without worrying about getting home.”

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On my cycle I certainly built up a sweat, albeit without getting particularly out of breath. 
As well as great views over the Ayrshire fields, the varied route offered a chance to spot cows, horses and lambs as well as some lovely flora and fauna. 
The Lanfine Estate, which this route encompasses, was once owned by Thomas Brown, a professor of botany at Glasgow University, who planted exotic trees, shrubs and woodlands which can be enjoyed today.

The route then swung downhill towards Newmilns, before following a scenic riverside footpath leading all the way back to Darvel. We encountered minimal traffic throughout the duration of the cycle, making it an ideal route for those who aren’t hugely confident on two wheels. 
It is often these kinds of cyclists, according to Alan, who benefit most from using e-bikes.
“We have customers using the e-bikes who wouldn’t have otherwise got on a bike. People who are in recovery from operations or accidents, older people who have had replacement hips – they can go on a 46-mile cycle with no problems at all. We also get people who haven’t cycled for a while and are nervous to get back in the saddle”. 

E-bikes can pull different generations together, as grandparents can join parents and kids on family cycle, opening opportunities for everyone to get involved.”
Alan is clearly hugely proud of his role in helping people get more active. He even offers family e-trikes and cargo e-bikes, designed to replace the use of cars for short journeys and help the environment

He initially set Cycle Station up as a project to help people in recovery for addiction issues, teaching them how to repair bikes.
Now, eight years on, he offers a range of services including hire bikes, bike repairs, balance training for children, selling repurposed bikes and organising group cycle outings in the local area. 

Tourists often hire bikes from him, which he will drop off at their accommodation, but local people are also frequently trying out e-bikes for hire before buying one.
And after realising how enjoyable it made cycling, I might be tempted to make a purchase myself…

This article was brought to you in association with East Ayrshire Leisure