Home Energy Scotland offers interest free loans of up to £3,000 to buy an ebike.

We road tested two ebikes for a week ... here's how we got on 

HeraldScotland:

Andrea Pearson

Make: Whyte
Model: ec7 Coniston
How much: £1,850
Route: 4 miles from Southside into Glasgow city centre, north
Terrain: Around 70-30 roads to cycle paths
Usual commute: Scotrail
Journey time saved None
Money saved: £10 per week 
Consider swapping: Yes, if we had safer routes and better driver education

IN the right conditions, riding an ebike is like flying on a magic carpet. With a gentle caress of the pedals you can zip along, float up hills and glide over bridges without breaking sweat. It is truly magical and it feels futuristic.

I am test riding a Whyte ebike, courtesy of the Energy Saving Trust which is offering interest-free loans of up to £3,000. It’s a thing of beauty with disc breaks, Shimano STEPS chainset, 10 gears and three power modes (eco, medium, and high).

I would never use a bike to commute normally – I don’t want to arrive at work in a sweat. I want to remove my cycle helmet, shake out my hair, and be ready at my desk with a smile.

And an effortless commute on an ebike has made this possible.

Weather is no problem – even in the height of Storm Dennis. I have neoprene gloves (game-changers) a thin under-helmet beanie to keep my ears warm, a Goretex jacket and passable waterproof trousers. In high winds I just switch down a gear and meander my way through the storms. Like I said, magical.

However, there is the pervading low-level lawlessness and gormlessness of drivers – cutting out of side roads, double parking, blindly opening doors, jumping lights, stopping in cycle lanes – that is problematic for cyclists (and pedestrians) daily. We need more cycle lanes … and much better education.

But when my (regular cyclist) husband and I head for days out – in the forests of Aberfoyle, or on the bike tracks at Whitelee Windfarm – the ebike is an absolute winner.

Rather than me struggling to keep up and him eye-rolling and waiting at intersections, this lovely bike enables us (him, analogue; me, in eco mode) to chat, laugh, hold hands, look at the birds. It is like couples therapy – marriage glide-ance if you will.

Ebikes really do feel futuristic – they’re sustainable and healthy and would be ideal for short commutes. But only the cities that truly recognize this in time will be part of that bright future.

HeraldScotland:

"As ebikes continue to grow in popularity across the UK, they are a great choice if you’ve got a longer journey to make, or if you’d like a little extra assistance up any hills along the way," says Ellie Grebenik, Senior Programme Manager at Energy Saving Trust.

"The eBike Loan, delivered by Energy Saving Trust and funded by Transport Scotland, offers interest-free funding for a new ebike, ecargo or any form of adaptive bike with a repayment period of four years. This support is aimed to help ensure that this form of low carbon transport is accessible to everyone in Scotland. For more information about ebikes, to request an application form or to learn more about the eBike Loan please call Home Energy Scotland free on 0808 808 2282."

HeraldScotland:

Alex Burns

Make: Volt
Model: Pulse
How much: £1,599
Route: Two miles from Partick into Glasgow city centre, north
Terrain: Mainly cycle paths/walkways
Usual commute: Subway
Journey time saved: 10-15 mins
Money saved: £16.50 per week 
Consider swapping: Yes, if it was a little cheaper to buy

I HAVE often questioned the sanity of those who cycle into Glasgow city centre; even more so during a cold, dark Scottish winter. So you can imagine my enthusiasm upon being informed that I would be doing exactly that.

The challenge was to try a Volt ebike on my journey to work, on loan from the Energy Saving Trust, swapping my warm and dry commute via the Subway for one that was fully exposed to the elements. In the middle of what must surely have been one of the wettest Februarys in recent memory, my reluctance to cycle was obvious.

Admittedly though, I didn’t have far to go: living beside Partick Cross I anticipated that my cycle from the office would take me less than half an hour. In reality? It took just over 12 minutes.

The bike itself was surprisingly sleek – if undoubtedly heavy – with its large battery slotting in just under the saddle. The helpful staff from Ayrshire-based BikePost gave me a quick tutorial of how to operate the Volt, switching it on via a contactless fob and then choosing one of four levels of motorised assistance.

Those who are feeling fit can have limited input from the battery (which is easily recharged at home); but in the interest of thorough journalistic research I cranked mine right up to full power. Almost instantly the motor kicked in, and within a few seconds the bike was shooting off at 15 miles an hour. Alongside traffic that could be daunting, but thanks to the recent redevelopment of Sauchiehall Street I found almost all my route was traffic-free.

My Volt and I could speed along to Charing Cross, use the pedestrian flyover, and then cut into Kelvingrove Park before emerging on Dumbarton Road. Even in rain I discovered the childlike joy of zooming through the park, the thrill of getting home more quickly (and cheaply) than ever before.

I would happily ebike to work every day. Yet at £1,599, the Volt is just a bit too pricey, even with an interest-free loan, for someone also trying to save to buy a house. But if you can splash the cash, then go for it. 

HeraldScotland:

Want to know more?

Ebike loans from Energy Saving Trust is available for up to £3,000 or £6,000 for a cargo ebike

  • Interest free with no administrative fees
  • Repayments over four years 
  • Loans cannot be applied for retrospectively
  • Applications are subject to credit and affordability checks
  • The scheme is funded by Transport Scotland and administered by Energy Saving Trust, Second Floor, Ocean Point 1, 94 Ocean Drive, Edinburgh, EH6 6JH.

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