Ian Waller (no, that’s not me in the photo!) commutes for a week on a Brompton folding electric bike and loves every minute!
If you’re thinking about how to deal with the daily commute – perhaps getting a bus pass or buying a second car – could I suggest another option? I’ve just had a week using the Brompton Electric H6L folding bike (kindly supplied by Avon Valley Cyclery) in Bath and I love it! Quick, quirky, kinda stylish and loads of fun, it made the commute an absolute pleasure and best of all, I arrived at my meetings fresh and ready to work.
With the family car generally taken up on the school runs and my complete lack of desire to buy a second one, my commute is generally on a standard, pedal it yourself bike. While going into town from home is fine – it’s largely all downhill – coming home at the end of the day up all of those hills can be tiring, although on the plus side, it is really good exercise and generally far quicker – and certainly far cheaper – than driving.
The big downside, however, particularly during these summer months, is that I am concerned about turning up to meetings a bit sweaty thanks to the efforts of cycling, and let’s be honest, no-one wants to sit next to a sweaty cyclist!
That’s where this excellent bike for Brompton comes in, offering a hybrid pedal bike complete with an electric motor, where yes, you have to pedal a bit, but the motor can do all the hard work. So by playing with the four power modes, you can choose from no assistance where you do all the pedalling yourself, through to the highest setting where it’s all a doddle and the motor takes the effort out of your trip, making even going up the hills of Bath a pleasure. I actually felt slightly guilty purring past super-fit looking cyclists in lycra as I shot up Park Lane on my little bright blue folding bike, with barely any effort.
It’s also quick and fun, which means that suddenly the daily commute becomes a pleasure. Even my image conscious kids were keen to give it go. To help with your laptop and other essentials, rather than just going for the standard detachable battery bag at the front, you can upgrade to the additional ‘Commuter’ battery bag that has room for bits and bobs. And best of all, you turn up at your meetings fresh as a daisy and without being worried about congestion charges, getting caught in the traffic or finding a parking space.
The only thing to be aware of is that with such small wheels, you do feel all of the inevitable pot holes along the roads of Bath, so you’ll have to look ahead and miss as many as possible.
When it comes to folding the bike up, with not a lot of practice, this takes about a minute and means that you can store it easily in the boot of a car, under your desk at work or on train. Yes, there’s no doubt with the the battery pack attached, it’s not a lightweight bike, but if you plan ahead, you shouldn’t need to carry it far. For the train, for example, simply wheel the bike up to the platform, fold it up to get it on and off the train, then it goes straight back into unfolded bike mode.
Outside of the daily commute, the Brompton is also excellent for family bike rides. If you generally struggle to keep up with your children on a standard bike, you’ll soon be bombing all of an electric version. Looking at the range, on a full charge, the Brompton Electric can travel up to 15.5mph (25kmh) and has a range of 20 – 45 miles. Riding with the highest level of assistance (Mode 3) will have a range of approximately 20 miles before needing a charge. When riding with lower levels of assistance, you can ride up to 45 miles before needing a charge. OK, this will vary depending on rider weight, whether the winds in your face or those pesky hills, as well as how hard you’re prepared to pedal.
After a week with the Brompton, I didn’t really want to give it back. It’s a practical and fun alternative to a second car or those ridiculously expensive fares that Bath buses inflict on us. At a tad over £3,000 no, it’s not cheap, but it’s almost certainly less than a half decent second car, you do need to pedal a bit, even with the motor engaged, so you are keeping yourself fit and it’s so easy to store away at home or at work. All in all, it’s top marks from me for a really excellent option for the commuter challenge.
To find out more, speak to the very friendly and knowledgable team at Avon Valley Cyclery, next to Bath Spa Station, Bath. You can find out more at www.avonvalleycyclery.co.uk