I rode an electric bike on tough UK roads – it wasn’t what I was expecting

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Perhaps I’m old fashioned but I’ve never got the point of electric bikes. Getting a battery to do all the leg work for you is surely cheating and how can riding one of these powered bicycles possibly give you, and your heart, a proper workout? Because of my feelings towards e-bikes, I’ve never taken the plunge but that may have been a massive mistake on my part.

I was recently invited to put a battery-powered bike through its paces across some of the UK’s harshest terrain and, after years of snubbing these two-wheeled machines, I’ve changed my mind about them. The Newhall Mains hotel near Inverness in Scotland has just taken delivery of a number of Volt Alpine bikes which are available to guests who fancy taking in the stunning sights of the Black Isle without needing the lungs of a Tour de France athlete.

As I quickly discovered, riding an e-bike around these rustic roads is not only breathtakingly beautiful but also way more enjoyable.

Volt was one of the first UK firms to produce battery-powered bikes and they’ve refined the experience over the years to make riding one thoroughly enjoyable.

My bike for the ride was the Volt Alpine. This is a mountain-style bicycle that features SR Suntour Tapered Suspension, 27.5” wheels with Maxxis Ikon tyres, Tektro Hydraulic Safety “Power Cut” brake levers and Shimano Alivio 8-speed gears. There’s also that removable battery which supplies the all-important power to give you some help when you need it.

That was my biggest surprise as it’s up to you how easy or hard you make things. Via a digital screen mounted on the handlebars, you can switch off the juice completely, add a very gentle boost or pump it to the max to climb those arduous hills.

During my four-hour trek around the Highlands, my heart rarely dipped below 100bpm – that’s almost double my usual resting rate of 60bpm. Riding a modern e-bike offers the perfect balance of getting some much-needed exercise whilst making it enjoyable and easier to head off the beaten track.

Switching between those power modes not only raises your heart rate but also makes sure you can complete a full day of riding without the bike’s battery (and your energy) running flat. After more than 30 miles of cycling around some seriously rough and tough terrain I still had over 50 percent of power left in the tank – that’s pretty impressive considering what it had to deal with.

Volt reckons a full charge will keep you motoring for 60 miles and our tests certainly showed they aren’t exaggerating that figure.

The Volt Alpine is a really nice thing to ride. Thanks to its suspension it’s supremely comfortable and offers plenty of power when needed without ever making you feel like it’s doing all the work for you.

The only thing that might well put you off is the price – the Volt Alpine starts from an eye-wateringly high £2,299. It’s a lot of money but the team, who now build all of their bikes in the UK, are well aware that it’s not affordable for everyone.

Volt says it has now launched monthly interest-free payments to spread the cost and there’s also a subscription service. This lets you pay as little as £3 per day to use a number of bikes. When you’ve had enough you simply had it back to the firm.

I’ve long been sceptical about electric bikes and the benefits of using them. Clearly, a standard bicycle will be cheaper to buy and needs the full power of your body to get from A to B making sure you get an extensive workout.

But, having gone electric, I can now see the appeal. You’ll still get your heart rate up and can enjoy riding to places you may have never thought possible thanks to a little help from that battery.

I’m now so smitten I’m seriously considering ditching my current mountain bike and going electric.


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