Ditch the car
One of Mevagissey’s many attractions is that it sits at the end of the Clays to Coast trail. This is a mostly off road route all the way from Mevagissey to the Eden Project, with short diversions to Heligan, Pentewan and St Austell along the way. It’s about 28 miles there and back but you don’t have to do the whole thing. St Austell sits in the middle of the trail and you can choose to do just one half. I do the St Austell to Mevagissey route a lot as I cycle to work when the weather is nice. I’m very fair weather. Plus this section is largely flat. I’m very lazy as well.
Anyway, a new couple, Andy and Rachel have just taken on the Pentewan Valley Cycle Hire and are offering Electric Bike Hire! Always keen to try out something new I thought I could borrow one and see what they are like whilst I map out the route.
I had a quick catch up with Rachel, who I had gone cycling with a few weeks back with the Breeze Ladies. She and Andy now also run a weekly cycling club so it’s nice that there are lots of options building up in the area. Andy and Rachel have two types of electric bikes and we discussed which one I should use. Given the distance I was planning on, we settled on the Raleigh. Andy ran me through all the technicalities. Very little. Adjusted my seat and that was that. A very simple procedure.
Riding the bike is very easy. It’s a step through and I felt like I was back on a sit up and beg. On the right handle bar, you rotate through the seven gears. On the left handle bar, you just press either plus or minus for more or less power. Child’s play. Despite having had my seat adjusted for me, I realised that I don’t much like hire bikes. They’re not my bike. That’s not their fault, it’s just it feels odd. And I wasn’t sure how “odd” would translate after 28 miles.
First things first, if you stop peddling the bike stops. This is not some sort of scooter or moped, it’s more power assisted pedals. Shame. So with my illusions shattered I pushed off!
My first reaction was disappointment. The bike is very heavy and only has seven gears. I was finding it an effort on the flat. At this point the battery was switched off. The idea of having the battery on when I was on the flat was ridiculous, although in fairness the battery said it had about 101 miles in it. It just felt like cheating. I decided to drop into sixth gear and it was easier on the thighs although I was having to peddle faster. So initially, I was unimpressed.
I continued on and got to the bottom of the Heligan hill, for those that don’t know it this is a long and gradual hill leading up towards Heligan. The electric bike has four electric settings; Eco, Tour, Sport and Turbo. I switched to Turbo and was away. It was hilarious. I zoomed past two ladies who were so impressed with my uphill speed that I had to shout back it was electric. I didn’t hear their reply I was already too far away. In fact, half way up I switched to fourth gear and the second electric setting as I didn’t want to wear out the battery and it really didn’t warrant me using it to the max.
At the top of the trail the hill flattens out although there are still a few rise and falls. This was when I started to really work out how to use the bike, you need to keep in a lower gear and flick on the boost to get you over the bump, the weight of the bike is an issue otherwise. But it is an electric bike, it is designed that you use it as such, and it had taken me a while to work that out. Downhill I switched it off, and on the flat it was often off, but any rise and I clicked it back on.
Big hills are child’s play
Now coming back out of Mevagissey was going to be the big test. If anyone knows that hill on the cycle path you know there’s a ‘get off and push’ bit. Well, not this time! I did the whole section. First gear and turbo. I was well chuffed. Cheating? Maybe. Thrilled to have done it? Absolutely.
I continued through St Austell and on over to Eden and there was only one aspect I was unhappy with. This bike is not a mountain bike, it’s not even a hybrid. It doesn’t claim to be but it does mean that some of the rough sections were hard work. The weight and speed of the bike made it skittish on the loose section and the low suspension did little for my seat. The tyres are also better suited to a hard surface. There was only one hill where I felt this was an issue and if I was less happy I could have got off and pushed.
Throughout my journey I got better and better at learning how to make the most of the bike and really enjoyed the experience. I didn’t need to stop once. Every hill was a doodle and I was surprised how quick it all was. Rachel & Andy were amazed to see me back so soon and even gave me a half day’s refund. I also had loads of miles left on my bike.
Electric bikes are for everyone
So to sum it up would I like one for myself? No, but only because I don’t like cycling on roads in Cornwall. If I cycled on roads or hard surfaces a lot then I might consider it.
Would I recommend it? In a heartbeat. It’s great fun and if you are someone who doesn’t want to go cycling because you’re worried about holding everyone else up then this is for you, it will be your turn to wait for them. Electric bike hire allows the whole family to have fun together.
Is it cheating? In response I would have to ask are gears cheating? It’s not cheating at all. It’s a way to offer greater access for people. It requires less effort but some people have less effort to give and this gives them the ability to get on their bike and ride. And I’m all for that.
Finally, if bikes aren’t your thing, how about some of these ideas?
Pentewan to Mevagissey to Eden to Pentewan
Distance: 29.17 miles
Top Speed: 25.1 mph
Average speed: 9.9 mph
Model: Raleigh Motus
Motor: 250w Bosch Active Line
Frame: 46cm or 50cm Alloy Step Through frame – Cream
Forks: Suntour Nex suspension fork 63mm travel
Gears: Nexus 7 speed hub gear
Brakes: Shimano M200 hydraulic disc brakes
Battery: Bosch Power Pack Rack Mount 400Wh (11Ah) – up to 110 Mile from Eco mode*
Weight: 24.5 kg
Pentewan Valley Cycle Hire:
Electric bikes available for hire.
Full Day from £25, Half Day from £15
(Always check ahead to confirm current charges)