50cycles is the UK's longest-running, most experienced and respected electric bicycle specialist. Since launching back in 2003, thousands of cyclists have felt the first thrill of power-assisted cycling on one of our bikes.
We supply the very best electric bikes with after-sales service and support to match. Our bikes have won races, changed lives, improved health and collected glowing reviews. Best of all, we receive enthusiastic reports from our customers every day.
Kalkhoff International Distributor of the Year 2014
We're proud to be UK distributor for Kalkhoff, the market-leading German e-bike brand. There are now hundreds of thousands of electric bikes bearing the Kalkhoff badge across Europe and beyond. So many are now on British roads that we've been named International Distributor of the Year three times. So how did 50cycles start and what have we achieved over the past decade?
The story so far
2003 50cycles launches with the Honda Step Compo
From the start we chose to only sell the most advanced electric bicycles available. We blazed a trail with our first offering, the Honda Step Compo folding electric bike from Japan. Its compact, futuristic design proved very popular and scores of the little Step Compos are still in use all around the UK.
The business was born out of necessity. One of the founders, Tim, was looking for a better way to travel from his home in North London to the office in Clerkenwell. The Northern Line was overcrowded and unreliable; buses took too long; cycling was fine until the return journey up a very long hill and he didn't have a driving licence.
Something new and different was needed and late one night he glimpsed the little bike to the left from Japan on TV. But how could he get one sent over from Tokyo? Of course! His brother lived and worked out there at the time and could box one up. Maybe a couple of them... perhaps there was a business here? Tim and his brother Scott had been throwing ideas back and forth like this for months, but cool electric bikes really had some mileage.
This early electric folder is still one of the best-designed and best-looking more than a decade later. The first Honda Step Compo we ever imported is still on display in our Loughborough showroom.
2004 First to market with Lithium batteries
We were the first to offer the first electric vehicle of any kind powered by Lithium ion battery technology.
The Panasonic WiLL bike debuted back in 2004 when even Nickel metal hydride batteries were still far from standard in electric bikes. Most were weighed down by lumps of lead acid.
It was the lightest folding electric bike ever, highly portable and able to scamper up hills and cut commutes down to size.
Like the Step Compo, it eventually went out of production and we looked for more powerful bikes, better-suited to the British riders. So in 2004, we began importing a range of twist-and-go electric bikes - the eZee Sprint, eZee Quando folder and similar models.
2006 Winner of the 1st Tour de Presteigne electric bike race
The electric bike scene was growing and changing fast as the bikes and nationwide availability improved. A movement was beginning and one of the first get-togethers was held in the Radnorshire town of Presteigne in May 2006.
The EcoPower Festival saw a small number of exhibitors including Powabyke, Wisper and 50cycles offering the latest e-bikes for test rides. There were talks, laughter and delicious pizzas from a woodburning oven. The theme was alternative transport, green energy and slightly anarchic fun. The weather held and the sun shone down.
The next day saw the event everybody had been waiting for as the organisers cleared Presteigne's streets to stage the world's first electric bike race. A field of around thirty riding production bikes, home-brew contraptions and conversions gathered at the starting line and were sent off at the stroke of 2pm by commentator Ian Marchant.
Narrow streets, tight corners and near misses made it an exciting spectacle. The final few laps were especially hard-fought but David Henshaw of A to B magazine (pictured in the middle) and Ken Ching from manufacturer eZee (to David's right) took 1st and 3rd places riding a pair of Torq electric bikes we'd entered into the race, the fastest production electric bike of its day.
2007 We discover Kalkhoff electric bikes, bring them to the UK
We wanted to push things forward in our fourth year. We knew our bikes should be more reliable, better hill-climbers, safer, more comfortable, better-looking. We searched far and wide but it wasn't until a visit to the IFMA bike show in Cologne that September that we found the answer.
To the left is the bike we saw, photographed moments after we found it, spot-lit on Kalkhoff's stand, well away from the main E-Bike Hall. It was the Kalkhoff Pro Connect and we knew at once that we'd found our new bike. We found the chap in charge, called Uwe, and asked if we could borrow it for a spin around the test track.
It turned out there was no Pro Connect available to test ride but there was a different model using the same motor and battery, but with a step-thru frame and suspension. "Near enough", we thought, and hopped on to see what it was like. Grinning after our ride, we snapped a quick photo of the bike, an early Kalkhoff Agattu, and returned to the stand and start talking about bringing them over to the UK. Within a week or two, the first Kalkhoff Agattus had arrived (we had to wait until the following Spring for the fabled Pro Connects).
It offered an entirely new level of build quality, comfort and performance and changed the UK e-bike market forever by placing centre drive motors (aka crank drives) as the dominant technology. The Agattu all-rounder was quickly followed by the Pro Connect and Tasman bikes, bikes which are now in their sixth and seventh generations.
2008 Kalkhoff International Distributor of the Year
The Kalkhoff range received rave reviews from the start and was quickly noticed by several experts, online pundits, magazines and scores of new owners as the best electric bikes to date. It seemed the British market was ready for something better than the low quality electric bikes arriving by the containerload from the Far East. Something cheaper than the really expensive bikes coming out of Switzerland and the USA. The UK, through 50cycles, became Kalkhoff's strongest export market.
2009 50cycles at the world's first 24-hour electric motocross race
With our electric bike product range firmly established and selling faster than we could import them, we decided to look at the electric motorcycle market.
Electric motorcycles were beginning to show promise, with manufacturers like Zero Motorcycles, Brammo, Mission, Quantya all producing high-powered trail and touring bikes. Lithium batteries meant the bikes were light, nimble, super fast and almost completely silent (which had its pros and cons).
So we travelled over to the Bay Area of California to see for ourselves what was going on. We'd been invited to the world's first 24-hour Electric Motocross race in San José and to visit Zero Motorcycles' factory in Santa Cruz. It was an exhausting but fun trip, with a few twists and turns to the story we'll have to leave for another day.
2010 First showroom opens in Richmond upon Thames
By 2010, the Kalkhoff brand had become well-established with owners in all corners of the UK. We felt the time was right to make our return to London. We knew the Richmond area well, a lot of the early test rides and hill tests had been carried out in Richmond Park. It's a nice place to live and to visit and we opened our first showroom on Hill Rise in May 2010.
The shop had its quirks - an open fire in Winter, lots of dark wood, a garden at the back and usually some musical accompaniement courtesy of Barney, the composer living in the flat above the shop. It was a bit on the small side though, especially as our range of bikes grew and grew.
By the time we finally ran out of space and moved across the borough to Hampton Wick in May 2012, hundreds of Londoners had taken their first electric bike ride up Richmond Hill and into the Park, so we've fond memories of TW10.
2011 Kalkhoff International Distributor of the Year
With thousands of their electric bikes on the road in the UK and boosted by Kalkhoff's product development and leapfrogging battery capacities, we picked up our favourite award once again.
2012 Impulse motor and our second showroom opens in Hampton Wick
All change in 2012 - new motor systems, new models, new showroom and a London 2012 boost as Olympic cyclists charged past our shop in Hampton Wick that memorable Summer.
Spring 2014 Impulse 2.0 and Shoreham-by-Sea opening
Kalkhoff updated their motor system with more power, proper displays and the largest battery capacity on the market. We also opened our third showroom near Brighton & Hove in the lively coastal town of Shoreham-by-Sea.
Summer 2014 Bristol opening & Kalkhoff International Distributor of the Year again
Our fourth and largest showroom opened in the centre of Bristol shortly after our Sussex branch. A few weeks later we picked up the International Distributor of the Year title for the third time.
Summer 2015 New London showroom opens
We moved across the Borough of Richmond from Hampton Wick to East Sheen in May 2015, putting Richmond Park on our doorstep once again - great for test rides and easier to reach from all parts of London. The popularity of our bikes hit new highs, with monthly sales in 2015 smashing previous records.
Spring 2016 New headquarters in Loughborough opens
We didn't move far, but our new base in Loughborough goes all the way to meeting our warehouse, showroom, workshop and office needs. Finally, 50cycles has the home we and our customers deserve.
August 2016 E-bikes from Giant, Raleigh, Winora, Scott
Having established Kalkhoff as one of the best-known e-bike brands we took on a wider range of models from big names like Raleigh, Scott, Giant, Winora, Haibike. We're now by far the best one-stop shop for electric bikes of every type.
Why choose our electric bikes?
Our bikes prove that high-quality, high-performance electric cycling is something everyone can enjoy. Just think of the benefits of riding an electrically-assisted bicycle: it's good for the environment, it's a great way to get out of your car or off public transport and it provides exercise, independence and exhilaration all at the same time. We can help you join the fastest-growing and most exciting movement around.
Electric bicycles have the power to make cycling make sense
Why 50cycles though? 50 cycles (or 50 Hertz) is the frequency of alternating current used in UK mains electricity.
The Electric Bike Effect
I cycled in this morning and cut half an hour off my commute time. Absolutely adore the bike. Arrived at work bursting with happiness! Thanks hugely it really is a wonderful piece of kit - dare I say it, even better than the hype!! Very satisfied customer.
From Ian in London Kalkhoff Pro Connect S owner