50cycles has been supplying electric bikes at the Glastonbury Festival for over twelve years.
We donated a single bike for Lucy, the Festival’s Green Initiatives Coordinator, to use in 2007.
We also hosted a World of Electric Bikes tent that year as a way to introduce e-bike technology to a new audience.
We had a great spot in the Green Field area but 2007 was a challenging year as the site was soon awash with mud and lashed by rain.
However, our fleet of electric bikes made getting around the site relatively easy (though hilariously dirty).
Since then we’ve supplied much larger numbers of e-bikes to the team, around two dozen annually.
They play a vital role by boosting the mobility of the Festival organisers, particularly the Markets Team who need to make frequent trips across the site.
Why are electric bikes so useful on a site like this?
The Glastonbury site is a working dairy farm for most of the year. It’s located in a valley in Somerset and crisscrossed with tracks and some formidable hills to the north and south. Far from ideal cycling country and, until 50cycles came along, Land Rovers were the best means of getting around.
But Land Rovers are relatively expensive, noisy, large, polluting and demanding beasts. When the site is at its busiest, they’re a hazard to festival goers and have to proceed at a slow walking pace most of the time.
Electric bikes, on the other hand, bring many advantages. They take up little space, either out on the road or when parked. They’re as good as silent (and less likely to wake sleeping campers or interrupt performances). They minimise damage to tracks and turf. They emit no fumes at all but can still carry or tow fairly heavy loads.
Their stealthy nature also means they have more specialist festival applications than transporting goods or people from one place to another.
What’s it like to ride an e-bike inside the Glastonbury Festival?
It is, on the whole, brilliant.
There are times and places when your common sense will tell you not to ride. I wouldn’t ride my bike anywhere near the main stages at performance times. Too many people milling around means you’ll just make a nuisance of yourself and get nowhere.
But, outside of those areas and times, there is no better way to get around a Festival site.
Saturday afternoon saw temperatures heading towards 35 degrees and everybody was reduced to finding shade and water. Walking around the site was exhausting. But I was able to go to the places I needed to go with minimal effort and was cooled by the air as I went.
What really helped at this and all the previous festivals I’ve used an e-bike was access to the backstage hospitality area. We would ride from the campsite, dismount to get through security and then park our bikes in a quiet corner of this oasis of calm and refreshment in the centre of the site. Once the bike was locked up here it was easy to walk to any location in a few minutes.
We also parked our bikes in the Green Field area a little further into the site on one occasion.
Another time our e-bikes came into their own was at the beginning and end. Carrying camping equipment into and out of the site was no bother at all. This is usually the really hard part of any Festival.
Being laden down with bags, tents and supplies, then finding a suitable spot to pitch your tent, can be gruelling. It’s ridiculously easy with an e-bike.
Most festival-goers rely on backpacks or makeshift trolleys with tiny wheels that are forever getting stuck or going wonky. Electric bike camping, at a Festival or elsewhere, is very rewarding. You can haul more weight, more easily, than is possible on foot or even a pedal cycle.
So I can only recommend riding an e-bike in a festival like Glastonbury, if you can get away with it. I lost count of the number of times I overheard “that’s a good idea” or “I wish we had one of those” or “look, it’s one of those electric bikes, cool”.
I have to admit, in previous years, not all the comments were positive, but this year there wasn’t a single snide remark from anyone we passed by. Maybe all the sunshine and lack of mud made everyone more inclined to live and let live?
So having an e-bike only makes what is usually a fun though often tiring experience even better. They’re never going to be commonplace at Glastonbury or any other festival, but, to paraphrase Wordsworth:
Bliss it was in that dawn to be alive
But to ride an e-bike was very heaven!
Which e-bikes are best for event support?
First thing on the wish list is suspension. You wouldn’t want to ride any bicycle with rigid forks, seatpost and a hard saddle over bumpy ground for very long.
All-road or offroad tyres are preferable too, especially if the weather turns. Smooth tyres will spin uselessly in mud and even slip from under you on wet grass.
It’s best to have lights and a bell or horn for riding in crowds or at night.
And whatever the conditions, even in an arid location, a useful range and motor that will tackle hills are essential. We would recommend at least 500Wh of battery power and 75Nm of torque, with a good range of gears.
A battery of that capacity will easily see you through a three or four-day Festival. Its motor will be powerful enough for any hills you’ll encounter – though the more power, the better, of course.
E-bikes with small wheels and city tyres will be limited in where they can go. And a £5,000 Carbon-framed e-Mountain Bike with top spec gears, suspension and motor is overdoing it, unless only the best will do!
It’s easy to add a trailer, child seat or extra luggage carriers to an ebike. They make hauling extra loads very easy and this is what makes them viable replacements for Land Rovers and other All Terrain Vehicles.
We spotted a couple of our bikes pulling child trailers doing the rounds at this year’s Glastonbury Festival. On closer inspection, were loaded with food, drinks and merchandise.
The bike we found most useful this year (and the one we recommend to festival and events organisers) is the BH AWD 27.5″ Plus Pro Big Bud. AWD stands for All Wheel Drive and this model has plus-sized (extra wide) 27.5″ tyres.
There’s also a more slimline version available, the BH EVO AWD – 29 LITE picture below.
Having a motor in both wheels is a revelation in tricky conditions – this year, they worked beautifully on loose wood chips, dust and gravel, most years mud, wet grass and puddles. It also has double the power of most electric bikes, so hills, heavy loads and a tired rider are no problem at all.
The yellow colour-scheme makes it highly visible – perfect for police, paramedic and security personnel.
We only have a limited number of these bikes allocated to us for the rest of the season, so if you’re a festival organiser, a security contractor or in the emergency services you need to move quickly to add these terrifically capable e-bikes to your event support fleet.
Future roles for e-bikes at festivals
At the moment Glastonbury Festival are pretty relaxed about a handful of e-bikes in use during the Festival. However, we expect they would clamp down pretty quickly if hundreds or thousands of people decided to cycle around the site instead.
Most people arriving at the Festival by bicycle are warmly welcomed but invited to park their bike in secure lock-ups just outside the perimeter. So you’ll see the odd pedal cycle in and around the event, but never convoys of them.
Who should use electric bikes at large outdoor events?
Bicycles have long had a presence at outdoor events. It’s common to find police cycle patrols and paramedics riding bikes, but they’re not using electric bikes… yet.
E-bikes provide unique benefits for people who do need to get around quickly, quietly and safely, whatever the terrain.
For personnel who need to cycle carrying bulky equipment – paramedics come to mind – or who need to respond rapidly to incidents – like police and security teams – they will prove indispensable in future.
NOWHERE on a large site is out of bounds or more than a few minutes away on an electric bicycle. Their use is sure to increase from now on as word spreads.
If you or your staff need to affordable, reliable and sustainable transport at a festival or any other large scale outdoor event, you need e-bikes in your fleet. You’ll come to depend on them, like we and the Glastonbury Festival organisers did this year.
Call us on 0333 900 5050 or use our Contact page to get in touch so we can discuss your requirement.