Riding to School on an Electric Bike
There are kids electric bikes now?
Electric bikes have long been popular with older riders, people who would otherwise write off cycling but find that electric bikes are a great way to get around.
But what about cyclists at the other end of the age scale? Why would a child want to ride an electric bike? Do kids electric bikes even exist? Should they?
You could argue electric bikes for kids remove the benefits of cycling - getting exercise, building independence, learning how bicycles work. Yes, yes, and yes... perhaps. But not all children are the same. Nor is everywhere flat and well-served by cycle routes. And some parents already own electric bikes that would leave their kids straggling on longer family rides.
Our part of East Sussex has a mix of absolutely level coastal land and enormously hilly Downs. Towns and villages cluster in valleys, or Deans, that run down to the sea. Progress anywhere other than towards the coast or along the seafront is hampered by rolling hills. It is beautiful but those picturesque rolling hills also makes cycling a challenge. It's a super place to cycle if you're fit and competitive, less so if you're not as strong or need to tackle the same route every day and arrive ready to thrive at school.
Electric bikes for the school run
My son moved to a new school much closer to home this term. A daily cycle ride to school suddenly became a possibility... until we found that an enormous hill (a 200-foot climb in less than half a mile) is plonked between here and there.
The shortest route is a couple of miles, half of it along a steep, rutted, flint-strewn public byway. It's mainly used by dog-walkers and horse riders, with only the occasional off-road mountain biker tackling it on two wheels. Few pupils cycle to school and none at all from our village.
None at all until we decided to use it as a short cut to school on a kids electric bike.
A brilliant kids electric bike already exists
I'd seen a kids electric bike, an e-bike specifically designed for children, at Haibike's show in Schweinfurt back in July. It's designed for kids who are 8 years or older, perfect for my son's needs.
A few weeks ago I took the plunge and he's now riding a 2016 Haibike HardFour RX with Yamaha PW motor, 400Wh battery pack and 9-speed Acera gears. It has proper knobbly all-terrain tyres, an easy-to-use control panel on the handlebars and really effective disk brakes.
The battery can be charged on the bike or unlocked and charged separately.This model has three assistance modes, a speedo and limited power that keeps the top speed around 12mph. It's light enough for him to pick up, hop on and ride into the distance without any trouble.
He's found that hills, headwinds and flinty tracks are no obstacle, so he arrives to school invigorated and awake, not tired and sweaty. He loves it.
If I had one concern I suppose it was security. Where would the bike spend the school day? Fortunately his school has a locked bike shed by the school gate. I also lock it to a stand inside for good measure.
So now we're cycling to school every day. The weather has been fine so far, but wind and rain will come and we'll both have to invest in mudguards, lights, waterproof trousers. We're both enjoying our twice-daily rides so much it's become part of our routine. The other kids think it's a cool-looking bike and admire the way the electrics are stealthily integrated into the frame. This Haibike has a strong overall look. It clearly means business but is a lot of fun too.
On a good day, driving to school can take less than 10 minutes, but it also leaves us at the mercy of the congestion that dogs the coast road and then finding somewhere to park and walking the last few hundred metres. On a kids e-bike, you can ride right up to the school gate.
Riding a kids electric bike to school is almost unheard of in the UK. The bike for the job simply has not existed until this season and Haibike's unprecedented innovation.
So, now we have the choice we can cycle to school, walk in or drive. It really is no contest. If you find the journey to school a chore a kids electric bike has the power to turn every morning into the best kind of adventure. What better way to start and end your child's school day?
Electric bikes for recreational rides
Going the distance
Cycling as transport, not treat or chore