Learning to Ride a Bike Again and the Art of e-Bike Battery Preservation

There is a well worn saying that goes something like ‘once learnt you never forget to ride a bike’.

As a keen cyclist for 50-plus years I guess, without ever actually having thought about it, I have always subscribed to that theory.

After all, riding a bike is so easy, isn’t it? You get on, turn the pedals and off you go.

But one week and 553 kilometres into the e-Bike Cycle Tourists’ attempt to set a new e-bike long distance record of in excess of 16,000kms, I have at times found myself questioning my riding ability and am slowly learning to ride a bike again.

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Rachel clocking up the kilometres

Why? Because riding our Haibike e-bikes economically while towing 30-plus kilograms of gear is so far removed from any cycling I have ever previously done.

Sure, I have completed long distance self-contained cycle tours in the past while carrying all of my worldly possessions, but that was on a conventional human-only powered bicycle.

But as I have very quickly discovered, cycle touring on an e-bike is a totally different experience – because at every turn of the pedals you are conscious of having to preserve your precious battery power at all costs.

At this point it is time for a quick recap of the subject of a previous blog.

Rather than having to rely on finding mains electricity every day to recharge our e-bike batteries while on tour, a considerable amount of time and effort was spent on trying to find someone capable of supplying a solar charging system.

But unfortunately due to a host of problems associated with the complexities of our Bosch e-bike system, this was not possible.

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We have been following the UK National Cycle Route network mainly on routes 2, 4 and 33

With a solar system therefore ruled out, the possibility of using a solar generator was also considered, however this was quickly ruled out for a host of reasons.

So, after much deliberation, it was decided to go with a petrol powered generator. At least that was the decision before the 10.5kg weight of the generator, plus the weight of all of the other gear we are carrying was taken into account.

To cut a very long story short, the total load to be carried was too heavy – and too dangerous to tow on our Tout Terrain cycle trailers.

So what to do? We have decided to do what we didn’t want to do from day one and will have to find a mains electricity hook up every day.

And that is where the subject of having to learn to ride a bike all over again comes in.

With one week of experience under our belts we have achieved a 60 to 66 kilometre range per battery charge towing 30-plus kg of gear over undulating country – and the only way to further improve that figure is to cycle conservatively.

So where I have always enjoyed pushing hard at every opportunity to test myself against hills, headwinds and, I guess, myself, now I find that I have to pick the gear with the least resistance and ‘eco’ mode as often as possible and have to just spin the pedals.

I have learnt that you preserve battery power better by coasting downhill rather than pedalling, by pushing the pedals lightly and, most importantly, working the gears as often as possible to make sure you are always in the optimum gear.

So despite having so much power available in ‘sport’ and ‘turbo’ modes, my new-found riding style centres around how to stay as often as possible in ‘eco’ mode with the odd foray into ‘tour’ mode on the most demanding of hills.

So don’t for one minute think we are coasting around getting a free ride or are “cheating” as more than one person we have met has suggested. The fact of the matter is that we are working hard for every kilometre, but absolutely love the challenge.

While personally I will admit to the fact that this style of riding is very different to what I am used to, as the saying goes, “it is never too late to teach an old dog new tricks”.

What having to rely on finding mains electricity all the time has meant is that we are making many, many more new friends as we ask, beg, pay and search for suitable electricity outlets.

One week down and no problems so far, let’s just hope that this continues to be the case.

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