What about the cost –

How much should I pay, and how might I finance it?

Note this current initiative: making-cycling-e-asier is an exciting scheme funded by the Department for Transport and run by Cycling UK and partners.

This fantastic scheme gives you free access to try and ride sessions or long-term e-cycles loans. You can choose from a wide range of electric cycles to meet your needs, including adapted e-cycles and cargo bikes. Enjoy loans from top brands, as well as expert support and training, so you can make e-cycling a regular part of your daily life. 

They’re available to book online or face-to-face in five pilot locations: including Sheffield.

Loans of e-cycles like this will, we hope, enable people who don’t usually cycle to try it for their work commute, for shopping trips and local journeys. 

Thanks to their accessibility, e-cycles have the potential to help us all escape from the bind of car use, and even car ownership, and may help reduce the pollution in our towns and cities that is impacting all of us.

The vast majority of our car journeys are under 5 miles, a manageable distance on an e-cycle (even with hills!), even for someone new to cycling. 

E-cycling is of course still cycling – it has all the benefits for our physical and mental health of getting more regular exercise in the great outdoors and can also replace short car journeys with fun rides.

Experience suggests that nowadays to get even a very basic e-bike for light commute/leisure/local shopping duties in and around hilly Sheffield you will need to spend a minimum of around £1500. Anything cheaper will be inadequate or unreliable.

However if you are buying a bike at this super budget price point you should only go for a ‘known’ UK based supplier that has carefully considered and assembled the necessarily low cost parts and can offer genuine post purchase support. Examples include e-bikes in the Halfords range, and Woosh and Kudos brands.

To get a higher quality e-bike that will comfortably and reliably cope with heavier daily utility use or longer leisure rides you should spend £2000 – £3500. This will get you a more natural feeling and efficient Mid drive machine that will have the power, gears and battery capacity for properly relaxed, reliable long term usage around Sheffield and beyond, and with more oomph for utility work around hilly Sheffield. This is particularly important if you are heavy yourself, and/or loading up with stuff. 

Yes – that sounds a lot for ‘a bicycle’, but don’t switch off here – we really need now to be thinking of e-bikes in the same ‘transportation costs’ bracket as cars, buses, taxis etc, rather than relative to ‘normal’ (unassisted) bikes. 

An e-bike can replace a car – not another conventional bicycle!

Once you have committed to purchasing an e-bike, get the highest spec you can, even if it means a stretch money wise. 

Why? – because once people realise how much fun and how convenient it is  find ttheyhemselves using it more than they thought, and perhaps then wanting to increase their bikes’ capabilities and range. Unfortunately, to then upgrade the gearing or battery size on your existing e-bike can be prohibitively expensive, so it is best to get that wider gearing (for easier hills) or larger battery (for greater range) by buying a higher spec model at the point of purchase! 

(Note: You can’t increase the original level of motor power of an existing e-bike – legally.)

Just as with ordinary bikes, you should avoid cheaper/unbranded ones. They tend to be underpowered, hard to ride, hard to get parts/service and (usually the electrics) will let you down and it will end up abandoned in the shed. 

Whilst day to day running costs are miniscule compared to a vehicle, this is a significant initial outlay, so maybe have a spin at a trail centre to see how an e-bike feels, or borrow one for a trial period through the Govt/Council funded Cycleboost  scheme. Hire one from a local bike shop to see if it meets your needs (see list below), or or get together with family, friends or neighbours and buy shares in a ‘multi-user’ one.   

If you decide to buy and want to spread the costs so as to afford a good model, check out dealers and retailers payment schemes (sometimes 0%)

Some organisations like cyclinguk  and britishcycling have discount agreements with retailers like Halfords.

Check if your employer has signed up one of  the Govt funded Cycle to Work (C2W) scheme providers. To get a bike (and accessories) on the scheme, your employer needs to have signed up to a provider. These include independent ‘middlemen’ like  Cycle Scheme , or retailers like Evans Cycles’ Ride to Work scheme (other retailers also offer the scheme), or now direct to the manufacturer, like the Electric Bike Access scheme from the owners of Raleigh/Haibike and Lapierre brands. Employers can also sign up to schemes with longer payments times as well as high limits, such as the  greencommuteinitiative .

If you’re self-employed, you can make use of the scheme if you’re set up in a way which means you’re technically employed by your own limited company. Alternatively, you can buy the bike and claim the VAT back via the business.

The C2W scheme has worked really well for promoting the use of unpowered bikes, and some schemes have recently removed the old £1000 upper limit. This makes the purchase of a good quality e-bike or one of the more costly cargo style bikes a reality. 

Note: C2W is a ‘Salary sacrifice’ scheme, meaning monthly payments are taken from your pay before tax is deducted, which benefits you to the tune of 32 – 42% reduction in the bikes RRP, depending which side of £50k salary you are. It also benefits your employer through reduced NI payments. One less attractive implication is that any benefits you have that might be salary based may be reduced proportionately in accordance with the amount being ‘sacrificed’ monthly as bike payment. For example this author was unexpectedly lucky enough to be offered early retirement during the payment period, however his final salary based pension was reduced proportionately, for ever ….

Full details on all this can be found in the very clear Gov doc here 

Whilst the scheme also has the attraction of reducing the hassle of choosing and buying an e-bike to a minimum, if you are prepared to put in some time yourself you will have a wider choice, and currently you may well find a model to suit you at an overall discount similar to that this scheme offers

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