For the first time in nearly five years, we are a bikeless household. No, we haven’t abandoned life on two wheels – it’s just that our two old faithful Raleighs went in less than a day on Gumtree (note to self: ask more next time) and our replacement eBikes have been delayed a week. Yes, you read that correctly. We hired eBikes for a day on holiday in Austria two years ago. It was amazing – pedalling effortlessly up (for us) impossibly steep slopes, happily overtaking superfit Lycra clad ‘serious’ bikers (as I don’t speak German I don’t know what they were calling out as we sailed past. Possibly ‘Vorsprung Durch Technik’?).
Anyway, we have decided to take the plunge and move to eBikes. If you haven’t heard of them, you ride them just like conventional bikes, but if the going gets tough (uphill) then clever electronics progressively kicks in an electric motor to help things along (more info on this site). Most eBikes are designed so you don’t need tax, insurance, etc., and to comply with legislation the bikes are limited by their electronics so the power assist stops at 25 kph (15.5 mph).
There is a bewildering range on the market, not helped by the fact that we are coming to the end of the ‘bike year’ (from 1st October) and dealers can tempt punters with all sorts of wonderful new features on 2016 models (or sell off 2015 models at discounted prices).
What amused me most was the increasing emphasis on software. Connect your bike’s control system to your smartphone via bluetooth and you’re at the mercy of wacky software designers. For example: key your desired heart rate into an app, and the bike will provide the right mix of power assist / gear changing to ensure the old ticker keeps pumping at precisely the desired rate.
However, as an ageing IT guy, what really caught my eye on one manufacturer’s specifications was “a service interface through which software updates can be applied to your bike“. Now, I will give it two weeks’ maximum before hackers crack that interface, and start posting software “updates” on the web. First target? well, there’s that annoying 25 kph restriction for a start…