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Our New Car is a ..... Bike

Updated: Mar 11, 2022

Our new car!

For many years I was an antiquarian book-dealer, which involved driving all over the country buying books that I subsequently shipped all over the world. When I became an acupuncturist part of what I wanted was a practice that was really embedded in my local community and one of my ideas for making that a reality was that I’d only work from clinics within cycling distance of my home. So when the lockdown eased last spring the family and I headed up to Nailsworth, to Edemo Bikes, to have a look at some electric bikes (I’m getting older and thought I could do with some help). I had done some research and had a bike in mind, a bike that I thought would meet my needs fairly well. What we ended up with was something very different, something more versatile, something that all of us can use, whether to do the shopping, the school run, or even getting me to clinic. A bike for all the family!

When we got to Edemo, Dan, the owner, wheeled out a few bikes for us to try. We tried the conventional looking bike I’d had in mind and I asked lots of sensible questions about whether it would get me and my kit where I needed to go. Then we tried out an E-Cargo bike or two. We put the kids in the front cargo area and rode up a hill and back – it was easy. We realised that while not as nimble as a conventional bike they weren’t that unwieldy (unless you need to lift them) – they’re surprisingly stable and the turning circle isn’t awful once one gets used to the bike (takes about 3 minutes). With a bike like this we could build some much needed exercise into our daily routine rather than trying to squeeze it in around that routine. And we realised that an E-Cargo bike made giving up a car a very real possibility, an idea that both my partner and I really liked. So we went away to have a think about it.

A belt drive is maintenance free

There’s no getting away from it, a bike like this isn’t cheap. Even the entry level options were a bit above what I’d had in my mind when we drove up to Nailsworth. But the entry level options didn’t have everything we wanted. If we were going to replace a car with this it wanted to be as maintenance free as possible, so we added a Gates belt-drive and Envolio hub gears to the spec. That increased the up-front cost but we figured that that would be more than offset by savings in maintenance costs over the lifetime of the bike. If we were going to use it for the school run then we needed an appropriate rain cover for the cargo area and then we added a rear rack so that we can still carry stuff even when the front is full of kids. And its hilly round here so we went for the more powerful Bosch Cargoline motor which gives upto 400% assist. Lastly we added a second battery which ensures we’ve plenty of range. Then we looked at the cost and swallowed hard.

The truth was that if we went ahead with this it was going to be one of the most expensive vehicles either my partner or I had ever bought. That might not be saying that much because neither of us is really that interested in cars except in a purely utilitarian way, but its still not a cheap bike. So we got a pen and paper out and started doing some figures. My car needed replacing anyway so that was a cost that could go against the cost of a cargo bike. Then the cost of fuel, insurance (actually not much saving there), maintenance costs, tax and when we added it all up we figured that the E-Cargo bike would pay back in about 3 years. It didn’t look so bad. We bit the bullet. Phoned Dan. Ordered the bike and got a delivery date for September. Well we’d hoped for sooner but what can you do? Then September came and it was delayed due to supply chain issues related to Covid. We got another date, early December, which didn’t feel like an ideal time to give up a car but then there were more delays and here we are 10 months after we ordered our bike and its finally here – just in time for spring.

Now we have it I find it hard not to feel smug because, as the price of fuel rockets upward propelled by the war in Ukraine, the payback time looks better now than it did a year ago. And perhaps we did get lucky with our timing but the truth is both my partner and I had wanted to get rid of a car for quite some time. My partner is a bit more optimistic than me and wanted to reduce our carbon footprint. I on the other hand am a bit of a ‘Doomer’. I was reading about ‘Peak Oil’ twenty years ago and while many of the predictions being made back then haven’t proved correct, the idea that we could use ever more of a finite resource like oil, using more than we discover year after year, using the easy to find and cheapest resources first and fastest, and not end up with rapidly rising prices seemed ridiculous. So I’ve always assumed that at some point fuel prices would start rapidly increasing. Nate Hagens, an academic who studies the role of energy in our society, suggests that we’ve become blind to the central role which energy plays in every area of our lives, not just transport and heating, but food production, construction, entertainment, communications, the internet and on and on and on. There’s little we do that doesn’t have fossil fuels embedded deep within it and the current crisis is starting to shine a very bright spotlight on that fact. Of course I could be completely wrong about this and the oil price may well slide back to more familiar levels.

Well even if it does we’ll still have a bike that’s practical, fun to ride, provides both my partner and I with some exercise and saves us a bit of money. The kids are a year older and a year bigger than when we ordered the bike and its a tight fit if they’re both in the front, but suddenly they can’t wait to get out the door and on their way to school. What’s not to like?

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