“It’s easier to travel further and faster on an e-bike – who can argue with that?” says James FitzGerald, and it’s hard to disagree with him. Since founding Justebikes in Suffolk six years ago, a business specialising in the sale of high quality Dutch electrically-assisted bikes, James has seen interest in this 21st Century form of personal transport soar and has recently opened the first of three central London stores at 318 Portobello Road.
Electric bikes are just like manual bikes – you have to pedal – but as you cycle they sense the amount of pressure you put on the pedals and provide electrical assistance accordingly. It’s just like riding a manual bike but instead of huffing and puffing up hills and into headwinds you whiz along feeling like you’ve got bionic legs!
Although very popular in Europe – about 360,000 were sold last year in Germany alone and there are over a million of the things speeding around Holland today – it is only recently that e-bikes have started to catch on in the UK. But James believes they could have a real impact on the way we travel, our health, our environment and particularly in London, our wallets and stress levels.
He says: “Moving from rural Suffolk it was a real shock to see how much time and aggravation goes into managing car use in the capital; I reckon at least 20% of Londoners’ brain-power (and too much of their hard earned cash!) is taken up dealing with the raft of regulations and costs associated with car use in London. Imagine how much more pleasant life would be for individuals, and how much more efficient businesses would be without these burdens. The great thing about e-bikes is that as far as the law is concerned they’re bicycles – you don’t need a licence, insurance, or to pay any road tax or congestion charge, and just like a manual bike you can park anywhere for free.
“E-bikes are great for cycling in and around the city, as the power assistance they give means you can go faster and get to your destination quicker, as well as taking less effort so the rider can get to their destination still looking relaxed and unruffled – no need for a shower or change of clothes on arrival!”
They’re also safer in the city than manual bikes because the added power means that instead of being beleaguered by other vehicles as the traffic lights go green, e-bike riders can outaccelerate the cars and busses and are away and free to cycle in un-contested road space.
The bikes are also more secure than traditional cycles, featuring built-in electronic immobilisers that can only be unlocked by the owner, meaning that thefts are extremely rare indeed. In fact, since James opened the first Justebikes shop six years ago, only one customer bike has been stolen, and even that was recovered quickly once the thieves realised it was unusable when immobilised. They dumped it in a ditch and the police were able to trace the owner easily via the frame number and return it to the owner’s Islington house the next day.
It is a range of benefits that are proving to be very attractive to buyers. And that’s even before the low running costs are taken into account. “These Dutch e-bikes are so economical; by our reckoning a rider can travel around 960 miles for the price of a first-class stamp,” says James, “and that’s pretty good value in anyone’s book.”
“Portobello Road is the ideal location for us,” he continues. “We found that more and more of the customers at our Suffolk shop were coming from this part of London, so it made perfect sense to open up here when we were looking for a second store. It’s a fantastic place to work, a really vibrant area, and to top it all with the help of an e-bike I can be in Oxford Street in under eight minutes – they’re the quickest and cheapest way to get around town by miles. Need I say more?”
For those that are interested in an e-bike and fancy giving one a test drive, visit Justebikes at 318 Portobello Road, or call 020 8960 9848 for more information.