E-Bikes – a commuting revelation!

Commuting by bike? Thinking about it? Why not try an electric bike?

Mike Howroyd, from the Sustainability Services, faced a challenging commute from Holmfirth, which is 25 miles away from the University campus! He has explored all public transport options but the distance, cost and childcare duties made this unsuitable so he has spent the last 9 years commuting to the University by car.   

In 2017 Mike wanted to make a change to his usual habits as he explains: “three of my friends were diagnosed with cancer, which prompted me to look at my exercise habits and encouraged me to take better care of my health.” 25 miles is too far on a conventional bike and Mike discovered one of his colleagues was selling their electric bike, so he started thinking about leaving the car at home. “It was mostly a question of health: I wanted to get more exercise but didn’t want it eating into family time, so using my commute to be more active just made sense.” Having never commuted to work on a bike due to distance he wanted a realistic goal for himself, so committed to cycling in for 2 days a week.

Mike started riding in Staff Healthy Week 2018 “ It was hard work at first, but as I got fitter, I used  the electric assistance less and less.” Mike explains how the technology has improved in recent years and he notices a considerable difference from the older e-bikes he’s tried in the past “the electric assistance mimics the rider’s natural effort and pedalling motion, so it doesn’t feel that different from a conventional bike. It gives you just the right amount of help, especially for the last few miles.”

Mike was initially concerned about traffic and cycling provisions on the roads so went to his colleagues at the University Bike Hub, who helped him find a suitable route and kitted him out with lights and protective clothing. “My confidence quickly grew by cycling on the roads, I don’t take risks and I’m happy to get off and cross on foot when required.” Mike also visited the team of mechanics and volunteers down at the Hub who help him maintain his e-bike.

Although Mike cycles a little less during winter, he concludes: “The benefits of riding an electric bike are obvious: I am less dependent on traffic or fuel prices, I am getting some fresh air, so my well-being has improved, and most importantly, I am healthier than I was.”

Mike would encourage others to think about using an electric bike or even give it a go!

Reflecting on his experience, Mike has a couple of further top tips on embarking on a cycle commute:

  • Finding the right route and/or the right time of day to commute is important

 “Some of the roads can be scary, but as you get familiar with it, you build your confidence, and make sure you dismount if you’re unsure”.

  • Lycra is not compulsory!

“When I first started, I felt a bit intimidated by the Lycra-wearers” says Mike. “I’m a stubborn type, but I can see how this can be very intimidating to some. Not all, but a lot tend to ignore me as I ride past with my jeans on, but I’ve got used to this now and accept that this is their problem, not mine.  I was told I was ‘cheating’ at first by some of the more serious riders, but quickly shut them up when I said that I was giving Le Tour a miss this year and am happy in the knowledge that I have taken a car off the road!”

Whatever you wear on your commute, the main thing is to be comfortable and make sure that you stay safe and seen with sufficient lights and reflective clothing, especially in winter months.

If you require advice or support or route planning, cycle safety and security, please see the Active travel page or contact bikehub@leeds.ac.uk

In addition to the new staff Cycle to Work scheme with an increased upper hire limit of up to £3000 to widen access to electric and accessible bikes, University staff can hire e-bikes from the Bike Hub for just £20 a month to discover the benefits for themselves. The four e-bikes were purchased last year after the University received funding from the West Yorkshire Combined Authority. This was part of the Gold Standard Bike Friendly Business accreditation, which the University received in 2017, for the initiatives and support it provides to help the University community cycle to work.

For more information on e-bikes and other cycling support available including regular bike hire and cycle maintenance support for staff and students, please visit the Bike Hub webpage.

Originally Posted on March 11, 2019 and Updated on October 7, 2020.

Posted in Uncategorized