We all remember pedal cycles from our youth. The very first sit-on bikes in the early 19th century had no pedals or chains. The later pedal penny-farthing is a popular Victorian image - the big bikes are known for sending wary pedestrians and animals scattering.
But it was the invention of the Rover safety bike which laid the foundations for modern bikes. Additional features such as brakes, sprung saddles and pneumatic tyres brought us into the twentieth century when British brands like Raleigh were dominant.
Fast forward to the 1960s and features we still see today, like small-wheel models (pioneered by Alex Moulton) and folding bikes (like Brompton) became popular, whilst the trendy Raleigh Chopper of the 1970s warmed many youngsters hearts.
Yes, they were all lighter and more technically advanced than their forebears, but all relied exclusively on pedal power. Cycles became a ubiquitous and cheap form of personal transport – as Katie Melua reminded us, there are nine million bicycles in Beijing – and mass production moved to the Far East, leaving only the specialist builders and the designers in the west.
In the twenty-first century, cycling as a sport, the popularity of velodrome events and of Team Sky have made many sports cyclists household names and aspirational figures.
Whether it was Chris Boardman with ground-breaking carbon fibre frames, Chris Froome in the Tour de France, or Victoria Pendleton in the velodrome, cycling has seen a resurgence both as a global sport and a leisure activity.
Ultimately, you get what you pay for. Bikes under £1000 will have less powerful batteries, less well-known components, front hub motors and perhaps a shorter guarantee. More expensive bikes will generally be better equipped and finished, have easy-charge batteries with a greater range and a crank-mounted motor which gives better weight distribution to enhance the ride. For under £2000 you can get a superb bike. Interest-free offers are plentiful and, if you are employed, you are eligible for the government-sponsored cycle-to-work scheme.
On the downside, be aware of the following. Only a few insurers will insure an e-bike as part of your home contents insurance. Given its high value, your bike is likely to be a target for thieves – so always lock your bike and remove any clip-on trip computer.
Think about how you are going to use your bike. If you intend transporting it by car to a particular destination, will it fit? The extra weight (and frame size) may preclude placing it in the vehicle or using a rear strap-on carrier, or make it too heavy to lift safely on to a roof-mounted carrier. So a tow-bar fitment may be the only option.
Recent years’ mild winters have seen e-bikes rise in popularity as Christmas presents – just make sure that Santa doesn’t scratch it coming down the chimney.
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