First ride on an electric bike… !!
The last few weeks of summer saw some dry, sunny days, in between the rain, and we had been chomping at the bit to try the electric bikes that are now available for hire all along the award-winning Bay Cycle Way.
We have a different relationship with e-bikes in the UK to our European friends. They are everywhere in Europe and viewed as a serious mode of transport for thousands of people.
Over here they are relatively new, and sometimes viewed as something for the old or the infirm or a way of ‘cheating’. We all want to get outside and keep fit, and as someone who rides a ‘normal’ bike on shortish bike rides, I thought it would be interesting to try them out, and see what kind of exercise and experience they provide.
The great thing about them is they look and feel like a normal bike (slightly heavier) – you still have to pedal; and you can choose how much ‘oomph’ you give yourself going up a hill.
The battery lasts for between 40-50 miles, depending on how much power you use. If you’re working in ‘Eco’ or ‘Tour’ setting most of the time, then its you that is powering the bike, not the battery. You can just save your ‘Sport’ and ‘Turbo’ settings for that big hill that’s on the horizon…
First stop was at Witherslack Cycle Barn – you turn just off the A590 towards Beck Head and Mill Side, up through the country lanes, over the duck pond, and the Barn.
Steph & Rick Fry are in the middle of renovating a fantastic old barn, converting it into a Bunk House – for cyclists, walkers and anyone who’s passing! The work is progressing well and will have family rooms, rooms for couples & bunk accommodation, due to open at the end of the year.
We picked up a couple of bikes from here, checked out the map and set off for the afternoon. Cycling around the Lakes has sometimes been a bit daunting, in case I run out of steam, or can’t get up the hills around here, and my friend hadn’t been on a bike for 3 years, so it was good for her to get her confidence back again.
Steph’s guidance helped us get started and the operation of the bike was simple. We even filled a pannier with lunch, drinks and waterproof coats. We turned north up the quiet lanes for a circuit into the Crosthwaite and Lythe valley. Heading past Witherslack School, under Whitbarrow Scar we hardly saw a soul.
We were up hill and down dale, past lovely houses and farms, with great views all around.
A lunchstop at the Black Labrador in Underbarrow was a great place to sit outside in the sunshine.
Another great stop would be the Wheatsheaf at Brigsteer, with lots of outside seating too. We then cycled right across the Lythe Valley road with spectacular views all around.
Meandering down toward the coast, we joined up with the Cycle Way again, and went under the bypass, had a cycle towards Meathop, and then returned back to base.
We loved the freedom and exhilaration of being outside for 3 hours+ not concerned about getting tired or dreading the cycle back in charge of our own freedom; we couldn’t stop smiling!
We then had a quick tour around the work going on at the Cycle Barn/ Bunkhouse – it’s going to be a fantastic resting place for cyclists, walkers or generally weary travellers.
A few days later, it was a glorious summers evening, and we headed off up to Lowick, near Coniston to meet John Sutcliffe who owns Lake District Bike Hire. We selected our bikes –two different types – chunkier ‘mountain’ bike style, and headed off around Coniston Water.
What a perfect night for it – lots of bikers were out, people were kayaking and picnicking by the waters’ edge and it was a great atmosphere. Even the lycra-clad adrenaline junkies bombing past us on their mountain bikes were friendly and laughed when at one point we were overtaking them on a hill.
We rode up to the head of the Lake, by Monk Coniston, passing Brantwood and café on the way, (good brew stop) Heading into Coniston village were lots of choices of places to stop for a drink and food.
The sun was setting so we headed back around the lakeshore again, with lots of childish squealing as we went up and down hills with great delight.
Our third trip out was from the fascinating Gleaston Watermill, just outside Ulverston. Again, great weather, and the sloping fields leading to the sea ahead felt incredibly pastoral, and almost like Devon rather than Cumbria.
Mike & Vicky run Gleaston as a quirky visitor attraction with watermill, shop selling all things to do with pigs, (in the old, piggery now painted bright pink!) There’s a nice café with good cake and drinks.
They also have a holiday cottage below a brook, which runs through the bottom of the garden.
We had tea and cake sitting outside before we headed off – giving us a sugar boost to help on the journey.
Off we went, cycling with Mike leading the way first stop up to the spectacular Birkrigg common- and its mysterious stone circle, overlooking the whole of the Bay below.
There was even some guerilla art that had appeared in the car park – a modern sculpture of a surfer, in what looked like papier mache on a frame..
We had a drink and a sandwich here, and talked to a few of the locals who had different theories about the use of the circle – thoughts that it was a trading station form amongst other things, stone axes, brought from the Langdale valley.
We set off downhill and then ended up on the Coast Road, where there was time for a quick ice-cream on the front and then back again.
Another successful e-bike ride and we are all converts! A couple of us hadn’t cycled for years but soon got the hang of the gears and the electric system, and came away absolutely buzzing about it, and having spent a good few hours in the outdoors, doing something active, but not feeling exhausted by it.
The e-bike network along the coast means that you can join traditional cyclists who are enjoying The Bay Cycle way, which Sustrans report back is already proving to be one of their most popular routes this year.
The electric bikes are a great way to keep trying different areas and explore the area. As a local, I discovered places I’d never been to before, and felt great being out for hours in the fresh air, and getting exercise too, without feeling exhausted.
We’ll definitely be back to explore other areas – the next plan is to explore around Arnside and into Lancashire.