Written by Bicycle Cooperative fan and electric mountain bike convert Sarah
When my friend told me she had secured two electric bikes for us to try out I was slightly dismissive of what an electric bike would be like. I imagined the older e-bikes that are the bikeworld equivalent to a pair of 1980s NHS spectacles. Clunky yet practical. Then she told me the one for me was a Specialized Turbo Levo Women’s HT Comp 6FATTIE 2017 and I felt insulted. However, it turns out Fattie are to do with the wheels not the rider!
The Levo was gorgeous. It doesn’t look different to any other mountain bike. The down tube and crank are a bit thicker than most, but hey, aren’t we all a bit thick in the middle. The only real difference was the extra weight getting it in and out of the car.
It was a bright, dry and breezy April evening and we’d come straight after work with the bikes to test drive. Our planned route was a circular trip from Harlaw reservoir via the Howe and Glencorse Reservoir (approximately an hour and a half). I’m not Miss Confident on a bike and although it wasn’t a long ride, I was a bit nervous as it had been 6 months since I last rode my bike and that was on a flat path alongside Musselburgh river.
I had a wee go round the car park to try out the controls and get to grips with technology. There are instructions and even an app but why read them – how hard could it be? Thankfully it really was simple. The power button activated, I mounted the bike and started pedalling while pressing the + button for more power. I could feel my heart soar as I flew out of the car park. (The extra nerves and excitement were working their magic too, but the wonderful toilets at Harlaw Visitor Centre were still open, so no needless exposure required.)
I’d imagined that as I engaged the additional power, it would splutter like an old engine and then it would be feet on the pedals for balance and let the bike do the work. Instead, you do have to do a little work, but it’s as if an angel matches each pedal with a gentle push.
There is a devil of a hill, called The Howe. Now, a wise man once told me “If you’re quicker walking, walk.” On seeing this hill, I knew I’d need to gain a burst of power coming up to it to even have a hope of making it up halfway before I’d need to get off red-faced, partly from exertion and partly from the feeling of quitting. Well not that day, my friend! I did the whole hill, while singing and was still barely out of breath. Oh the joy! It was like having dad there pushing my seat when trying to graduate away from stabilisers.
As we came onto the downhill section, the path got rougher, so I pressed a few buttons to reduce the assistance. The double joy of an electric bike with suspension! I cruised over the old sheep paths and with a little bit of added assistance whizzed up the the small uphill sections. I felt like a steeplechase rider and nothing could stop me.
On the last leg as we made our way away from Glencorse Reservoir up the hill, I was on full power. The months of not being near a bike showed and I managed to have a wobble when my pedal met a bit of turf. Having had to stop to right myself, it meant I’d need to attempt the dreaded hill start. These are, in my experience, usually abandoned and result in me walking to the crest of the hill. This time, no problem. With minimal effort, before I knew it I was at the top with a gorgeous view of Glencorse behind me. In front of me, the last push towards the car park, a lovely sweeping trail into the sunset, with the odd drainage step to keep you alert. A delightful way to finish my experience with the lovely Levo.
I defy you not to grin and think “Weeeeeee!” when you try one.