“When I tell people tell me that Leeds is a hilly city, I respond with something like “I know, I’ve been getting around it on a fixed gear bicycle for 8 years”. I understand all too well grinding up the hills huffing and puffing. This is my choice, I could ride one of my geared bikes. The other day, however, I was given the opportunity to ride an electric bike to go about my normal comings and goings for a couple of days. I was asked to ride the Whyte Highgate Compact and I can honestly say that it was the most enjoyable commute I have ever had. My commute is only 4.5 miles but it is hilly with some steep roads and some long drags.
The Highgate has 4 levels of pedal assistance:
I started out using Eco and didn’t really notice that there was any assistance, except that the road that I ride daily was easier than usual.
I have 10 sets of traffic lights between home and work so braking and acceleration are quite a feature. The assistance kicks in immediately on hill starts which was brilliant, I likened it to a motorist pushing the clutch of a modern car and immediately restarting the engine. I was also really impressed by the Tektro Auriga Hydraulic disc brakes and felt extremely confident with the stopping power. Quite important with the extra weight of the motor and battery.
On steep hills it’s very simple and quick to change through the assistance settings so that not once did I need to get out of the saddle or out of breath on a hill that I would normally avoid (fixed chain or geared bike).
The compact geometry made the bike feel nippy, with really easy handling and cornering. Or in other words – fun! I took it through some local woods to see how it would feel without the ease of tarmac and it felt great. The WTB Byway 650 x 47c folding tyres more than capably coped. Another feature of Leeds and many other UK roads is poor road surface. Again the Highgate rolled over most rough surface comfortably.
Range-wise, I decided to keep the ‘dashboard’ computer that sits on the handlebars on the mode that gives information about how many miles (or kilometres) are left in each of the respective assistance modes. I found this really useful and informative.
My only criticism if any was that I ran out of gears. My colleagues commented that I was probably fitter than the target audience for the Highgate. They were perhaps correct.