AN E-BIKE CHANGED MY LIFE
New Hotchillee member and E-bike convert Vicky Shaw chats about her switch to E-biking, her plans to ride the inaugural LONDON-PARIS by Tour de France gravel ride and her first ever Hotchillee ride. She’s hoping to inspire a few more cyclists to go electric.
Many purists out there would say riding an E-bike is cheating.
Why the switch?
After loving cycling all my life, a back injury five years ago forced me to stop riding. Then when E-MTB came on the scene it reopened the world of cycling to me. I needed to adapt to an upright riding position without the forward flexion of a road or gravel bike plus I wanted front and rear shock absorption. This bike has made cycling possible for me again on all surfaces.
My husband rides road, gravel or MTB but the E-bike lets us ride socially together on the road and that’s what I love. He can train hard and I can quite literally “squeal with delight” as I take him out on the climbs. We tested this out in the Pyrenees last year to see if the battery would last. We made it up the Col du Soulor (1474m) then on to the Col d’Aubisque. Me on the E-MTB, him on his gravel, all on the road. So versatile.
I know I’m biased but I absolutely love this E-bike. It’s exhilarating to ride and incredible fun, for me that’s what cycling’s all about. I challenge anyone out there not to have a huge smile on their face at the end of the day after riding one.
Tell us a little about the bike? Is it heavy?
I’m really lucky, I ride a superb Specialized LEVO SL Comp Carbon. It’s two years old now. Mine is quite simple to use with four power settings: Off, Echo, Sport and Turbo so you can still get a full on workout if you want to put in some serious training. You manually adjust the input (either via the handle bars or central console) and can also view remaining battery capacity. There’s also a Mission Control App available which can handle battery management automatically if you want to install it.
The whole bike weighs in at 19kg but if I need to I can still lift her over any trail debris or push uphill on any steep climb (I’m quite little).
Range wise I’m still working that out in the real world (it’s like cars – they always test in the most ideal conditions). According to Specialized the motor doubles your effort up to 240W extra, has a 5 hour range and a max top speed of 23km/hour. There was an option for a heavier bike (a larger battery) with more power output (four times you) but I wanted the lighter bike so I traded weight for power. You do hear the motor as you ride but it still feels really smooth and natural to pedal.
I also have an option to attach a separate battery extender which boosts range by 50%. The main lithium-ion battery is housed inside the bike frame itself, so to charge it you simply plug it in for a couple of hours or overnight and off you go the next day. Super easy.
You’ll be riding the inaugural gravel route of the LONDON-PARIS by Tour de France in July.
That’s the plan. I’ve always wanted to ride LONDON-PARIS. It’s such an iconic event. But I knew that the road ride physically wasn’t an option for me. When Hotchillee announced a gravel option I knew this was my chance to try an event with “My Beast”. I confess I didn’t pay too much attention to the route at the time (beer goggles at play here – how hard could it be I thought). Having read the route recce I now realize quite how tough it will be, a real baptism by fire. I’m used to the mind set needed for multi-day events having hiked theTour de Mont Blanc and the Haute Route but this will be my first ever supported cycling event.
How was your first ever Hotchillee gravel ride?
Incredible. The Surry hills and Boxhill off road: stunning. 35km and 765m climb in 3 hours 20 minutes, using 50% of the battery capacity. More climb and technical riding than I was expecting but I needed that. I was also a little nervous turning up solo with an e-bike but I was made to feel very welcome. Lots of people had questions about the E-MTB and what it could do. Plus I’ve never ridden a group gravel ride before so it was much appreciated to get loads of tips and pointers from everyone about group dynamics. Half the group were also female – very reassuring when the ladies had to find a sneaky bush wee and wrestle with the bib shorts.
So what next?
In the lead up to LONDON-PARIS I need to figure out the logistics of getting to Paris without the battery running out. Day Two is approximately 140km (it’s a big day out on gravel). I currently have three battery range extenders but I can only carry one spare battery (in the water bottle cage). I’ve just ordered a charging connector so that hopefully I can charge one of the spares in the support van on the go. It’s actually quite a cool challenge to figure out what’s possible.
I believe I’m not going to be the only E-biker in the group. Chatting with Hotchillee Head Honcho Sven Thiele the other day he declared his intention to arrive in Paris on a gravel E-bike. It’s the start of a revolution!
Check out the Route we’ll be riding:
The LONDON-PARIS by Tour de France organizers have announced a challenging new off-road route for this July’s event. The epic 3-day adventure is an exciting new offering including bridleways, tow-paths, field-side tracks, disused railways lines and even singletrack – if you like it rough, you won’t be disappointed.