Find out how we get on trying out electric bikes along the banks of the River Yonne.
If you read our blogs regularly, or have delved into our advice pages, you’ve probably picked up that we are all cycling nuts at France Motorhome Hire. Every member of the team cycles regularly, and Phill and I never travel in a campervan without taking mountain or road bikes with us. However, none of us have ever tried an electric bike… until last weekend.
Electric bikes are increasingly available for hire here in France, so we thought it was time to give them a try. We went to Auxerre to check out local hire option La Maison du Vélo. We hired two bikes for four hours at €20 each, leaving a passport with the hire company as a security deposit.
If, like us, you’re a reasonably fit cyclist who enjoys burning calories in the shortest possible time, then e-bikes don’t make much sense. However, we came away from the experience thinking how great they would be if you’re not so fit or if you want to cover bigger distances or hillier terrain than you could usually tackle or have time for.
The controls were very easy to master, but they did have a bit of an unnerving habit of taking us unawares and setting off at speed when we had them on the most powerful setting. This was particularly tricky when we came across a large, lively “vide grenier” (a giant, village-wide jumble/yard sale, which translated literally means “empty your loft”), with hundreds of people on the cycle path!
Gravel can be a bit tricky on an electric bike too, so familiarising yourself with the “power-off” switch before you set out is a very good idea if you don’t want to accidentally show off your Scandinavian rallying techniques and frighten the general public. Certainly, on the bikes we hired, as soon as we started cycling the power kicked in and we shot off at unexpected speed! Luckily, this caused us to cry with laughter rather than fall off and cry with pain, but I can’t imagine my 85-year-old mum managing it too easily!
Overall, this was a good experience and ideal if you want to cover bigger distances or hilly terrain with the minimum of effort. However, we’d advise taking the time to get used to them somewhere safe before heading into traffic! Alternatively, you could just stick to the lowest power setting, which simply adds a little power to your own cycling effort. Strangely that didn’t even occur to us last weekend, but then we are “power freaks”!
Auxerre was a great place to hire, as you can head straight onto the cycle path along the River Yonne or explore one of the many interesting routes suggested by the hire company. The staff at La Maison du Velo did not speak English, but this was very close to the end of their hire season and they claim to handle e-mail bookings in English and have more English-speaking staff during the summer months.
Next we hope to try e-bike winetours who do speak English and offer vineyard and wine tasting tours in the Chablis wine region on e-bikes. Wine tasting by e-bike sounds like a very enjoyable if slightly bonkers mix! It is legal though, so we’ll give it a try and let you know how we get on.