If you ask a cyclist what one of the most satisfying things about riding a bike is, they will tell you it is the sense of freedom. There are many cycling trails in the Yarra Valley and Dandenong Ranges and a new breed of cycle – the eBike (electric bike) –is opening up new opportunities for people to explore the region on two wheels.
So first let’s bust the myth that eBikes are a lazy person’s option. Andrew Swann from Yarra Valley Cycles says eBikes actually add to the challenge of riding, while allowing the rider to go further, go harder, and go anywhere.
Imagine rushing through the air with the wind trying to catch you, riding into an endless vista of rolling hills, symmetrical vineyards and native bushland. Imagine the sun warming your back and the holler from your cycling buddies that you’re getting close to your first stop – a brewed ‘just right’ coffee at a local ‘just-off-the-trail’ coffee shop. Imagine riding without the hum of traffic advancing on you and covering kilometres of terrain so that you really feel like you’re getting somewhere. Imagine yourself riding the Lilydale to Warburton Rail Trail knowing you can make it all the way. Impossible? No way! It’s all good with an eBike!
Touring riders have taken to eBikes because they allow riders to go into terrains they might not typically try, making more places accessible. Battery life allows plenty of possibilities – if you take off from Lilydale on the Rail Trail you will easily make it to Warburton (about 40 kilometres) on one charge including time to stop for a cruisy cafe (Nancy's of the Valley in Yarra Junction is worh a visit), pub or winery lunch, a couple of stops for photographing or simply appreciating the scenery, and a few rest breaks at the pretty villages (Wandin, Seville and Yarra Junction are worth exploring) along the trail. Stay overnight and make a weekend or midweek getaway – cycle tours (check out Vine Tours) are the new frontier for travelling! A simple power point in your overnight accommodation is all it takes to recharge your bike and you’re off again in the morning.
You might be surprised to know eBikes weigh only 10 kg more than a standard bike and you can set and adjust the peddle input as you ride according to how much power assistance you need. The 250-watt motor engages when you peddle and motor assistance cuts out at speeds above 25 km/h. It’s easy to get the hang of riding an eBike and it’s the riders who come back from a ride with ‘shining eyes’ that Andrew knows have truly got more than they imagined – so far that’s been “everyone who’s ever hired an eBike!” he says.
The eBike has also levelled the riding field for cyclists of differing abilities. In a group of various fitness levels, the eBike means the riders can still do the same ride and finish well together. It adds to the sociability of the ride and also people’s capacity to enjoy their ride regardless of fitness level. Keeping pace is more important than winning the race!
Hard core mountain bikers are also taking to the eBike especially the ones who prefer the downhill challenge of trail riding. “An eBike means the rider spends less time and energy going up the hills and has more to give the downhill,“ says Andrew. “But equally, the mature rider is also taking to the eBike. While riders may have maintained their fitness, the body might grunt a little more at the exertion, and parts don’t always move as well they used to!”
There are plenty of forest trails in the Yarra Valley where eBikes add enjoyment to the ride experience. The O’Shannassey Aqueduct offers a well-maintained trail that snakes along the base of Mt Donna Buang from Millgrove through to the Upper Yarra Reservoir, and there are constructed forest trails that provide riders with experiences from easy to challenging through the magnificent forests. The natural typography of the area provides plenty of variety and that is where eBikes really find their place. The Dandenong Ranges, also a destination for avid cyclists seeking the uphill challenge, is also attracting a new kind of eBike crowd.
Whether you are getting back into riding, and searching for that elusive feeling of fitness, or you just love to cycle because that’s what being out in the fresh air means to you, a bike ride is a great day out – now made even more enjoyable with an eBike.
See more of the area you want to discover and ride in terrain you don’t usually get to do. eBikes let you experience just how enjoyable cycling can be and keep on riding. “eBikes are bringing many new people into recreational riding and sports cycling. Already hugely popular in Europe and other parts of the world, the eBike is set to revolutionise cycling in Australia and you can start right here in the Yarra Valley."
To try out an eBike, see Yarra Valley Cycles hire.