Tenways to help the planet
Chris and I are now the proud owners of a pair of electric bikes. To use the correct terminology they’re actually electrically-assisted bikes, but that’s a bit of a mouthful! The difference between electric bikes and electrically-assisted ones is that the motor in the latter type of bike cuts out at 25kph, or when you stop pedalling. In an electric bike, the motor would keep going.
We have gone for bikes from the Dutch firm Tenways. The model we’ve chosen is the CGO800s. Chris’s is a sleek black and mine’s a handsome pebble grey. There’s also a blue version, but those weren’t in stock when we placed our order. However, we’re happy with what we’ve got.
We’ve bought them because we want to use the car less. Cycling to Boussac, our nearest town 15km away, takes all morning on our human-powered bikes. Here in the foothills of the Massif Central the terrain is very rolling, and wherever we ride to we encounter at least one very steep hill but usually more. We don’t always have time to spare a whole morning to run one small errand or grab a few bits of shopping. And that’s not counting the recovery time once we get home! But now we have the Tenways, local journeys will be a breeze on them and so we’ll be reaching for the car keys less often. This is precisely the behaviour the French government are trying to encourage. It was only after we’d bought the bikes that we discovered there’s a ‘prime’ (partial refund) we can claim. It’s called the bonus vélo and is worth up to €400. Because it’s so new, the website through which to claim it isn’t yet up and running!
We’ve done several hundred kilometres on our bikes now. It’s quite a different riding experience from the touring bikes we’ve ridden for years – 36 years precisely for my Dave Yates hand-built bike! You have a more upright position on the Tenways, which is kinder to old wrists. There are no gears to have to keep changing as the motor together with the torque sensor and controller take care of all that for you – all you have to do is pedal. You do have to select the power assistance setting (PAS) you want, though. These range from 0 (no assistance at all) to 5. I haven’t gone further than 3 so far, and that was only to see what it felt like. Most of the time I stay in 1, just occasionally switching up to 2 for steeper slopes. The harder you pedal, the more assistance you get from the bike, whichever PAS you’re in, provided you’re going under 25 kph. Above that speed, the motor doesn’t kick in.
Another difference is that we’re having to wrap up a bit warmer. Since we’ve effectively doubled our average speed, it’s noticeably chillier! Plus we’re using slightly less energy, but we’re still getting a good workout and plenty of exercise. Fortunately we’re well equipped with an assortment of cycling attire acquired over a lifetime of cycling so have shorts, longs, long-sleeved and short-sleeved tops, cycling gloves and mittens, neck warmers and so on. We bought ourselves overshoes a few years back, but never used them. We’ll certainly need those for rides on the Tenways once it gets to winter.
A bike with electric assistance is obviously quite a different beast from one powered solely by humans. For starters it has a motor. On our Tenways this is a Mivice M070 250W rear hub motor. The 250W element is noteworthy as not being greater than that figure has meant our bikes are covered by our household insurance for damage and also in case of theft from our property. Instead of having to buy fairly expensive comprehensive insurance for the bikes, we just need to top up our existing insurance to cover theft from other locations. Hopefully that won’t happen, and there are several factors, as well as a good, tough lock, that should conspire against such an eventuality.
Don’t touch my bike!
First up, an electric bike is fairly hefty. Whereas Dave, my tiny tourer, is around 10 kg, a Tenways CGO800s is 23kg when fully kitted out with extras of mudguards, rack and stand. We’ve adapted very quickly to this weighty robustness and enjoy faster descents thanks to this added momentum! Next up, the bike is electronically controlled, as in you have to turn it on and enter a password to make it cyclable. You can push it as far as you like, but unless you enter the pass code you can’t get access to the motor. The battery is removable too, so for extra security you can remove that from the cross bar, into which it sleekly fits and locks, if you’re leaving your bike unattended for period. That does mean heaving a large battery around with you though! Our Tenways have a 36V, 10.4Ah lithium-ion battery with 18650 cells. No, I’m not entirely sure what all that means either, but it doesn’t half look impressive, and trust me, it’s powerful. And the last disincentive to nicking my bike is that if anyone touches it, they’ll have a very angry me to contend with.
Another distinguishing feature about our electric bikes is that they don’t have chains. Tenways have incorporated a Gates carbon drive belt. Such belts don’t rust, don’t stretch and don’t need oiling, and you can clock up 30,000 km before they need maintenance.
The bikes came with racks on the back, but these are peculiarly narrow so the rear-mounted saddle bags we used to use don’t fit well and slump off to one side. Chris has dug out his old pair of panniers, and I’ve invested in a jolly, new set. I had to make a few adjustments to them as they rubbed against the spokes a few times during their inaugural outing, but they’re fine now. At 25 litres each they can accommodate a respectable amount of shopping.
Unfortunately, my bike has developed an intermittent speed sensor fault. The motor briefly fails, which is a little unfortunate when going uphill, but then reboots. Tenways have been very good and are sending out a new back wheel to which the motor hub is attached. Luckily Chris is mechanically minded so he’ll be able to do the necessary. It will be a tad more complicated than replacing the back wheel of a non-electric bike.
All in all, though, I’m delighted with my Tenways. It’s quite a novelty for me having mud guards, something Dave lacked, ditto disk brakes, but the main delight is zooming uphill – UPHILL - at 25 kph! No longer do we avoid certain routes because of uninviting upwards gradients, and taking long cuts has become a pleasure. We’ve done around 500km on the bikes so far and are looking forward to many, many enjoyable outings on our e-bikes.