Author: Steve Gillies

I must confess that it was with some trepidation that I set out on Saturday morning for the Irvine Valley Walkfest eBike Ride to the Whitelee Windfarm. I had good reason to be concerned. It was twice as far as I had cycled before, I’m overweight and the wrong side of 60. So, I’m very happy to report that I survived, and it was a hugely enjoyable event, professionally well organised by Cycle Station, sunny all day and good company with a bunch of interesting folks. Happy, but with tired sore legs.

Sixteen intrepid eBikers gathered at the Sports Darvel car park. After registration and safety checks we headed East turning up the Cemetery Road and heading towards East Kilbride. It was a lovely sunny day and the temperature was perfect for cycling. The first few miles involved a steady climb up to the Ardochrig entrance to the Windfarm but, being at the start of the day, we were full of energy and got there with ease.

I did have a small mishap on the way. I forgot to secure the battery properly on the bike which fell off on a bumpy surface. However, no damage was done, and I was back on the bike in no time. Embarrassed but unhurt. A small lesson learned. We were asked to stay on ‘eco’ mode as the 46-mile route may deplete the battery. Most eBikes are heavy and you really don’t want to be cycling home with no battery power left. I did find that using the lowest power assist setting combined with good gear selection made power cycling just as effective as selecting higher assist levels.

If you haven’t tried an eBike I thoroughly recommend them. For me it makes a bike ride an absolute joy especially as living in Darvel it is hard to take any route that doesn’t involve some steep climbs. The power assist means that you feel as if you are riding on the level no matter the steepness of the incline. It means you can stay out longer, go further and enjoy the scenery around you. Some traditional cyclists look down on them considering eBikes to be the ‘work of the devil’ but if you just want to leisure ride, get some fresh air and be able to tackle hills then eBikes are the perfect answer.

We were now ‘off road’ on the Whitelee Spine Road. It was gravelly with some potholes but easy riding up and down a few hills before we arrived at the Whitelee Visitor Centre where soup, coffee and cake were very welcome additions to our day out. There was a chance to boost our battery packs at the Cycle Station Office. I had 30% left on my battery which was probably enough to get home but a little bit of ‘range anxiety’ kicked in and a 20 minute boost was enough to raise it to 40% leaving me free to enjoy the ride home and not worry about running out of energy.

The ride home was great fun. The brilliant white blades of the turbines cut great arcs across a near perfect blue sky, their dark shadows racing across the ground out-pacing even the fastest of the eBikers. The home journey was mainly downhill and freewheeling for mile after mile with the sun on my back took me back to my childhood. It took a great deal of self-restraint not to scream woohoo or ‘wheeeeee’ as we ripped up the miles.

Back to Darvel. Was it as hard as I thought it would be? No. Are my legs tired and aching? Yes, but who cares. Do I think eBikes are good? Absolutely. Was it a fun day? Yes, yes, yes! Thanks to the WalkFest folks for organising the event (no mean feat!) and thanks to Cycle Station for their help, support and organisation.