Box Hill? Me? On a bike? What, just like the Olympians?
No, no, no, no. I couldn’t possibly join a group cycling up Box Hill – straight up the hill off-road you say – are you mad? I’m far too old and unfit to do that. Something I couldn’t have contemplated many years ago, let alone now. Ah, electric bike, I hear. Well now you are talking. Who wouldn’t want to feel like an Olympic cyclist with a bit of help. Yes please! Count me in.
And so it was that I found myself with a group of amateur cyclists of mixed age and ability on a lovely evening in the middle of vineyards on the gently sloping hills of Denbies Wine Estate in the lush Surrey countryside just outside Dorking. The plan was to practice on the flat area and lanes around the vineyard before taking to the road and tackling Box Hill itself.
E-bikes are, apparently, the next big thing as they allow people to get fit and tackle distances, particularly hilly areas, they wouldn’t otherwise be able to manage. Over the last few years e-biking, particularly in Alpine resorts, has become so popular that excursions and e-biking itineraries are now widely available. Lakes and mountains specialist and Silver Travel partner, Inghams, in conjunction with e-bike specialists Cycling MadeEasy were hosting the evening to introduce us to the wonderful world of e-biking and the new possibilities it affords for people who still like to cycle but might need a little help.
My bike was a stunner. Not cheap at £3,000 but it was superb to ride, easy to handle and, importantly, had a special ladies seat which made it exceptionally comfortable. The bikes we sampled ranged in price from £800 – £5,000, but whatever their price, everyone agreed they were great. I hadn’t cycled for years so initially was a bit wobbly, and it took me a few circuits around the vineyard before I felt confident, but with some expert guidance on hand we were all soon raring to go and reach the top of Box Hill whilst the sun was still shining.
Riding along in a peloton I was beginning to feel I should have dressed more appropriately – bright yellow lycra with a race number perhaps – but keen not to look like a MAMIL (middle-aged-man-in-lycra or MAWIL even) and not wishing to appear too keen in case I didn’t quite make the cut, I had just worn normal civvies. But outfits didn’t matter as I sped along the cycle path whooping with joy and, oh, the exhilaration whenever I wanted to save on the legs and get an e-bike boost at the press of a button. Cycling, as I remember it, was never this good or as much fun.
At the base of Box Hill itself, we dismounted and went off-road to tackle the very steep hill full on. Looking to the top I did, for a few seconds, think about chickening out, but I couldn’t let all you Silver Travellers down, so after a few false starts – a bit tricky to start off-road and uphill – I was off. No going back now. Pedalling furiously, adjusting the gears, pushing buttons and, although out of breath and legs a bit wobbly by the time I got to the top, I made it! What a glorious feeling and sense of achievement. The views across the North Surrey Downs from the top are beautiful and well worth the effort but the real enjoyment came from the cycling itself. And what joy cycling back down the hill freewheeling (and braking!) on the same famously winding road as many of the world’s top cyclists.
So would I do it again, or perhaps go further afield? You bet. I am an absolute convert and can’t wait to have another go and tackle more hills or mountains, even. I think it might take some persuasion for him indoors to join me, though, as he was quite disparaging about it when I got home, mistakenly thinking an e-bike was the equivalent of a mobility scooter and had required no effort. Once he’d done his own research and seen the video, I think he was secretly impressed and a tad jealous, but we’ll not make a thing about it. However, he has mentioned in passing that it might be a good idea to try out an E-bike holiday next year, so watch this space!
Would I purchase a bike? Living in London with very little storage, I have nowhere to keep a bike, so sadly couldn’t contemplate buying one. However, all is not lost as Cycling Made Easy rent out their bikes for daily or weekly hire from their Couldson or Tunbridge Wells shops. They also have the largest selection of E-bikes in the UK, all of which can be bought online.
So before the summer is out, I may well pop down to Tunbridge Wells to have another go cycling in the wonderful Kent countryside. I might even persuade him to come too. I know he’d love it. And after that we could tackle something a little more challenging, perhaps on an Inghams holiday where e-bikes and dedicated cycle trails are available in Berchtesgaden in Germany, Kranjska Gora in Slovenia, Alta Badia and Malcesine in Italy, and Ascona in Switzerland. Oh, where to choose?
E-cycling – perfect for Silver Travellers who still like to feel 21.
For more information on Inghams Lakes & Mountains, visit www.inghams.co.uk/lakes-mountains-holidays or call 01483 371211.
For expert advice on buying or hiring an e-bike in the UK, visit www.cyclingmadeeasy.co.uk
Silver Travel Advisor recommends Inghams Lakes & Mountains