For many riders e-bikes have become a tool that allows them to escape into new areas, going beyond what they might normally attempt. There is, however, one hurdle – range anxiety. The thought of heading into the wilderness and running out of battery is something that I am sure any e-bike rider will be very aware of. We wanted to find out how far we can push the limits, and take on an epic coast-to-coast adventure across Wales.
We have pushed the boundaries of e-bikes before, taking on a section of King Alfred's Way over 2 days, and this opened our minds to a new idea; where are the limits of these bikes? Personally, I love big adventure challenges, having ridden King Alfreds Way non-stop twice, and the Trans Cambrian Way in Wales, so why take on the challenge aboard an e-bike? I love the adventure, the journey, the unknown and the sheer thrill of completing a big route, and I want others to know just how that can feel.
Let's touch on the stigma often attached to e-bikes. It is not “cheating” to ride one, a viewpoint that some riders who choose, and are able to ride unassisted may believe – and several years ago I even thought that myself. Be they health reasons, time constraints, accessibility or in my case finding myself unable to drive for medical reasons, owning an e-bike has been my salvation, giving me vital transport in a rural area, and the ability to undertake tasks that would otherwise have required a car.
Despite owning an e-bike, and the enjoyment of challenging myself I have never combined the two, until now.
What could form a suitable challenge? The key was to devise a route that was both challenging, but not one that was too technical, or difficult to navigate and be one that hopefully other riders will want to tackle.
Starting from Aberystwyth, a coastal town in the county of Ceredigion, Mid Wales, our starting point was chosen as it has good rail links, allowing riders to get there with their bikes and kit with the minimum of fuss. It also has a huge history, with a beautiful Victorian pier and promenade that leads to a mountain railway on top of Constitution Hill.
The route is a point to point, as in my opinion this offers a more adventurous journey. Reaching the end goal is both rewarding and motivating. Cardiff was a natural finish location, the capital of Wales sitting on the South Coast with the rejuvenated bay that overlooks the Bristol channel.
The significant challenge between the start and finish is the mountain ranges that sit between them. The Cambrian Mountains are wild, stunning and desolate with a sense of emptiness that creates anxiety and intrigue in equal measures. After the Cambrian mountains, there is just a brief respite before moving into the Brecon Beacons, a well known National Park with tall peaks and mountains that can't be avoided if you need to pass through.
With the route created, the stats are significant. 188 kilometres in total, with 2700 metres of climbing and 2,710 metres of descent. It seemed impossible, beyond what we thought was possible but in order to push the limits of the bike, it certainly meets the aims.
To attempt the adventure we used the Cairn BRAVe 2.0, with a flat bar configuration. It's the cheapest e-bike in the Cairn range, but one that utilises the Shimano Steps E7000 motor, and a large 630wh battery. While the challenge took place over a single day, the bike also features a host of mount options that could allow it to become a multi-day adventure bike. The flat bars and generous 2.3” tyres matched to a 68° head angle result in stability and comfort. Is it a gravel bike, rigid mountain bike, monster cross or touring bike? It is quite simply whatever you choose it to be.
While the bike is incredible value at £2,359, there are no shortcuts taken with every component chosen to match the purpose. The high performance, low rolling resistance and tubeless Maxxis Recon Race 2.35” tyres should aid with pushing the range, while the well proven Microshift Advent X10 has a wide 11-46 tooth cassette that should allow any trail to be conquered.
As areas and communities start to engage with e-bikes and the tourism opportunities they can provide, there are options beginning to emerge. Carmarthenshire council will shortly be offering e-bike charging facilities in key towns and areas, and will surely be copied by other councils. Hospitality and accommodation providers are also seeing the benefits, with many now allowing battery charging, allowing riders to go even further.
But for this challenge, to see where the boundary could be we would be attempting the journey on a single battery and with no charging along the way. How long will the battery last? Have we bitten off more than we can chew? Watch the adventure and see how it unfolds.
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