Electric cargo bike test ride: Moving back to the office – Alastair Dalton

When Covid struck Scotland nearly two years ago, I joined fellow Scotsman staff and most other office-based workers in switching to home working overnight.

When it became clear we would not be returning any time soon, I took my car to bring home files, books and other useful paperwork from our forlorn, deserted Glasgow office.

But now, with at least a partial return to offices permitted, the perfect opportunity has presented itself for me to move back my boxes by greener means.

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As regular readers will know, I’ve long been a fan of electric bikes, which make an already fun activity that much more exhilarating.

Ride one for the first time and you’ll know what the so-called “electric bike smile” means.

But for my move back to the office, it was time for me to go up a level – to an electric cargo bike.

They have become an increasingly familiar sight on Scotland’s streets, with firms using them to transport everything from beer and books to flowers and food. Some are even big enough to move flat.

The Glasgow cycling charity Bike for Good offers free loans from its range of six e-cargo bikes – companies can try them out for a month and families and individuals for a week.

The Scotsman transport correspondent Alastair Dalton trying out an electric cargo bike on a cycle path beside the Clyde in Glasgow. Picture: John Devlin

Its largest, the “Urban Arrow”, complete with vehicle-size tyres, can carry an impressive 400kg, including rider – the weight of around 15 fully-laden holiday suitcases.

I opted for the next one down, the “Butcher & Bicycle” model, whose 250g capacity in its covered, front-loaded box is still large enough to transport a person.

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The tricycle, which has two wheels at the front, took a little getting used to as it tilts to make cornering easier and, to achieve this, you need to lean with your hips rather than your shoulders.

Alastair Dalton passing the Scottish Event Campus en route to The Scotsman's Glasgow office. Picture: John Devlin
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However, after a short practice session under the expert tuition of Bike for Good’s Karolis Toleikis, I soon got the hang of it.

In the end, I decided to transport only a few boxes, weighing a total of 250kg, so there would have been space for several more.

But even that small load would have taken numerous journeys if I’d used the panniers on my own bike instead.

With the cargo bike’s electric motor, you don’t even notice the extra weight – a touch on the pedal and you’re off.

Alastair Dalton being shown the e-cargo bike's controls by Karolis Toleikis of Bike for Good. Picture: John Devlin

In fact, I found the loaded boxes helped to make the bike more stable and reduced how much it jolted over potholes.

Like other electric bikes, as well as gears, there are also varying power settings.

Put it in “boost” – the top level – and pedalling is effortless, although it reduces the range, which is shown on an electronic display.

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However, even fully laden, it should be able to do 15 miles.

My delivery jaunt a few miles across Glasgow from home to office was a brilliant experience – I transported stuff too bulky for my own bike and produced no carbon emissions or pollution while also getting some exercise – with no sweat.

Now I just need another excuse to use one again.

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