Test ride: Glasgow's first electric hire bike unveiled

The first of 63 electric bikes that will be available for hire in Glasgow from September. Picture: John Devlin
The first of 63 electric bikes that will be available for hire in Glasgow from September. Picture: John Devlin
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The first of three fleets of electric bikes to go on public hire in Scotland's cities has been unveiled in Glasgow.

Operator nextbike gave The Scotsman exclusive media access to its e-SMARTbike 2.0, which is due to become available in Scotland's largest city in September.

A total of 63 of the bikes will be stationed across 21 docking stations across Glasgow.

These will be added to the 650 traditional bikes already in the city council-run hire scheme, which was launched five years ago.

Electric bikes are also due to be added to Edinburgh's Just East Cycles hire scheme, although no date has been announced.

They are also being launched by Forth Environment Link in Falkirk, Stirling and Clackmannanshire in what will be Scotland's first large-scale electric bike hire scheme.

The bike struggled a bit up steep Montrose Street beside Strathclyde University. Picture: John Devlin

The bike struggled a bit up steep Montrose Street beside Strathclyde University. Picture: John Devlin

Glasgow's electric bikes will cost £2 per 20 minutes to hire.

Nextbike business development manager Sam Coldham said the three-gear bikes had a range of some 35 miles (50-60km) between charges.

The battery, which is integrated into the frame, will be automatically recharged at docking stations as part of the locking mechanism on its front wheel.

A second lock immobilises the rear wheel.

The nextbike electric bikes will be added to Glasgow City Council's cycle hire scheme. Picture: John Devlin

The nextbike electric bikes will be added to Glasgow City Council's cycle hire scheme. Picture: John Devlin

Users will be able to lock and unlock the bikes by scanning a QR code on the rear wheel hub using an app on their phone.

The bikes will be tracked for security using GPS.

Mr Coldham said the bike had provoked excitement among riders trying them out in George Square in Glasgow on Thursday.

He said: "There were big smiles on people's faces.

"They cannot wait for the bikes to come here.

"They are not too dissimilar from riding a normal bike - they just give a little assist.

"It's like a smooth increase in speed."

Electric bikes have been described as the "gateway drug into cycling" for helping boost the confidence of timid and older cyclists, and those recovering from injury.

They are also seen as ideally suited for cities with 20mph limits, like central Glasgow and most of Edinburgh, in enabling riders to keep up with other traffic.

TEST RIDE

Riding a electric bike is a joy.

Getting on the nextbike model in George Square took me straight back to the fun I'd had trying out others over the last two years.

Press down on the pedal and you instantly feel yourself being carried forward.

You can't help but grin.

It's not like a scooter, so if you stop pedalling, the bike will just freewheel to a stop.

But put gentle pressure on the pedals and the bike accelerates as they turn, up to 15mph.

To go faster than that, you'll need to use traditional leg power, because that's the motor's legal limit.

The bike handled effortlessly on flat surfaces around George Square.

It should have felt as easy going up a hill, but I was surprised to find the bike struggled a bit while climbing nearby Montrose Street, beside Strathclyde University.

It still didn't require any pedalling effort - the bike took the strain.

But progress was slower than I had expected, albeit on one of the steepest roads in the city centre, as this video shows.