This article was published in 1998, in Newsletter 18.
I bought the BikeE on the same day I decided to get rid of my car. I’d seen it in Encycleopedia and from the photograph it looked just what I needed – a practical and different kind of bike. At my friend’s house we surfed the Internet, found the BikeE web site, and watched the 30-second advert as it dribbled through his modem. The advert really only made one point: that on the BikeE your seated position places you looking naturally straight ahead, whereas touring, racing and mountain bikes leave you staring at the headset. We found a dealer in St Neots and tried it out the next day.
The bike has 16″ and 20″ wheels separated by a single box-section alloy girder, and you sit upright on a thick gel seat. Your legs are almost horizontal and the handlebars, on a long slung-back stem, are in front of you at slightly less than arm’s length. Your centre of gravity is lower, and so moving off for the first time is exciting as you get used to the position, twitching at the steering as you get accustomed to balancing the bike. This doesn’t take long, and you soon want to pedal faster. The cantilever brakes work well and halt you as sharply as you want. The seat holds you firmly in place, so you have to learn to let the bike do the work on cornering, and brace yourself riding over bumps. My first turn took up more than the width of the road, as I couldn’t get used to the feel of the lean. Just take your first few turns slowly and you’ll be all right; it really is just the unfamiliarity which makes the turns more interesting. The bike is only about four inches longer than my old shopper.
It’s not until after about 10 minutes of riding that you start to relax and sit back in the seat, and this is when you start to enjoy the bike. It’s true that you are looking ahead of you and enjoying the view, but it’s also difficult to look behind and you look for a mirror. Experience has taught me to lean forward and look back.
The length of the handlebars, and the angle and position of the seat are all adjustable. The latter I found the hardest to get right, so that my legs weren’t over-stretched, but so that I was getting the right amount of power out of the bike. My leg muscles too took some getting used to the new position, especially as I now needed the bike for every journey around town.
Drive to the rear wheel is by a very long chain. When the bike was new, part of this chain was covered by a plastic pipe held in place by a piece of Velcro. This was great for preventing oily trouser syndrome but after the Velcro worked loose for the umpteenth time and the pipe snarled around the sprocket in a busy street with loads of onlookers I decided it had to go. Since removing it my chain hasn’t come off once but I’m back to tucking the trousers in the socks.
For no extra effort I seem to be going about 10% faster than other bikes. I put this down to reduced wind resistance, and the fact that I’m always pushing against the back of the seat, never riding the pedals. The seated position puts you at roughly the same height as motorists in their cars and BikeE claim this makes it safer.
Best of all – this bike is great fun. It’s so much of a head turner that you can’t help going along with a grin. ‘Nice bike, mate,’ ‘I want one,’ ‘Cool,’ and ‘Hey Keith, look at that bike!’ have all been overheard from excited pedestrians. Even motorists toot encouragement and wind the window down to drool. One feels that this bike is welcome on the road.
BikeE: price £725 for 7-gear version, available in black, orange and purple
Contact: D.TEK, 01353 648177, fax 01353 648777.