Orbea Vibe

Authentically delivered in a strong Yorkshire accent, all stretched syllables and associated physicality. Cap off, head scratch, pause, further pause, furrowed brow then ‘ha’ tha’ gone soft lad?’

Possibly. Probably. Certainly gone E. The noise you hear is the irony meter banging against the stops since only last month I had a proper ‘old man shouting at clouds moment’ calling out the electric false narrative. At the end of which I casually dropped in that I’d joined the ranks of the plugged in.

But for none of the reasons I was attempting to lampoon. This is not N+1, it is one less car. It has nothing to do with getting fitter, but everything to do with fitness for purpose. It’s less about riding less proper bikes, but everything about riding more bikes. It’s not an acceptance of age related decline, but everything about dealing with what’s left.

So let’s get into that. This is not an impulse purchase. There is solid rationale for not wanting to drive to either of the two towns five miles away. I bloody hate it. It’s why I sometimes ride my MTB from home only to return empty legged some eight hours later.

The issue is geography. Herefordshire is known for its rolling hills. They aren’t vertically impressive but there is a shit load of them. We live on the top of one of those with a couple of hundred metres separating us from the river trundling through Ross on Wye. Once down there, it’s a pull home especially with beer or a big ride on board.

I’ve ridden many bikes to and from Ross (and Ledbury) over the years. It’s not a big gig and I could swap my car for two wheels every time. But I don’t. Because I’m lazy.   Hard work may pay off it in the long run, but laziness works right now. So I drive, or – if we’re going to the pub – Carol drives and I feel bad about that. I mean not bad enough to drive myself, but you know low level bad.

Enough rationale, excuses to follow let’s move to the present and the achingly pretty eBike up there. Integrated loveliness. Not your standard eBike. Here’s what it isn’t; a complex geared motor offering twice as much power as my legs can put out, an obvious electrified steed with a motor stepping out the bottom bracket area, a down tube housing a battery powerful enough to light a  small village for a few days.

So what is it? Both a rather complex hub motor and a simple approach to delivering the power. There are no torque sensors here, no power matching, no clever brain selecting the right mode. If the cassette is spinning the motor is on, and that motor is delivering less than half of a ‘standard‘ eBike.

Vibe - 2nd ride

This is all good. For starters, the final weight isn’t much more than my Stenduro* Giga. There is no display, only a discreet mode selection switch toggling between not much, oh that’s nice, and fuck me I appear to have Tour De France legs. That last setting comes with a warning tho- the battery buried in the downtube is a mere 250w/hour and that’s going to get drained faster than a burst pipe if you lean on the turbo button.

Even showing some restraint, we’re taking 75km range. Quick sidebar, I was absolutely clear when I bought the bike Turbo wasn’t ever going to be engaged. Well that lasted about 20 seconds. It’s a bit, er, compelling sailing up steep road climbs at 20MPH. I’m not sure the top half of the cassette is going to see much action.**

First proper #onelesscar ride

My first #onelesscar visit to the physio in Ross was fantastic. Arrived in about the same time as if I’ve ridden my gravel bike. But far less sweaty. The 25kmh limiter gets hit on every flat, but I just drop the motor into Eco and tell myself I AM NOT IN A HURRY. Every hill spikes my ‘must pedal like a bastard gland‘ and that’s a hard habit to break. As is spinning at a non MTB stomping cadence which is something to re-learn, as this is a pretty low torque motor most efficient with a bit more leg twirling.

I sense questions; will it pay for itself in saved fuel? Fuck no, I bought the posh one and it’d need to follow my hearse to get close to break-even. Will you ride it off road? Absolutely not, because it’d be crap for all sorts of reasons mostly tyres and weight distribution with that heavy rear hub****. Is it a gateway drug to buy an eMTB. Nope, but they are brilliant things. I’ve not had an epiphany but I’m definitely more on the fence than I was. Will you ride it through the winter? Christ, no I’ve paid my dues with 10+ years of 4 season commuting. Best jacket in crap weather is the car roof.

But I will ride it. When before I’d take the car. I’ll wobble home from the pub, mule some light shopping home, maybe go exploring when I need a view that’s not the shed wall. We’ve decided to stay here – post kids doing adult things – and part of living in a stunning landscape is I want to ride a bike every day.

So this isn’t an ending, nor a slow descent into giving up proper pedalling, not an excuse to make the hard things easy. Rather it’s expanding my options to ride a bike. And that can never be a bad thing.

EBaGum? eBike Fun more like.

*stupidly, pointless Enduro and I love it for that.

**reviews said 250 watts isn’t enough to get you up steep hills. Maybe if you’re out of shape but for me, I’ve barely got out of breath half way up the block. I can’t imagine what a full fat one must feel like.

****Rohloff users, what were you thinking?

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