Why it matters that we just cycled to Brighton by e-bike…

“We don’t care if you come first or last – if you take part in the London to Brighton Bike Ride 2018, then you’ll be a champion.

The London to Brighton Bike Ride is for the fast and the fall behinds. For the solo riders and team players. It’s for the experienced and the newbies. The confident and the cautious.” – The British Heart Foundation

London to Brighton by ebike

Seeing the thousands of riders pushing themselves past the finish line on a roasting hot Sunday in Brighton, it was difficult to argue with those words.

The people who took on the ride – and the baking temperatures – were as numerous and diverse as the pebbles on Brighton beach. Cyclists of all sizes, backgrounds and experience levels tackled the challenge. There were riders in lycra, riders in monks’ cassocks (yes, really), riders on Choppers, riders on tandems and for the first time ever, riders on e-bikes.

Why does this matter?

Previously, the British Heart Foundation’s policies did not allow the participation of riders on e-bikes. Ostensibly, this was a ‘health and safety’ issue but we’re sure it was more a matter of unfamiliarity with what e-bikes are and what they do.

And what e-bikes are and what they do is essential to understanding what made Sunday’s ride a game-changing moment.

E-bikes are classed legally as bicycles but more than that, they are bikes which allow more and more people to get out on two-wheels.  Often they allow people who don’t believe that they could cycle again, to rejoin the ranks of happy riders.

When we campaigned to have e-bikes allowed on the L2B, we pointed out the irony that many people with cardiovascular disease are only able to cycle with the aid of an e-bike.

Not a race….a celebration

Our team on Sunday were all on e-bikes and comprised of people who had done the L2B before, and those who had never taken part in such a large cycling event. The e-bikes allowed them all to complete the ride, and to stick together for the majority of it.

The London to Brighton ride is not a race but a celebration of cycling. Everyone is at a different stage of their cycling development and it’s important to celebrate their continuing development and  hopefully their continuing devotion to the sport.

E-bike riders are typically not the lycra-clad cycle warrior racking up hundreds of miles each week. E-bike riders are much more representative of the general population.  Like most people, the thought of cycling from the capital to the coast for them is daunting, and not just an opportunity to race your rivals from the cycling club.

Don’t wait until you are perfect to do something amazing

By allowing e-bikes to participate – and therefore permitting people who really are pushing at the edges of their comfort zone –  we can say to the public, “Don’t wait until you are the perfect cyclist with the perfect body to do something amazing on your bike!”

To repeat the BHF’s mantra: “It’s not a race”. When it comes to cycling, or any physical exercise for that matter, the important thing is actually doing it. More than anything else we’ve seen, e-bikes have the ability to bridge the gap between ‘nice idea’ and ‘mission accomplished’; between sitting at home and crossing the finish line to hundreds of cheering onlookers on Brighton beach.

That is why it matters. Pedal-by-pedal, e-bikes bring the dream of wider participation in sport closer and closer to reality.

How did the e-bikes get on?

 

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