If you've considered giving the car a miss, or freeing up a seat on a bus or train, but you're put off by arduous journeys up hills and sweaty arrivals, then these bikes could be just the thing for you.
I tried the Raleigh Captus low step bike, which Blue Door Bikes sell for £1,499 at the time of writing. They also have a few different e-bikes on sale if this one doesn't take your fancy. Here it is in the shop:
1 - It makes the hills a doddle. I'm a fairly fit cyclist, so you may still huff and puff a bit, but if you whack the power assist up to 'turbo' and go to the lowest gear you can happily climb the steepest hills in Crystal Palace without too much effort. Since moving down (up?) here from East Dulwich I've taken to cycling in sports clothes for comfort, but I was able to go to work and back in smarter clothes without a problem.
3 - Journeys into town are surprisingly quick. I found myself cruising at between 15-20mph without much effort because the motor quickly gets you up to speed, so you can get into central London in 30-50 minutes, depending on your fitness level. Bypass the traffic jams and beat the train delays.
4 - You really don't need to get sweaty. I cycled 3 miles to a job interview on a warm, sunny afternoon without breaking into a sweat, which is more than could be said for many a bus or tube trip (and I got the job!) Cycling home along the segregated cycle superhighway from Farringdon to Elephant and Castle just felt like heaven. It's the future!
5 - If you do most of your journey on the 'eco' setting, which is enough to take the sting out of a commute, you probably only need to charge the battery every three days. It's easy to detach and charge in your flat/house, and charges in a couple of hours. I did a whole day (of around 18 miles) without any assistance at all and it was fine.
But forget all that. The best thing is that it is FUN! When my wife Rachel tried it she pedalled off with a gleeful "wheeee!" You can see how happy the turbo mode made Sian Berry, a Green Party Member of the London Assembly, when I got it out at work:
At just under £1,500 it's not cheap. But an annual travelcard for zones 1-3 costs the same. If you look after the bike and mix-and-match between cycling and taking the train, you'd easily repay the cost in a few years. Throw in the now-dropped gym membership and you're laughing! There are other e-bikes around as well, from around £700 up to a king's ransom, though I don't know what their performance is like.
If you're curious _you could do worse than give it a go. Pop into Blue Door_, or another local bike shop, and see if it suits you. The transport group also put on group rides into town if you'd like to find out a nice, safe, pleasant route.