I’ve recently purchased an ebike from an Italian manufacturer, in order to use it for my day-to-day transport needs around the north of Athens.
To be totally honest, I was a bit hesitant in the start. I didn’t know if the 250W electric-motor-powered vehicle (no licence required up to 250W power) would actually meet my expectations for an easy and comfortable ride, as well as offer me an opportunity to extend my go-it-alone travel range. Also, I wasn’t sure about the quality of these vehicles, especially with regards to their battery durability and electrics reliability.
But my biggest concern was coping with the notoriously hectic Athens traffic. Would the other drivers respect a vehicle which is somewhere between a bike and a motorcycle? Would it be safe to move among stationary or moving cars and motorcycles at an ebike’s speed, while also keeping a watchful eye on erratic pedestrians that crop up randomly all over the place?
Last, I was wary of the actual effect the motor-assisted pedaling would have on me. Would the ebike allow me to easily conquer uphill driving without imposing a huge compromise on either speed or stamina?
The verdict: ebike driving is a DELIGHTFUL experience. It’s really smooth and easy, since the motor kicks-in almost immediately, and after the first 10 minutes you really get the hang of it. And then you realise that you start “eating-up” the road ahead at a rapid pace, without even sweating. Uphill driving becomes a child’s play, and you get to extend the distance that you can comfortably cover.
Material quality is excellent, and ebike technology has come a long way and is now 100% durable and reliable.
Mingling with traffic is also a lot easier than with a conventional bike, since your speed is higher and you do not impose much of an obstacle for cars or motorbikes. However, not everyone knows that you have the same right to be on the public road as other drivers do, hence if there is not enough space for you to drive on the right and allow cars to speed past you, then drivers would need to patiently queue up behind you. I tried to be extra accommodating towards them, and allow them to overtake me comfortably wherever the road conditions were appropriate or when a bike/bus lane was handy. Very few drivers showed contempt towards me, and only one blew her horn in anger.
You need to always keep an eye on cars appearing at junctions, or parked cars where a driver might suddenly decide to open his door right in your face, and you should also look around for pedestrians who may rush to cross your path while you’re whizzing through. Obeying the greek Highway Driving Code and the road signals and signs is also a must.
Needless to say, you should always keep the front and rear lights on, during either day or night, and you should invest in a good helmet (just in case).
All and all and despite the lack of bike lanes, driving an ebike on the Athens roads as well as in the surrounding areas is a delightful experience: easy, relatively fast, adequately safe, and petrol-free. It’s going to become my new means of moving around.