From Hobby-Horse to Electric Bike
Electric bikes and bicycles alike serve many purposes. Some are considered a tool to make a living, others a cleaner mode of transport or simply a recreational activity.
It is widely acknowledged the early invention (in 1817) of a steerable, two-wheeled contraption was made by a German baron named Karl von Drais. It was known by many names, including the “velocipede,” “hobby-horse,” “draisine” and “running machine”. It was really the ancestor of the balance bike which is nowadays so popular as a first bike for children.
I was amazed to see how quickly my granddaughter Marley (aged 2) mastered the balancing skills needed in cycling, from her little balance bike!
But the bicycle as we know it today evolved in the 19th century: prototypes with pedals attached to the front wheel were developed. These were the first machines to be called “bicycles”.
I’m not a real bicycle lover, but Marius is obsessed about biking…. When I met him in Belfast, he was cycling everyday to work… long before any cycle-scheme was introduced!!
He managed to even convince me to cycle through Africa.. not an easy task! But even though I’m not that keen a cyclist, I do enjoy the freedom it gives you. In Africa, the bicycle brought us a welcome relief from travelling in Bush taxis from town to town, suffering in the heat of the vehicles and the tin-roofed cheap hotel rooms.
It allowed us to explore the countryside, meet local villagers and organise our day around the “sieste” (an essential rest in the middle of the day when the heat is at its strongest!).
Then came the e-bike….
It is hard to believe the very first electric bicycles were documented in the 1880’s and 1890’s in the patent offices in both France and the United States.
But what is an e-bike ?
It's a bicycle with an integrated electric motor which is used to assist your pedaling. You still cycle but the battery gives you a helping push...which you appreciate so much on the hills!!
E-bikes use rechargeable batteries and typically can travel up to 80km with one charge.
There are many e-bikes design variations available, some with batteries attached to the frame, some housed within the tube.
The e-bike makes biking more accessible to riders of all ages and an electric mountain bike allows you to access routes off the beaten track that would normally only be the prerogative of the seasoned mountain biker.
So, I am still not a keen cyclist but I love going for a ride in the hills with an electric mountain bike. I love the wilderness and the rugged hills of West Fermanagh where you can totally immerse yourself in the landscape. You might even stumble across a Neolithic tomb, a mass rock or another relic from the past.
A New York Times article from 1896 boasted that “the bicycle promises a splendid extension of personal power and freedom, scarcely inferior to what wings would give.”
I certainly would second that for e-bikes !
You could say the e-bike gives you wings !!!
E bikes have been popular in the South of Ireland and the rest of Europe for a while ….they are only really making an impact in Northern Ireland now, partly because e-bikes could not be used on the road until a local bylaw was changed in May last year.
I think E-bikes have the ability to change the way people experience the world around them and Electric mountain bikes offer great opportunities to escape to the countryside and enjoy the outdoors.
Corralea is the only centre offering both e-bike hire and e-bikes tours in the heart of the Marble Arch Caves Geopark.
Come and try an e-bike….I guarantee you will be won over by the ease to ride and the incredible buzz you get from getting to the top of a rugged hill and view the spectacular landscape unfolding in front of you. And you don’t need to be a keen cyclist !!!
Good news: Sign posted routes through the Scarplands are opening soon including small loops for family trails and a 100km linear gravel route from Belcoo to Lough Navar.
More about that soon.
Keen bikers can check out The Lakeland Gravel Grinder website or facebook page for their annual event on Saturday 9 October 2021...Some fabulous pictures from a great gravel cycling challenge in the wild West of Fermanagh!!