Power of the ebike in Cork — a city full of hills!

ANDREW DESMOND, a ‘Citizen Cyclist’, explains why an electric bike can be a godsend for people who want to cycle through the city — especially those living high in the northside
Power of the ebike in Cork — a city full of hills!

FREEWHEELING: Former Lord Mayor Cllr Tony Fitzgerald tries out an ebike on St Patrick’s Hill in 2018

THIS time last year, I set off to map out a route for a group of cyclists to take for the upcoming Cork Cycling Festival.
One of the destinations of the proposed tour was Cork’s Sample-Studios, as many citizens were wondering where the City Council had hidden it since it moved from the old Tax Office building on Sullivan’s Quay. The Tour was called The Artist’s Way Cycle Tour and it would also include other cultural treasure troves along the way, including:

  • The Guesthouse, Shandon
  • Cork Community Bikes, Watercourse Road
  • Idle Hour pub for hydration
  • Outlaw Studios, Centre Park Road
  • Circus Factory, Centre Park Road
  • Fionnbarra’s Bar, Douglas St (yes, it’s has a fabulously eclectic art collection on permanent exhibition and also a bike friendly beergarden

But primary in my thoughts was how do I get an eclectic group of cyclists safely and steadfastly from the Berwick Fountain in Cork City to the highest point of the hills north of the River Lee, specifically to Churchfield where Sample Studios is now situated?

It is an arduous climb of over 380ft and I reckoned the long, slow, curved route up Cathedral Road would decimate our group of leisure cyclists — and this was to be the first stop on the route. So what was required was a long slow, side-winding ascent of the Northside, not unlike the meandering scenic routes often seen on the TV of the Giro d’Italia.

I also knew there would be some spectacular views of the city and interesting settings to be seen on the way. And so off I went on my small wheeled fold-up city bike. I started at the Berwick Fountain, where I met my friend Eileen Healy on her bike. This was a good omen as she is one of our most accomplished artists in the city, both on canvas and on fiddle. So far so good.

I sped up the lower reaches of the tour, checking in at The Guesthouse in Shandon, is a wonderful partnership between the City Council and a collective of artists who maintain it. An oasis of culture, I have enjoyed some of the most engaging art events here over the years. www.theguesthouse.ie

Andrew Desmond
Andrew Desmond

Then I set off up towards the North Cathedral at which point the epic task ahead of me came into focus.

I am a moderately fit, frequent cyclists but on the level, I never stray too far from the assuring sight of the city’s river.

While I was only slightly winded by the exertions thus far, I knew my limit was not far off. I would need more power if I was to break through those limits. I realised the hill that loomed before me would not have to be surmounted once, rather a number of times as I explored the various avenues. I would have to re-plan my day. Where would I get more power to reach my goals, to reach the peak of the North Face?

Then, like a cartoon light bulb over my head... electric power — I needed an ebike.

I realised I was near cityviewwheels.com who have long championed ebikes in Cork city. Ironically and thankfully, I could freewheel down from Cathedral Road through via Mary Aikenhead Road and Ballymacthomas Street to join Blarney Street exactly where they are located.

I admired the selection of bikes on display and also saw they operate a hire service. I composed myself to prepare a pitch on behalf of the Cork Cycling Festival in the hope they would sponsor the hire of an ebike. My rehearsal was interrupted and unnecessary as I was promptly approached by Pat Murray, a great champion of cycling in the city and a member of Cork Cycling Campaign. When he heard the purpose of my visit he enthusiastically offered his support and the loan of an e-bike. As it happened, two bikes had only just been returned by a retired American couple from a very successful cycle trip to Killarney.

After a short five-minute instruction I was all set with a recharged battery. Off I went for my first experience of an ebike. My first impressions were good… very comfortable and steady in the Dutch style of design of a solid strong frame with the cyclist sitting upright taking in the view. A solid feeling of safety.

Compared to my one bijoux bike, it was like a war horse, in gait and weight. For the extra power to climb a hill you simply pulled the throttle and the handle grip, effortless.

The bike also benefited from several gears and with a little practice I learned when best to use the throttle and the best combination of e-power and simple change of gears — the best balances for different environments.

Over the course of a pleasant few hours, I freewheeled down and pedal powered up the hills of the Northside. I scaled the heights about three times that day thanks to the additional power in the pedals, after which I set off to plan the rest of the tour of venues.

By the end of the day I had covered 25km and many of those where uphill. I made many friends and all enquired about the bike. And because I was not short of breath I was able to tell them! Absolutely brilliant, life changing, city changing. An ebike opens up the northside — it makes the entire city accessible.

It is safe and secure. The battery is easily unlocked, removed and recharged, and when locking the bike, the tiny control panel clips off and fits in a small pocket, leaving the ebike powerless.

It also makes the cyclist younger. If I had cycled that distance on my bike I would be relegated to the sofa for the remainder of the week. But that evening, I had so much pep in my step that I went out to join the cyclists returning from the Festival’s History Cycle.

Two days later, I led the Artist’s Way Cycle as part of the Cork Cycling Festival, and all made it safely to the top and back again, with many culture stops along the way.

There is a photo journal of it at https://photos.app.goo.gl/JVExqk7xFFdf6uCU7

Thanks to Pat Murray at City View Wheels for making it possible.

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