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We have already looked at Swytch’s 2022 retrofit kit, as fitted to a lightweight Pinnacle and taken that particular bike for a spin along one of the country's finest family rides, the Dove Valley Trail. Here we see how the kit fares fitted to a very different bike - a classic low-step city bike with heavier hub gears, disc brakes and belt drive from Belgium's Frappé - for an easy-going but lengthy ride along the coast around an icon of the North, Blackpool Tower.
This is a fantastic ride for families and easy-going leisure riders, largely traffic-free, easy to follow, hugging the coast for most of its length and, of course, taking in the definitive bucket-and-spade destination of Blackpool, its Tower the tallest structure in the British Empire when it opened, and still mighty impressive today.
But there's more to this ride along Sustrans' National Cycle Network route 62 (NCN 62) than funfairs and piers. At its southern end is elegant, gentrified Lytham and at its northern terminus the wild-feeling Rossall Beach and Fleetwood's many unusual landmarks.
The grandeur of Lytham Hall is a great place to start, with a choice of cafe with courtyard or, if you are really pushing the boat out, afternoon tea in the hall library. You will soon be gliding along the stately drive, passing the front of the house and heading through aristocratically landscaped countryside.
A short road link section leads to Green Drive, a brief but beautiful traffic-free ride skirting one of Lytham's famed golf courses. As on most of the route, it's a sealed surface with no appreciable gradient, so the Swytch kit doesn't need to be pressed into use yet - even though it's a heavyish bike with belt drive (a bit less efficient than a traditional chain drive). It's easy riding in fantastic, icily crisp autumnal feeling surroundings.
Another short road section brings fine coast-side cycling at Lytham Green, with the Ribble Estuary's salt marshes on one side with the Liverpool skyline and the Welsh hills visible on a magnificently clear day. On the other side is the Lytham townscape with the town's unusually located windmill ahead.
From here, now on NCN 62, it's really just a matter of sticking as close to the coast as you can. The hard surface is luxuriously wide as I round Fairhaven Lake and its unusual Spitfire Memorial, with a full size replica of one of the most famous planes in the world about to skim over the lake surface. A short section of road route leads to St Annes pier and surrounding gardens - the Victorian pier is worth a stroll.
The trigger shifting on the seven hub gears are nice and exact and ideal for the stop-start riding along Blackpool's Golden Mile - originally so-named because of the concentration of amusement arcades. Today its start is heralded at its southern end by The Big One. If plunging almost vertically downwards at 85mph from a height of 235 ft appeals, then this rollercoaster is for you... Some may prefer the glitz of the illuminations, a yearly attraction for autumn and winter, which reach a night-time, strobe-lit, 3D crescendo at the base of the tower.
There's some slight climbing heading north out of Blackpool but it never really troubles the motor other than fairly brief presses of the handy power button to get into level 1 of 5. There's more Victorian elegance passing a string of shelters on the grassy promenade at Little Bispham, backed by the hulking, surreally castellated Norbreck Castle hotel.
Civilisation largely slips away on the final ride past Cleveleys and on to Fleetwood. Rossall beach is populated by only a few fishermen on this very cool but clear winters day, though signs promise a great bathing beach in summer, all backed by the hills of the Lake District in the distance.
At Fleetwood it's worth climbing to the magnificent Mount viewpoint above the attractive Marine Gardens to get an overview of the coastal ride just completed. If you want to explore the quiet roads of the countryside on the far side of the Wyre esturary, there is a bike-friendly, quick and very scenic ferry to Knott End from here. Fleetwood itself is a highy distinctive place, with two Victorian lighthouses (still working) and trams running the length of the main shopping street.
Signage, navigation tips and rail connections
There's some careful navigation required between Lytham Hall and the The Green, but once on the coast it's really a matter of just sticking as closely as you can to the sea. Although on Sustrans' NCN 62 all the way up the coast, it's not the best signed route. But most of the time it's all self-evident promenade-style cycling. Just keep an eye out for painted cycle signs and arrows on the track in front of you. The only really easy to miss part is at Starr Gate approaching Blackpool, where you swing off the roadside cycle lanes and head down the side of the large blue building (actually a tram depot).
The Fylde peninsula has a train 'loopline' from Preston which is on the West Coast Main Line, with stations at Lytham, St Annes and three at Blackpool. Only folding bikes are allowed on the tram system which runs between Fleetwood and Starr Gate, Blackpool.
Category: Family / easy leisure
Length: 22.5 miles one way. You could feasibly do this with two Swytch Air batteries or one Max battery (double the size of an Air), as long as you ride without power when the going is super-easy (quite a lot of the time) and only resort to level one power. Taking a weekend to ride north and south out of Blackpool would be a much more relaxed way to tackle it and to enjoy the surroundings.
On/off road split: 13% on road (3 miles), 87% traffic-free (19.5 miles)
Surface conditions: All good hard, sealed surfaces, usually tarmac or concrete.
Access / barriers: None to speak of, so trailers and bikes with larger loads are no problem.
Swytch 2022 kit fitted to low-step, low maintenance city bike – how did it perform?
As with the Swytch Pinnacle ride, the Swytch again delivered power smoothly via the magnet ring and sensor system. It felt fairly efficient and power arrived quickly after starting pedalling. It then stopped safely and quickly when pedalling stopped.
I used the better part of two 98Wh Air batteries to cover the whole of the 22.5 mile route - not quite as impressive as the 18 miles achieved with the lightweight Swytch Pinnacle on a single battery, but this is a heavier bike with the convenience of easy-changing hub gears and a zero maintenance belt drive.
Note that as this was a flat and well-surfaced route, I had the power swiched off for lengthy sections, but on level 1 for any slight uphill sections. Also note this is based on a ride in sub-zero temperatures. Battery range on e-bikes increases significantly in warmer months.
The motor would be doubly appreciated if you had a kiddie trailer in tow on this route. And as before, the combined display and power level thumb control is a huge improvement over the original design which involved taking your hand off the bars to change assitance levels. With the new design it couldn’t be easier to flip between levels and turn power on and off just when you need to. It really helps you get the most out of the system and your precious battery capacity.
Being a front wheel hub kit, it is ideal for this hub gear / belt drive system as obviously no rear wheel retrofit motor system could be added. Even if cycling around your city is easy and flat, as here, the motor was helpful on a very long day in the saddle and can also give extra power for load carrying.
Swytch kit constituents:
- 250W front hub motor, ready spoked into the same rim size as your recipient bike. Swytch say the kit can fit ‘99%’ of bikes including ‘all industry-standard wheel sizes, from 16″ all the way up to 28″/700C/29er
- Choice of Air (98Wh) and Max (180Wh) battery options – both lighter and smaller than previous kit versions (25mm x 100mm x 212mm (Air) and 35.5mm x 100mm x 228mm (Max))
- Handlebar battery mount weighing 602g with 31.8mm bar fitting and spacer shims of 22.2mm, 25.4mm & 26.0mm for all other common handlebar sizes
- (Optional) OLED display that lets you select one of five power levels
- Pedal crank motion sensor with universal fitting arm and frame fitting sensor
- Total added weight of the kit with 98Wh Air battery was 3.3kg.
Bike fitted to: Frappé FS400 with low-step frame, Shimano Nexus 7-speed hub gears, Shimano MT200 hydraulic disc brakes and CST Otis 700c size tyres with puncture protection.
Swytch price: From £449 (estimated six-month lead time) plus extras. Full RRP is £999.