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We have already looked at Swytch’s 2022 retrofit kit, as fitted to a lightweight Pinnacle hybrid. For this first of a new series highlighting the country’s most attractive rides for e-bikers, we used that bike to explore Yorkshire's Elsecar Greenway and Dove Valley Trail.
The Trans Pennine Trail (TPT) coast to coast route stretches some 215 miles, linking the elegant seaside resorts of Lancashire’s Southport and Yorkshire’s Hornsea. Unlike other ‘challenge’ coast to coast routes (C2C, Way of the Roses etc), the TPT is virtually unique in being aimed at ‘leisure’ riders, with it’s preponderance of railpaths and canal towpaths and their generally easygoing gradients.
This small section gives a wonderful taster of much of the rest of the route, especially many of the western sections; even though you are in the midst of the once-industrial north, just south of Barnsley you are surrounded by nature and also get the chance to visit a fantastically varied selection of wonderful family-friendly attractions.
Your start point is Elsecar Heritage Centre – once a huge set of workshops for the local coal and ironworks which had it’s own canal basin and rail terminus. Steam trains still run along the track here. Packed into the former workshops these days are a wonderful array of cafes and shops ranging from temptingly traditional teashops to an impressively well-stocked second-hand vinyl record shop. History buffs might want to take a look at the Newcomen steam engine – the oldest one in the world on its original site.
As on much of the rest of the route, the Swytch Pinnacle is easy to pedal without power along the flat canalside path away from Elsecar Heritage Centre, where you're suddenly surrounded by nature (including spottings of a kingfisher and treecreeper amongst much else). Straightforward signing finally leads me away from the canal to navigate through a brief section of concrete jungle before emerging again in the natural world, heading east at a trail junction for Old Moor RSPB reserve. There is time to lunch at a cafe here, with an attractive balcony view over the huge, wildlife-rich reserve itself.
Turning around at Old Moor I head towards the Pennines, grateful for the superb sealed surface of the Dove Valley Trail – there’s still no need for motor power as I’ve changed tyres since the original review for slightly more tarmac-friendly (but still gravel-capable) WTB ByWay semi-slicks. The superb trail quality makes the gradual climb seem almost non-existent. The light weight of the bike and kit (the bike weighs only around 15.5kg – the Swytch kit adding only 3.3kg) no doubt helps too.
There are more attractions en route; Worsbrough Mill is a working 17th century corn mill (making flour today) surrounded by 240 acres of country park, whilst if you have the very young in tow they will love some close contact with a big variety of animal friends at Wigfield Farm.
The motor is finally pressed into service as I follow the signs to the National Trust Wentworth Castle Gardens (yet another cafe option) with the chance to see the painstaking restoration work done on the Victorian conservatory. The road climb here just off the trail is well worth it and a great reason to do this route on a machine that can be used as both a regular bike and an e-bike, like the Swytch Pinnacle.
The final climb to the fine old Pennine market town of Penistone uses more superbly surface trail and a linking section of road and bridleway towards Oxspring before the final easy roll into the old stone centre with its ancient church, Cloth Hall and Shambles set amidst fine Pennine scenery.
The Swytch Pinnacle is easy to lift aboard the return train to Elsecar, which is a relaxing half hour trip back down to journey’s beginning. There can’t be many traffic-free trail rides like this - where you will struggle to visit everything en route in a single day.
Signage, navigation tips and rail connections
The whole route is well signed with Sustrans National Cycle Network (NCN) signage using the white number on red background system. All of the route except for the there-and-back detour to Wentworth Castle Gardens (well-signed off the trail) is also clearly signed as Trans Pennine Trail (TPT).
From Elsecar Heritage Centre I followed NCN 67 signs along the Elsecar Greenway along the line of the disused Elsecar Canal to the junction with the Dove Valley Trail, at which point NCN 62 signs took over, with local destinations signed with distances. I found only one confusing junction on the Elsecar Greenway where I mistakenly went left at the unsigned fork, onto single track, instead of right to keep on the broad well-made main trail.
Category: Family / easy leisure
Length: 18.5 miles one way with train return. If you just want to visit one or more attractions you can of course turn around for a much shorter trip - Old Moor, Worsbrough Mill / Wigfield Farm or Wentworth Gardens return trips are 7, 20 or 24 miles respectively.
On/Off road split: 8% on road (1.5 miles), 92% traffic-free (17 miles)
Surface conditions: Elsecar Greenway (Elsecar Heritage Centre to junction with Dove Valley Trail) is an unsealed but generally wide trail that is pretty well-drained even after rain. The Dove Valley Trail (RSPB Old Moor to Penistone) is sealed and in very good condition overall with just the occasional section of bumps (tree roots) or puddling after heavy rain.
Access / barriers: Mainly speed chicanes with plenty of clearance for trailers etc and just a few A-frames which are also pretty broad by A-frame standards, with clearance for trailers.
Swytch 2022 fitted to lightweight hybrid – how did it perform?
The ride confirmed our initial test finding. Power delivery is smooth and works as well as you could expect from the basic magnet ring sensor; power arrives quickly after you start pedalling and stops safely and quickly when you stop turning the cranks.
The 18.5 miles I achieved on the battery was outstanding, though note that I pedalled the bike much of the way - quite easily - without power, just using power levels 1 and 2 out of 5 for the stiff climb to Wentworth Castle Gardens.
I was aware the same bike achieved 12 miles on a rolling bikepacking route with around 1,250ft of climbing so deliberately kept my thumb off the power level button, but my spin up the Dove Valley Trail was still about as easy as climbing gets on a bike.
If you need to use the power more often, and especially if you have a trailer or extra weight aboard, then the double size 198Wh Max battery is highly advisable over the 98Wh Air battery I was using. Do note the power tails off when the battery icon on the handlebar display starts flashing - even though two lights still appeared on the battery itself. This means it can be hard to predict exactly when the battery will run out.
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 power levels. With the new design it couldn’t be easier to flip between assistance 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.
Thankfully I never suffered a puncture but if you need to remove the front wheel it’s not a huge task; you just need the correct size spanner for the axle nuts and to remember to disconnect the front motor, ‘plug and play’ style. Having quick release zip ties (used to keep the cable runs tied to the frame) is a good idea so you don’t need to keep cutting them off and replacing them, so avoiding single use plastic syndrome.
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 (198Wh) battery options – both lighter and smaller than previous kit versions (20x10x2.5cm / 660g and 22x10x5cm / 1.1kg respectively)
- Handlebar battery mount (602g with 31.8mm bat fitting and spacer shims (22.2mm, 25.4mm & 26.0mm) for all other common handlebar sizes
- 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 - the 'naked' weight of the recipient Pinnacle before fitting was 12.1kg, increasing to 15.4kg afterwards
Bike fitted to: Pinnacle Neon hybrid with V-brakes and eight gears (front chainring 42 teeth, rear sprocket 11 to 34 teeth, giving an impressive gear range of nearly 310% – useful if you intend to do steep climbs as you need to keep the pedals spinning easily to keep the power coming).
Swytch price: From £449 (estimated six month lead time) plus extras. Full RRP is £999.