Former Top Gear presenter James May has been showing his support for electric bikes, saying they "really could change the world" in a recent article for The Times.
In the piece, titled 'Why I love my big, ugly electric bike', May argues that e-bikes are not cheating - despite what "proper" cyclists he knows say - writing: "you are still riding a bike, but for the same amount of effort you can go further or faster or a bit of both."
He added: "The bicycle can now discharge many of the short-haul jobs we currently do in motor vehicles. And by empowering the idea of the bicycle, the pedelec may yet do much to save its great enemy, the car, since it can help remove the car from the areas where it is perceived as being problematic: towns and cities."
May presented motoring programme Top Gear on the BBC alongside Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond from 2003 to 2015, where his driving style earned him the nickname 'Captain Slow'. The trio now present motoring series The Grand Tour on Amazon Prime.
May has also defended the bicycle on previous occasions, including in an article published on the BBC Top Gear website in 2012 where he called it "one of the greatest inventions ever". "Without the bicycle," he said, "and the desire for liberty it generated, we would probably not have the car."
In 2017, May wrote about his life-long love for cycling on motoring website Drivetribe where he said "riding a bike feels good" and recounted the story of when he learned to ride at the age of three.
He also recently has voiced his support for introducing 20mph speed limits in urban and residential areas, which he believes is “plenty fast enough”, while also arguing that a “change in attitude”, rather than new signage or infrastructure, is key to ending road sectarianism.
In The Times piece, published on March 5th, the presenter acknowledged that the rise of the pedelec will cause "disquiet" in some sectors of the "fragmented and annoyingly" sectarian road community - with topics for discussion including road tax, insurance and number plates - but he doesn't "see how it can possibly be a bad thing".
He said: "Not all bikes will be like this, most probably don’t need to be. But this tech greatly broadens the efficacy of the humble bicycle, increases its appeal to many and makes it accessible to people who might have otherwise struggled with one.
"I’ve used electric bikes to transport a toolkit weighing more than the bike and some truly gargantuan bags of groceries. In contrast, or consequence, I haven’t ridden my 125cc motorcycle for months.
"Given that they’ve been around for far less time than electric cars, they’ve caught on remarkably quickly. In part this is thanks to advances in battery technology and power-management software spun off from laptops. It’s also because people are discovering new uses for them."
May's e-bike, the VanMoof S3, is "very, very ugly", he said, also questioning why it's "so enormous". "The wheels and tyres wouldn’t look out of place on a step-through moped, and add drag," he wrote.
"I accept that the frame tubes have to accommodate the battery and electronics, but they still seem wantonly thickset. Meanwhile the rear luggage rack is laughably small and barely good enough for a backie."
The presenter does however say that the lights are integrated and "pretty good" and that the disc brakes are powerful enough for "great skids".
"There is a four-speed internal rear hub, and four speeds is plenty for a rider whose powerband is swelled by the miracle of electricity," he said.
"The electronics are all housed in a removable module running through the top tube and the S3 can be brought to life, customised and even updated over the air, Tesla-style, through the accompanying smartphone app. As a lad I never imagined I would need a supercomputer in my pocket to ride my bike."
May said he has now "reached an agreement" with the S3. "The VanMoof makes a round trip of 40 miles something of an amble while still leaving me breathless enough, thank you," he concluded.
"Cheating? I turned 60 a few weeks ago. The only thing I’m cheating is what the poet Larkin called “age, and then the only end of age.”"