Victoria Pendleton is upbeat and brimming with excitement about many things as we sit side by side on cinema-style folding chairs in a smart Soho venue for a chat at the launch of her first e-bike, the Somerby-E, in Central London.
When I ask her about her new machines, she lights up, recalling the first moment she rode it.
“My initial reaction to it was ‘woooo’ as I went round the corner on it. I actually did make that noise”, she chuckles.
“It’s got quite a lot of power, I was very pleased.”
Pendleton is a popular women-specific cycling brand, their appeal to those who want a simple, inexpensive machine that looks good. It’s perhaps no surprise, then, that the Pendleton range should include an e-bike.
The Somerby-E is very much like the regular Pendleton Somerby: a town bike with a step through frame, only with a battery pack in the rear pannier. Some details are still to be finalised, including price, but we do know the Somerby-E has a rear wheel motor drive, a 40-50 mile range, and the battery is removable for charging, which takes around four hours. It comes fitted with a comfy, padded saddle designed for upright riding, full length mudguards and a chain guard, and a basket rack mount.
Pendleton, a superb track cyclist and still one of Britain’s most successful female Olympians with gold medals from both Beijing and London, describes her first encounter with electric assistance as if it were something a bit naughty.
She said: “I had a go on a couple of e-bikes when I was in the States; my uncle Nick had a couple in the garage and told me: ‘Have a go, they’re really good fun’”.
“I said: ‘I’m not sure, this feels a bit wrong!”.
“Then we went dashing down the coast road in LA and I was like: ‘this is brilliant’.”
Pendleton realised this was something she wanted to investigate further, that the e-bike can make longer distances possible for more people, giving the rider “a bit of help on hills”, while still helping them work on their fitness – you still have to pedal to get the assistance.
She’s pleased with the resulting machine, and hopes the price point, expected to be well under a thousand pounds, will extend the bike’s appeal.
She even expects to use one herself, for shopping trips. And Victoria won’t be the only Pendleton to snap one up.
She recalls her mum telling her: “You know what, this would give me so much more freedom to go with my bike without feeling ‘is it too far or am I going to get too tired?”
“Also it’s just a really nice feeling,” adds Pendleton. “This is what it feels like to be really fit!”
Not everyone may yet be convinced but Pendleton for one feels there’s no shame in riding an e bike.
“Everyone says: ‘what’s the point having electric on the bike, why would you do that?’ The thing is you have to be applying force on the pedals in order for it to give you [power], it just gives you a little push.”
“I’m excited about getting one myself and hoping that other people enjoy it as much as I did, because honestly I was squealing with delight.”
“I recommend people have a go; it’s fun, fun, fun.”