Juicy Bikes - the Peak District's electric cycling sensation
PUBLISHED: 00:00 10 May 2017
Remember those long summer days of your youth when you spent hours outdoors, running about in endless sunshine playing chase or tig with friends? Perhaps the best memories of all, though, were of riding a bike – two wheels that gave you freedom and fun! For many of us, these times all changed when we ‘grew up’, got a job and learned to drive a car.
Over the following years we might have occasionally tried to cycle again whilst showing our children how it’s done or ridden a bike for a brief spell during some short-burst fitness regime after putting on weight. But as adults those pedals now seemed harder to push, whilst any uphill stretches felt like scaling a mountain, to be followed of course by the inevitable aching legs which had been unknown as a child. Consequently this has resulted in a bonanza of second-hand adult, ‘hardly used’, push-bikes being posted for sale on eBay, advertised in the local paper or found propped up with a hand-written price tag at a car boot sale. Recycled cycles that would no doubt temporarily be re-used but are more likely to be left in a garden shed to rust and rot yet again.
Over the last few years an uphill trend is rapidly gaining momentum, offering a realistic way to recapture your youth and to ‘fall back in love with two wheels’. ‘Climb higher, go further and try not to smile the whole time’, stated the leaflet for Juicy electric bikes, which I soon discovered I could wholeheartedly endorse as I set out to get the cogs turning, both physically and literally!
E-bike, power bike, pedal-assisted and power-assisted are 21st century cycling terminology to describe a coupling of human pedalling and a motor, with the motorised assistance restricted to 15mph, thereby not requiring a road licence.
The idea of electric bikes is far from a new invention. In the 1890s various USA patents existed, including one for a battery powered cycle designed by Ogden Bolton Junior. Hosea W Libbey of Boston then invented a bike propelled by a double electric motor that was reinvented and copied by Giant Lafree 100 years later. In the 1920s electric motors for adapting standard cycles were made by Heinzmann of Germany whilst in 1932 EMI Phillips produced a complete electric bike for general sale. However, it wasn’t until the 1980s that they became commercially mass produced.
E-bikes are often used as a secondary mode of transport by owners of caravans, motor homes and canal boats as well as offering leisure recreation to all. They produce no harmful emissions so are a sustainable and green mode of transport. The experience of an e-bike is a natural ride but where cycle and cyclist work together as a team.
The market for e-bikes in Europe and North America is growing fast but China holds the record to date with an estimated 120 million bikes. It is reputed that 20% of all bikes now sold in China are e-bikes. Rather interestingly however, electric bikes are not allowed in Hong Kong.
Bob and Sarah Wales established Derbyshire- based Juicy Bikes in 2008. The couple have always had a passion for being eco-friendly, with an interest in fair trade and a love of cycling but their individual career paths did not necessarily reflect this – Bob has a background in engineering and computing whilst Sarah was a lingerie designer for Agent Provocateur and Janet Reger. Over the years the regular commute from home in Buxton meant that they both became welded to their cars. It was therefore a life-changing decision when they ditched the day jobs and set up in business together, opening their first shop, Eco Republic in Cavendish Arcade, Buxton, where I headed to meet up with Sarah and to try out a bike.
The shop is an eco-lifestyle store that sells a quirky mix of sustainable transport and recycled fair trade gifts. Whilst Sarah oversees marketing and sales, Bob utilises his engineering skills in their New Mills workshop to create electric bikes that owners will love. ‘We wanted our bikes to be simple, reliable and joyful,’ said Sarah, ‘with a focus on modular design and each bike being tailor-made to a customer’s specific needs.’
In fact, Juicy Bikes has become so successful that there is now a string of stockists around the country as well as specialist Juicy Bike Trade Centres in New Mills and Ashbourne. ‘We turned our hobby into jobs,’ Sarah smiled.
The couple love to cycle themselves whenever they get the chance but as Sarah added with a grimace, ‘These days, as business continues to thrive, we tend to be sat in a van delivering the bikes and watching customers happily riding off into the distance more often than being in the saddle ourselves.’
When they do get the chance to cycle, Bob and Sarah generally head for the Peak District trails and Derbyshire country lanes, often coming across customers out and about on their bikes.
Juicy Bikes’ frames are manufactured in the Far East. Over the last nine years their development has evolved, based on feedback from customers. As Sarah explained, ‘Half mudguards fitted on the first bikes were discovered to be no good in our sometimes wet and murky Peak District and so were soon upgraded to full size. In the early days our customers could choose one of three core models and that would be that. Today we offer over 50 different configurations across the range with nearly every customer preferring to tailor their bike in some way, whether it’s the battery capacity, brake format or frame colour, for example.
Juicy Bikes cost from £949 for the ‘Compact’ to £1,585 for the top of the range ‘Roller’.
The low centre of gravity of any Juicy Bike makes it a great ride but ‘Roller’ is the latest design. This is an advanced e-bike with torque assistance – onboard electronics that automatically measure your pedalling and accordingly adjust the level of help the motor gives you. Additionally a controller on the handlebars allows you to change the top speed of the motor as you ride, meaning you can rely on it when you need to but still work up a sweat and get the heart pumping by using more person-power if you wish. Weighing in at only 19.5kg, ‘Roller’ is Juicy’s lightest full-size e-bike to date with a discreet in-frame battery and near silent motor.
‘We try to make bikes to appeal to the heart as well as the head. We want your Juicy Bike to be a companion on great days out. Our ethos to business is more about people rather than just sales.’
I asked Sarah if she had ever heard browsers in the shop remark ‘I could buy a car with an engine for that price!’
‘Quite often,’ she replied. ‘But what about the running costs afterwards I ask them? It costs roughly 6p to charge an electric bike battery and only £35 for a service.’
Before I set off for a test ride, the initial chat and consultation in the shop was a bit like a dating agency interview – matching me to a particular bike was comparable to finding the right partner. Buying an e-bike is like a marriage with the promise of days out together and a lifetime of fun ahead – okay, so that might be a bit of an exaggeration but I was certainly asked several appropriate questions to establish which model would be right for me.
Based on my reply I was then taken outside and given instructions before putting a ‘Poco’ through its paces. I cycled around to the Pavilion Gardens then up the steep Hall Bank for a true test of its capacity. It was a little bit strange at first as I initially tried to cycle it like a normal push bike, expecting to stand up in the pedals when I reached an incline. However, when the bike felt my legs begin to labour the power kicked in, propelling me as if an invisible helping hand was pushing me along. I couldn’t stop smiling and smirking and uncontrollably let out little sounds of glee as I pedalled my way up to the Market Place, much to the amusement of pedestrians I passed on the way! With no huffing or puffing, I felt as if I was as fit and fast as Bradley Wiggins!
After the test ride I was given more general options to consider including the battery – there is a choice of four battery sizes to cover an approximate 16 to 55 mile range that fluctuates depending on terrain, weight of rider, type of bike, tyre pressure, wheel size and weather conditions. Which saddle would I prefer for that all important comfortable ride and best posture position came next? Finally I was presented with a range of colours to choose from for my new bike. Heath, Tor, River and Hay reflect shades inspired by the outdoors, whilst Olive and French Blue are more vintage themed.
It is essential that purchasers look after their Juicy Bike’s battery, brakes, gears and tyres – if under-inflated or flat the bike works much harder and will soon drain the battery. Advice on aftercare and the first service are provided free of charge and all customers are encouraged to stay in touch and say how they are coping.
‘We value feedback and testimonials from our customers,’ Sarah added. ‘We have an active Facebook page and a Days Out section on our website where customers can blog their experiences and post pictures.’
I later looked up and read about Linda from Belper who decided to do something about her fitness after developing type two diabetes. Working for Rolls-Royce in Derby meant that she could purchase a bike through their ‘Ride to Work’ scheme which covered the cost of VAT. Subsequently she now cycles the 26-mile round trip on four out of five days a week which has massively improved her general health whilst enjoying some quality time along the way to mentally relax on a stretch of riverside path beside the Derwent.
A happy couple had posted about their cycle ride around Portugal, and there were pictures of Juicy Bikes propped up against picnic tables on ‘day out’ adventures here, there and everywhere.
‘One man in his mid 70s came into the shop all excited to say he’d been up Winnats Pass on his bike,’ said Sarah, before continuing to add, ‘Our oldest customer was 96 when he bought his first e-bike from us. He wanted to upgrade to a newer model a couple of years later but we convinced him that a service was all he needed and he’s still going to the shops in Marple on it as far as we know.’
The law in the UK states that only persons aged 14 and over can ride an electric bike on the highway and so for those who are not old enough to drive a car, e-bikes can provide an alternative mode of transport, especially convenient in remote Derbyshire villages where buses are rarely, if ever, seen. A triathlete aged 17 from Flagg, for example, used her e-bike to get to the swimming pool in Bakewell for practice swims and her part-time job.
‘Bikes allow people who suffer from depression to have freedom,’ advised Sarah. ‘Sometimes, for those who have lost their driving licences through ill health, an e-bike can get them around again, giving back their mobility which makes such a difference.’
‘We go to various annual events to provide demonstrations and this year will be attending Belper Goes Green (3rd-4th June), Eroica Britannia (16th-18th June) and Cromford Transport Festival (29th-30th July). For anyone who wants to ride a Juicy Bike over a longer distance, the Peak District National Park cycle hire centres at Ashbourne and Parsley Hay have Juicy Bikes for hire.’
Walking back to my car I began to daydream about sunny days ahead, whizzing along a Derbyshire lane with the wind in my face, unfazed by any uphill stretches and with the ultimate satisfaction of actually feeling young again!
0845 004 2330
New Mills (open Monday to Saturday)
Henmore Industrial Estate, Ashbourne (By appointment only)