Electric Bike vs Acoustic Gravel Bike Review in the New Forest

Electric Bike vs Acoustic Gravel Bike Review in the New Forest

Just for fun, how do a gravel bike, a Giant Talon Sport and a Forme Alport compare?


TARMAC: 11.5 miles

GRAVEL 18.5 miles

RIDE TIME: 3 hrs (ISH)

PUB STOPS: Not enough!

We found out on a rare but sunny afternoon in February 2023. For starters, Ross rode (on a non assisted Gravel Bike) from home in Sway while Joshua and Asha drove to the hire centre in Brockenhurst to get the Electric Hire Bikes. After some pre-ride faffing, Ross was already well into the woods but we all managed to meet up above Bolderford Bridge after some creepy iPhone tracking of each other.

Only then was the route plan suggested to go up to Minstead, under the A31 near Furzey Gardens and across to Bolderwood via Cadman's Pool, before returning to Brockenhurst/Sway via Burley and the disused railway. This was an ambitious plan on a winter afternoon since it was already 4pm.

Good progress was made up to Bank, passing the famous Oak Inn, and carefully crossing the A35. Assuming you make it across alive, there is actually a thin narrow track off the road which leads all the way into Lyndhurst as far as the Swan Inn. We turned left here for Emery Down, passing the New Forest Inn(it seemed unfair to be foregoing so many New Forest pubs!) before embarking up the hill towards Bolderwood.

The bike comparisons were quite difficult

For obvious reasons, the Gravel Bike was quicker on the tarmac as the Electric bikes were only assisting up to 15 mph. But on the New Forest gravel tracks, it had been neck and neck so far up hill as the Gravel Bike was less fast and the Electric Bikes provided plenty of power to maintain a consistent speed.

The Giant Talon E+ Sport and the Forme Alport compared quite similarly to each other performance-wise, the Forme being fitted with the popular Bosch CX motor kicking out 75nm and the Giant powered by the 60nm Sync-Drive Life. The Forme Alport did have the edge on the Giant with the extra 15nm of torque but it does cost an extra £300 also being decked out with a branded air sprung Rockshox fork rather than a heavier Suntour XCM.

Forme Alport
Giant Talon E+ Sport

The Forme Alport has the useful Purion display showing speed, mileage, assistance mode and battery level.

Forme Alport display

The Giant Talon E+ Sport has the more basic LED only Ride Control switch which just shows little white dots for assistance mode and battery level, which flashes angrily in red as a warning that the fun is about to stop!

Giant Talon E+ Sport display

On New Forest trails there is little scope to detect the differences between the electric bikes as the terrain is flat, easy to ride and not that challenging. Take each bike somewhere boggier and hillier and you would get a better sense of comparison. But as we all know in the New Forest, it is essential that you only cycle on the approved trails as the National Park is almost completely SSSI and unlike any other Forestry England location in terms of cycling access. But that's okay... Get your single-track thrills at Swinley or Bike Park Wales and come to the New Forest for the tranquility and serenity of it's natural habitat.

Assessing the bikes along the way

This is exactly what we enjoyed on this quiet Sunday afternoon rolling along the tarmac before turning off at Millyford Bridge. The gravel bike had gained distance on the road, even uphill, but Ross was soon caught up by Joshua and Asha as the damp track surface increased the rolling resistance on the tyres and everyone was neck and neck once again. Conversation dried up with the realisation it would start getting dark soon and there was still 20 miles to go!

Leaving the forest at Acres Down, we cycled up and along quiet narrow lanes near Minstead and reached our plateau at the A31 after Furzey Gardens. Thankfully the road planners put an underpass in for forest cattle (+ cyclists obviously) to cross the dual carriageway. After this, the Gravel Bike started showing its advantages along the flat 3.5 mile stretch of road and gravel all the way to waymarker post 059 just down from Bratley car park.

With a tail wind, less weight, thinner tyres and a reasonably lively set of legs, the E-Bikes just couldn't keep up although Joshua and Asha got their revenge climbing up the hill to Bolderwood car park for the journey. If you ever want to see a cool sunset, come to the New Forest as that is what we were rewarded with at the top of the hill!

We made it to the pub

As the sun went down, the lights went on and we debated whether a pub stop was such a good idea but extremities going numb and feet feeling like ice, The White Buck Inn in Burley started seeming like a much better idea... After a Baileys hot chocolate and a great pint of IPA, we doubled down on the journey home to Sway and pretty much gave up on any more bike comparisons.

ℹ️ As of yet there is no sensible direct off-road cycle route from Burley towards Brockenhurst and the NCN2 picks an awkward route along what us yokels call the minute mile (due to car speeds) which is the road they re-routed onto the disused railway back in the 1960's to take advantage of the bridge carrying the A35 over it. There are tracks which could be used to keep cyclists away from the road but there is currently no agreement on the best solution since Hants CC don't think the road is wide enough for a cycle lane and any off-road access through the woods would need permission from the Verderers and Natural England.

Battery levels

Cyclists can pick up the old railway again by turning right after the cattle grid and picking up the trail at waymarker post 191. Shortly, we parted ways at Longslade bottom, Ross peeling off for home and Joshua and Asha pressing on along the railway in Turbo.

On arrival back at Brockenhurst Station, battery levels were checked on both bikes. Bearing in mind both bikes are fitted with 500 w/h batteries (eg their fuel tank) and should achieve 50 miles range on a good day, the Forme Alport came back with 3 out of 5 bars showing (which reduced to 2 when charging started) and the Giant Talon Sport had 3 out of 5 bars (but could have been a low 3). So in conclusion, at least the ranges are comparable.

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