Trek Powerfly 4 Electric Bike on Exmoor -  A review by Ross

Trek Powerfly 4 Electric Bike on Exmoor - A review by Ross

Thinking of buying an Electric Bike? Find out how one of our New Forest based electric hire bikes coped with the rigours of a somewhat hillier, wetter and more rugged National Park!

At Cyclexperience, we get customers with an ever-increasing interest in renting or buying electric bikes and the main question area is usually range related.

It’s a difficult question to answer since it depends on many factors (assistance levels, battery size, weight, weather, terrain, rider ability etc) so I decided to head west and take an electric bike to Exmoor for the day. I plotted a 20-mile route which started near the head of the River Exe and included a fair amount of steep climbs.

The Bosch CX motor has 4 levels of assistance and I decided to test E-MTB mode which modulates power between 120% and 300% depending on the pedalling dynamics. I was impressed from the start.

Traversing bogs on an uphill slope, I still managed to keep up with a herd of startled deer in the distance before a flooded ditch slowed things down but the motor maintained the right amount of traction to the back wheel and kept things stable, moving forward smoothly.

It wasn’t long before I was over the hill and following the bridleway along with firmer but now rockier terrain. Being the base model Powerfly, the forks were basic Suntour with lockout and an element of damping. However, the 100mm travel was sufficient and the thicker stanchions coped well with the rocky path, especially since my airborne skills are less than ambitious.

I was now speeding along with a massive smile and enjoying the rare sunny winter weather and beautiful Exmoor scenery.

I had just passed the ruin of Hoar Oak Cottage when disaster struck on a hill in the form of a snapped chain! I wasn’t changing gear nor pushing that hard on the crank when the snap link came apart, losing one side in the mud!

I had adjusted gear cable stretch on the fly earlier when the gears jumped but obviously not enough! E-Bike riding does disguise the actual torque being delivered through the cranks so care is needed when changing gears quickly (especially up muddy hills!).

Having not brought another snap link and remembering my trusty Topeak tool still sitting in the back of the van, I was now considering my limited options, stashing the bike and jogging 5 miles back being the main one! Luckily buried in the depths of my rucksack was an old Giant multitool so I was soon on my way again, one link shorter, and with gears adjusted I had no more chain issues for the rest of the ride.

The next 8 miles were outstanding fun with steep descents and river crossings followed by challenging climbs which the Trek Powerfly managed with such ease! I couldn’t remember when cycling was this much fun.

I enjoy road and gravel biking and the gamification of Zwift on the turbo trainer and while that keeps my fitness in check, this was a new off-road biking experience that I felt anyone could enjoy with a bit of basic skill training.

I was getting so carried away that I hadn’t spotted that I was down to two bars on the charge indicator. With only 7 miles to go, I wasn’t that worried but I selected Eco mode when it was flat and turned it off on a flat road section but even then the unpowered contrast felt like I had two flat tyres and gained 30lbs!

People do comment about how heavy Electric Bikes are but you probably wouldn’t even think about how heavy a motorbike is until you run out of petrol!

It's the same principle for electric bikes (until you try and hang it off the back of a motorhome but checkout Thule for a bike rack with a ramp). Sure, there are lighter carbon electric bikes on the market now but they do come with an appropriate price tag and still have 5kg worth of motor and battery to cart around!

As the winter sun started getting particularly low, I noticed the battery was now at 1 bar and I still had 2 hills to climb, one particularly lengthy. But making the most of the descents (oh for regenerative charging) plus a short push across a boggy field, I got to the village of Challacombe and then had to decide whether to take the (less hilly but still hilly) road back or continue the final 2 miles off-road as planned.

Without lights, I opted for the off-road choice and the battery inevitably yet quietly ceased to assist at 18 miles. While able to ride (just) on the flatter parts of the track, when the hill kicked in and the mud got deeper, it became much quicker to get off and push.

And so ended the final part of my journey apart from a final downhill section back to my Van.

There was a moment of regret while dragging the bike up and over the hill but the overriding memories were being able to enjoy the flow of the descents knowing that the soon-to-follow climb was probably going to be even more enjoyable! The ability to carve through mud and bogs was an added extra bonus.

I’m sure some people will complain that E-MTB’s will unleash an unprecedented surge of cyclists onto our green and pleasant lands. I doubt this since not everyone wants to venture miles off the beaten track getting wet and muddy just to experience the ease of uphill cycling.

It’s a very niche hobby in the grand scheme of things and as long as the public Rights of Way are well signposted, there is no need to venture from the excellent trails this country offers whether on horseback or bike saddle.

I was surprised at the sub-20-mile range I achieved on this test ride as some customers manage 30+ miles on our hire bikes in the New Forest. I also tested one of our Giant Fathom E-bikes in the Brecon Beacons earlier in the year which lasted a similar number of miles but with a 400wh not a 500wh battery like the Powerfly 4.

It could have been the scale of the climbing combined with the saturated ground or perhaps the bike only had its factory charge as it was brasnd new. It seems I may have to go back to Exmoor to conduct more scientific research!

Book one of our bikes if you want to try an e-bike in the New Forest or take further afield and do some of your own research!

We also sell ex-rental e-bikes throughout the year or check our sister store Boost Bike Hub nearby if you want to buy a new one.

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