Martyn Brunt versus electric bikes

Our Weekend Warrior Brunt used to love nothing more than overtaking bike couriers with relative ease, but then they went and got electric bikes…


I was recently overtaken by another cyclist while out on my bike. There’s nothing particularly unusual about this, indeed as one of triathlon’s less inept swimmers it’s something that happens with depressing regularity in races, as the bike monsters make me pay for my watery superiority.


What made this specific incident unusual, though, was that it was a delivery rider who overtook me, and the bugger wasn’t even pedalling.

Yes folks, he was on an electric bike, and it was one of those matt-black stealth-bombers with massive tyres and wide handlebars which the rider was virtually reclining his legs on.

The honour of triathlon

With the honour of triathlon at stake I was immediately hot on his hairy heels and chased him until my lungs lodged a formal objection, but to no avail, he was gone. And I was left with aching quads and a forehead leaking like a knackered fridge.

Now, I’m the first say that e-bikes are a brilliant innovation and they’re a fantastic way of helping people be more active.

Indeed, my wife is an e-bike owner after I bought her one to help with her recovery from knee replacement surgery (anticipating her lack of speed I sarcastically added a basket to the front which she immediately filled with gin bottles and gleefully pedalled off to see her mates while flicking the Vs at me).

There are many pleasures of cycling, such as feeling the wind in my remaining hair, or introducing my genitals to café customers via the medium of Lycra shorts.

But for all their benefits e-bikes have taken away one of the main ones, which is picking on Deliveroo riders and other non-competitive professionals with my superior speed while trying to look like I’m not really trying.

I even start spinning furiously after other bikes while I’m on my Brompton, which, considering I’m a 6ft3in man on a small folding cycle, makes me look like a bear escaping a circus

I’m not quite sure where this over-competitive urge to steam past unwary cycle couriers comes from because away from the bike I’m a very unthreatening person. But the second I spy another cyclist in the distance ahead it’s ‘target acquired – set legs to ramming speed’ and off I go.

Level playing field 

And it doesn’t matter what bike I’m on, I even start spinning furiously after other bikes while I’m on my Brompton, which, considering I’m a 6ft3in man on a small folding cycle, makes me look like a bear escaping a circus.

No more fun for me though it seems, e-bikes have levelled the playing field and I can no longer count on the mighty bollards of muscle I like to imagine my legs are to carry me past some lad in a blue baseball cap.

And it’s getting worse because the latest generation of e-bikes doesn’t require any turn of the pedals at all, allowing their rider to sail serenely away from me while I thrash my legs so hard I’m surprised my bum cheeks haven’t fused together.

I should’ve seen this coming I suppose, because I’ve locked horns with e-bike riders before and well remember my first dogfight with some white-haired old bloke going past me up a long hill thanks to his power-assisted pedalling.

I waited for him to get enough of a gap to make it look like I hadn’t immediately latched on to his wheel, then upped the pace and adopted a stoic expression as I reeled him back in.

Having got in front it was then torture for the rest of the climb because I couldn’t slacken the pace, risk a look behind, or do anything to suggest I was in fact racing him.

More bums on bikes

On balance, e-bikes are clearly a very good thing and if they help to get more people out on bikes, especially for everyday trips, then that’s an extremely good thing – even if it involves Mrs B putting her bike in ‘sport’ mode as she flies up the hill when we ride to the pub together and saying things like: “Come on, I thought you were supposed to be a cyclist”.

The fact that they’ve spoiled my bullying of non-triathletes is clearly a minor drawback in the grand scheme of things, but it’s still a sore point because I’m quite capable of looking like a hopeless prong on a bike without any extra help thank you.


Top image credit: Daniel Seex