NICKY MARR: Trying out the new Hi-Bikes service through Culloden Woods and Clava Cairns
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E-bikes in Inverness? Just £3 for a three-hour trial? Irresistible.
Last Saturday morning, with Daughter #1 and her partner here for the weekend, we each downloaded the Hi-Bikes app, uploaded our details and looked for available bikes.
We chose the Inverness Campus rank – more scope for getting used to the bikes in a largely car-free environment, we reckoned.
Within minutes of arriving we’d unlocked and were whizzing around the paths, giggling like kids, as the bikes – with minimal effort – quickly got us up to 15mph.
This was going to be fun…
So where to?
With three hours of freedom and 30-miles’ worth of power-assisted pedalling, we followed Cycle Route 1 through Culloden Woods towards the very eastern edge of the designated zone, and Clava Cairns.
I know from years of cycling how sharp a climb that hill is from Balloch Village to Culloden Moor – would these e-bikes cope?
It was a breeze. A joy.
With minimal effort – although pedalling was still required – we sailed up under the railway bridge to join the forest path towards Cumberland’s Stone.
And from there it was a whizz down the hill, past Culloden Viaduct, and on to one of my favourite local spots, Clava Cairns and the now famous – from Outlander stories – split rock.
Each of the bikes comes with an integral lock, so we parked up to wander amongst those eerie ancient cairns.
From there it was a gentle pootle – again in spite of the gradient – back past Culloden Moor to return to the campus, via a “just for fun” nip over the new bridge to the retail park and back.
Sixteen miles over a couple of hours was just perfect.
We got fresh air, some exercise (my Fitbit claims I burned about 600 calories) and a lot of laughs.
And best of all, we got to visit a favourite city spot without having to take the car there.
So far there are 30 e-bikes for hire around the city, from charging stations at Falcon Square and Great Glen House, as well as at the campus. There are more bikes and more stations planned for the next year, with the hope they’ll be used by commuters as well as leisure riders.
Each one comes with a massive and sturdy front basket – ideal for shopping or laptops.
I really hope they catch on.
Don’t be mistaken – these are not performance e-bikes; they are single-speed with a flat-rate of assistance, and they’re heavy beasts – think gym exercise bike unleashed from its indoor parking spot and you’ll get the idea.
I’d hate to have to ride one back if I ran out of charge.
But for a sweat-free, car-free commute, or an afternoon trip to Dores Beach or Dochgarroch Lock, these beasts are wonderful.
Bravo to Sustrans and the partners who brought this initiative to the Highland Capital – I can’t remember when I last laughed as much.
There’s just one problem, though… will I ever be persuaded to get back on my road-bike again?