It’s a term I recently discovered in Holland and it refers to a bike designed for moms (and dads) to transport children and shopping. It’s a bike that has a long frame that will accommodate a child seat in front and probably one in the back.
Little did I know that I would create my own version when just over 2 months ago I got a second hand Sparta Ion m-gear.
I was determined to get back on a bicycle and not be reliant on the car to get around everywhere. (I hate idling in traffic!) When I tried cycling last year, my injured knee just couldn’t cope with the hills of Oxford. My only hope was an electric bike.
My immediate impression of the Sparta Ion: it is a heavy bike (38kg) but oozes quality of build.
I was really pleased with our first school
The bike looks great in a modest way. For one, you don’t have battery stuck on the rear rack, as lots of electric bikes have. It’s hidden in a relatively sleek front frame. my vanity and I don’t often admit that it is an electric bike, and most people wouldn’t guess.
The Sparta Ion comes with all those practical touches that one needs for city cycling:
a kickstand, proper mudguards, a good chainguard and a skirtguard. It has a very nice rear rack and the front and rear lights are all wired in to work from the battery. (No dynamos or AA/AAA batteries to worry about!)
The bike has shimano gears, switching between the 7 gears very smoothly with the press of an up or down button. I make use of these a lot on my daily school and nursery drop offs and pick ups.
The brakes are excellent, halting us with my not slight weight and that of Max added. They do squeak and I have been reluctant to fix, as it is perfect for warning wandering pedestrains that I am behind them. That is if Max isn’t singing at the top of his voice. 😀
I love the way the steering column is adjustable to all angles: height, distance from rider, angle. I have it set qite high, to assist an upright cycling position so I’m not straining RSI ridden wrists or my lower back as I would be with a more racing stance. Sitting upright is also great with the very comfortable gel filled saddle on this bike. Thus far my bottom has not suffered, even from some longer rides.
The Sparta Ion m-gear is an electric assisted bike, which means your efforts are amplified 25, 50 or 75%, but if you don’t pedal then the bike is not going to do it for you.
The electric motor is totally noiseless, as far as I can tell. Haha, no telltale signs as I pass the youth pushing their bikes up the steep streets of Oxford; I’m panting, but still in saddle.
The electric motor is controlled from a little computer: a small dial that you attach each time you use the bike and detach even if you just pop into the shop.
The little computer is ingenious! It is easy to attach and remove. One large button toggles the level of assistance, a separate top button switches on the wired in lights. The computer display tells you the charge status of the bike, speed and total kilometres done. It also has shows error messages. In the evening, as the lights are switched on the dial lights up a cool blue to ensure you see it at night too.
The computer also acts as theft protection, as without it the bike’s electronics can’t be used. Each bike has a unique serial number and only with this and proof of purchase will the computer be replaced.
Oxford is a bike thief’s haven. We’ve had 2 bikes stolen so far. My Sparta comes with an Axa Defender lock built on too. I’ve added an extra D-lock to this set up, so I can secure it to immovable objects.
So far I totally love my bike and what it has enabled me to do with the kids.
The only flaw I’ve found with the Sparta Ion is the front light. It is a rather flimsy build- in one fall it broke and stopped functioning. (Replacements in the Netherlands are easy to find, but not so in the UK.)
Over the past 2 months I’ve experimented with the best way of transporting bags and children. I started with the trailer, then I added a front and rear child seat to the bike. The trailer went. I find having more weight in front works better for my balance, so I tend to use the front seat. However the rear childseat is useful for carrying the children’s bags and other paraphernalia on our school pedals.
Each morning I do between 4.2 to 6 miles (6.7 to 9.6 km) with an elevation gain of between 60-180m… yes, there are some steep bits to climb. I repeat this each afternoon too. I usually have Max with me on the bike, adding another 18kg to the weight.
I use the 75% assist on uphill sections and on my way to school and nursery, if I am late. Otherwise, I tend to have the bike on 25% assist if Max is with me and m trying to build up the distances I can cycle without any electric assistance.
With this sort of terrain and use the battery level hardly drops under 70% after each trip.
Thus far I have only ever run out of battery: I forgot to switch off my lights in the evening and by the morning the battery was flat. (Interestingly, taking the computer off will not switch off your lights.)