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Could e-bikes kill the car?

Jim Cregan, founder of Jimmy’s Iced Coffee, explains why he swapped his Mercedes C63 for a sustainable Tern GSD.

A day peddling Iced Coffee at the unit is over and I’m back home. The kids have been fed, bathed and are now tucked into bed. It’s dinner and chill time. It’s time to relax on the sofa and browse the internet, searching for things that make me itchy with excitement. The list starts with a Suzuki VanVan motorbike for forest cruising and ends with the Mercedes of my dreams staring at me on Autotrader. And not just any Mercedes, a black 2013 Mercedes C63 Estate with sports upgrade pack and a lot of other stuff. I decide to ring the dealership the next morning. I pay my deposit the following afternoon and pick the car up the day after. I had been on the hunt for one of these cars for years and here it was, parked in my drive. A 6.2l, V8 machine in black, with tinted windows.

I loved the honeymoon period of this car. It was the guiltiest pleasure on the planet, but I began to fall out of love with the fuel indicator needle, which seemed to fall as fast as the speedometer would rise. I was spending £80 per week on fuel. Added to that, road tax was similar to a university degree fee and the planet was coughing every time I got in it. That was it, four years of lusting led to a four-month love affair. It was short and sweet, but the car had to be sold. I needed a more sustainable set of wheels.

After doing some maths, I thought about how many miles I actually do each month and realised I should just get a bicycle. But not just any bicycle, I still wanted something that was going to make me smile like the Mercedes did. Impossible? Perhaps, but then it hit me – I needed an electric bike. I rang my friend Ben, who runs an electric bike shop in London called Fully Charged, and asked what he had. He explained to me that he was about to take delivery of the bike of my dreams, the Tern GSD (Get Stuff Done). I did some digging online and thought yes, this bike is actually going to replace the car. How, you ask? Well, it can take my two kids on the back with panniers for beers and a little BBQ, and it offers loads of other options too.

The battery gives you all the extra power you need and it makes cycling fun for all. I paid my deposit and took delivery the next day. It made me smile more than the Mercedes did, not just through performance but the fact that it felt like I was cheating the system, but legally. In our personal lives, the bike has been so useful that myself and my wife both argue each day as to who gets to have the bike tomorrow. I need it to get to work, while she needs it to get the kids to school and ferry random things around. We spent a great deal of time at the beach last summer, and that meant carrying a lot of gear. But this is no longer a problem. We can get to the beach with two kids on the back, a heap of stuff on the front rack and all the food, towels, wetsuits and spades in a trailer, all without breaking a sweat. The fairly wide tyres allow you to get down dusty and sandy tracks, and a low gear in turbo mode propels you through sand like a Arabian Toyota Land Cruiser. You just have to remember to hang on. If we didn’t have the e-bike, we’d need to chuck our gear on a little land train and do trips back and forth to the beach to unload.

Then there’s the work side. Last summer, I held a beach BBQ for The Wave Project (a surf-based charity) and I managed to tow a cool box full of food and cases of our iced coffee along the promenade to the venue. It was hands down better than driving in traffic, paying for parking and lugging all the gear to the spot. The Tern GSD is nicknamed the car killer, and I now understand why. It is the most useful thing I’ve ever owned. My advice to you is this: if you’re thinking about your wallet, your fuel bill, your overall fitness and the planet, get yourself an e-bike. Do your research online, book a test drive and get your wallet out. There’s also a couple of Cycle to Work initiatives, so I’d recommend exploring those options if you can.

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