I tried the Volt Pulse LS electric bike for two weeks, determined to find out if it could make me want to cycle all my trips to London.
My bike is a heavy, lightly weathered blue Trek Singletrack. His name is Mounty. It’s not a pretty bike, but I love it.
First, it was my father’s. He rode it across France and insists it’s a ‘rare frame’. Now the bike is mine, adjusted to my size with a series of motley components, like Frankenstein’s monster.
When I worked in an office every day, I used Mounty to cycle to work a few times a week. I still use it regularly to get around London.
For me, cycling is often the fastest and cheapest way to get around. Sometimes, on a quiet, sunny day, it’s a pleasure. For others, stuck behind a bus, perhaps, it’s hell.
Although I love riding Mounty, there are factors that keep me from doing all of my cycling trips: the weather; not having a safe place to lock it; not knowing where I’m going.
For longer rides it’s hard to bring a change of clothes and shoes to avoid arriving sweaty, and even for shorter rides I don’t always want to plan my outfit based on what’s going on. is the most comfortable to wear on the bike.
There is also aggravation. The near passes; being cut off by impatient drivers; being driven (this happened twice) and sometimes verbal abuse.
Riding Archway Hill over and over again, I’ve noticed that e-bikes climb easily – and bring a wider variety of riders onto the road. Electric bikes work by activating a motor as you pedal, which propels you forward. The assistance can also be deactivated, allowing the bike to be used without it.
The electric bike, whether it’s a Lime Bike or an elegant Van Moof, is quickly becoming part of London’s furniture. Quietly, I asked myself: would an electric bike change my life?
I tried the Volt Pulse LS, determined to find out if an e-bike could make me want to do all my cycling trips.
About the bike
The Volt Pulse LS is a hybrid e-bike designed for on-road and light off-road use. With a low bar, rack, fenders, and integrated front and rear lights, I used this bike for commuting. There are a few things to mention:
- Weight: 24.8 kg (21.5 kg without battery)
- Maximum speed with electric assistance: 25 km/h (15.5 mph)
- Drivetrain: Shimano 8-speed Alivio
- Charging time: 3-4 hours
- Distance on a single charge: 112.7 km (70 miles), depending on power consumption.
- Price: from £2,074
There are four power modes – Low, Normal, High and Power – which are controlled by a unit on the handlebars. I found that I spent most of my time in the Normal setting when I was on the flat, raising it to High or Power as I rode.
Use of the bike
My first bike trip was to a friend’s birthday party, about 9 miles away in Hackney Wick.
It was exactly the kind of trip I would never have done on Mounty: I wanted to look good, I didn’t want to arrive sweaty, and I had already done some exercise earlier.
Usually I bombed Holloway Road to get there – the quickest and easiest route, but by far the most unpleasant.
This time, because I had electric assist, I went for a calmer course that adds a little spicy hill. This time I rode it without breaking a sweat.
As soon as you push on the Pulse, the electric assist kicks in and the 25kg bike gets into motion with relative ease. I noticed that it made my journey more relaxed: it saved me from getting caught at traffic lights or having to stop for a car to get out, simply because it was so much easier to start driving again .
It was comfortable too. The saddle is big and plush, and the 5cm tires mean that riding a bike is a lot like riding an armored tank: you can roll over potholes and smash suspicious road debris in complete safety. peace of mind.
For me, the positioning was quite vertical, which made it nearly impossible to put any real power into the pedals. The Pulse takes a lot less effort to ride than a normal commuter bike – I would consider it equivalent to walking – and as a result, I was able to sit back and enjoy the ride.
And I took advantage of it. Above all, riding an e-bike is fun. You don’t feel the attrition of a headwind or the weight of a pannier, and you can enjoy the best of bike travel: feel the wind in your hair; to be outside.
It’s not a bike for speed, but it will comfortably take you wherever you need to go. My average speed was slightly slower than usual for the daily commute, but on the other hand, Power mode got me up the hill on the way back in record time, all without taking a deep breath.
The assist on the bike made me feel more comfortable taking up space on the road, especially uphill. Sometimes a car or bus behind you can push you into the gutter, but I felt more confident knowing I could maintain a reasonable speed with little effort.
As an experiment, I took the bike to Swains Lane, which hosts the annual Urban Hill Climb, to see how it would go. If you’re unfamiliar with Swains, it’s the steepest hill in North London, culminating in a cruel 20% gradient.
I took the regular initial section at a leisurely pace, enjoying the view of Highgate Cemetery. The 20% section is always daunting, but this time I whirred upwards with so little effort I had to laugh. I even passed a cyclist on his road bike doing hill races.
The trick, however, is to keep pedaling. For a hill like Swains, the bike needs to be in a low gear, even on the Power setting. If the legs stop spinning, the bike will stop moving – and it will take a long time to restart.
With the bike, distances begin to shrink. It feels like the whole city is within walking distance, simply because it’s a lot less effort (and money) to get there.
If I owned the Pulse, I’d use it as a commuter bike—but it could easily be taken for a ride, or even ventured off-road.
Things to consider
That said, there are some considerations if you’re considering buying an e-bike. On the other hand, it is extremely heavy to carry, even without the additional weight of padlocks and a bag. It would be difficult (but not impossible) to take the bike on a train, for example, if you were going to London or wanted to take it out somewhere else.
Storage is also an issue. Considering the value of the bike, I wouldn’t want to house it outside permanently, which meant lugging it up and down to use it. While it’s about bearable with Mounty, it was hellish with the Pulse. Once inside the apartment, the bike also takes up quite a bit of space.
The value of the bike also weighed heavily on me during lockdown. There is a built-in nurse lock on the rear wheel of the Pulse, which comes with a connecting chain. I picked up an extra D-lock to secure the front wheel and frame, and felt slightly anxious leaving it locked for long periods of time. You have to be careful where you choose to park it, and good locks are a necessity.
Like all electric bikes, the battery is not unlimited. With a capacity of 70 miles, more than many competitors, this is not the bike for long distance. Likewise, if you were to use it for all your travels, you would have to think about recharging it, because let me tell you, you don’t want to travel without assistance.
There is also the price. At over £2,000 the Pulse is in line with its competitors, but it’s a considerable investment. That said, an annual travel card covering all six zones costs £2,812, so it can earn your money in less than a year of use.
Electric bikes are on the rise, and for good reason. According to data from Lime Bikes, 2.4 million e-bike journeys were made in London in 2021, doubling in 2020. By 2023, the Bicycle Association predicts e-bike sales will triple.
In March this year, TfL announced a 4.8% increase in fares – the biggest annual increase in a decade. Combined with steadily rising fuel prices and a growing climate crisis, the impetus to shift to alternative and greener forms of transport has never been greater.
For me, the beauty of the e-bike is that it makes cycling much more accessible to people of different ages and fitness levels. E-bike use can replace car journeys, reduce traffic – and of course it’s good for the environment.
Obviously, however, e-bikes alone cannot solve many of the problems associated with cycling in London. It won’t solve dangerous driving, traffic or the fact that many cycle lanes and low-traffic areas of London are often poorly connected, despite increased investment.
Using the Pulse LS was a revelation. Now is the time for London’s cycling infrastructure to catch up.