you pedal away from the lights, zooming ahead of all the other riders, the Gazelle Orange C7 inspires an odd mixture of emotions. It’s part exhilaration and part mild guilt, an apologetic attitude that’s quite British. We still view electric assist bikes, or e-bikes, as somehow cheating, or for the old or infirm, yet on the continent they’re far more mainstream: in Gazelle’s Dutch home, say, more than a quarter of all new bikes have electric assist.
The Orange C7 is in many ways a traditional (if posh) Dutch bike, with its full chain case and mudguards, built-in lights and a sliding steel lock on the rear wheel. But it is also hi-tech, as you’d hope for £1,900, which is pricey even by e-bikes’ standards. The mid-mounted 250w motor provides its oomph directly to the cranks. Older e-bikes, whose power generally came via one of the wheels, tended to jerk as the motor kicked in; then, when it cut out at just over 15mph (the maximum allowed by law), it felt as if you’d hit a headwind. The Gazelle’s handlebar-mounted display includes a bar indicating the electric output, but I only really noticed I was on solely human power when the speedometer declined to rise further at about 17mph. Then again, you’ll need some outside help riding this behemoth: its official weight is just under 23kg, not counting the 2kg-plus battery. I switched off the power while riding up one hill and got to the top, but it wasn’t much fun.
Gazelle don’t provide an estimated range between charges, done from a standard socket, because it’s affected by so many factors; but my eight-mile commute made a minimal dent in the charge indicator. The controls give you four levels of assistance ranging from “eco” to “turbo”; I spent the entire time in the latter. In this mode, the Gazelle is a joy. With its vicar-riding-to-evensong upright riding position, plus sprung seatpost and suspension forks, it glided me over potholes with barely a jolt. There is some pedalling effort required to engage the motor, especially when setting off from a halt, but you’re cruising before you know it. I worked out fairly quickly that going much more than 15mph was a waste of effort, then realised that’s quite fast enough for any city trip.
My commute is too short and too flat to justify the outlay, but what struck me is how useful the Gazelle might be for novice or cautious urban cyclists. If you can crank the power up to “turbo” and whizz away from impatient drivers, they’re suddenly a lot less threatening.