E-bike loan keeps Brenda riding up that hill

Woman with bike standing in front of building
Brenda with her new e-bike: the hill buster
Brenda Angus thought her cycling days were numbered when the steep hill outside her home became too challenging until an e-bike loan from the Ardrishaig Bothy convinced her to buy one. Now she’s looking forward to many more years of cycling 

Brenda Angus, 75 from Lochgilphead, has always enjoyed riding a bike: “I cycle for fun and for fitness and it’s something I’ve always enjoyed doing alone".

Living in Argyll, part of the western Scottish Highlands known for its mountains and lochs, she is spoilt for choice, with the Crinan Canal among many of the scenic routes on her doorstep.

However, standing between her house and the beautiful scenery along the canal is an obstacle in the form of a very steep hill. This hill is infamous among local people and is so steep that steps have been built to allow pedestrians to walk up and down safely:

“I speak to everyone I meet when out walking or cycling and they say the hill puts them off cycling!”

Brenda has managed to ride up the hill for the 13 years she has lived in the house, even when others have had to resort to pushing their bikes uphill. But recently she has found the hill more and more of a challenge and was concerned that it could mean the end of her cycling years.

She was curious about whether an e-bike could be the answer, but with the only cycle shop in the village closing earlier in the year, options were limited.

“When the bike shop closed there was nowhere locally to get information or advice about e-bikes. And although there are plenty of shops selling them in Glasgow, I needed to be able to try one out on hills, as that’s what I needed it for”.

Luckily, Alec Ohnstad at the Ardrishaig Bothy was able to step in and help. The Bothy, which was set up by Cycling UK in partnership with Scottish Canals, aims to increase opportunities for all living along the Crinan corridor to become involved in walking and cycling for everyday local journeys. It’s funded by Smarter Choices Smarter Places.

During the first lockdown period, the Bothy loaned out e-bikes for free to people in the local community, to help them travel to work and to take exercise.

“Alec was very helpful and convinced me that an e-bike would be a good option for me. He loaned me an e-bike and took me out with him - even though it was lashing with rain - to show me how to use it, which was a great help.”

It was obvious to Brenda straight away that an e-bike was right for her, and she arranged to buy one from Billy Bilsland Cycles in Glasgow, with advice from Alec on which model would be best for her.

Brenda was delighted with her new e-bike, and credits it with making a big difference to her life:

“I don’t want to give up cycling, but without an e-bike I couldn’t have carried on much longer. It’s kept me cycling for longer, for years I hope.”

Now, she can enjoy the extra assistance from the motor to conquer the dreaded hill, while still getting the exercise she needs.

“People ask me what I’m going to do for exercise now I have an e-bike, but when I put it on Eco mode it just feels like my normal bike. I get a helping hand to get up hills but still have to pedal, so I’m still getting exercise.”

And the full power mode on the e-bike also comes in handy now and again, as she recalled the time she went out for a local ride and the weather turned nasty:

“It was nice when I set off, but then the rain and wind started. I turned the bike up to full power to get back home and it was fine but on a regular bike it would have been horrible.”

Being able to travel further in confidence is another advantage of an e-bike over a regular bike and Brenda has taken advantage of this:

“I rode to Achnamara, which I had done before, but not for a few years. It only took 45 minutes and felt good, which has given me the confidence to do more.”

I don’t have to worry about being too tired to get back home if the weather turns as the bike takes away that worry

Brenda Angus

Next on her wish list is a visit to a friend who lives in a neighbouring village.

“I have a friend in Tayvallich, which is further than I normally go, but when conditions allow, I plan to ride there to visit her. I don’t have to worry about being too tired to get back home if the weather turns, as the bike takes away that worry.”

Brenda is just one of the people the Bothy has helped so far. Bothy project co-ordinator Alec Ohnstad is on a mission to get as many people in the area walking and cycling as possible:

“Having people from my own community seeking help from me to improve their cycling confidence is a real privilege. The best part of my day is always riding with others, from the school run with my kids to an electric bike tryout, and seeing people rediscovering bikes in a safe and supportive environment is a real joy. Making a positive impact on the lives of the people around me gives me a great feeling of well-being."