Cork woman Ann Lenihan transforms her bicycle into an electric bike for just €470

For most of my life I wasn’t really into exercise or fitness. I’d take the dog for a walk or occasionally going hill walking, but to be honest, I did that more often in head than I did in reality. In my 40’s I met and married Patrick, who was a total fitness fanatic and I travelled all over Ireland and Europe with him, when he was competing in triathlons, at European and World championship level in age group category.

Being surrounded by him and all his fellow athletes, I told myself that I really need to become more physically active. At the same time, I was working as a health and wellness coach, helping people to adapt a more healthy active lifestyle and I knew that I had to do more myself. So I took up running, doing regular 5k runs until my knees told me to retire my running shoes.

So, early on in this pandemic, along with thousands of other people, I bought myself a bike, thinking Patrick and I would be able to pursue an activity together. After several trips out on what I expected would be long leisurely cycles, I found cycling up hills to be torturous and was totally put off by it to be honest. I had pictured myself enjoying the countryside in a leisurely manner and here I was, red faced, out of breath and totally over it. I could deal with feeling like that for 30 minutes in a HIIT workout, but not for 2-3 hours on a bike. This was not for me.

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I considered getting an electric bike but I had done so much research before I bought my own bike that I had what I thought was the most comfortable bike ever and I didn’t want to change it. Then I heard that I could put an electric motor on my bike and although I was sceptical – well it’s not going to be the same as a custom made e-bike, my bike just won’t be the same – but I decided to look into it.

Back to research and I went with a recommendation for , a company that sends you the kit and you fit it yourself. Although I was assured that it was a really simple process, I am no bike mechanic, I had never as much as mended a puncture so I wasn’t convinced that I would be able to do it myself. I said I’d give it a try, but was sure I’d end up bringing in an expert – my cyclist husband.

The day the box arrived, I was super exited. All the instructions were very clear, all the parts came in individual, clearly labelled boxes inside. There was even an illustration of the few basic tools that would be needed to complete the job. Even I knew what they were. I now just had to stop telling myself that I couldn’t do this and get on with the job.

You can transform your regular bike into an electric one for just €470
You can transform your regular bike into an electric one for just €470

The only bit of help I needed with the job was taking off the tyre and putting it on the new wheel – probably something that others would find simple, but I had never done it and it wasn’t part of the SWYTCH instructions. The whole process took me about 2 hours and I couldn’t believe how simple a process it really was. But of course, the real test is going to be how it performs on the hilly county roads of south west Kerry, where I live.

I had been told that it had a battery life of 50k, which is incredible when you think of the size of the power pack that sits tidily in a cradle on the handlebars, but the sceptic in me said that’s probably on the flat, with little assistance required, and my area is hilly so I was nervous to go far. When I sat on ‘my new e-bike’ for the first time and it took off, up my hilly drive, I was amazed and excited enough to venture a bit further.

My first trip out was a 20k cycle form our home, around the beautiful Valentia island. It was the most amazing cycle I had ever had. It was like I was floating up the hills. I could take in the beautiful scenery while keeping up with and chatting to Patrick. I was conscious of the battery though so that bit of range anxiety was the only thing that kept it from turning the hard work of cycling into a most pleasurable trip. I relaxed a lot around that when I got home and still had about 50% battery power remaining.

It’s also reasuring that the battery charges really quickly, so if we planned a much longer route, I could always take the very compact charger cable with me and top it up while having lunch or a coffee in a friendly café or pub along the way.

Since then, I have ventured out on many 20-30k cycles and not only have they been very pleasurable experiences but I’ve experienced the unexpected benefit of getting fitter, in spite of having power assistance on my bike. Because I know I have the back-up of the power, I now tend to only use it when I really need it, like steep hills or cycling into strong wind (I would never have gone cycling in the wind before) and I find I am far more cycle fit than I was before the conversion.

If there was one small change change that I could make to this piece of kit, I would make releasing the powerpack a little easier – it needs quite a bit of pressure on the release button. THAT SAID, I’d definitely recommend the Swytch conversion kit.

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