Feature: Conquering hills with '˜The Beast'

A doctor's mission to make his rounds on an e-bike is being documented online... here were meet the medical man who has turned into a two-wheeled wonder.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 14 December, 2017, 08:29
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Three months into his vlogging career, Dr Ollie Hart reflected on his achievements so far as the social media star of ‘Doc on a Bike.’

“It was a blue sky day in October, and I was riding up Woodseats hill with the wind in my face, going as fast as a car, and after a morning in the surgery at my desk I was so glad to be out on my bike.

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“I realised that this really was my preferred means of transport.”

For those who have attempted Woodseats hill on a bike, it’s important to note that Ollie Hart is not a 20 year old hyper athlete in shiny lycra, but a 46 year old GP with a pannier full of medical equipment.

And his co-star in the Doc on a Bike video blogs and twitter posts is no ordinary bicycle.

‘The Beast’ as Ollie affectionately calls his steed of three months, is an ‘e-bike’, a standard bicycle with a cunning electric motor to assist with pedalling when required, up to Woodseats for example.

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On September 1st, Ollie set up his social media accounts to document a whole year of work as a Sheffield GP without using a car.

He considered a conventional bicycle, but since travel from his surgery at Sloan Medical Centre in Heeley involves uphill journeys to Lowedges, Meersbrook and Totley, he decided to invest in an e-bike to avoid arriving for patient visits looking like a beetroot.

“An e-bike turns Sheffield into Cambridge,” he said.

Ollie’s Giant e-bike has four settings, he explained: “You can turn the motor off, which is like resistance training.

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“Next you can have the motor working just enough to compensate for the weight of the bike.

“Or you can turn it up so that you go up hills as if they’re flat.

“Finally there’s the turbo setting if I’ve had a really hard day. But the battery doesn’t last long on that setting.”

On the lower settings he can get 70km from one charge, and because he can use short cuts and bus lanes on many routes, he’s found his e-bike journeys are as quick as driving, or much quicker during rush hour.

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Ollie is also an ambassador for the Move More campaign to encourage Sheffielders to exercise more often, and finds arriving on a bike often starts conversations with patients and fellow GPs about the benefits of active travel.

“One of my patients, who’s now in his late eighties, told me how he used to go everywhere on his bike, and he’s now thinking about an e-bike himself. It really does open the door to exercise as part of medicine.”

Four fellow Sheffield doctors are already preparing a switch to e-bikes, and messages on social media show that plenty of other commuters are joining in too.

“In my view, GPs should be demonstrating that this is the way we should go,” said Ollie.

He added that e-bike numbers are increasing in hilly Sheffield, and feels that the variety on offer will mean more and more people cycling more often.

“I hope as more people do this it will up the pressure on planners to cope with a bigger volume of bikes on our roads. The city really needs to embrace this.”

Ollie and The Beast have already clocked up over 1,000 kilometres on commuting journeys from their home in Ecclesall, on patient visits, and journeys to meetings as far as Barnsley.

Jibes that he was ‘cheating’ by using an e-bike have fallen away as the practicalities emerge.

“One colleague told me we should see an e-bike as an alternative to a car, not a bike.

“It’s just as quick, and although it cost me £2,000 with all the kit, I worked out it costs me £4,000 a year to run my car, so it will actually pay for itself in 6 months.”

He added: “Word is spreading. Before too long people will be expecting their doctors to arrive on an e-bike.”

To follow the adventures of Doc on a Bike, look for @ollie2wheeler on Twitter and You Tube.