HELP! Whether you need it, give it or have its damn tune stuck in your head, getting by without a little isn’t always practical.

I’m not exactly a proud person. Mary can keep on burning, but I’m quite happy basking in the cold, hard light of humility. Wait, that makes it all sound a bit worthy. No, I’m not railing against the deadly sins. Jealousy and I have long been friends. Modesty just comes really easily when you’re only ever the best in the room at being the worst.

And I can’t complain; mainly as it’s the life I’ve chosen. Challenging yourself constantly is great for the soul, but self-deprecation is a lovely by-product of the process, since learning new things means always being the novice in a world full of fully-fledged nuns. It took longer than I care to admit for me to get used to navigating the four stages of competence quite so publicly, quite so often, but these days I’m unconsciously competent at tackling failure with or without an audience.

Even for someone without the burden of achievement on her back, asking for help isn’t always as easy as offering it. The feelgood factor of yanking someone out of a hole doesn’t quite flow to the one in the ground, clambering up. It’s just the nature of help: it’s a giver’s market. But lately, I was in it for the taking.

The Black Isle in Ross and Cromarty isn’t quite on my usual daily commute. In fact, I’d never set hand nor hoof on the Highland misnomer until I joined Black Isle Bicycles for a tour of the peninsula last week. As the name suggests, the community enterprise is a cycling hub for the area, providing bike hire and maintenance, information and advice to locals and visitors alike. Part of Transition Black Isle, a charitable organisation promoting lower-carbon lifestyles, Black Isle Bicycles has been reclaiming the road on two wheels since last summer. Not only can they grind your gears and re-rail your derailleur, they also offer route guides and tours of the glorious location. Joining the team, Lizbeth and Giles, for the day was a lesson in history, geography and winding currents – with a bike ride thrown in.

Travelling up through the winter-scape of the A9, I’ll confess I wasn’t totally enamoured with the thought of donning waterproofs and heading out to be proofed by water. True to reputation though, by the time I’d reached Fortrose Leisure Centre, made my peace with the rig-out and my bladder, the weather had bucked up its ideas and was wearing its Sunday best. So as we set off for an afternoon of electric mountain biking, all blue sky and countryside, it felt a little more Famous Five than I’d been expecting.

Before I was cleared for take-off though, I was given a short training session on the bike; a few spins around the quiet car park to get a feel for the controls. You see, this wasn’t just any old penny-farthing, this was a 200,000-penny-farthing, and wrecking it with my quarter-assed cycling just wasn’t an option. I can’t say I’d ever actually heard of an electric mountain bike, not being the best of pedallers even without the added confusion of voltage. But with their increasing popularity and Black Isle Bicycles’ handy hiring scheme on offer, it seemed like a perfect time to fuel my fitness fires.

Having never been on a bike without immediately falling off it, I was slightly wary of introducing external forces to my downward momentum, but Giles quickly explained that the electric element of the machine is controlled by the rider at all times and, if you’re not pedalling, the assistance just won’t kick in. I’m always a bit wobbly to start with – in life in general really – and I tried desperately to stay upright for at least the first spin around the grounds, in case my guides decided that, as a guidee, I wasn’t fit for purpose. I’m so glad I made the extra effort because, as tours go, this one was a magical mystery.

The Black Isle can boast many things: a bizarre geography that allows it spectacular views across the Highland coastline, a history that incorporates Jurassic rocks and the birth of modern geology, and the best soup I’ve tasted in a long time. But our first trail took us along the pretty country roads to another of the area’s features of note: Chanonry Point. Renowned as one of the best places for dolphin-spotting, Chanonry Point plays host to thousands of hopeful Flipper fans every year, and I was delighted to add my footfall to the numbers. The ride out to the lighthouse was joyfully uneventful: zero traffic and flat paths with which even I would struggle to argue. Lizbeth had chosen the route to allow me to acclimatise to the bike’s quirks in a safe environment. In truth, I forgot to turn on the ’leccy so as we waved to seals by the water’s edge, I was still completely ignorant to its benefits. But that would all change on the journey’s next leg; one for which my own legs didn’t quite have the power.

The Black Isle’s mountain bike facilities at Learnie Red Rock comprise a 10-mile stretch of purpose-built trails for all levels of rider. All great stuff until you realise that the reason there are amazing runs down through the forest, is that you have to Jack and Jill your way to the top of hill to start them. Luckily for me though, I had help. On the upwards stretches, I could use my gears as normal then, when my lungs ran out of steam, I upgraded to electrics. Stepping through the different modes from Eco to Turbo, it was hard to decide what I liked better: that little extra push over the summit or the pleasure of making it to the trails without hitting the ground. Fine, so it was barely three minutes into the easiest run that I took a tumble that no makaton could describe, but even my bruises couldn’t blacken my cheer as we tore down the fire paths then finished off the day with a leisurely ride out to Cromarty for tea.

Over only a few hours, we met several converts who already used electric bikes. It seems the popular myth that electric bikes aren’t for proper cyclists is as redundant as stabilisers on a Harley.

Understandable as it is that we all struggle to ask for it, a little help, whether you want it or otherwise, is never far away. And even if it is, there’s always an electric bike to get you there.