I ride an electric bike. I never thought it would be a defining characteristic of my biking character, but at least i’m still on the two wheeled team. I didn’t always think so optimistically, and i’m beginning to see many others also might not.
In 2008 I got my first bike shop job, as the head mechanic for the small family run business. We served mostly commuters and recreational riding folk, and because of our shared bike utilization, I easily identified with the clientele. My bike was a $100 kijiji find; a heavy steel beast that i had lugged with me when i moved from toronto to victoria. At the time i simply didnt know any better, but i loved that bike, took good care of it, it worked well, and it got me where i wanted to go. I quickly realized my employee discount made a lot of outrageously priced bikes a bit more affordable, so i went for the cream. The Giant OCR C1 carbon road bike with a mix of top end components was to be my new commuter. Not exactly the most suitable choice for the job, but heck was it ever fast. I shaved almost ¼ of the time off my ride to work with my new speed machine. My bike stable expanded to include a city riding bike, a polo bike, and a touring bike. They hung on the walls in my tiny 10×12’ bedroom in Fernwood. Different bikes came and went as my needs and wants changed like the seasons. Now, i just have one; my electric steed.
“It must be nice,” one rider shouted as i cruised by. I can’t be sure, but I can assume he meant something like, “it must be nice to not have to pedal.” Sometimes it IS really nice. Sometimes i wish i had the strength to pedal all day like i used to be able to; to embrace the feeling of satisfied exhaustion after a long ride. People ride electric bikes for a variety of reasons, and mine is due to an injury. I used to think that riding an electric bike was cheating a bit, even in the beginning when i was reluctantly coming to terms with the reality that i simply couldn’t deal with the pain of riding any more. Here’s another little secret that i discovered; they are also really fun to ride too! Its not quite the same exhilarating feeling as propelling myself, but the results are the same. I still have my freedom to move myself without having to resort to an internal combustion engine and all the drawback that it brings, although i am a bit tethered by the range of my battery (80km or so on a full charge).
I can honestly say that without the help of my battery powered bike there would be places i simply would not and could not go. In fact, since acquiring my new ride I have gone places and done things that i would not have otherwise done or reluctantly done with less enjoyment, even if i were perfectly healthy enough to ride unassisted. So, not only has my standard of ability been maintained in certain areas, but it has also has improved. There is a role to be played by these devices beyond just playthings. They are a tool to help people keep riding when they otherwise would be unable or deterred, to encourage new or insecure riders to get back in the saddle, or to act as a replacement car that has virtually no ongoing costs (fuel, insurance, parking, maintenance, etc).
There is enough division between two wheelers and four wheelers to fill up the internet forever, and there’s no need to create more division within our two wheeled family. I am thankful i’m still able to ride, and every time i see someone on a bike, whether it be pedal or electric powered i’m thankful they have made that choice too. I’d encourage everyone to ride carefully and be compassionate with each other out there on the roads and trails. Everyone whizzing by has their own story and we have no right to judge.