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The microwave bicycle: ride all day in a couple of hours

 

ebike

 

I have been riding bikes for most of my life. School bikes, road racing bikes, track racing bikes. Mountain bikes: the very first primitive versions, then bikes with suspension forks, dual suspension bikes, downhill bikes. In between there have been single speeds, a bmx, and restoration projects.


I thought maybe I had reached ‘peak bicycle’, and then along came e-bikes.


Not to be confused with electric motorbikes, an e-bike has no throttle. To make it go, you have to pedal. That means they are arguably not too different to a regular bike with a world champ on board, and so they are allowed to go on the trails.


My initial assumptions aligned with conventional wisdom: maybe they are ok for people too feeble to ride a regular bike. People in rehab after busting themselves. Old people. The recently ill.


Then I rode one. A Trek from RideCentral’s demo fleet was available on a sunny Saturday, and I took it for pretty much the same ride as I would have done on my regular bike.


My thoughts on e-bikes changed during the next couple of hours.


First: it doesn’t have to be a lazy way to go for a ride. You can get up a long steep climb at 20km/hr, but you have to work about as hard as normal. Just not for anywhere near as long!


Any single track is a blast - down, up, or traversing. Braking into corners when you are going uphill is ridiculous, but necessary. Climbing really steep stuff is fun - believe it or not.


Going downhill is always good, and the low-slung weight of the battery and motor combined with the beefy suspension and big tyres made descending on the electric beast a real treat.
I went all over the place, and milked the battery dry.


No doubt, e-bikes are going to be great for the people we thought they were for. They are also going to be a very tempting to a lot of others.


Serious riders, with time constraints. Older riders, who can’t go for hours and hours day after day like they used to.


And the big opportunity, and a symptom of our times: people who have always liked the idea of mountain biking but were put off by the steep fitness curve required. They can get on an e-bike and start having fun straight away.


As if to confirm all this, I met a posse of guys out exploring the forest a few days ago. They were midlife city dwellers, in reasonable nick physically, way out the back of the forest. Their e-bikes open up a heap of country beyond their means by muscle power alone.
They may eventually become bike riders like the rest of us, with e-bikes as their gateway drug.
Will I get one? Not yet, maybe never. But I am no longer ruling it out.