03 Oct E-bike literally breathes new life into travel
Electric bicycles can add a new dynamic to your next vacation
Although little is known about them in many cycling circles, an electric bicycle – or e-bike – is a huge opportunity for people to ride more at home and around the globe. I am living proof, and thankful that e-bikes breathed new life into my riding.
I’ve been fortunate to enjoy good health and keep active. Doing my first triathlon at age 54 is one of my proudest moments. That experience introduced me to road biking, which quickly became a passion. I was having so much fun that my husband, Martin, got hooked too. Soon our weekends and vacations centered around cycling.
After several happy years of riding, hills became a problem that I couldn’t overcome. I had to stop halfway up, struggling to breathe, even in places I never had issues before. Doctor visits revealed an asthma diagnosis, with my triggers being exercise and environmental and seasonal allergens. I got back on my bike, armed with medication and an asthma action plan. And my riding improved. I wasn’t back to my former self, but things were better.
What a difference an e-bike makes!
I met my first e-bike on vacation in Sonoma, California. Martin and I’s inn recommended a local shop with daily wine country tours, and we booked a full day leisurely ride, about 25 miles, with lunch and several vineyard visits. “A leisurely ride,” I thought. “No problem!”
It was shaping up to be a perfect day, with gorgeous scenery, great weather, good group size, and a knowledgeable local guide. There were lots of flats and some gentle rolling hills. But also steep hills that I just didn’t have the lung power to ride and had to walk my bike up.
As fate would have it, there were people in our group who’d found a way to keep different riding levels from keeping them apart on their adventures. The father and two grown kids were strong riders. The mom rode fine but couldn’t keep up with her fast family. They rented her an electric bicycle, and she had no problem with the steep grades, whizzing by as I breathlessly walked up. “Huh? A pedal-assist who? E-bike what?”
After a frustrating day, I returned to the bike shop to learn about this e-bike. After asking some questions and a brief eye-opening ride, I was ready for another crack at riding wine country.
The next day, we got an e-bike for me and a regular bike for Martin, and set out to ride on our own. We had a fantastic time exploring, stopping at shops, restaurants and vineyards. I rode up some of the same steep hills I’d walked the day before. It was exhilarating! Like when I first fell in love with road biking. And so began a new chapter in my biking and traveling life.
Next up: Biking Hawaii’s Big Island
For my 60th birthday, Martin surprised me with a cycling trip to Hawaii’s Big Island. What a great way to start a new decade! The island of Hawaii has many different elevations, with flats, rollers and hills – lots of hills. So he found a bike tourism company that offered e-bikes too.
Backroads active travel company had well planned routes and a range of mileage for all different levels. Martin had an awesome time on the comfortable but challenging climbs, and no worries about my asthma flaring up on the hills.
And I just zipped up every hill on the island! There was an extra battery in the support van in case of any issues or low power. With pedal assist, you get a good workout and control over much power you need at different times. E-bikes are much heavier, so I used some level of assist most of every day. Mostly on low, level 1, but easily bumping up to level 3 to avoid stressing my lungs during long climbs. I even rode part of the famous IRONMAN course!
There was one group member who may’ve had a better time if she was on an e-bike. She was about my age, been riding for years, and done biking trips all over the world. But on this trip, she struggled with the long hills and relied heavily on the support van.
It was six days of biking paradise, and I could never have done it without a pedal-assist electric bicycle.
Investing in health and happiness
Back home I researched, test rode and purchased my very own e-bike. I was free to ride without fear!
E-bikes have been popular in Europe for years, but have taken longer to gain a following in the United States. Very few local bike shops offered e-bikes at the time, but now many have multiple e-bikes on their floors. The movement is growing!
My pedal-assist e-bike has more than 1,000 glorious miles on it. I get about 40-50 miles per battery charge. But it depends on the grade of the ride, and other factors, like headwinds. We often ride longer distances, so I carry a spare battery in my pannier bag.
A couple haters have called it a “cheater bike,” but most folks are just curious what a pedal-assist e-bike is all about. Some people I talk to also have, or know someone with, health issues that interfere with riding. Others are interested for commuting. I welcome questions and am proud to share how electric bikes can help people ride more.
I can’t say enough good things about e-bikes. It’s a good, but safe workout when you have to pedal and can vary the level of assist. Martin and I both enjoy our rides more with me on an e-bike. I truly believe that the best way to see a new landscape is from the seat of a bike. I’m thrilled that biking is still at the heart of our travels. And thrilled to be able to keep cycling.