It’s hot out there, people. So, let’s take a break from the serious stuff and talk bicycles.
My wife, Dianne, bought an electric bike a couple of years ago. This year, after stubborn, but futile, resistance (a common theme in married life, I’ve found) I caved and bought one myself.
For those of you who think e-bikes are cheating, I used to agree. But the truth is that with “pedal assist” you’re still getting a decent workout. No, not as much as if you were propelling yourself, unassisted, up all those hills, but you’re still working. And, frankly, as we age, if the little boost you get gets you out on a bike or keeps you on the road longer, that’s a net plus.
And they’re fun as hell. That’s especially true on the trails we like to ride in northern Wisconsin, like the beautiful Heart of Vilas County Trail. What you get there are a lot of sudden hills. These are very short, but steep hills that pop up all at once, sometimes right around a blind corner without enough warning to gear down. That’s a buzz killer on a conventional bike. But on an electric model the e-assist kicks in and you conquer the little demon, no problem .
As for equipment, Dianne and I took our typical paths. She went for quality; I went for cheap. Dianne bought a Trek. It’s quality all around and it’s a Wisconsin company. The components are top notch, the bike came fully assembled and if anything goes wrong the company and the bike shop are there to back things up. It’s a great product, but it comes at a price. In her case, that price was about $2,500.
I just didn’t want to spend that much, so I violated all the rules of liberal conscientious consumption. I bought a bike on Amazon and it came direct from China. (Dianne’s Trek was built in China too, though she was supporting American jobs since the corporate offices, design and marketing all come out of the U.S.)
I only spent about $800 and I got what I paid for. It came in a box, so I had to assemble it myself. I’m reasonably handy and that was a good thing because the instructions were in broken English and, even at that, they were inadequate. There were parts that were there with no explanation. There was a lot of just figuring stuff out and looking online to see what the finished product was supposed to look like. I still haven’t figured out how to attach the front light or how to get the control system to report in miles instead of kilometers. If there was a key to lock up the valuable battery pack, I couldn’t find it in the box. The plastic holder for the electric control panel was broken, so I had to attach it with electrician’s tape. And, God and Xi Jinping help me if I should ever need service on the thing.
But, I have to say, for the price the thing works just fine. The actual functioning of the e-assist works just as well as Dianne’s Trek. The battery life isn’t as long as her’s but it really doesn’t matter. I like to go about 20 miles at a time and when I’m done the computer tells me that I’m still at over 90% capacity. (The specs will tell you that a battery pack is good for, say, 24 miles in my case, but that’s full out for 24 miles. Using the assist only when necessary extends that by a bunch. If you’re not planning on doing centuries on your e-bike, I wouldn’t spend a lot on a more powerful battery that you won’t need.)
The bottom line is that I love my e-bike. Far from cheating the exercise, I bike a lot more than I would otherwise and it’s just a blast. And my recommendation is that if you like quality and you’re not into solving the hassles yourself, spend the extra dough and buy a Trek. But, for me, cheap as I am, pretty handy with a wrench and some electrician’s tape, and not especially sensitive to guilt for making Jeff Bezos richer, my Go Trax, direct from China, was a bargain and does what I need it to do.