A Confession from a Bicycle Addict

I get by with a little help from my friend.
Mm, I’m gonna try with a little help from my friend.
(Lennon/McCartney)

This is going to be a hard post to write. I’ve been mulling it over for many weeks. What might be a simple statement of fact for some, can feel like a shameful confession for others. But some things can’t be kept secret, for example things that have to do with your identity. In this case I’m talking about my identity as a cyclist.

Janos and I have been going on bicycle tours together for over ten years. We travel fully loaded, i.e. with panniers and often with camping gear, which makes quite a load. In cyclist circles, this is no great feat, but it’s not the way most people spend their vacations. We, on the other hand,  can’t imagine not traveling this way. Actually, the older we get, the more determined we are. During the winter months we impatiently await warmer weather so we can get back on our bikes. Every year we become more impatient. We are running out of time.

We are both in our seventies. I know there are plenty of cyclists who are still going strong at our age. There are also many who have already given up cycling. We are somewhere in between. We want to go on bicycle tours and we still can, but it’s getting harder. We’re not traveling the distances we did a few years ago, wind and hills are more discouraging than they used to be, sometimes we are just too tired at the end of the day to honestly say we’re enjoying ourselves. But it used to be fun, we know how it feels and aren’t ready to quit quite yet.

I decided it’s time to swallow my pride and look into help in the form of an e-bike, something I derided not too many years ago. Interesting how one’s perspective can change! Now I’ll probably be the object of other cyclists’ scorn for cycling with a motor. Yikes, cycling with a motor, that sounds terrible. Let’s just call it electric support. Of course, I’m hoping some people are going to understand my decision, maybe even be encouraged to do the same some day.

Let’s not forget the ecological factor. As an ecouraging fellow cyclist and friend wrote:If you’d had to stop, you’d have been less happy. You’d have carried on travelling, perhaps, but by car or in a coach. That wouldn’t have been the same and it would have added to the troubles of the world in general and of other cyclists in particular.”

I feel the need for a little more self-justification: After some research, we discovered a form of electric support that can be installed on our present bikes. It’s a tiny motor that gives you a boost up the hills and takes the edge off the headwinds.  The electric assist kicks in proportionally to your own pedalling, if you don’t pedal you get no support. They say it’s like riding with a built-in tailwind. I imagine it to feel like a kind of fountain of youth. So, wimpy or not, we’re gonna try with a little help …

Spring is here and our converted bikes are ready to ride.

p.s. Our first tour on our e-bikes was from Passau to Vienna, here’s the journal.

My converted Koga Miyata, with rear hub motor and battery integrated into the rear rack

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17 Responses to A Confession from a Bicycle Addict

  1. Joe Trudo says:

    Suzanne,
    Oops! SBB Swiss Rail heading for e-bikes is Flyer-land. Had another thought going around in my head and got title wrong. Need a long bike ride to clear my head!! Believe the title tie in is a brand of bikes called e-Flyer??

    Regards,

    Joe

    • Joe,
      It seems the Swiss are really taking e-bikes seriously. Yes, there is an e-Flyer. We looked into it but decided to upgrade bikes we already had. Otherwise I think the Flyer would have been my choice.
      When will you be able to start a summer tour? And where? No place like Europe, right?
      Cheers,
      Suzanne

  2. Joe Trudo says:

    Janos & Suzanne,
    I was doing a bit of internet surfing and discovered that on the Swiss Rail website there is a heading titled “Jet Bike” and they have taken your assisted bike program to the rental stage. It appears that we might be “plug in” assisted for the foreseeable future! Still working on my plans for this summer. Do hope to tour somewhere….
    Best regards,

    Joe

  3. Lydie says:

    Hello Suzanne,
    So enjoying to read your website and blog ! Each time , we find a new idea of trip .
    So beautiful images ! what type of cameras do you use ?
    We hope for you a “long way” with your “news” electrics bikes !!
    Good trip and happy cycling !

    Lydie –
    France Strasbourg
    Sorry for my bad english !!

  4. Lydie says:

    Hello Suzanne,
    So enjoying to read your website and blog . Each time, we can find a new subject of riding with beautiful images.
    Jsut a question, what kind of camera do you use ?

    • Hallo Lydie,
      Thank you for taking the time to comment. I’m glad you enjoyed my blog. And don’t worry about your English, it’s fine. I’m glad you won’t see what my French looks like.
      As for the camera — I was using a Panasonic DMC-FZ28 in my most recent journals and blogs. It’s not as small as a pocket point-and-shoot camera, but still light enough and it has many possibilities to adjust the settings manually. It’s a camera I would recommend if you don’t want to get into photographing with a DSLR.
      Cheers,
      Suzanne

      • Lydie says:

        Thanks a lot for this information !
        We prepare a tour on the Rhein radweg ( strasbourg -Koblentz) and the return by Radweg Mosel .
        Last year , we went in “Marais Poitevin” France during few days and “la voie verte Trans – Ardennes” with our son. Just the beginning of riding ; You can see some images on our blog ( categorie – velo or dossier image – Transardennes). It’s was our first trip with our new bikes ( Stevens for my husband and Gudereit for me ).
        We were enjoyed !!
        Cheers, Lydie

  5. Ellen Bandsma says:

    I love your blog! Read all your posts at one time, and it was a treat. I’m looking forward to reading more about your new adventures on the e-bike. You and Janos are no doubt going to convert Joe and me in the long run–or maybe the short run, even. The important thing is to keep riding as long as we all can. There is no better way to travel and no better way to experience the world than from the saddle of a bicycle. How lucky we are to have discovered this wonderful means of transport.

  6. Kayleen says:

    Well done on a difficult but wise decision which will see you out on your bikes for another season of wonderful cycling.

    I personally think both you and Janos have a fantastic and adventurous spirit and if this assistance helps to keep you on your bikes then you go, girl!

    May the wind always be in your back and the path ahead be full of adventure.

    Cheers

    Kayleen

    • Thanks for your comment, Kayleen. Yes, it was a difficult decision. I think it wasn’t just about my identity as a cyclist, but also about acknowledging and accepting the aging process. I am feeling good about our decision.
      Happy cycling! When will you be touring in Europe again?
      Suzanne

      • Kayleen says:

        Hello Suzanne,

        I understand the subtelties of the decision and the strentgth it would take to make a wise decision. It is never easy to admit a reduction in strength and power, is it!

        All going well we will be back in Europe in 2012. The debate is on as to where with the choices being: Germany, France or Spain. Currently France is winning because we want to see the south a little more….but I long for those predictable and precise German bike paths! We have family flying to Munich in August with their bikes and were are beyond envious.

        I see you placed the motors on your Koga Miyata bicycles….was it not possible on the Bike Fridays?

        Cheers

        Kayleen

  7. Joseph Trudo says:

    Good day Suzanne!
    So good to see your opinion on electric assist. Find the technology interesting (being a mechanical kinda guy) and also getting a bit along in sunup sequences. I look forward to your report of usage impressions. ..I get by…
    Joe

    • Hi Joe,
      We’ve taken two short rides so far ( 25 km and 45 km) and are very, very satisfied. I notice we’re still getting a good workout but we can control the level of exertion. The only negative so far is that the bikes are very heavy with the motor and battery. On tour you have to carry the charger with you, too. So it means a lot of extra weight. I’m sure in a couple of years they’ll have developed lighter models. You’re not going to be ready for e-assist for a looooong time anyway.
      Suzanne

  8. gwen gibson says:

    They’ve arrived at last!!! “May you go through life with a tailwind” sounds like an Irish toast. A beautiful post, Suzy.

  9. I think this sounds like a great idea! Can you send me a link to the motor you have chosen? Dan and I will miss seeing you both this summer- BooHoo!

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