Bicycle Love (Part 3)
Have you ever heard of electric bikes? E-bikes for short? I have a confession to make, I truly was clueless and in the dark about electric bikes. I had never really heard about them. I did not know anyone who had one. I had never ridden one. I had no knowledge of or interest in e-bikes. I just wrote in Bicycle Love (Part 2) about how much I love my red, 38-year old Peugeot 10-speed...that I still ride. We had shared many miles together throughout the decades...over half of my life... we were travel companions. I was clearly not in the market for a new bike. I was content to be riding my beautiful, red, vintage, Peugeot into the great beyond. "Je t'aime pour toujours - I love you forever." Until things changed in July...
For over a year, my husband Rick had been talking about e-bikes. He started to research them. He loves gadgets. He loves new technology. He drags me oftentimes kicking and screaming into the future with his pursuit of technology. The e-bikes remind me of a time many years ago when he purchased a Kindle for me. He knows how much I love to read books. He has always been extremely generous and thoughtful with gifts. At first, I was not pleased with his gift. I loved the feel and weight of a book in my hands. I loved turning the pages. I love visiting the library and perusing book stores. But, I would give the Kindle a try.
The Kindle had a capacity to hold many books and was lightweight. It had a light built within it for easy reading at night, outdoors at the beach, or on an airplane. I remember telling a good friend who was a librarian, "Judy, I have gone to the dark side! I have a Kindle and I secretly Love it." I baulked at the idea of a Kindle at first too, but in time, I grew to love it. Rick loves the hunting and gathering of information when it comes to technology and gadgetry. He doesn't want to make a mistake in purchasing items so he goes about his research very thoughtfully and methodically. He would bring the topic of e-bikes up to me and it would go in one ear and out the other. I wasn't particularly interested.
He did not give up his dogged pursuit for the best e-bikes to fit our lifestyle, our needs, our ages, and the budget he had in mind. He had also wanted to purchase e-bikes from a local bike shop/dealer of the particular e-bike he chose so if need be, they could provide service and parts if we had any issues. Rick had done his homework. He wanted to find bikes that we could enjoy together and travel short or long distances. The pedal assistance and throttle would enable us to travel over longer distances and aid in navigating up and down hills with greater ease. He didn't want the cheapest or the most expensive e-bikes. You could say he was looking for something akin to the goldilocks effect...he wanted them to be just right. He had decided on Aventon Level Commuter Ebikes.
This past July, Rick asked me to come into the city to meet him for lunch and to drive over to the Eric's bike shop to test ride the e-bike he hoped would fit all of his criteria. I met him at his office. While I was patiently waiting for him to finish up with a client, one of his managers came over to sit down and visit with me in their showroom. He started to tell me about his e-bike and how much he rides. He told me how many miles he can ride and how long it takes him. He told me about how fantastic pedal assistance is on his bike. (I had no idea what pedal assistance was). He was telling me how much he loves his e-bike. He was attempting to sell me on e-bikes.
I started to giggle. "I see what is going on here." I said, with an incredulous gasp, "Rick actually asked you to come over to me and give me a hard sell on e-bikes? I reminded him that I live with an e-bike infomercial that had been running 24/7 for the past year...maybe you've met him? His name is Rick. To say that Rick is extremely thorough in his research and his ability to sell anything... would be an incredible understatement. We got in the car and drove over to Eric's bike shop in St. Louis Park to test ride the Aventon.
We walked into the bike shop and there was a salesman waiting to speak with us and had an
e-bike ready for us to check out. Rick had been conversing with this young man over the phone regarding the e-bikes. He brought the bike outside for us to test ride in the parking lot. He explained how to turn it on and how to change the pedal assist to go from 0-5. He showed us how to use the throttle and how to change gears. The bike is nice looking and very heavy. It weighs nearly 60 pounds. That would take some getting used to. I was nervous. This was nothing like my Peugeot.
I got on the bike, started pedaling, and tentatively pressed the button on the pedal assist to go from 0 to1 and the bike lunged forward. Oh my God, hold on Angie, you are going for a ride. This bike has some crazy power. I rode up and down the parking lot of the strip mall, past people enjoying their lunch outside at a nearby restaurant. I rode around the parking lot a few times trying to navigate the corners and find balance with the weight of the bike and the speed. I was also pumping the brakes often so I wouldn't crash.
This was all so new to me. I tested out the throttle on my next turn around the parking lot while I was on a straightaway. Wow, this is fast and quite amazing. I was having so much fun. I couldn't seem to wipe the smile off of my face. The light was beginning to shine into my understanding of Rick's pursuit of e-bikes. He has an uncanny ability to draw me towards the future with tools that provide ease, comfort, and efficiency. He was right about the Kindle and he was right about the e-bikes. I am grateful for Rick and his determination for pulling/pushing/luring me forward into new areas of technology.
I pulled over to the curb where Rick was waiting to take his turn. It was time to test out his research project and see if it was all he had hoped and dreamed it to be. Before he got on the bike to ride it, he looked every inch of the bike over with discernment. He checked out all of the gadgets on the bike to see how everything worked. He looked, touched, inspected every little detail and the mechanics of the bike. After he had assessed every part of the bike, he was now ready to climb aboard the bike and take it for a spin. I could see the light in his eyes and the smile on his face as he too, rounded the corners and rode the bike up and down the parking lot. He changed gears. He tried every level from 0-5. He tested out the throttle. He seemed to be quite happy with his year-long search as he pedaled to a stop in front of me after 4 times around the parking lot. We went inside to purchase two new e-bikes. We were sold. We had to wait until the store got two bikes in our size back in stock.
Ah, a new chapter was just beginning in our lives. We could get out into the world in a new, fun, way, and enjoy each other's company outdoors while exercising. We both were giggling like little children. Oh, this e-bike thing is something else. I truly had no idea. I was beginning to understand Rick's persistence in researching and finally purchasing e-bikes. Let the adventures begin...
It took a few days to get our new e-bikes. We ended up having to drive to another Eric's Bike Shop location to pick up my bike. We started out riding through the neighborhood and the path that winds around behind our home. It was a breeze going up and down all of the hills that surround our neighborhood. We could easily ride over to our son's home who lives a mile away and say a quick, "hello" to our grandkids. We mapped out a course to ride to another son's home in West Bloomington that was 15 miles round trip. It was exciting to get outdoors and take a bike ride together on most evenings after work. We would take longer bike rides on the weekends. We began to find trails throughout our city and state that we had never ridden before. Minnesota is beautiful and filled with bike trails. Old railroad tracks have been converted into bike and walking paths all over the state. Brilliant.
We have been married a long time and have always enjoyed walking, running, and riding bikes together. Now, with the e-bikes, it has given us a new lease on life and movement as we ride into our 60's and 70's. We can continue our journey together in a new way by experiencing places we hadn't visited in the past on bikes. We drove to the Cannon River bike trail and rode from Cannon Falls to Welch Village and back. It was 20 miles of pedaling through beautiful, verdant green corridors that had been chiseled through the woods running parallel to the Cannon River.
We saw many other bikers on the trail. There were families, couples, and friends biking in front of us and behind us, but it never felt too crowded. There were the bike riders out for a leisurely ride and there were the serious bikers. We could see and hear families and friends tubing down the Cannon River to the left of us as we rode towards Welch Village. I spotted a few eagles and turkey vultures soaring high above the river. It felt amazing to be a part of this outdoor activity and I love riding bikes through the trees.
The shade of the trees periodically filtered out the sun until you would come to an opening in the trees and there would be vast fields, an azure sky dotted with puffy, white clouds, and the sun shining brightly overhead. I felt energized and so grateful to be out enjoying life on our new e-bikes. There were random spots riding through the trees where the air would be cooler as it flowed over us. There were little bridges on the path we crossed over smaller bodies of water flowing towards the river. The scenery was spectacular to witness.
The Aventon Level Commuter E-bikes have been so much fun to ride and have brought so much joy, renewed energy, and vitality to our lives. I feel like a kid in a candy store when I ride and cruise on new paths in nature or I ride to the store to do errands. It has truly given us a new lease on life. We took to the e-bikes like a moth to the flame.
We have put on over 500 miles in the short time we have been e-bike riders. We rode several paths through the trees and their magnificent greenery of summer's foliage. We have been riding with the changing from summer's green into fall's magnificent show of crimson, ochre, orange, and gold as their leaves swirl and fall from the trees onto the bike path. I hear the crunch of the leaves under the tires and the occasional pop of the acorns from the mighty oak trees that have also gathered on the paths. I have become very mindful of the squirrels that busily gather and dart around often times too close to the path for my liking. I brake hard for squirrels and all wildlife.
I have very happily witnessed wildlife up close on my recent biking adventures. One morning as I was pedaling through a wooded area on an extension just north of the path around Sunset Pond, it got very quiet. I had the feeling that I should slow down. I am glad that I listened to that inner voice and slowed down because up ahead of me a beautiful mama deer slowly emerged from the forested area from the right. I stopped a good distance away from her. She stopped on the path out in front of me and looked at me for a few moments and then sauntered off into the trees on the other side of the path. I have learned to pause an extra moment because oftentimes there will be more than one deer crossing. I was correct in my assumption and out walked a young deer. It, too, paused, looked at me and followed mom into the woods across the path. When I rode closer to where they had just entered the other side of the woods...there was no sight of them. They blended right in and disappeared into the sanctuary of the woods.
Hyland Hills in Bloomington has a wonderful bike path that meanders up and down through lush woods filled with oak, maple, aspen, birch, many grasses, sumac, and a variety of conifers. You ride passed gorgeous lakes filled with ducks, geese, and the occasional egret or heron standing serenely alone. There is so much beauty in nature and the feeling of peacefulness engulfs me and I soak it all in as I ride.
We were out enjoying our ride through the huge park reserve one night and we veered left to the part of the path that runs alongside Bush Lake Road. The city has put in a tunnel that goes under the road and gives bike riders and walkers safe access to the other side of the road. As you come out of the bike tunnel you soon begin the ascension to the top of yet another hill. (I have become extremely grateful for pedal assistance!) As we arrived at the top of the hill we had to brake quickly as we happened upon a rafter of wild turkeys having supper...they were resplendent in their dark feathers and great number grazing in front of the crimson sumac up against the dark green conifers.
As we watched the turkeys from a safe distance, we turned the bikes around to descend the hill we had just climbed. The fall air was crisp and getting cooler by the moment. The days are shorter and the sun was beginning to set in the western sky. We had to make haste and return to the parking lot at Hyland Park where we parked our SUV. We were 3 or 4 miles away and we had to pedal hard before we were left in complete darkness in the woods.
When we arrived back at the SUV, we marveled once again at the incredible beauty of Minnesota landscapes and so grateful to have all of the bike/walking/running paths available to us out in nature. We are honored to be observers to all of the wild life that we have encountered along the way and to whom we share this world. The e-bikes have been an amazing addition to our salubrious habit of trying to live healthy lives.