I bought an e-bike

by Aug 8, 2019

So, last week in Recognizing Limits and Finding Ways Past Them I talked about the idea of buying an e-bike as a tool to get past some of the limits I’ve been running into with my legs trying to stretch my walking/hiking miles.

I got a lot of thoughtful advice and suggestions about bikes to look at and things to consider. I thank all of you for that.

I went and had a nice long talk with the dealer, and went out on a test ride, and then sat on the decision for a few days to make sure I was really sure this was what I wanted to do — I had to make sure I was at the “here’s how I will use this” point, not just the “I should buy a bike and ride it” point.

And then I called up the dealer and gave them a deposit. I also offered to pay for Laurie’s bike if she decided to want one, and so a couple of days ago, she went down, did a test drive, and we put a deposit down on a bike for her as well. Today, I sent off to a local place that installs trailer hitches, and I had a 2″ receiver added to the car, and so all I need to have happen is for the bikes to show up at the dealer, get assembled and tested, and then I can go and pick them up.

My bike is the Pedego City Commuter Black Edition, with the upgraded battery and the magnesium wheels. The latter are needed to support my weight, and the former extends my range while also recognizing my weight will add to the battery draw during use.

Why did I go with Pedego as the manufacturer? One reason is they’re one of the few manufacturers that builds bikes to support a person of my weight and talk about that in their materials. Most manufacturers don’t, and when you dig into it, most bikes only officially support a person up to 250 pounds. The other is that Pedego had a shop in the area (Palo Alto), so I could go and talk to someone I thought would be an expert on the line, not someone who worked in a shop that sold e-bikes along with the rest of the bikes. I think I made a good call on that, because the person in the shop and I had a really good chat about the realities of biking with my weight and I felt he was really trying to get me to the right solution, not just selling me a bike.

So I’m really happy with the bike I got and with Pedego for helping me make the decision.

I had to go get the hitch receiver installed because — obvious when you think about it — sticking a pair of 50 pound e-bikes on a trunk rack is a good way to leave the bikes on the freeway somewhere when you least expect it. I ended up going with the Thule Easy Fold, a 2 bike rack designed for use with e-bikes.

This is, shall we say, an investment. I needed to make sure I was doing it for the right reasons, not the “should” but the “will” use. While the first five minutes of my test ride was a bit of a freak show, once I started remembering how to ride a bike after all these years, it became fun instead of scary and I could tell the possibilities I’d seen doing this were true. This will massively open up my ability to explore some of the birding areas that I’ve struggled to walk through.

I recognize not all areas are open to bikes, and some trails are considering whether to restrict e-bikes separately, and I’ll honor trail restrictions (of course), but there are still a lot of places where this will get me I currently can’t. A friend of mine mentioned using their e-bikes in Yosemite, and I honestly hadn’t thought of that, but a good e-bike there will really change my experience in the park, too, and other parks when I go exploring.

I’ve picked up a set of panniers to try out, and a front pack. The front pack should hold my camera and binoculars, the panniers will have my tripod and scope and camera support gear like extra lenses. It seems a good starting point, and I’ll iterate as I get experience riding and see ways to improve things.

The first thing on the docket: there’s a nearby park that is under-birded and I’ve wanted to make a home patch: a place I visit and document what I find once a week or so. I simply couldn’t do the 1.5-2 mile walk it needs weekly on a reliable basis, but now, it’s going to be fairly easy, as long as I commit the time. This park has a couple of creeks in it, somewhat converted to flood control, and I know from the supply of critters that make it to my yard and eat my wife’s tomatoes in the summer (right now we’re seeing Raccoons weekly, Possums a few times a month, and skunks every night. Or as Laurie calls them, “special kitty”), there’s a good supply of critters there and I don’t think it’s well documented, so we can fix that.

I’m really encouraged to be taking this step, and I’ve heard from a bunch of you who have and love it. I’m looking to take it easy until I’m really comfortable on the bike, but I’m fortunate I have some good areas I can ride without much traffic to do that in, including the paths to get to that park and back. Getting on the e-bike for the rest ride reminded me — as someone who used to be a pretty serious cyclist — how much I missed it. It also made it clear my worry that a manual bike that needed peddling was something beyond my legs at this point — the electric assist will be a big part of bootstrapping my legs to the point where they can carry the load, and I don’t think I’d be able to get there without the e-bike.

Now, all I need to do is actually ride the silly thing.