cycling · fitness

Together and separate cycling

This weekend, my friend Norah and I are in Central Massachusetts, cycling, swimming, getting great coffee, and going to a dance concert at Jacob’s Pillow in western MA. We saw the Martha Graham Dance Company last night– stay tuned for a blog post next week about them.

This is our second year doing this weekend outing, and we’ve got it down pat. We stay in a modest motel across the road from the Norowottuck Rail Trail, which runs from east of Amherst to west of Northampton. It’s 11 miles long, and also lets you connect to other rail trails north of Northampton.

Friday afternoon we arrived and I was dying to get out on my bike. It was sunny and warm, and the path was green and leafy. See?

Leafy, green and shady bike path.  Ahhh...
Leafy, green and shady bike path. Ahhh…

Norah had both work and napping to do, so I headed out on my own. Of course, I wasn’t alone– there were other folks on bikes, skates, feet, and one person on a skateboard. Still, it was calming and refreshing to get out there on my own, just pedaling and looking around at the scenery.

I rode to downtown Northampton, reengaged with technology for a bit (texting and emailing on my phone), and then headed back. The ride back gave me a second dose of quiet enjoyment. And there were great visuals, too. See?

Rail trail bridge over the Connecticut river. Ooooh....
Rail trail bridge over the Connecticut river. Ooooh….

On Saturday, Norah and I set out together to ride to Amherst, find coffee, walk around, have lunch, and then make our way back to the motel. We were riding together, pointing out interesting-to-us sights to each other. Soon, though, Norah said to me, “I’d like to have a quiet ride. Why don’t you go on ahead?”

I did, riding at my own pace and in my own space. My road bike weighs about half of Norah’s sturdy commuter (complete with rack and panniers), and I enjoyed stretching my legs and covering more of the path. Soon, the scenery changed from farmland to ponds, with lots of birds and flora. See?

Pond with cat tails and lily pads. Egret was standing out of shot.
Pond with cat tails and lily pads. Egret was standing out of shot.

I was close to the end of the trail when I got a phone call from Norah, asking where I was. She was sitting on one of the rustic benches on the side of the trail, taking a break. I told her I would return as soon as I got to the end of the trail (in this sense, I’m a completist like Cate).

Soon I was back with Norah. We were both very happy and ready to search for coffee. So we did, along with meandering, eating lunch, and chit chatting with folks at a farmer’s market.

Then we got back on our bikes and rode to the motel together. We chatted a little, talked about plans for the rest of the day, pointed out interesting rights to each other. It was calm and relaxing and fun. We both got what we wanted from our outing– calm quiet cycling, calm together cycling. Yay!

Readers, do you ever split up when riding with friends? Do you like it? Do you prefer to ride together mostly, or separately, or a combo? I’m curious.

clothing · cycling · fitness

Dressing well for all occasions

by MarthaFitat55

I like dresses. I have admired the lovely patterns that come out each year but I lament the lack of similar pretty, both in fabric and style, dresses for those of us over size 12. Most of what I have seen is pretty shapeless, drab in colour, and definitely old fashioned (and not in a good way) in pattern if they come in colours other than black, maroon, and navy. If it is pretty, stylish and size 14 and up, it usually costs a bomb.

So colour me surprised when I read about the dress sensation from Spain that is sweeping the UK. Produced by Zara, the black dotted dress has shown up everywhere and the price with tax and the exchange runs about $100 Canadian, which makes it a home run in my books. You can dress it up or down, and even get married in it if you like. So popular is this dress that Zara is making more in different colours: coming soon is white dots on black.

What really pleases me though is this dress seems to suit a variety of bodies and shapes and the article’s author points this out:

the Zara dress is a different beast. This is not a cult item being worn by a narrow cross-section of women of similar ages and economic backgrounds. It has transcended its initial cool-girl early adopters to become a sartorial choice for women of all shapes, sizes and ages. It is no longer the preserve of slim, middle-class city-dwelling women who work in offices and do pilates. The dress is worn at village fetes, suburban barbecues and on school runs. It has become the everywoman dress.

Image shows four women of different shapes wearing the same black dotted dress. Photograph source: Instagram/hot4thespot

My point is that if a high end fashion line can come up with something that is affordable, comfortable, stylish and flexible, why can’t we find this stuff everywhere including sportswear?

When Nike launched its plus size line (1X to 3X — not a great range but is a start), they got all kinds of pushback from people who thought producing a line of clothing for larger bodies was heresy and condoning unhealthy behaviours. Whatever.

In the meantime, I’m going to keep my eye out on the Zara dress and Nike’s plus size line. It’s good to support those who produce clothing that is affordable, flexible, and meets a range of needs and sizing. While I may not go lifting with a dress, it’s possible I may go cycling in one like SamB.

cycling · fitness

Making Strava Segment Goals for Guelph

“Uh oh,” says Strava. “You just lost your QOM.” I’m not driving back to London, or in the case of this afternoon’s “uh oh” email to Kincardine, to keep them. You can’t expect to keep QOMs forever but still it’s been bugging me. I don’t like to have an empty Strava trophy cabinet! Pout.

Time to start focusing on some Guelph Strava segments I think!

(Oh, are you reading this and wondering what I’m talking about? What’s Strava? What’s a QOM? Look here and here.)

Back to my search for a Guelph QOM.

Here’s a likely candidate Vic to Ring. That’s the 1.1 km stretch of Stone between Victoria and the entrance to university parking. It’s part of my usual “long way to work” ride.

I noticed the other day that I’ve been getting faster on it. I’ve been getting PRs on the segment for awhile. Look below and you can see my times range from 3:18 to 1:54 this summer. I often ride with people a bit slower than me and that’s the last stretch of possible speed before getting to work. I like to get it out of my system. I tell people I’m riding with that I’ll meet them at the turn into campus parking, and whee zoom ahead.

On the upside, it’s flat. It’s also in a bike lane. There are no obstacles other than occasional gravel in the bike lane. There are some Strava segments on routes I regularly ride that I’ll never get because of things like train tracks. I don’t like to cross those at speed. On the downside, it’s after a traffic light and I’m starting from a stand still. Oh and it ends at a traffic light and if it’s red I tend to slow in advance.

My personal best is 1:54. The holder of the QOM currently did it in 1:39. I’m 9th of 158 women to record a time on the segment. I’m 126th of 874 people on the segment. The fastest time is held by a man at 1:29.

Other than waiting for a good tailwind, what’s my strategy?

My average speed is about 36 km/hr. The QOM holder is doing it at about 41 km/hr. That’s a big gap. I get up to 42 or 43 pretty quickly but I can’t maintain it. A few hundred meters from the turn I start slowing. So the thing I’m going to work on is maintaining the higher speed for longer. A kilometer is a tough distance that way. It’s too long to be an all out sprint effort.

Oh, I’m also going to time the light so I’m not starting from a standstill. That’ll make a difference too.

At the other end I’m going to try not to slow for the red. Instead I’ll turn right on red while going quickly if I have to.

(Having Chris Helwig in front me would also help, of course. A couple of my London QOMs were achieved riding fast on Chris’s wheel. And I don’t know if that is how the current QOM holder did it. Lots of QOMs are achieved on group rides and you’re not going to go in later and take off the crown. Fair enough.)

I’ve also been thinking it’s a good workout after reading that the fitness benefits of one minute sprinting on the bike equals 45 minutes of easy running.

Will I get it? I don’t know. I’ll try really hard. I’ll get fitter as a result of trying. Given a certain amount of luck–tailwinds and traffic lights–I’ve got a good shot at it. Wish me luck! And Kim Solga, stick to Hamilton QOMs please ..

cycling · femalestrength · racing

Sports heroines: Fiona Kolbinger

I know promised a post on my newfound love of cycling last time, and a post on this you will get, eventually. But first, I want to talk about an amazing female athlete, a cyclist in fact, whom I find incredibly inspiring. I’m talking about Fiona Kolbinger, the 24-year old woman who just won the Transcontinental Race, a self-supported 4,000 kilometre bike race from Burgas (Bulgaria) to Brest (France). Please bear with me as I fangirl a little.

Fiona was the first woman to win the race, which was in its seventh edition this year. The race website describes the event as follows:

The Transcontinental is a single stage race in which the clock never stops. Riders plan, research and navigate their own course and choose when and where to rest. They will take only what they can carry and consume only what they can find. Four mandatory control points guide their route and ensure a healthy amount of climbing to reach some of cycling’s most beautiful and historic monuments. Each year our riders cover around 4000km to reach the finish line.

About the Transcontinental Race

Doesn’t that sound so amazing? And so hard? Fiona did it in 10 days, 2 hours and 28 minutes. She slept for about four hours a night. What a champ! (Personally, I couldn’t sleep for hours a night for 10 days without being in a 4,000km cycling race. I would be curled up in a corner snoring on day 2.)

Of course, Fiona being a woman, this is a big deal. Out of the 265 starters in the race, 39 were women. And one of them won! This is actually not all that surprising: women have shown again and again that they are amazing endurance athletes. In ultra-long distance events such as ultra-marathons, or ultra-long distance swimming, women have been managing to close in on the gap over the past decades. If you look at the record-holders for the longest recorded swim distances, there are a lot of women (note that this doesn’t necessarily have to mean they are faster than men, although there is a study saying that too, at least for swimming. But it seems they can often go for longer). [Update 11 Aug 19: The BBC just published a piece about women and endurance sports following Fiona’s win. It’s very interesting, a lot of this is apparently also down to how women manage these events emotionally and mentally.] Nevertheless, given that there were a lot fewer female than male participants in the Transcontinental, and given all the crap female athletes constantly have to put up with, and the fact that society makes it so difficult for women to excel in sports, this is a huge deal.

But back to why I find her so inspiring: Fiona is not just a badass athlete, she is also a cancer researcher! She’s an MD student at the German Cancer Research Centre‘s paediatric oncology unit. This woman is studying how to cure children from cancer. And in passing, she wins a 4,000km bike race. I can’t even.

In an interesting turn of events, the research centre she works at is actually in my home town. It is, shall we say, not one of the world’s worst research institutions. And she is not the only one around here. Just recently, I was doing laps at my local outdoor pool when a woman turned up only to literally lap everyone swimming in the fast lane, at what to her seemed like a casual speed . It was beautiful to watch, I had never seen anyone swim so efficiently in real life. She was wearing a cap with her name on it, so I couldn’t help but look her up afterwards. She turned out to be a former member of the German Olympic swimming relay. And, as per the next link that came up, she’s a physician at the local university hospital. There are so many inspiring female athletes who are also doing amazing other things.

Just why is it so hard to find them? Why doesn’t everyone know who they are? Yes, often they are unassuming. But also, they don’t get the coverage. This really needs to change. Fiona has received plenty of coverage this week, but I still want to bet that if you ask a random person on the street if they know who she is, you’re going to draw a blank.

Meanwhile, Fiona? When she’s not busy beating more than 200 men at cycling a very, very long way or curing kids’ cancer, she plays the piano, while still wearing her cycling kit. I rest my case.

body image · cycling · Fear

Kim asks herself: why do I ride?

Content note: there is some mention of body image issues and struggles with weight loss in this post.

A couple of weekends ago, my cycling club held its annual feature ride to Rattlesnake Point, a conservation area on the Niagara Escarpment that road cyclists reach by climbing an absolute corker of a hill. (At just a kilometre, and with grades well above 10% along the way, it’s basically a wall of pain with a twist in the middle.) I did the ride last year and made it up the hill, but barely. My memory of it was, “did that, don’t need to do it again.”

This lot makes it look easy. It ain’t easy! A group of female riders racing up Rattlesnake Point in Halton region, Ontario. Image from Pedal Magazine.

When this year’s ride rolled around, though, I started to get a familiar feeling. I should do the hill again, I heard my brain whispering to my quads. After all, it wasn’t THAT bad. Right? Besides, said evil Kim brain to vulnerable Kim quads, if you don’t do it again you’ll always think you barely can and it will haunt you.

I decided to take to the internet for help. I wrote a message in our regular FFI bloggers message group asking the gang to “tell me I should do” the ride. I’m not actually sure what I was hoping for. A chorus of you go, girl! ? Maybe. Or maybe a good reason not to go?

Cate weighed in straight away, and in her inimitable Cate way drove to the heart of my problem. There’s no should here, she said. Why do you want to do this? What will it do for you?

KABOOM.

Why do I ride? This is a question I’d actually already been thinking a lot about, before Cate hit the nail on the head. It’s been following me and my bike across the ocean for a couple of years now. It dogs me on club touring days, when I have to decide if I stay or if I go. And it’s there when I’m tired, but something inside says to me, get up! Don’t be lazy. You said you were going to ride today, so ride already.

There are a lot of answers to the question, why do I ride? Some are frankly awful. Some are amazing. And some of them are different now to what they once were, and different to what I ever expected they might be.

Here they are.

First, I ride because I love to ride.

(Images above, from top left: Kim in green helmet, riding glasses in her teeth, snaps a selfie at the top of Box Hill in Surrey, England, with green rolling hills in the background; Kim in the same helmet and blue, black and white kit walks her bike up a very steep lane, autumn leaves on the ground, and she’s walking because she couldn’t get up the hill but she’s smiling anyway; Kim in pink helmet and black Castelli kit stands in front of her bike proudly, hands on hips, in Richmond Park, South London, England. All these images are from 2014-15.)

This is objectively true and always has been. Road cycling is my sport; I’m massively strong and fast and awesome at it; I handle my bike with skill and have surprising amounts of chutzpah on the road that I don’t always have elsewhere in my life. I heart my bike, full stop. This is my best, and favourite, reason for riding. But it’s not always, or even often, the main reason I head out on the bike.

I also ride because I worry that if I don’t ride I’ll gain a bunch of weight. In other words, I ride because somewhere in my brain I’m convinced I have to or else bad shit is going down. This is my least favourite reason for riding, but it’s often the quickest motivator for me.

I have always struggled with body image; I was raised in a household where nobody was thin but thinness was the ideal. My mom and her sisters policed each other’s bodies like crazy, and mine too. I was overweight as a kid and lived with a terrible, irrational fear of gaining more weight. Passive aggressive comments followed many of my food choices, and someone was always watching and commenting on the contours of my body. I felt followed, all the time, and I felt horrible about myself.

I’m much better now, but that’s because I’ve been fit and strong for a while and as I’ve gotten to my fitness goals I’ve learned to appreciate the complexities of a strong and fit body. I’m still by no means thin – who wants to be thin when you can be strong? – but I have a great deal more body confidence. Still, the nagging fears with which we are raised do not just disappear. They transmogrify; sometimes they are countered by new practices and hard-won beliefs, but sometimes – often – they lurk. So one of the reasons I ride is to outrun this lurking worry about my weight. I’m not proud to admit it, but it’s real for me.

Third, I ride because I can, because not all of us can and therefore I am really proud of what I am able to accomplish, and dammit do I feel strong and amazing when I do. (I also love this reason.)

A glamour shot of my road bike, Freddie, with grey cross bar and orange bar tape, with a traditional stone wall and gorgeous rolling dales in the background. I took this photo after getting to the top of yet another stunning climb in West Yorkshire, 2017.

This is what I replied to Cate when she answered my message about the Rattlesnake ride, and then I thought a lot more about it – more carefully about it. I did not end up going on the feature ride that weekend (my partner turned up at my house on the Sunday morning and I very joyfully spent the day with him instead) but the next day I realized that I’d actually wanted to do the ride, because I knew I could get up that hill stronger than I was last year, and I wanted to show myself how strong I am today. I wanted to feel my strong body haul myself up that stupid-ass hill. So on the Monday morning I went out and did it, alone – and got a personal record, too. (It felt amazing.)

Fourth, I ride to go places and make new discoveries about the world. This is a new reason for me, and I’m excited about embracing it more often in future.

If you’re a regular reader you’ll know that Sam, Susan, Cate, and blog friends Sarah and David were recently on a seriously grit-laden (literally and figuratively!) cycling trip to Newfoundland. Early in the planning for this journey they asked me to come and I decided not to join them. I knew I would not enjoy it: I dislike camping; I knew it would be freezing; I suspected we would be tired and possibly wet pretty much all the time. For me, this sounds like a world of pain, not a holiday.

There was a time I would have said yes anyway, though. I would have decided it was a challenge, I would have told myself that I never shirk from a challenge, and that therefore I would have to go. For quite a while in the early planning stages of the trip I was actually worried that I was going to say yes for this reason; I have a history of saying yes to things that I think will be good for me in some horrible you-can-rest-when-you’re-dead way, and I almost never enjoy them (though I do get a feeling of satisfaction from the endorphin rush and the adrenaline of succeeding in the end). It actually took a lot of work and a lot of courage for me to tell myself definitively, you will not enjoy this. Say no. Not going to Newfoundland was a growth moment for me, then, as a cyclist and as a person.

While the gang were in Newfoundland, however, I was riding too – in Anglesey, an island in northern Wales. This trip was like many I’ve taken, where the bike and I get on a plane and then on a train and head for a cottage where we stay for a while, riding every day or every other day to neat new places we’ve never been before, racking up the miles and the Strava segments. This is my preferred way of bike touring: no camping, no schlepping in panniers. Stay in one place; return there to eat and sleep and shower each evening. Over the years I’ve learned that I don’t just prefer it this way, but love it.

(Images above, from left: I’m in my green helmet and riding glasses, taking a selfie with green pastures and blue sky in the background; Freddie and her orange bar tape chill out against a barrier with soft sand and blue water in the background, at Trearddur Bay, Anglesey; another selfie, this time with grey frog statue from a random Anglesey front yard. Half of my face is visible, glasses on my nose, and I’m looking quite serious, on behalf of the frog.)

On this trip to Wales, though, something new happened: I had to use the bike for errands, not just for touring and challenge rides. My friend and I had no car, and the nearest shop was 1.5 miles away up a hillside; the nearest proper shop was 6 miles away. So some days I rode the bike 50, 60, 90km, visiting beaches and outcroppings and a very cool salt factory; on other days I rode the bike 10km, 25km, 30km, to buy cheese and meat pies and veggies and swim in the ocean.

The pop-up caf at the amazing Halen Mons salt stop. An Airstream is kitted out with typical coffee shop accoutrements, and there’s a posh looking picnic table in the foreground. The sky above is azure-blue, and the shop’s name – TIDE – sits proudly on block letters above the Airstream.

I hadn’t done this before – on previous cottage-style bike holidays I’ve either had a car or been based in a town centre – and it was actually really joyful. Using the bike for all sorts made me feel like I was connected to a community, not just passing through it on the way to yet another Strava prize. And it reminded me that my love for my road bike is about freedom and independence, joy in the outdoors, a love of movement, as well as strength and speed and skill, all blended together.

There’s one more reason I ride: to get stronger. I do this by riding with faster people in my cycling club and struggling to keep up with them. It’s not fun a lot of the time, but it works.

This reason I’m still struggling with.

As recently as last summer, I thought – as with my initial reasoning about the Newfoundland trip – that it was my duty to myself to always ride with the fast folks, and suffer and endure, because if you can, you should, and if you don’t you’re being lazy and will never improve. (Again, I’m aware these intrusive thoughts are not helpful, but they are real for me.)

But earlier this season something weird and unexpected happened: I decided not to care anymore. I arrived at a club ride in April and made the decision to ride with the second-fastest group, not the super fast kids. I told myself, sure you can ride with the fast gang, but it wasn’t that much fun, was it? Maybe you could prioritize joy over speed this time. Maybe there’s an important component of getting stronger in that choice, too. Through the season, I’ve been riding with social group two more often than speedy group one. And I’m OK with it, for now.

I still ride from time to time out of an obligation to my demons. But the great news is that, more and more, I’m riding just for the pure delight of it, knowing that I’m growing as a person, not just as a rider, when I do. I posted in our message group with my demons in tow, asking the gang please to validate them; instead, Cate reminded me that I do not need to pay attention to those dudes so much. There are lots of absolutely wonderful reasons to ride my bike – more than enough to keep me happily rolling.

Why do you ride? Do you struggle with demons around exercise? Can you tap into the joy of movement unencumbered? Let me know.

#deanslife · cycling · fitness · monthly check in · weight lifting

Sam’s monthly check-in: What’s up, what’s down, the June/July version (CW: discussion of weight loss)

What’s up?

I’m riding lots. Newfoundland was challenging and beautiful. I’ve got a summer of biking and boating activity planned. I feel like a cyclist again and I’m going to write about what that feeling is and why it matters to me in another post, later. I’ve been strength training lots and I’m feeling strong. It’s also summer. The sun is out. I started a new blog, #deaning.

Sarah and I have been learning to race the Snipe.

What’s not to like?

See below!

What’s down?

I saw the knee surgery guys at Fowler Kennedy last month and was told that I shouldn’t have any more synvisc shots since I’m on the countdown to surgery.

They didn’t have positive things to say about physio or physical activity either. Long term neither will fix my knee. Now that I’m on track for surgery they want me to focus on weight loss which is the single most important thing I can do to aid surgery and recovery.

And the thing is this is a team I trust. They refer me to studies. They treat my larger body respectfully. They’re giving the same advice to the aging male athletes there. There’s no judgement and no body shaming. It’s all very neutral and evidence based.

But still it feels shitty. I’ve worked super hard to love my body at this size. I do. I cheer on Fuck fat loss! but now, having thrown those looks-related reasons for dieting away, I’m dieting anyway?

These are lots of reasons for wanting a smaller body that aren’t my reasons.

I’m trying to be clear in my own mind about my motivation but in this fatphobic world that’s hard.

I’ve lost some weight but I need to lose more

I’m rereading Ann Cahill’s work on weight loss. I really like the compassion she retains for her larger body.

“I don’t look back at photos of myself from a year ago and shudder. That was a different body that I lived, with its own set of possibilities, practices, and abilities. And there are certainly cultural contexts where that body would be more useful and conducive to my survival than the one I’m living now. Come the apocalypse, those extra pounds would come in handy.”

It’s important for me to keep the positive attitude about larger bodied me because weight loss might not work. It’s not any easier when it’s for health reasons. Your body doesn’t care about your motives. So in my bag of weight loss tools I can’t have dislike of the way I look now. It’s more that a larger body isn’t such a good match for my injured joints. The best motivaton is that even now, just a few pounds smaller, it hurts less.

What am I doing? Nothing dramatic. I’m trying to maintain a calorie deficit through exercise and tracking food. I’m eating lots of vegetables and protein, the usual thing.

Luckily there’s good food on campus. Lunch today is kale and beet salad, lentils, assorted veggies and hummus, and sunflower seeds.

Speaking of joints, my knee hurts a lot and I’m getting grumpy about the things I can’t do. Yes, I said goodbye to soccer and to running, but staying back at the tent when everyone else was off hiking on our activity day at Gros Morne was really hard. Sitting around and reading a book while others are hiking isn’t me, I think. But also, I think being grumpy isn’t me either. I’m a pretty resilient, ‘happy even in the face of sad, hard things’ person but the pain and lack of mobility is getting to me.

I’m jealous of friends posting step counts and runs and CrossFit classes on social media. For the first time I get why people who can’t do those things might find it tiresome. Grump. It’s so not me. Usually I’m the friend who loves it when you post your travel photos. I have friends who do iron distance triathlons and long long ultra runs. Usually I think it’s great that my friends get to do such fun things. This has clearly taken me off my usual path, my usual way of being in the world.

Oh, also on the “what’s down” front, I broke my bike frame. It’s not repairable. Compared to my knee that seems like small potatoes. I’ve got a second string road bike and maybe a third so I’m shopping, without pressure, for another bike.

Sad face. Broken frame. It’s not just the derailleur hanger sadly.

On the bad side, it happened on our bike trip. On the good side, it happened on day 6. That day was 130 km so Sarah and I split the day and we each rode half the distance on her bike.  We spent the rest of the day in the van. The next day was out and back to L’ Anse aux Meadows. I took the morning ride out there (Yay! Tailwinds!) Sarah got to sleep in but didn’t have as much fun riding back.

It’s such a beautiful place. I’m already scheming to go back. Next time maybe with my mother and a rental car. 

Puffins guarding my latte at the Dark Tickle cafe and gift shop.
cycling · fitness

To e-bike or not to e-bike?

I don’t know about you, but I’m seeing e-bikes everywhere: in the news, in my Facebook feed, and all over the place in the real world. Last Wednesday, while driving oh so slowly through morning traffic on my way to a critical thinking workshop, a woman on an e-bike zipped by us all in the bike lane. I looked on in envy and admiration. I was carpooling with a friend to a disclosed location 40 miles away, so biking there wasn’t an option.

But a lot of the time biking is an option. I bike not just for fun, but also for errands and meetings near where I live. Most places I go in my part of the Boston area I can get to within 20-ish minutes on a bike. I can’t say the same for driving: there’s the current road construction chaos and the omnipresent parking problem, both against a backdrop of congested urban streets. For this kind of cycling I have to pay very close attention to what’s going on around me, but I tend to get where I’m going quite efficiently and in good time. No need for an e-bike, it would seem.

Then there’s my commute to work.

My university is 41 miles from my house. I commute generally 3 days a week, about 30–32 weeks a year. This is not horrible. I’m lucky that I have the option of working from home 2 days a week, and also in the summer and during school breaks.

And yet.

I hate the drive to and from work. It takes an hour to get there– I leave after 9am to avoid the morning traffic crush– but it takes anywhere from 1:15 to infinity to get home, which is during the evening rush hour. Yes, yes– I listen to podcasts and audio books. But it is still a long and not fun drive.

There are public transportation options, and I’ve tried them from time to time. It involves either:

  1. walking to the bus stop near my house; taking the bus to the subway (called the T); taking the subway to the train station downtown; taking the commuter rail to school (47 minutes); walking 10 or so minutes to class or office. OR
  2. Cycling to the train station (around 45 minutes depending on traffic lights); changing clothes in the train station bathroom, as I’m sweaty after that long a ride; taking train to school; walking or cycling to class or office (depending on whether I took my bike on the train).

Either of these options makes my commute take 1 hour 45 minutes–2 hours EACH WAY. Blech. I’ve duly tried to make myself adjust to this over the years, but it never sticks.

Enter the e-bike option.

In a big fancy survey of e-bike owners, they listed a bunch of reasons why they chose e-bikes (over driving and over regular bikes). Here’s the big fancy graph of their responses:

Lots of reasons why people switched to e-bikes.
Lots of reasons why people switched to e-bikes.

All of these reasons make a lot of sense. Of course a bunch of these motivations would promote non-e-bike riding. However, they also cited a bunch of barriers to standard bike commuting. Here’s the fancy graph with that info:

Barriers to riding a standard (non-e) bike.
Barriers to riding a standard (non-e) bike.

These reasons make a lot of sense, too. For me, the factors that are motivating me to test-ride some e-bikes are:

  1. An e-bike would reduce my commuting time; by how much, I’m not sure.
  2. I’ll likely be less sweaty when I arrive at the train station, which means not changing in the bathroom and also arriving at class looking less disheveled (the train arrives 12 minutes before class starts).
  3. Given 2., I think I’d bike commute for more of the year; in the colder months, I would be less sweaty (I sweat while cycling no matter the weather– that’s the fact), which would make the rest of my commute more comfortable.

So what is holding me back?

  1. Price– e-bikes are still very expensive. From very preliminary research (more will be forthcoming and duly reported here), decent ones start around $2500 and go up from there. Way up.
  2. I’m not an early adopter of new technology. I prefer waiting until the kinks are worked out, more and better features appear and the price drops.
  3. I’m not sure how much shorter an e-bike commute would be. It’s about 8 miles to the train station from my house, but it’s a very congested route on city streets with loads of traffic lights. My land speed record there on my road bike is 38 minutes. It’s not clear how much the e-bike would cut the time of the trip.
  4. It’s not clear how much less sweaty I would be, either. Pedal-assist bikes do require pedaling, so it will take some experimenting to see how my body behaves.

What do you think? Do you have an e-bike? How do you like it? Do you want an e-bike? I’d welcome any thoughts you have on the matter. I’ll report back as I try some out.