The biggest thing in the industry right now, e-bikes piss off almost every cyclist I know. Except John. John owns the bike shop and he sells a lot of e-bikes.

I don’t blame him.

For utilitarian purposes, an e-cargo bike would rule an urban environment. They could have a big effect on cycle commuting, too. Imagine riding to work and entering the building not covered in sweat.

Accessibility comes into play, too. In my charitable moments, I like to think of e-bikes as gateway bikes for those who are too out of shape to envision themselves cycling in any traditional way. And I am not judging the 80 year old out for a battery-assisted spin.

Aye, there’s the rub

It’s fair to ask why this bothers me and others, though. The point of cycling is to have fun. Elon Musk and his ilk have made the fun of cycling available to people who would never otherwise experience it. I’ve ridden e-bikes twice, and frankly, they are fun.

Joy without much effort.

Cocaine on wheels.

Yesterday, tired after working 8 hours as a carpenter, I came home and went for my first gravel ride of the spring. I was just getting over a cold, but it was a 65F March day in New England. Riding was required.

The dirt roads alternated between silk-stocking smooth and pudding-pie goo. The hills burned my quads and my lungs. While climbing Booth Road to Upper County, I thought of the years before when I’d always walk the bike there. That climb still hurts, but I never walk it anymore. It is a litmus test for me.

The rubber hits the mud

Turning onto Upper County to begin my home-leg, I spied another cyclist stopped a quarter mile up the road. He was kitted out and riding dirt roads, so it was likely that I knew him. He started riding away, so I spun the pedals harder in an effort to catch up.

The road had been graded maybe the day before and it was soft. I put out a lot of watts, and my quads were screaming “Dude! What the hell?” He just pulled away.

“Damn,” I thought, “this guy is out of my league.”

Giving up the pursuit, I slogged the bike through the mud wondering if I’d see the rider again.

And I did. He was pulled off to the side of the road 100 feet before the stop sign. A young guy, fit looking, he wasn’t anyone I knew. I said hi, nice day, and so on, and rode on by. Because I love the short climb from Upper to Lower County, I didn’t really want to share it with a stranger. Turning up 67, I climbed out of the saddle and pedaled hard onto Lower County.

The other rider got behind me though and caught up at the crest of the little hill by the renovated house. We chatted a little more, then he accelerated and dropped me. I get dropped all the time. It doesn’t really bother me because the folks who drop me have simply paid more homage to the cycling gods than I have.

But this time, I heard a whirring sound. I looked over at the bike and that’s when I tumbled to its extra-big down-tube.

At that moment, the deep burn in my early-season legs made me dislike the guy. Call me an elitist. Call me, more accurately, a Calvinist. But that e-bike poseur had not earned the right to enjoy my roads.

Yeah, I got a little judgy.

About swampyankeecyclist

I'm Andy Engel, just a middle-aged, middle-class guy from Roxbury, Connecticut. I've been married to my best friend since 1988, and we have two grown sons. I like riding bikes, and my biggest accomplishment is the 180K D2R2. I own 5 bikes but my go-to rides are a 2016 GT Grade gravel and commuter bike and a 2016 Specialized 650b hardtail mountain bike. Additionally, I have a 2000-something carbon-fiber Orbea road bike, a 1990-something Specialized Sirrus that's my old dirt and commuter bike and which now serves as a spare and a trainer bike, and a 1985 Ross Mount Hood MTB. All but the 650b have Brooks saddles. I work from home now, but used to commute 32 miles round trip to work by bike year round. I was a carpenter and still love building things, but regular paychecks, insurance, and vacation time lured me into journalism. I've written a couple of books on carpentry, and I've been an editor at Fine Homebuilding, Fine Woodworking, and Professional Deck Builder magazines. Currently, I manage construction events at the JLC Live and Remodeling Show trade shows. Additionally, my wife and I run Transylvania Guest House, an Airbnb. Find us on Instagram. Come stay with us and I'll show you some great cycling.
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