The Dark Side: Why Would a Veteran Cyclist and Tour Leader Ride an eBike?

November 7, 2017 - Jerry Hughes is an Adventure Cycling member and leads guided tours for Adventure Cycling too.

I am not only a recreational cyclist; I am a hardcore cyclist — and I bought an eBike this year.

Since 2010, I’ve been leading tours for Adventure Cycling. I’ve lead and staffed over 20 tours and I’ve ridden the entire Pacific Coast route not once, but twice. I’ve commuted to work by bike for 40 years, and my longest commute was 32 miles one way. Why did I pick up an eBike? 

All the traditionalists out there will surely be shunning me, but hear the rest of my story. I turned 70 this year and had a complete knee replacement surgery that was not successful. I developed patellar clunk syndrome, meaning every pedal stroke caused an awful sound. I actually quit riding because I couldn’t stand the noise, and going up hills was painful. Another surgery downgraded the clunk to a click, but during that time, I became depressed about the loss of enjoyment of my lifelong hobby.

That’s when I started researching eBikes. A good friend of mine owns a bike shop and ordered me a Giant Road-E+ to try for a couple of weeks with one condition: keep a log.

I kept a log.

Day one: I picked up an eBike today for a trial experience. Heavy! It was a chore loading it on my bike rack. Not feeling positive at this time.

Once I started pedaling, I couldn’t believe the boost I received. I felt like I was 30 years old. Given my knee problems, it was fun riding a bike again. The bike handled very well. On the flats and going downhill, I turned off the power, but riding up hills, when I started to strain, I put it in low-power mode, then medium power. I never needed full power while I was riding up hills. 

Day two: I rode from my house to try a long pull up Mount Rose, approximately 2,000 feet. Going up was really nice and I added power as needed, making it much easier on my knee than a regular bike. I used 35 percent of the battery power riding approximately 10 miles uphill. I would not want to run out of power before the ride or day is over. Trying to ride the bike up a hill without the boost would be difficult.

Overall, very satisfied ... with some concerns. I definitely need to research racks and bags to carry some gear.

Day three: I rode the hills of Galena, which is a lot of climbing (2,700 feet). It took about an hour, much less than normal, and I used the normal mode most of the time.

A plus is that you would go on rides you would normally not do because of heat or wind. I can see doing errands, and I think I will ride more with an eBike and use it when I might have used a car in the past. Very happy — buy it and have some fun!

After a great week of test rides, I kept the bike and totally love it. It has opened up a completely new and different world of cycling.

Since that first week, I have ridden nearly 1,000 miles on all types of terrain and climbed all the mountain passes in the Reno Tahoe area. I have ridden a couple of metric centuries with plenty of battery power in reserve. I have ridden with people I quit riding with because I didn’t want them to wait for me. One of those friends is 56 years old and a nationally ranked road cyclist. Two years ago she set a record in the RAAM with her Bike Like a Girl teammates. She is a top cyclist, and I can now ride with her and her husband with no waits at the top of the mountains.

For all of us cyclists out there who can’t ride with our friends or spouses, there is now an answer. For all of us baby boomers who are starting to slow down and not doing as many challenging rides, there is now an answer! I recently met a 78-year-old couple riding eBikes while finishing a 68-mile ride on an Adventure Cycling tour. I asked them if they needed a shuttle to their motel five miles away, and they declined because they had plenty of energy and power left at the end of a long, hot day. It works for them and it works for me!

I hope you’ll join me this year with your eBike — I’ll be on the Minnesota-Wisconsin Rivers and Trails Tour this summer and the Sierra Sampler in the fall! If neither of those work, check out Adventure Cycling’s other eBike-friendly tours!

And if you’re curious about Adventure Cycling’s policy regarding eBikes on its guided tours, you’ll find it on the Adventure Cycling FAQ.

Jerry Hughes and friends on Sierra Sampler, an Adventure Cycling guided tour.

Photo 1 & 2 courtesy of Jerry Hughes | Photo 3 Paul Chiusano | Associated image by Dornenwolf

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ON THE ROAD is written by the tours team— Paul, Mandy, Emma, Mike, and Arlen — tours specialists and intrepid bicyclists, helping you bring your cycling dreams to fruition. Check out our 2018 Guided Tours today!

 

Comments

Brian Managan November 7, 2017, 6:31 AM

Good going Jerry! In addition to leading tours for Adventure Cycling, I also lead for Wilderness Voyageurs, and I've had FOUR eBikes on tours just this year ... TWO of them in the Finger Lakes Region of New York and two more on the Erie Canal. eBikes helped these folks do FUN tours that they most likely would NOT have even considered otherwise. Bravo!

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Jerry Hughes November 7, 2017, 7:39 PM

Brian

I agree. It is opening a complete new avenue for general cycling and touring.

Jerry

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Mary Ann Hammond November 7, 2017, 7:20 AM

Thanks for sharing your story, Jerry. You give hope for many of us like-minded cycle enthusiasts who, like you find age and its elements creeping into our way of life. It's nice to know that instead of giving in to"ageing" and taking the road of least resistance the e-bike option can help keep us on those more challenging rides.

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Jerry Hughes November 7, 2017, 11:14 AM

That was fun seeing and reading your comment. We should do a ride one of these years, before we get to old.

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Bob Smithies November 7, 2017, 8:40 AM

Jerry, this is great news and a great article. I rode the MWRT with your crew this year and it has inspired us to take whatever steps needed to keep riding to include e-bikes. My buddy Ken got one and rode the Black Hills where he had to wait for me. I'm also looking into one for my wife to allow her the same results as you descibe. Thanks for the blog and I am so happy you are back on two wheels.

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Norman Stoddard November 8, 2017, 7:25 AM

Jerry, thank you for the interesting article. I used to live in Reno and so it was fun reading about your Mt Rose and Galena Creek rides. I now live in the Bay Area and now, also being in my 70's, ride an eBike (Karmic Koben S). Like you, I jump on my eBike for doing errands around town instead of using my car. I recently purchased a Burley, Travoy Urban Trailer, at REI while on sale. It's so nice for trips to the grocery store and I've seen a couple tourists riding down Hwy 1, here in Pacifica, with them as an alternative to panniers.

With an eBike, one always has a tailwind!

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Ray Hanson November 10, 2017, 12:52 PM

Jerry, glad you are still able to ride. I hope to follow in your pedal strokes as I approach my '70s (67 now). Good article too!

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Joyce Halstead November 10, 2017, 7:20 PM

I recently added an e-assist to my road bike. At 74 I couldn't keep up with the people I ride with anymore, nor could I do longer rides. My BionX system is wonderful! Riding Is Fun again!

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Peter November 17, 2017, 4:35 PM

Did you try other ebikes? Why did you choose the Giant?

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Jerry Hughes December 4, 2017, 11:16 AM

Peter

I bought the Giant because I knew the owner of the shop and I also like the way it looked and the way it handled on the road.

Jerry

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Ken Decroo February 25, 2018, 3:27 PM

Hey Jerry, I enjoyed your article especially since our stories are similar in age and knee replacements! I just purchased a RADCITY e-bike and it as changed my world. I'm riding again after thinking I would never experience the joy of cycle touring again. A bonus is my knee is rehabilitating as I put the miles in. Thanks!

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Larry Larson March 31, 2018, 3:04 PM

After my heart attack, I tried riding again. I had a difficult time keeping my heart rate low enough to not put me in danger. In addition, every ride felt like a failure, and just seemed to serve as a reminder of just how bad my health was. I'm a former cat 3 road racer and ultra marathon rider. The heart attack really changed things.

About four years after the heart attack, I began riding my road bike again. I guess it had been long enough that riding 8-10 miles at 10mph seemed like a success instead of a failure. Still, I really missed riding with my wife and cycling friends. In June of 2017, I purchased a Giant Road-E. I'm now riding with everyone again. I only have approximately 30% of my original heart function, but the eBike allows me to ride like.... well, like I'm 50 again (I was really fast at 30). :-)

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Dave Williams November 7, 2018, 4:22 PM

Just bought a tandem with an electric assist. We could never keep up with our friends. Our home town, Atlanta, is very hilly and was becoming a real challenge. We've only been on two rides as the weather has kind of sucked in the 10 days since the bike was delivered. So far we are very happy.

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Dominik Nagel November 7, 2018, 4:28 PM

To Ride a bike or an ebike is not the question.To have fun and find your own way, whatever other People say.

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Jen Cromer November 7, 2018, 4:35 PM

I bought an ebike this summer after Lyme disease kicked my butt. All the fitness I'd built up over the last year and a half - gone! Now, I use the ebike for long distance and pure fun; and I still use my regular bike for short distances to try to get my fitness level back. The only thing that bugs me? Practically needing a law degree to ride one!

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Tom Fransen and Dineke Raspe November 8, 2018, 1:28 PM

Thank you Jerry for sharing this expirience. We (dutch couple, 64 and 67 years) just finished the Trans-American trail with pedal-assisted bikes (Bulls Lacuba evo e8). We never before made biketrips so we were a bit unsure at the start. Soon our confidence grew day by day and now we are looking back to the journey of our life. We met so many friendly and helpfull Americans and enjoyed landscapes we never seen before. Without the pedal-assisted bike this would have been impossible. We kept a log of this trip at:

"fietsmeemettend.reislogger.nl"

it is written in Dutch but you can use google-translate

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