A mentor tried to push me into golf years ago. He said it was the sport of business, of oiling the gears of relationships. But I liked tennis. What’s wrong with tennis? He answered that tennis had no handicap, and that except in the unlikely event of finding myself evenly matched in a business setting, a tennis match was bound to produce some bad feelings. The golf handicap, he explained, smoothed things out.
At Outerbike in Moab, we found ourselves set up across from Specialized, who were introducing e-bikes to the US, and next to Haibike, an exclusively e-bike manufacturer from Germany.
We saw the bikes go out on demo. And we saw the now e-bikers return their bikes, all with smiles and wonder. It was not long before we decided to try one.
How to describe an e-bike ride? Simply put, fun. Powering up a long hill as if we were Dave Wiens. Smooth. Quiet. Only giving juice when it was being pedaled. With a range in a medium e-assist setting of 40 miles, batteries being what they are now.
Both Haibike and Specialized told us that e-bikes now represent 25% of all mountain bike sales in central Europe.
I told a friend who lives in Meridian Lake that if he had an e-bike, he and his wife wouldn’t hesitate to ride to town, have some pizza and a beer at the Brick, and ride the long uphill home.
Another friend, fond of road tours through France, said that in year’s past the wives in the group would ride half the days. Some days were just too hard. But last year, with some of the group on road e-bikes, everyone rode together for the whole ten-day trip.
Some friends told me they rode with some visitors to 401 from town. Their friends were taxed by the time they got to the top of Schofield Pass. The ride turned into a long, long day, much longer than they had planned for. And not great fun for all.
A CBMBA friend explained to me that e-bikes were the Devil’s Spawn, put on earth to promote human frailty and an erosion of character.
Haibike and Specialized say the mountain bike market, strong as it is, is flat. And that e-bikes will extend the sporting lives of older riders, and enable mixed groups of riders to ride together—the equivalent of the golf handicap.
Cathie Pagano and her husband Dan own Doubleshot Cyclery in Gunnison. Dan recently offered some e-bike demos. Cathie told me Dan had concerns that some of the bikes were stolen–that he expected people to take a ten-minute ride and instead the bikes were out for an hour at a time. Some of the riders were embarrassed to say they loved the ride.
Devil’s Spawn or not, e-bikes are here. And when the time comes, and that time is certainly coming, when I can no longer ride my favorite trails without an e-assist, I’m going to get one.
And that will be a guilt-free purchase.