During the summer of 2020, one year ago, Thom and I traded in our regular bicycles for e-bikes. Thom had been reading up on them for a couple of years but we kept resisting the urge. We believed, like many others, that you get a lot more exercise from regular bikes than with “pedal-assisted” e-bikes. But then after about 5 months of COVID with no end in sight, we thought, “Why wait?” Within minutes of getting on my new bike I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face and wondered why we waited so long. But in case you are wondering, you still need to pedal. The pedal-assist option just gives you a little “fun” boost with the process. It also seems to bring back feelings of coasting through life as free as a kid. However, like most things in life there are always a few lessons that can be found and this blog post is a few that come to mind after our most recent ride.
Because we enjoy riding our e-bikes so much we planned from the very beginning to load them on our Subaru and take them with us to Canada this summer. Our first long-term stay was in Parksville, Vancouver Island where there are several nice bike trails. While we enjoyed riding there, it wasn’t until we got to Kelowna, BC that we were able to experience a truly “wow” ride. All of the photos in this post came from an iconic ride near Kelowna on the Rails to Trail bike path known as the Myra Canyon Trestle Trail. It is 12 kilometers one way, across 18 trestles, with two caves that were formally part of the Kettle Valley Railway in British Columbia.
Here are five lessons that came to mind that I think apply to not only riding an e-bike but also navigating everyday life.
#1 Focus on where you want to go, not where you are. It’s tempting, especially on a narrow trail going over a trestle high over a perilous cliff to look to each side and imagine the worst. STOP it! In fact, fearing the worst can result in “target focus.” Either can cause you to choke, freeze or even fall. Best to pick a spot a short distance in front of you and aim for that. Focusing on where you want to go helps to see more ways to flow around or through any obstacle. Plus, it quiets the voices of fear in your head and gives you something else to concentrate on doing.
#2 Go your own speed. Just like in life there will be lots of people racing by you when you are out for a ride, walk, drive, etc. Don’t let them intimidate you into going faster than you want. And don’t let them irritate you into criticizing those others or beating yourself up for not matching what others are doing. Let them do their thing. Find your own speed and enjoy the ride.
#3 Only go as far as you want. If you have FOMO (fear of missing out) like I do you might find it difficult (like me) to not go as far as everyone else—or the very end of the trail. I can’t tell you how many times I (later) regretted insisting on doing it all and going all the way. For example, during our Myra Canyon Ride a dear friend of mine named Deb went about four-fifths of the way and said, “You all go on without me and I’ll be here when you get back.” And you know what? She was! As it turned out, the rest of the way got a lot colder and far less interesting than the part Deb had already seen. Plus, from what I can tell I didn’t win any prizes for going to the end. The “trick” is to know our limits and to follow our internal guidance enough to know when enough is enough.
#4. Remember to include play in your life! I confess that I am a fair-weather sports girl. I crave the sun and enjoy being outside. But if it’s too hot, cold, windy or wet, I will usually pass on most sports-like-activities—including riding my e-bike. Of course, I realize fun can be very subjective and that sometimes we need to do things than don’t appear to be fun even when we don’t want to. Yet making time to have fun and play can add something to life that is frequently missing as we age.
With so much emphasis on exercise as essential for good health, I think we overlook the fact that if we are just grueling it out just to stay healthy–our mental and emotional health suffers. Remember, an uber-long life is not necessarily a good life. Of course, I’m not saying we should give up exercising or taking care of our physical health. What I am suggesting is that it is important to find ways to make it fun—because they exist. And playing and having fun on a regular basis is just as critical as other experiences in our lives.
Oh, and let me make clear that riding a pedal-assist e-bike is exercise. While some models exist where you don’t have to pedal, on our bikes you must pedal or the motor shuts down. What happens for me is that I end up going much further and attempt far more rides and distances than I ever would without the “assist.” Where before I would resist most hills and inclines, now I just use the appropriate adjustment and take them on. Most importantly (at least to me) is that it is fun and that makes me want to get out there and ride more!
#5 Riding an e-bike is a choice but like all choices—we must live with the consequences of that choice. Sure, riding an e-bike can be wonderfully fun, but there is a chance you can get going too fast and/or make a wrong turn at the wrong time. Yes, I’ve taken a couple of tumbles right after I first got my new bike while learning to adjust to its balance and speed. There is a learning curve. And as we all know, “stuff” occasionally happens that asks us to make choices. Do we get back on the bike and keep riding—or throw in the towel? Do we take precautions—or stop all together? While we can’t always control how/when/where that “stuff” shows up, what we do after and how we choose to think about it and respond, is largely up to us. Yes, I do believe we get to “make it up.”
So, I hope my “playful” suggestions got you thinking about how they might apply to your life. And because I so love e-bikes as a way to do it, I highly recommend them to anyone who is interested and able. Of course, like most life lessons, it is SMART to notice that these lessons likely apply to all of us to a certain extent as we cruise through life.