At the age of 82, Dunkirk resident Eric Foxley can still go the distance with the help of his trusty electric bike. He shares his story of falling in love with a new way of cycling.
Thoughts of a cycling old codger on changing to an ebike
I have always enjoyed cycling both as a spare time hobby, and as a good way of getting around for shopping and work, and (equally important) to keep me healthy. But I’ve never been competitive, or speedy, or part of a big gang who do very long distances. Most cycling has been solo or with family.
Memories of cycling: In the early days of the Great Nottingham Bike Ride I usually went for the short or medium distance, although with my Morris Dancers (the Foresters Morris) we did the long 55 mile ride once, stopping for dancing and refreshment at every pub on the way; very tiring! And on at least one GNBR ride I procured three tandems, and three of us were on the back of each playing two accordions and one bodhran with volunteers providing most of the propulsive power on the front seats; you can’t help much with the pedalling when you’re sat up playing an instrument, the driver has to do most of the work. Cycling is such a quiet activity that everyone around could hear the music, and looked each to see where it was coming from. We couldn’t pause at the refreshment stops, we felt duty bound to glide gently through playing away.
More recently I’ve had medical problems (all part of life’s rich tapestry of events, being declared terminal is an amazing experience, being on life support you realise how wonderful the NHS is!), and found that after hospitalisation, however hard I tried, I just could not manage the 50km rides I used to do so easily; 25 easy km was the most I could now do, what used to be a quick breather in my lunch hour was now a real effort and left me shattered the day after.
So wife, children and friends urged me to think of an ebike; what, me, a fit young 80-year-old needing assistance? Initially I scorned their denigrating suggestions, but eventually I explored the matter, talked to friends, searched the web, and came up with a long list of requirements I would insist on if I were to buy an ebike. Then after much soul-searching I did resolve to buy one and found that there were very few available that satisfied all my criteria. I ended up with a Scott E-Sub Cross 20 Hybrid.
It’s a great bike, and I immediately fell in love with it, and covered all my earlier rides with ease and great pleasure. It was lovely to be renew my acquaintance with peaceful tracks I hadn’t seen for a number of years. My worry beforehand was of getting a flat battery, but this bike has an indicator of estimated distance left in the battery at the current rate of assistance, I’ve never run it flat yet. The estimate on a fully charged battery at the start of the day is about 100km, and I’m unlikely to exceed that. If you switch to one of the higher levels of assistance the limit is about 50km. I always wear a heart rate monitor and work hard enough to keep my work rate up.
Interesting! There are all the obvious advantages of an ebike that you would expect; it’s like having a back wind all the time, it helps you up the hills, it helps you accelerate away from stopping at a junction. That is all to be expected. And it’s heavy, much heavier (mainly the battery) than an ordinary bike.
But there were aspects that I hadn’t expected. I should have anticipated, for example, that with less pressure on the pedals, there is more pressure on the posterior. For a long ride, what would be the luxury of padded underwear now becomes essential.
The most unexpected aspect was the psychology of it all. To have assistance available, even if you don’t use it all the time, makes for a more relaxed ride. I am happy to exert myself, in the knowledge that if I overdo it and get tired I can call up more assistance at any time. I will work hard up a hill, not asking for more assistance, because I know I can take it easy afterwards. If my trip involves a back wind out but a (always stronger) head wind on the way back, it just doesn’t matter any more. I find this relaxed mental attitude quite transforming and adding to the pleasure of cycling.
It was absolutely the right decision for me to change to an ebike, I’ve never looked back.