Saturday, 15 November 2014

Another milestone – my 100th blog post

Today is a special day. Not only is this my 100th blog post, but today’s ride is a new departure for us.

After weeks of intensive research by John, and numerous visits to cycle retailers, we decided to take the plunge and “graduate” to electric bikes. And not just electric bikes, but electric folding bikes.

They are beautiful, red, and heavy (because of the weight of the motor and the battery). The brand is SmartMotion, the model is e20. John has written up technical details on his website. Of course the batteries for the electric motors needed to be fully charged before we could take them for their first ride. And John added mirrors on both of the bikes, as he considers them essential, especially if you want to ride on the road.

Our new prize possessions! (photo by John)

The first ride John wanted us to do on these new bikes was a tour around our suburb. While he has often biked around our area on his road bike, I have never accompanied him because I wasn’t prepared to tackle the steep hills. But now that excuse is no longer valid.

First, read the instructions, John said. Then a bit of a lesson on what the on-board computer tells you and what the screen and buttons say and do. And so, off we went, up the road – and I do mean UP.

The “electric assist” has five levels, but you still have to do the pedalling – the bike doesn’t just do it all for you. Initially, I thought there were only three assist levels, so I pedalled up the steep street with the assist set at level 3, into the galeforce wind, but I still needed a bit of a boost to get me to the top.

Enter the throttle. What a marvellous thing! It sits next to the left handle and when you twist it towards you a little, it gives the bike a burst of energy. The further you twist, the greater the extra oomph. How cool!

John took us on his usual ride around the suburb. In the next few photos you can see how steep the streets are and how high the hills are that surround us.

The start of Mauldeth Terrace, in a relatively new part of Churton Park (photo by John)

Mauldeth Terrace disappears from view as it dips down the hill.
The suburb in the background is Newlands (photo by John)

After a meander around the streets, we ended up – surprise, surprise – at the local café, for a coffee and a chat about our findings.

The electric assist certainly takes some getting used to. Whereas on the “old” bikes changing the gears to suit the terrain had become second nature, I now had the assist level to think of, as well as the gears. To begin with, I forgot to change the gears down (there are eight gears) as I was cranking up the assist to get up a hill, so it was still in need of a throttle boost.

The gear change is a different mechanism, whereby you click one lever with your right index finger to go up a gear, and another lever with your thumb to go down a gear. This causes me a bit of bother, as my right thumb is painful and weak (getting old and arthritic is such a bummer!). But I’m sure I’ll get used to it.

The throttle is just inside the left handle, which is quite narrow, and I found that my hand was straying onto the throttle without my realising it, giving me surprise boosts! Something else to beware of and get used to.

The seat sits atop a suspension seatpost, which means that it sinks a little as you start riding. So I had to stop twice to adjust the height.

A coffee stop at Simmer Café (photo by John)

Don’t they look great! (photo by John)

On our way home, we went down a path that provides shortcuts between several streets. I hadn’t known about the existence of this path. It goes through a nice bit of "wilderness”, where you have the sense of being far away from the suburbs.

On the shortcut walkway (photo by John)

More meandering around the suburb, and finally over possibly the worst hill to get home again. John reckons that on an ordinary bike, this bit is the “killer”. That’s why he always gets home looking quite knackered after a ride.

Up the “killer” hill of Cambrian Street (photo by John)

We biked 12 km. Though you still have to pedal, thanks to the electric assist, the “up hill and down dale” ride had raised only a mild sweat for us. It was still a good work-out though.

The purchase of these electrically assisted bikes means that we will now be able to undertake somewhat more challenging rides. Last night I had a browse through the Kennett Brothers' book Classic New Zealand Cycle Trails, and found myself thinking “Oh yes, we could do this …, and that …, oh and maybe even that …”. It will extend our scope from “easiest” to “intermediate” level rides. But I think we will leave the “advanced” ones to the young and fit and expert.

Now we have a wee problem, however. Our garage is getting very full. The Giant Expressway folding bikes will have to go. But John is feeling a bit possessive about them – or should that be “obsessive”? He’s not keen to sell them – yet. But perhaps my sister and brother-in-law will want them, in which case they won’t go too far away.

Years ago, when my life was dominated by weaving and I owned over a dozen looms of different types and sizes, we had a saying: “Looms are sly, they multiply”. Perhaps that can be said of bikes too?

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