The Simple Bicycle

This post may read a little ‘stream of consciousness’ because that’s how the ideas are in my head, but I want to put something down on (electronic) paper before it all disappears.

When I first bought my Bianchi back in 2010, it was simply a bike with gears and I rode it for fun. Once I started training for my first Etape du Tour soon after, I inevitably began adding things.

First came a Polar HR monitor (generously bought for me by my coach, Rob), which helped greatly in my training.

Eventually this was replaced with a GPS device and I got myself on Strava. All good so far.

While training for my 2nd Haute Route in 2015 I purchased a power meter, which helped, too, even though my results were worse than my first HR in 2013. Unfortunately there hasn’t been a machine invented yet that increases your discipline…

I never got into GoPro cameras or other gadgets, but even the few electronic thingamajigs that I did have started to weigh me down, figuratively if not really actually. I began to feel as if my bike was morphing into something a little more complicated than I could live with, so I stopped wearing my HR monitor and sold my Garmin power meter, leaving me with my totally essential GPS device (for guiding, at least, it saves me from actually remembering routes).

Which brings me to the latest article that popped up today about a new gravel e-bike on the market. In just a few short years we’ve seen an explosion in electric bikes, from the homely hybrid (now most city hire schemes offer e-bikes to make commuting less sweaty) to road bikes to e-MTBs and now gravel.

I know there’s a ‘legitimate market’ for all this stuff and I don’t want to get into a discussion about why people are riding bikes with ‘assistance’, but I do wonder to myself why, in a world that nearly everyone agrees is at least travelling towards a climate-crisis cliff (unless we have already gone over it and don’t know it yet), we continue to complicate stuff by adding electricity.

I feel the same way about the even bigger explosion in SUV sales worldwide. If we are living a climate crisis, we surely should be making smaller cars. And even electric cars have to get their electricity from someplace (quite often coal), but let’s not talk about that either.

I remember the first time I saw an electric scooter in Paris and immediately had an aversion to the concept. What ever happened to walking, especially in Paris, probably the best city to do it in? I just saw a woman this morning on what I can only call a little electric moped, puttering down the bike bath along Boulevard Gambetta. I didn’t even see any pedals on that thing.

Something like this…

I definitely know that I’m not the greenest man in town. I have a car, for one, and I’ve been known to use it to drive less than 2 km for a bag of chips. But let’s not make this about me, I just want to complain about a world that appears to be going in a direction I might not approve of. Thank goodness we have the craft beer movement, or I might just be giving up on humanity.

19 thoughts on “The Simple Bicycle

  1. If it takes adding an electric motor to a bike for someone to use a bike instead of a car, I’m all for it. And given we will probably always have some form of transportation in a car, assuming we one day finally get our act together and move toward renewable energies, electric cars will be the only cars that will work

    • How shocking you would come to the defence of the electric car 😉 I’ve still got whiplash from the acceleration of yours, by the way. Felt like I was in an F16!

  2. Gerry, I’ve been thinking about ebikes quite a bit lately and was wondering how I would segue it into your blog. I went riding with a couple friends the other day, one 70 and the other 63 and both with ebikes. I was riding the good old fashioned pedal bike. And I had a great time with them. I was thinking to myself whether you had or were incorporating these into your tours. I know that ebikes, and it could be covid related, have been selling like hot cakes at ebike stores. As much as one may not like it, the future is in e-whatever. By the way, are you in Nice? So am I. Be great to meet for a beer. I think I have your mobile number.

    • Hey Luc. We’ve had a few guided rides with ebikes and they went just fine, although most have not been ‘cyclists’, like your friends probably were. We were supposed to run a tour this year in the Dolomites that would have had a woman on an ebike for at least a day or two. This was a ready-made group and everyone knew each other, so it would have been fine.

      We are reticent about it in general, mainly because we want people who know how to ride on our tours (especially the ones in the mountains), but we could certainly see someone coming along that would fit that bill, for sure. It just hasn’t happened yet. One thing I do know is that if we had a tour with all ebikes, John and I would need them, too. They are impossible to keep up with on climbs, as I’m sure you know now!

      Not in Nice, no. I’m in Nimes. Wish I was over there, though, because it’s been far too long since we’ve ‘known’ each other and never had a beer! How long are you there for?

      • When you mentioned Boulevard Gambetta I thought you were referring to the one here in Nice. In France I’m sure it’s a name as common as Main Street. We’re here for at least one and possibly 2 weeks unless the covid crisis chases us home sooner.

        • A good enough reason, Luc. But yeah, if you’ve been in France long enough you’ll see his name all over the place. A quick search tells me that there are 1501 streets named after Leon Gambetta. Enjoy your time over there. Do you notice the lack of non-EU visitors?

        • Streets are amazingly quiet by Nice standards. I’ve seen more people on the Prom in January. On the one hand it’s very nice. But I can imagine tough on the businesses.

  3. You have a ‘cycists’ point of view Gerry. I was passed the other day by a chap on an e-bike while i was tightening a mudguard stay (yes the unnecessary things that I have on my bike, I know). He was probably younger than me but he was pedalling along at a steady rate every inch of the way, happy as Larry, getting some exercise and some fresh air, and doing no-one any harm. I know what you mean about excessive ‘stuff’ though. My thoughts on full suspension mountain bikes are not very positive.

    • I need tread carefully with posts like this, I know. I don’t actually care about people on e-bikes, having been passed by so many of them on Ventoux over the years. My concern is more about the ‘excessive stuff’ issue as it relates to the environment. It’s just one of many miniscule things that make me wonder why we sign climate agreements at all. Oh, and why people are so damn lazy 😉

      • In theory, one will be able to get clean energy from wind, solar, sea etc but it’s a long way off yet for 100%, but certainly a start. Currently they are still using fossil fuels a lot to make the electricity but again, in theory, I prefer the fuels to be used in one spot which should make scrubbing the pollutants easier rather than trying to clean pollutants out of every vehicle on the street. I know this opens a can of worms but it is the future In my opionion. A friend just texted yesterday and he and his wife are now proud owners of ebikes also. If I were a young man like you I would certainly entertain opening up an ebike shop.  It does get some of the ‘lazy‘ people into the fresh air. The market is wide open. I don’t think anyone has even touched on fashion clothes for ebikers. 🤔.  Parasols on bikes 😎. 

        Sent from Yahoo Mail for iPhone

        • Luc, I think the same way when it comes to where our pollution should be. I guess it’s better in one place (although I wouldn’t want to live in that place!) than spread around. My fear is that we aren’t addressing the real problem, which is reducing our emissions. Cars get bigger, more people fly by plane for a trip of 200 km when they could take the train, and we add batteries to everything we own. It all adds up, including e-bikes and those stilly e-scooters 😉

          When I lived in Vancouver nearly 30 years ago we made a lot of effort to reduce our garbage and energy use. I’m not sure that people are thinking the same way anymore, or maybe I’m just way out of that bubble now. Anyway, like I said, I’m no saint either (I just drove 25 min last night to take a walk!), but just wanted to comment on it while I it was on my mind.

          Finally, thanks for calling me ‘young’. At 52 that hasn’t happened in a while!

  4. I dunno Gerry. We come at it from different perspectives. Living where I do, I am very grateful for all the Parisians now embracing ebikes as a an alternative to driving or being crammed into overcrowded public transit. They’re also handy for those without a driver’s licenses (wink wink).

    Sure, dirty electricity is not ideal. But what are the emissions generated from doing groceries on an ebike versus driving same distance in a car?

    I’m no engineer, but considering the weight & speed of the most deluxe ebike compared to those of the most basic compact car, I’d expect the ebike would win, pedals down.

    • Agree with all that, Sarah. Like I said, it’s a developing idea! It’s part of an overall dislike of too many electric / electronic gadgets taking over our world.

      If we are comparing cars and bikes I’m all in, of course, but my guess is that we aren’t in many cases. I’m probably wrong. It happens more than you’d think!

      • Mmmmm, my point was rather, ebikes, to me, means getting oodles more people to bike around towns & cities, the same ppl who *never would* on a simple bike. Sure, there are downsides to assisted pedalling, ie people going where they shouldnt (too technical for skill level, or too disruptive to wildlife) but in grand scheme those are edge cases. I just don’t buy the emissions argument for ebikes! Is it really all that more écological / noble to ride a ‘simple’ bike, esp when in a location that required a long-haul flight, and the support of a gas-powered sag wagon?

        • I think you might be reading too much into my ‘concerns’. I never mentioned ‘noble’ and I don’t think that riding a ‘simple bike’ is being a purist or anything like that. All I wanted to say is that I think bikes are becoming too ‘electric / electronic’, just like the rest of our lives. And yes, all added up, there will be environmental consequences (how many batteries have ended up in landfills already?), whether they are negligible or not.

          As for my job, I’ve thought about that a lot, but it should have its own blog article! One day…

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