I’m gunna git ya!
It’s hot in Calgary right now. I know there are a lot of places a whole lot hotter than Calgary right now, but when we have been struggling to make it over 20 degrees for all of “summer” so far, a sudden blast of 30 degrees makes everyone both happy and sad right now. The same way that we laugh at other cities in Canada who shut themselves down after a foot of snow, people laugh at us for when the heat goes above 25 and we have to start having rolling blackouts because the system can’t handle the sudden load of air conditioners turned on for the one week of the year we might “need” them (because, it still drops to almost 10 overnight… seems like a decent air-conditioner to me). Well I don’t have an air conditioner, and I do have a lot of grumpiness, so here goes.
I did a nice commute route home tonight, as can be seen here. I don’t get to do it in 30 degree heat that often, so I take days like this as being a bit of a treat. The wind seemed favourable today instead of the usual blast out of the west straight into my face on the way home, so I lengthened it to the funny finger-trap bridge before looping back towards the northwest. As always happens when the weather improves, the fair-weather commuters appear on their bikes to get to and fro. I’m 100% behind this, I think it’s great that more people get out and on their bikes, it’s just too bad a lot of them don’t know the rules of polite cycling on city pathways. Seriously, buy a bell, people; the pedestrians will thank you – they thank me!
Now let me state this outright. I don’t like you, electric bikes.
There’s a new-ish phenomenon on the trails, and one I officially don’t like. It’s this whole electric bike thing. My first experience with these strange creatures was while climbing Nose Hill Drive as I often do, and suffering for it, also as I often do. I heard a strange bicycle whizzing behind me, and this old dude on a somewhat crappy looking bike-shaped-object (BSO) with full panniers passed me at about 7% grade doing at least 25km/h. Now, I’m no pro athlete, but maintaining 12km/h on that hill on a mountain bike with panniers is a win. I was demoralized. I was shocked. I almost quit cycling to become a full-time couch potato at the thought of all my hard work and training not being worth it in the end when grampa-bso kills me on my hill. Then I saw his fat hub, and I realized what I was looking at, and I then just got disappointed. Cheater! Suffer the darn hill like the rest of us!
My second experience with the electric bike was when I pulled up to a light on my commute home one cool-ish night with a decent breeze in my face, and another cyclist pulled in beside me. “Gonna be a bit of a slug up hill tonight!” I said. “Yeah, I hope my battery lasts or I might have to call my wife” said he. Whaaa? So, you’ve got the electric bike, and you ride it and tell all your friends that you ride I’m sure, but you have to stop if you run out of gas? Sounds like you’re using it as a license-free motorcycle that doesn’t have to go on the road, to me. That, and you’re still cheating.
“It’s got lots of pep!”
My third experience was tonight. As I did the u-turn and headed west back up the Bow River, I did the usual careful passing of pedestrians (as I said, buy a bell!), and heated passing of “slow” cycle commuters. Yes, my Cat6 racing numbers (as Bike Snob would put it) were out in full glory. This is where the “carrot” comes in. When you ride, and you like to push yourself, the next cyclist up the trail is a target. You must catch it, and you must pass it. I swear, I know how a greyhound feels at the track… except I do it on an orange mountain bike with panniers. Super-pro.
I neared a busy pathway intersection where a lot of riders turn left to a different path. I caught up to a group of riders, but didn’t pass – because I know what’s going to happen! So three riders in the front of the pack turn left, and the fourth directly in front of me does not. She is a middle-aged lady with a helmet on sideways and a seat way too low to generate any kind of pedaling power, and… let’s just say she didn’t look fit to me. As she went straight and she naturally looked slow, I moved to pass. As soon as I did and she saw me, she accelerated at roughly the same rate as a car. Whaaa! I was floored, because she was pedaling with that ridiculous setup with a ridiculously low cadence, and I had no chance of even closing distance. Whatever. I kept riding and accelerating at my own rate. I eventually caught up to her when the trail trended downhill and into the trees where there are a lot of steep curves and blind corners. That’s when I saw the fat hub. “Oh.”
She slowed down. Really slowed down. And I couldn’t pass – too many blind corners and too many people on the pathway. Every time there was a moderate straight, I’d hear “whiiiiiz!” and off she’d go again, only to be caught 20m later when she couldn’t handle the next corner. “You must drive a minivan and tow a camper trailer,” I thought. It was the same concept as in the mountains: you catch one of these things on the fun (curvy) parts of the road and are stuck as they worry about a gentle left, then when you find a passing zone, they’re suddenly going 100km/h and leave no opportunity to pass. She kept looking back at me, too. She knew I was there, and that I was held up! Talk about greyhound: forever chasing, never catching; I thought I would go mad. I finally got her on a curve section I could see through though, and I just pedaled for all might, pushing my heart rate to 180, just to distance myself from her so she wouldn’t pass me on the straights I knew were coming. Never saw her again, thank goodness. Probably passed and demoralized some other poor cyclist on the way up some really steep hill doing 25km/h later.
See, I’ve decided I don’t like electric bikes.
- Yes, people are riding, but are they getting any fitness benefits? The point is arguable.
- You’re in for $1100. That’s $1000 for the sophisticated electric kit, and $100 for the junk BSO that likely falls apart at 40km/h and has great “brakes” to match that $1100 kit.
- My observation: people with low bicycle handling skills own them.
- People with low bicycle handling skills are riding machines with car acceleration and crappy brakes on busy trails with other cyclists and pedestrians (who already don’t like cyclists). This seems like a bad idea. It’s like motorcycles on public pathways.
So, there’s the carrot and the electric bike taken care of.
Cross-eyed: pedestrians can be brutal too. Standing on a path in a broad open field with at least 500m of visibility in all directions, and a cyclist madly dinging his bell with at least 100m to spare, and you just stand in the middle of the trail. Glad I ride a mountain bike. Seriously, when you stop to look at a view in the mountains, do you park in the middle of the road and block both lanes to do it? I hope they don’t have drivers licenses. Deer caught in the headlights. That’s all, I’m just whining now.