It’s not about the bike

Posted 9/20/22

After reading the anti-ebike Atlantic magazine article, titled “Ebikes are Monstrous!” I dashed downstairs to my garage, but—whew!

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It’s not about the bike


After reading the anti-ebike Atlantic magazine article, titled “Ebikes are Monstrous!” I dashed downstairs to my garage, but—whew! My ebike was not “pervaded with murk,” as the writer had declared. I was greatly relieved. 

To the bikelash I encountered as a bicycle rider in New York City, we can now add ebikes as targets for random hate. As that writer said, neither fish nor fowl, not fully exercise nor transportation, the ebike is a chimera that should not even exist.

I beg to differ. 

While other kids grew out of bike riding in the suburbs I grew up in, I never stopped. I rode in college; I rode in Brooklyn; I commuted on train, ferry and bike from Staten Island to Manhattan.

Then we relocated to this rather hilly place, and I found that there’s one thing I can’t do: ride up hills. Down is fine. I like down. 

Sadly, my acoustic bike, so lovingly maintained by my former-bike-messenger son, moved upstairs onto rollers, to act as an exercise bike. Meaning I use it about once every two months or so. 

Then at just the right time—pandemic stimulus payments—ebikes came into my life. On an ebike, I can happily still ride up even ridiculous slopes.

Once, I saw in my rear-view mirror honking city buses and that old man waving his fist at me, shouting “Get off the sidewalk!” when I was riding in the clearly marked bike lane. Now I see green hills rising around the Delaware, and clouds. 

It has long been an unspoken, but always adhered-to rule that if you ride a bicycle, but want to be considered a decent member of society, it is obligatory that you declare your hate for some other category of bike-riders: messengers, delivery guys, clueless citibikers, the spandex-clad, the Tour de France wannabes.

Which would make sense if bicyclists killed 40,000 people a year, demanded wars be fought to feed our addiction, and bespoiled the environment and created climate chaos while doing so. 

As a bike rider who wants to be considered a decent member of society, I have chosen to hate the fictional old people in commercials, whose incontinence or arthritis or erectile dysfunction medication has made them feel so good that they perkily strap on nerdy helmets and pedal gently down well-paved country roads, smiling at each other all the while. 

I am NOT one of those happy smiling old people strapping on their helmets and taking leisurely rides down well-paved country roads. I am an old person riding down country lanes in a helmet, AND a fluorescent vest, AND with LED lights AND reflective tape on the helmet on less-populated country roads. My roads are hardly well-paved. And I am not pedaling slowly and smiling. I am probably huffing and puffing going uphill—even on my ebike, I have to pedal—or grinning with a satanic grin as I hurtle downhill way too fast. And I am more likely snarling and thinking “Curses! F(oiled and chipped) again!” as I discover the smooth riding surface of the newly paved Callicoon Road has been mucked up by a protective-but-gritty oil-and-chips covering, just as autumn turns into perfect bicycling weather.

Then I found out that half the women my age I know have electric bikes. I am merely, once again, a boomer cliché. In the usual surge of my generation, we’re all doing the same stuff at the same time. One year, we all took up kayaking; another, all our daughters were getting married. And now we’re all on electric bikes.

And I realized why that younger male Atlantic writer so despises ebikes. He may make all sorts of explanations, but the underlying truth is: it’s not about the bikes. 

It’s me. It’s my friends. It’s us. 

As old women, just by doing or having something, anything, we sap the cool right out of it. If I built a rocket, flew it to Mars and conquered actual Martians, suddenly space would not be cool, and little boys would want to become accountants instead of astronauts. 

So when I’m toddling down the Callicoon Road, every wheel I spin, every gasp I make, every curve I take, I’m de-cooling him. 

We make him feel like a weenie.


biking, ebike, changes, bike rider


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