With a full summer of owning an eBike under my belt, the one definitive observation I can share is this: eBikes are like anchovies on pizza. The people who like them, love them. The ones who dislike them, hate them with a vengeance and are disgusted by their mere mention, presence or stench.
The other thing I can say about having an eBike is that pants don’t lie. The point of constantly doing exercises like yoga, sit-ups and riding a bike all summer is so that your ski pants from last year still fit. The annual wait-and-see ritual is an emotional, physical and gastrointestinal barometer. Let’s just say I have some work to do to fit back into my old duds before Thanksgiving.
When you’re riding an eBike relatively effortlessly up one of the most maligned technical and physically demanding portions of a jeep road in Aspen, and your stomach is Dunlop-ing (because it done-lopped) over the waistband of your bike shorts like a spare tire, it’s nature’s way of telling you something’s seriously wrong.
Such is the life of a recovering bike racer. I say recovering because there’s a part of me that had to ask: What was it that I was constantly running away from? What was it that was chasing me all the time? Was it absolutely necessary to ride uphill so hard that you could taste blood in the back of your throat, or feel like you were going to vomit at the end of a race, or being constantly obsessed with who was ahead of you? Life’s enough of a competition as it is.
Maybe I was going through man-o-pause, the male version of menopause. Face reality, New Age mountain men! Hot flashes, lethargy, low sex drive, an utter powerlessness over Louis Swiss bacon-jalapeno poppers, Thai food, mini donuts and overstuffed gyros at the Saturday Market food court. Whatever it was, if it was even anything other than gluttony, the eBike was the easy way out of a funk. And I’m not sorry I got one, either. It’s not like I started selling real estate or anything.
Riding into town on the Rio Grande Trail with my opposite-sex life partner — with both of us on eBikes it was downright enjoyable. That’s in stark contrast from the usual outing on conventional bikes, where five minutes into the ride you’re already maddeningly thinking to yourself, what could possibly be taking us so long? Is her brake rubbing? Is the rear tire low on air?
There should be a sign on the way up to the Maroon Bells that says: “Caution — eBikes on road — Watch for falling egos next 10 miles.” You have never seen struggling bikers in spandex and Oakley sport glasses so defeated when you fly by them on an eBike wearing OP shorts, flip-flops, aviators and a baby-blue collared I-Zod shirt. It’s oddly satisfying and embarrassing at the same time. One guy I passed — who was proudly donning one of those grisly “Triple Bypass” jerseys — just had to curse at me as I politely warned him “eBike coming by on your left!” and chimed my cutesy little bell.
Before you judge me anymore for getting an eBike, in my defense I never have ridden it on any single-track. That’s more than I can say for the locals who are defiant in their flagrant, deliberate, indignant, boastful breaking of a sacred local rule: No motorized vehicles on multi-use trails.
Their excuse? They deserve it. My sympathy meter is resting firmly on the peg for you if the only argument you have is that you’re aged and entitled. We’ve all deserved it. Everybody’s done stupid things over and over again like the Leadville 100, 24 hours of Moab, or the Power of 4. Try aging gracefully. Ride your eBike on jeep roads. Play golf, learn to snowboard, hike, maybe even take up birding.
According to the local trail rangers, some of whom are now riding eBikes, the most common trails that see habitual eBike offenders are the new 7-Star and Hunter Creek/Smuggler trails. The eBike is a valuable tool for the rangers, who are the summertime equivalent of ski patrol. They are allowed to ride eBikes on single-track only in the event of a medical emergency, like when one of those defiant scofflaws flies over the handlebars and snaps their arm like a chicken wing.
I used to call eBikes “Coal Bikes” since the energy they use comes predominantly from a coal-burning source. My thoughts now are that they are more like intellectual dirt bikes. Love ’em or leave ’em, they’re the opioids of cycling, and they’re here in Aspen to stay. Roughly 2,000 miles later, my pants are still too tight, and my electricity bill was higher than it’s ever been during summer.