Episode 8 of my podcast is live. This time Erik and I go on about prime time TV in the 70s and 80s. Turned out to be a 2 parter. Part 2 will be the next show.
So I had my first commute with the newly-minted beast. Yeah, it’s cheating–big time. And yeah, I don’t care.
Much like the legendary Steve Austin, my little hybrid commuter bike rose from the ranks of the normal, and became bionic. All it really needs is to play that cool little sound effect every time I hit the throttle. Now that would be hilarious. Are you listening, Bionix? It should be an option! Teehee.
Anyway, I left the house today concerned about the weight of it all. It’s a pig to lift the rear wheel when it’s fully tricked out:
- Kryptonite Lock
- Pannier 1: with laptop and notebooks and work-related stuff
- Pannier 2: with additional lock, lunch, charger and rain gear where applicable
- My fat ass
- The weight of the actual hub motor
I was worried the thing would buckle under all that downward pressure, but apparently the wheels are rated for 300lbs, and I’m happy to say that not even I can tip that scale at the moment. Still, I’d hate to have to carry all this.
The bike, however, did not seem to give the slightest fig about the weight. I keep the tires pretty hard, at around 90psi, so that makes for a smooth albeit more bumpy kind of ride. The whole way in, there was zero issue with the pedal assist, which I set to three (probably overkill for me, but I didn’t want to have to work to get to where I was going), and the throttle was just plain amazing. I mean, yes, it’s not going to win any torque competitions carrying the weight, but the bike had no problems getting me up to the maxmum cruising speed of 32km/h on the straightaway, and also made it on the uphill, although for that it did struggle a bit.
The whole ride took up less than a quarter of my available power, and that was fully loaded with weight, level three pedal assist the whole way, and liberal use of the Button Of Much Happiness (or BOMH! for short). I will have no troubles using this for commuting, and I probably won’t even need to bring the charger in the future.
But the main thing is, I arrived to work in more than enough time, far faster than I would have on my own power, I didn’t break a sweat, and it was more fun than I’ve ever had on a commute. I loved that the dude on the bike behind me couldn’t pass me like they always do. Yeah, I know. I’m motorized and electrified and they’re not. Doesn’t matter. I giggled with glee as I peeled away from him.
I’m sure I’ll find some ‘gotchas’ as I continue to commute this way, but for now it’s e-bikes FTW. Way cheaper than a new car, and seriously fun.
So last week sometime, I was biking home up Keats Way. The way home from work for me tends to be a little more difficult than the way there. While my commute by way of elevation is sort of a U shape, with high points at both ends and a dip in the middle, the U favours the way to work. Getting home requires more effort. Keats Way is one of the roads where 2/3 of it is slope-y one way, and one third the other. It’s easier to get to work than home. So, I was huffing my way up Keats Way when I saw a woman on a bike behind me in my rear view mirror. It isn’t uncommon for the university students to pass me on their bikes on my way. They are, after all, younger and more get-go-ish, and also do not have heart concerns. I envy them so much for that. Anyway, so I wasn’t all that shocked when this woman gained on me, but when she passed, I was surprised. She wasn’t one of the University crowd. She may not have been older than me, but she wasn’t a student. And she was on a cruiser bike with fatter wheels and a retro look, and she was putting out pretty damned well no effort at all to pass me. It was sorta disconcerting. I didn’t get it at first, and then just as she was passing me, I clued in to the fact that she was on an e-bike. And away she went, leaving me panting away. She was a good 150 meters up the road when I lost sight of her.
This left enough of an impression on me that this week, I did a considerable amount of research into the niche subculture that is the electric bike. I was pretty taken with the idea by the time I was through.
I used to think that e-bikes were only those stupid looking bikes that tried to make themselves look like scooters. I never liked those things. They seemed to always gum up the roadways with their girth, and the drivers were often treacherous on the MUPs, when I saw them there. I still maintain those ones are not to my liking at all, but what I didn’t know was there’s options that don’t look anything like that. There’s e-bikes out there that are pretty well indistinguishable from a regular bike, much like the one that smoked me on Keats Way. In fact, they look super nice. I found out that you can even retrofit your existing bike to an e-bike with little effort.
The thing that hooked me is that I came to understand that being on e-bike doesn’t mean you’re somehow cheating the system, or will get no exercise. At least, not for me. You can do that if you want, but it isn’t necessary. We are a single-car family, and I am the one without the car 90+% of the time. I spend that time on my bike, and while it’s fine, I really am demolished by the time I get home, and not in a good, fun, “I have had a workout and I feel great” way. More like, “this is going to kill me, and I hope it isn’t today”. And in spite of the fact that the hills by and large favour the way to work, I still get there all sweaty and shitty and panting and I look like some hobo off the street about to have a cardiac event rather than the information-worker professional I’m supposed to be.1 Biking for me is really only fun when I’m not in a hurry and can enjoy the ride, which invariably isn’t what I’m doing. As a cycle commuter, I’m always in a damned rush to get anywhere; for better or worse, it’s well and truly my primary use case in biking these days. An e-bike apparently solves that issue.
I was intrigued enough that this weekend, I went down to Cycle Electric and took a couple of bikes out for a test run. The first one I took out was a folding e-bike from Emmo. The reason that I took it out was because it was an inexpensive option (and that is saying something here—if there’s one thing I’ve learned, this rabbit hole is preposterously expensive), and because I could fold it and presumably bring it into the office with me. I was thinking that the best theft deterrent there is, is to park the bike in my cube. A folding one might make that feasible. And it seemed weird to me that I could get a whole electric bike for considerably less cash than even a retrofit.
The ride was… okay. I didn’t get the feeling that I was much better off using it, to be honest. I don’t know if that was because my expectations having read so many sites and viewed so many YouTube videos were skewed, or maybe because I was riding it wrong somehow, or maybe the geometry of the bike was so very different from the diamond shape bikes I’ve been riding since just after birth ;). It was fine, and I think it made life a little easier, but beyond the throttle function, I wasn’t nearly impressed enough to go with something like that.
But then I tried a standard hybrid bike treated to an e-bike retrofit from Bionix. Now, that was different! My god, it was strange. I was pedalling away from the shop and I was wondering if it had even come on because I couldn’t hear a thing out of the motor, but when I looked up, I was doing nearly 20km/h without exerting any more effort than I usually would, and I didn’t even realize it. Somehow, this system offers pedal assist that just sorta works. It took me some time to realize that putting forth a third of the effort I usually put on the bike resulted in more speed by nearly 5km/h than I would normally get, and that wasn’t even on the highest level of assist.
And the throttle on that thing! It’s just wrong. It’s wrong that I could be on a hill, not wanting to pedal anymore, hit a single button and the bike just takes over and climbs the hill all on its own. That was the real kicker. And given the amount of battery power the kit provides, I should technically be able to get myself to work and home again and never rotate the pedals once, if that was what I wanted to do. That throttle is just awesome.
That test drive pretty much sold me on the idea of a retrofit. It felt so much better than the built-in one, it was sorta crazy. I get that probably the higher-end folding dedicated e-bikes would be able to compare, but then they’re kinda silly for the price. For that, I could probably get a decent used car. The retrofit does indeed seem to be the way to go.
I’m about 85% of the way to deciding to get this done. My holdouts are honestly only the cost, and the concern about theft. If I’m going to magically make my run of the mill little hybrid commuter a valuable target I need to rethink my lockup strategies, especially in light of the fact that we’ve already had one bike stolen right out of the racks at the office this year.
But I keep on thinking, “wouldn’t it be awesome to get to work and not be a sweaty mess in fear of my life?” and then thinking, “Yes, yes, that would be good indeed…”
- Yes, I am aware that one can get to work, shower and change. My work place is not well set up for that. While we do have one shower, I sorta fear it, and I’d really rather not use it, to say nothing of the overhead it’d take to bring clothes along every day—the bike is heavy enough, thank you very much. ↩
I wasn’t ever a big Soundgarden fan, weirdly. I have these little gaps in my music history that get filled in slowly, if at all. It’s sorta weird though, given that when Cornell was doing his thing, it was all over the damned place just as I got myself into University. I was more of an Eddie Vetter man, myself, living inside of Pearl Jam.
That said, the whole scene was inescapable to me. It was all over my early University years. So, it was impossible not to be steeped in this stuff, and I did not mind. It was nice to have vocals like Cornell’s to sing along to, because I actually could. There was some kind of magic in the way this stuff sounded—it had a sultry side under the rock, and I loved that. I don’t know if many people got that who weren’t listening carefully. But every now and again, it would come out in unexpected ways:
Hell of a singer. Hope you’re in a better place, Chris. That was far, far too soon. Today, I feel a little bit older, yet again. As someone on Reddit said in the thread that’s currently discussing this unexpected loss, “we’re all just walking each other home.”
Yup, I guess we are.
Update: Suicide by hanging. Man, oh man. You just never know what battles are being fought between the ears of people. Be good to one another. Let’s walk home in peace. Sigh.
Although spring began much earlier for us, during that warm spell back in February, the garden has really come to life the past little while. The grass has been cut once, the bunnies are starting to appear in regular ways (although no baby bunnies yet) and the trees are doing everything they can to pollinate everything. This final fact has caused me utter misery this year, as my sinuses are included in that everything. First up this year were the daffodils and tulips. We don’t have many daffodils, although Suz is working to rectify that. But tulips, we’ve got those:
Getting older sorta sucks for a lot of reasons. One of the sadder reasons is that all the people who had a hand in shaping you start to keel over dead. I’ve taken to eulogizing the big players in my journals. People like Leonard Cohen get a lot of words, but I guess some of the minor players maybe deserve a space here. They’re still important in smaller ways, and deserve some remembrance.
Yeah. Good ‘ol Bob. I heard today that Robert Miles shuffled off. All the text I can find right this moment is in Spanish, so I couldn’t tell you what did him in, but damn, that’s early. He was right around my age, which is always pretty scary.
Most people probably don’t know him, but if you were ever into trance or electronica as musical genres, his work will ring a bell. To anyone else, he’s a one-hit wonder at best. I wasn’t heavily into that kind of music either, but I had friends who were.
I’ve heard it said that Bob was sort of a gateway drug into the genre, and that was certainly true for me. I moved past him pretty quick, but without him, it’s arguable I wouldn’t have found the others I love to this day. I went from Bob swiftly into the arms of bands like Enigma, Delerium and its offshoots, and Dead Can Dance, where I spent most of my time. I liked the stuff for writing. Many an undergrad paper took shape for me with these notes hanging in the air. All that’s because of Bob.
Sad that he’s gone. Sigh. Well, time to dig out my ancient copy of Dreamland and give it a spin. Avé atque valé, Bob.
Seems the French have elected the better of two choices to lead them going forward. I know very little about the French election—only what John Oliver was able to educate me about in the last couple weeks. It seems to me though that those folks have chosen to stem the tide of political madness being seen lately, and for that, I thank you. I’ve been really worried about the world and the future in general of late, and while this little offering doesn’t erase that worry, it at least doesn’t add to it.
So, it happened yet again. I’ve been the proud keeper of a blog since about 2001, when in a flurry of internet activity, a bunch of my friends and I all went out and registered domains and they were then hosted by one of our group.
Back in those days, web authoring was the wild west. I mean, things weren’t database driven, and every little entry was its own html file, complete with all the code. It was a messy learning experience for me, trying to figure out how to add a menu with little graphic buttons that would change if the mouse hovered over them or if they were clicked. It was a personal triumph when I figured out how to add a site counter to tell me how many people had visited my home page (link to anywhere else, and I was out of luck). But it was all okay. Everyone was happy to learn and visit one another’s sites to learn about what was going on and read what we were thinking at the time. I loved that kind of narrative. When blogs were a good representation of a life well lived, I completely adored reading them.
All that sorta ended. I want to blame Facebook, but I think it happened before then. I guess the desire to write sorta faded for most of us. We went from writing in our blogs to writing privately to not writing at all. In the end, it seemed there wasn’t too much to say, and what little there was didn’t require a blog, especially with the advent of places like livejournal or blogger which was good enough for most and removed all the overhead of maintaining a site at the expense of monetizing your thoughts. And then Facebook came and it was completely game over. That place just kept on growing until everyone was there, and not only did they monetize your thoughts, they found novel ways to target you and sell you too. But no one cared. It was easy, and once the iPhone came along and apps were all the rage, ubiquitous.
All through this though, I kept up my blog. It went through long fallow periods, and the readership was pretty well nil after a time, and remains so. But I always liked the idea of a space that was mine on the web.
Ironically, given how much of a nostalgia freak and data hoarder I am, I was never really good at archiving my blog stuff, and anytime something changed, I lost almost everything. The early writings weren’t compatible with the new database-driven blogs, and then I had to switch servers, and then I got profoundly hacked, and then I had a change of heart and wanted to take all my stuff down and burn it because it was crap. Each time, thousands of words were just–gone. All the virtual ink dried up and blew away.
The bad news is, it’s happened again. My host these last 12 or 13 years stopped hosting, so I had to go. For a while there, I wasn’t even sure I’d maintain a web presence at all going forward.
My writings have both gotten completely out of hand (I write so much–it’s sorta nuts), and gone completely underground. I publish nearly nothing of what I write. I find it’s better that way. This way, no one I hope to impress will ever wonder if I’m a good bet based on my writings, and no one ever challenges my thoughts, which is also good; while I like to debate, I don’t like being attacked, and that happened a lot. I like to just write without judgement as it helps me to work out stuff in my own little cranium, and I like to keep a record of my days, which can be of zero interest to anyone but me. Also, I don’t want the Facebooks of the world to index and sell me and my readership. I decided a couple years ago that I knew Facebook’s uses, and they were few. I don’t want to blog there; if anything, I want a quiet, clean, ad-free, non deus ex-machina way to share content. Given all that, the end, it seemed, was nigh.
The good news is, I was able to keep it going after all. Tudor stepped in, and with a wave of his tech savvy hand and gracious generosity was able to help me set something up again so I didn’t have to leave the world of the interwebz. I know it’s not going to impact anyone (I don’t think anyone noticed I was down for a good month and a half), but it’s really nice to have a space.
So if you’re reading, hi there. I don’t have a lot to share, but what’s here is pretty safe, and I hope a lot nicer to read. If you want to know my public thoughts, here they are.
Oh, one of the things I did do, however, was in spite of the fact that my archive from 2009 to 2016 survived, I decided to have a fresh start. It’s here for posterity, but it’s not public. Maybe I can change this out a little to be more about my adventures, even if they are only as far as my back garden.
Seems like the blog is back. I will post something more interesting soon, I hope. 🙂