A Tale of Two Wheels
My e-bike/e-scooter envy really took hold last fall. It was gradual at first, and started in earnest one day when I was sitting in the passenger seat with my husband at the wheel, waiting in a long line of cars at a red light. A person’s shadow passed, momentarily shading my face. I was instantly aware and a little in awe…I thought, “What is that they’re riding? Is it safe? It sure looks fast. It’s beating the traffic!” Then I said to myself, “I could ride that.” So began the journey for me to find an e-vehicle of my own.
With personal safety being paramount, I wondered what I should, and could, ride. I believe that for many people, a one-wheeled contraption is just not a sane option. Three wheels is too many, and four is a skateboard or a go-cart. I fantasized that I could ride an electric skateboard and look like a cool surfer chick. Upon more realistic consideration, I accepted that I’m not even any good at riding a regular skateboard. Two wheels, I decided, was the right number. Then I wondered: scooter or a bike?
My educational process included internet searches, store visits, conversations with friends, and casual observation. Which should I pick? Scooters are always a scooter, but a bike offered the option to pedal for exercise or ride under power. I asked my stylish, artistic local sister her thoughts without telling her it was for me. The meaningful part of her response (because who really listens to their big sister) was, “Bikes look less goofy than scooters.” This made my decision easy; it would be a bike for me.
Having narrowed the selection, I then tried to absorb all the features, shapes, and sizes available. Prices ranged from “so cheap” to “oh my!” I went to a local bike store to try out the latest models, and to help make sense of the soup of internet information I was swimming in. I wanted to see if I could handle the weight of the bike both as a rider, and for potentially transporting it in my car by myself.
At the store, I learned 26-inch wheels were too big for me. I also reinforced the logic that the bigger the bike, the heavier the bike. I also learned that I wanted and needed a step-through body design for safety. After visiting a few stores and kicking a few tires, including some in seedy, second-hand shops, I decided I wanted 20-inch wheels. I would look for wide, nubby tires to give good grip on various surfaces. Preferably it would be something I could lift, possibly with fold-up capability, though I wasn’t sure I would get it. After my initial shock at the upside of prices for a new e-bike, I decided on a firm ceiling number for price and vowed not to spend as much as it costs for a car, even a beater. This meant I would likely be buying used.
Timing also came into play during my search. Christmas meant that supply was stretched thin at the retail level, and the season of selling gently used gifts would soon be upon us. Patiently I waited for gift recipients to realize an e-bike was not for them. I checked the usual suspects: Craigslist, Tampa Bay Times classifieds, and Facebook Marketplace. I tried some other websites, like eBay, though I wanted to see, touch, and straddle my bike before I brought it home. Using the search filters, I stalked the listings for just the right suspect.
It took months, but it finally happened. There was a used e-bike in Tampa I wanted to see. I checked the official brand website and saw the price for new on my intended model; the Marketplace ad represented a good deal. I had never seen or heard of the brand before, so I scrutinized the pictures to the best of my ability. This could be it, and it so happened I was going to be in Tampa in a few days’ time. The advertiser turned out to be at a convenient location and, at least didn’t seemlike an axe murderer in his messages. I brought a friend I could outrun, just in case.
Turns out the seller was a youngish, retired doctor and a very nice guy who was selling the e-bike for an elderly relative. It hardly looked used. (He offered me the use of a helmet for my test ride, as he said tapping the side of his head, “This is what makes life.”) I took a test ride up and down the alley behind his house. I could do it, though in the narrow lane, I quickly learned the turning radius of the e-bike was greater than that of my surf cruiser bike at home. In the end, my sleuthing paid off: We struck a deal, and I picked it up the next day.
I couldn’t stop thinking about the doctor’s way of politely telling me I didn’t want a brain injury. A few days later I bought a matching helmet for about $70 at a sporting goods store. It has many more adjustments than the ones I remember attempting to strap on my kids 20 years ago. It has lots of vents for comfort, and I look cool because it matches my e-bike. Besides, better dorky than dead.
As for my new wheels, the manual online said my model would do 25 mph. I tested it, and it does. It’s fast for a bike and feels a bit more like riding a small, quiet motorcycle. I vow to respect others and not ride on the sidewalk because pedestrians have the right of way. I also realize that not every driver is considerate, and I will yield to any other driver about to mow me down. After some riding, I realized the hazard of parked vehicles pulling out from the curb is one of the worst. I also believe there is a special hell for drivers who blow their horn at bicycles or pedestrians.
I can’t finish my tale without romance, however. The not-an-axe-murderer-retired-doctor-guy seemed to have a thing for my friend who accompanied me to Tampa. They had both lost a spouse to illness within the last five years. With her permission, I texted him, “Thanks for the bike. You seemed to have a lot in common with my friend…here’s her number.” They’ve been dating for a month now – and give me the credit.
Be safe out there!