Written by Jeanette Aiello (Gears Bike Shop customer)
I just bought 2 (Specialized) Como E-bikes from Gears Bike Shop in Port Credit yesterday. I’d given it a lot of thought and was lucky enough to be able to borrow one for one month prior to making my selection. The process went like this: I had 3 bikes at my disposal to determine my real needs. I had a Giant street bike, a comfort bike with no gears or hand brakes and a mountain e-bike. 3 very different bikes…but I’m new to cycling and want to figure it out before I part with my money.
I’m 55 yrs old and have lost 47 lbs over 8 months -and still have 20 lbs to go. I’m generally healthy but I have aches and pains in my knees and shoulders and sometimes my hips. I find if I don’t keep moving I stiffen up and moving gets harder. I began walking around the neighborhood but quickly got bored at the repetitive scenery and the limited distance I could cover without getting too far from home. Walking was exacerbating a foot problem that I have too. I’d like to mention that I joined a gym 5 years ago and injured my shoulder. I spent a lot of money on a personal trainer over a 2 yr period. I gained all my weight back plus some and stopped exercising. I’m running out of time for do-overs so it’s important to me to keep the weight off and get some consistently better habits in place for my twilight years.
My next move was to buy a simple bike with no gears and no hand brakes. I simply wanted a lower impact option for my feet and knees. This bike was fun and brought back some nostalgia, but in the end it did not help out against winds, hills or any speed or distance. This bike was ideal if all I ever wanted to do was ride around the block on level roads or paths. It offered me very little in terms of a physical workout. The posture I could obtain on this bike was great, however. I sat a bit upright and the handle bars came out to meet my arms. The seat was comfortable too. I loved this bike but grew frustrated that it limited me to the neighborhood-much like walking did.
The second bike I tried was the 10 speed Giant street bike. This bike gave me a lot more options. I could ride this bike further and I could adjust the gears for slight hills and even some wind. On an ideal day, I could go much further and the added benefit of new scenery was wonderful for me. I tended to leave the bike in the garage if it was windy outside. It was a considerable workout too. I didn’t mind working harder on this bike because I knew that I could elect to work hard when I could and back off when I was tiring. The posture on this bike was a problem for me. The longer distances that I was able to travel meant that I was on the bike longer and the leaning onto the handle bars with all my weight caused shoulder and wrist pain. My back also ached after 30 minutes. Even if I tried to straighten up while coasting to stretch my back out, I found that I couldn’t reach the handle bars at all in an upright position. My spirit was willing but my flesh was weak, as the saying goes. I was enjoying the wind in my hair and the exhilaration of achieving some physical benefits but I was not completely satisfied with the comfort of this bike. I was beginning to wish that I had purchased the comfort bike with some gears on it. Then I used the e-bike.
The E-bike that I was lucky to borrow for a while was a mountain bike. I expected the same issues as the Giant in terms of comfort-small saddle and leaning onto the handle bars, but I was very anxious to experience the peddle assist. Within 30 seconds of being on this bike I had an ear to ear smile on my face; one that said eureka! I was so happy for the chance to take a longer ride and explore some of the beautiful Niagara scenery that I embarked on a long ride to Niagara on the Lake via the river trail. The peddle assist opened up new places to explore! I live atop the escarpment and if I got down the hill, I might never get back up again so I’ve avoided these areas (they’re the most beautiful though). Now, with the peddle assist I got much more brave and curious. I traveled 25 K that day. I was on city streets, paved paths, scenic roads, country roads and overpasses. I was able to engage the peddle assist to help propel me forward while I peddled with much less effort than the other two bikes. It felt like something was silently and invisibly pushing me forward. I still got the benefit of exerting as much effort as I was comfortable with, and let the bike do the rest. Engaging the assist is as easy as tapping a button. There does not need to be a gear change (although this options remains whether you’re using the assist or not). The small computer screen has information like time of day, Avg speed, distance, duration of ride and an speedometer on it. Like a car, it lets you cycle through the information in either metric or imperial.
I interchanged all three bikes for a month of different weather and times of day. If I was going to follow my wife while she was walking the dog I could tag along with the simple comfort bike. If I wanted to get a workout in, I’d choose the Giant. When I wanted to go further and faster in any situation I’d choose the e-bike. I needed to narrow my options down to one bike. For me, it had to be comfort to avoid pain. It had to allow me to control the amount of exertion based on my physical ability of the day. It had to allow me to go places to maximize the experience of good bike ride-wind on my face, the smells of my environs, the special view you get of the world from the seat of a bike and the way your body thanks you for getting it out of the house.
I understood that e-bikes come in many different forms; road, mountain, street, hybrid, comfort and others. I was certain that I wanted a comfort e-bike, but I needed to test drive one to be sure. I figured I’d get one that looked like my simple, old lady bike except with a battery. I was in for another surprise.
When I got to Gears Bike Shop I was shown a couple bikes but once the conversation progressed with the sales person it became apparent what I wanted. I was shown a Como e-bike in a style I’d never seen before. The size was appropriate for my frame. The battery was well concealed in the the thick center bar and the cables were fed through the frame as well, so they were not exposed. It made the bike look clean and sleek. This bike had elevated handle bars which allowed for the more upright riding position. I was blown away by the detail of the design and the blue matte finish. The handle bar grips were designed to ensure that your hands were comfortable by increasing the surface to cover more of the palms of my hands. The gears, brakes, bell and computer controls were all very easily controlled. The gear shifting was tight and quiet. The peddle assist was as seamless as breathing. The tires were thick for comfort and varied terrains. The test ride path was the paved path that runs along the lake just off Lakeshore road. It twists and turns and has hills and valleys. It was a paradise for bikers with a view of the lake. I was comfortable at last on a bike.
I have had the e-bike for less than one day and I’ve been on it for 2.8 hrs. I got up early this morning ’cause I couldn’t wait to get back on it. It was a cool 64 degrees this morning and I was everywhere! I watched my town wake up and get to work. I dared to go places that would have been off limits to me on any other bike. My knees don’t ache. My back is fine. The palms of my hands and wrists are unaffected. I don’t have any hip pain. It’s a real marvel to me. I feel like I’ve found the cure for growing old with grace. I watched both my parents grow old and weak and as they became more and more inactive the likelihood of them ever getting active became a dream that got further and further away for them. I don’t want to be that person.
I rode past a large group of bikers who were in a motel parking lot getting ready for a group ride. I assumed they were a club or maybe they’re traveling on a bike tour, which is popular. It occurred to me that even I could join them. I could go just as fast as them and not lag behind. My personal physical ability would never exclude me from joining the fun again.
I downloaded a phone app called Road Bike. It maps out my ride and tells me all kinds of information from elevation to calories burned. It’s another fun element of my rides. I love that I can use my bike as a great training and even a rehabilitation tool. I can manage the energy I am able to exert and measure my progress too. I can use as much or as little assist as I’m capable of. This is a bike that will serve my needs for the foreseeable future. The cost of the bike is relative. I would have paid more. I am now a woman in motion and I will stay in motion on my e-bike from Gears.
Jeanette – a grateful e-bike owner.