For many people with health challenges, an ebike makes it possible to keep on cycling, even when it seems impossible. Denver man Bob Seible had got to the stage where he was trapped in his own home, too visually impaired to drive, and with too many health limitations to walk much. Now he gets around on an ebike, which he built himself! Read Bob’s inspiring story below.
My name is Bob Seible, and I live in south-west Denver. Joe was good enough to ask me if I could write something for those new to electric biking. I suppose that’s because I am an e-bike tenderfoot myself, having just learned about the “movement” while in New Zealand last December visiting my Kiwi daughter’s family.
I had time there to absorb a lot of info and started dreaming about an ebike of my own!
I unwittingly encountered my first obstacle when I cheerfully informed family and friends that I was thinking about getting an electric bike. The kindly patronizing was ferocious!
I have to start by mentioning my “limitations.” I do this for one reason only: I want to encourage others with similar disabilities that the joy of cycling may not be beyond them. Being 70 years old, “morbidly” overweight at 335 pounds, with Type 2 Diabetes plus COPD, disqualifies you from cycling of any kind in most everybody’s eyes. I should mention my macular degeneration too, and that I have not had a driver’s license for several years; so I have had to depend on others for transportation.
If you are like me, you might find that loving children, spouse, and friends will wish to dissuade you from getting an ebike. But the only person to listen to is your doctor, who in my case was Doctor Madeline P. – and she thought it was a fantastic idea!
“You be sure to report your progress to me regularly,” was her only stipulation. My first quarterly report is next month. I have now been cycling every day for the last two months! It has been a great summer! But, I am getting way ahead of myself.
Turning Unfortunate Circumstances into Blessings
In March, I had my eye on several fifteen hundred dollars, 750-watt ebike models. What I was looking for was a machine to handle the many miles of bike trails and paths of south-west Denver. The mid-priced bikes looked good. Then, there was always the do-it-yourself option to consider too. I swear, have you seen the guys out there building e-rockets? I just needed a bike that would help me pedal my rather ponderous and aging frame up and down the miles of bike paths surrounding my place in south-west Denver.
Unfortunate circumstances can be a surprising font of real blessings. If things had been the way I wanted, I would have made a big mistake. I wasn’t able to buy the factory-made bike I wanted. Finances wouldn’t allow it. I could have waited a few months to get it, but, at 70 years old, I’m not biding my time for stuff, you know? I would build it myself!
I am not saying that it is a mistake buying a factory-built bike. No way, they look great. But for me, the time and energy and challenge of building it myself was the best choice. It turned out to be the best for me.
It was a challenge because my vision is very limited and building a bike means working with small parts. Anything smaller than a pack of cards gets sort of fuzzy and corrective lenses don’t help. Patience, good organization and a growing trust in your sense of touch will let you build a bike. (Oh, did I forget: a good friend helps too.)
You Get What You Pay For!
I cycled a lot when I was in my teens and twenties and had a good basic understanding of how bikes worked, but I was getting a brand-new education now. I ordered everything on line and re-learned the old adage of “you get what you pay for.” I could have saved myself a couple of hundred dollars if I hadn’t been such a miser! Yet, even in this, you learn, and that’s not bad.
I bought my 1,200 watt electric motor conversion kit from Ebikeling and the 48v 11.6 ah Hailong Battery from Ebike4fun. I only mention these two because of their importance in my project and the superb customer service I needed and received.
I learned by doing and I am still learning. I learned about the differences in disk brake mounts and adjustments, crank sets, derailleur adjustment, upgrading the front fork, and on and on.
Just today I learned something new! I have had an annoying creak growing louder and louder over the past few days. I was certain it was emanating from my hardworking and overly taxed saddle. I greased the underside; the creak seemed to get louder! My wife said you use baby powder on squeaky shoes, so I tried that … no good. I went to YouTube and learned that it could be grit in the seat post, so I cleaned that, but that didn’t help! After intense investigation, I finally found the cause of the creak: my left pedal crank. I pulled it all apart and cleaned it. Voila, creak gone. A big deal? No, but I fixed it and it made my day!
It’s All About Independence
My ebike is all about independence to me. I built a good-looking bike on my own, and every day I go out on my own discovery adventures. In two months, I have made a couple of new friends, found some fishing holes nearby, and can make it to the store whenever I want. Oh, and you will be the first to know, I have used up all the holes in my belt and need to poke me a new one. All in two months. There have been some unexpected new experiences on my ebike. Here’s one that happened just the other day.
Did She Know or Didn’t She? My Experience with a Young Cyclist in Chatfield State Park
Just the other day, I had an experience when I felt like cheated, and worried that I might have added to the antipathy some cyclists feel toward electric bikes.
Chatfield State Park has miles galore of the finest bike paths in the US, and I was up early this Saturday to catch the morning light and miss the heat; so were a lot of joggers and other bikers. One section of the Centennial Trail descends for a mile and a quarter down the front of Chatfield reservoir. It is a fine rush flying down that grade when there is no one ahead. I have yet to work up the nerve to just let her blast away down the hill. Come on! I’m 70!
There are Two Sides to Every Hill Story!
There are two sides to every hill story, and cycling back up that grade would be impossible for me. I weigh somewhere over 325 and have COPD. I have been riding my do-it-yourself electric fat bike for only two months. I sure feel the growing strength in my legs and back, but I am not ready to attempt the mile and a quarter grade unassisted. I have seen the fit young cyclists make it up that grade to the bench at the top, where they take a breather and some liquid. Most are wasted!
So, after some fine cruising through the wooded parkland around the headwaters of the South Platt below the reservoir, I headed back. I put my bike in the second level of pedal assist and began my attack on “the grade.” I was feeling feisty, so I selected the third level of pedal assist and started pumping for all I was worth.
Never Let Anyone Tell You Riding an Ebike is no Work!
Never let anyone tell you riding an ebike is no work. They just are a bit ignorant about it. You will work, but only as much as you can take. With a good rolling start I got going with gusto, and after a great effort made the bench. I stopped to catch my breath and a slug of water. That is when a young woman slowly rode past, panting. “I tried to keep up with you, but couldn’t,” she said with labored breath and a genuine smile. She was almost past replying to, when I blurted out, “But I have pedal assist …”
She looked back as if understanding, but I’m not certain she did. Did she know about electric bikes? Surprisingly, most people seem pretty oblivious to them, even the cycling crowd. I am the only e-biker I know wandering around Chatfield. I felt that I unknowingly lured this strong, healthy young woman into a competition she couldn’t win!
I hope that good lady knew this old guy was on an e-bike and was pitting herself against me anyway, just for a kick. That would please me the most!
Thinking of buying an Electric Bike? Check out my new 2017 edition of How to Buy the Best Electric Bike! Buy it here.
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