I’m not Biking, I’m Commuting! Guest post from Nick Switzer, who enjoys commuting on his electric bike
As I left my office last Friday, excited for the weekend to begin, I could not wait to get on my electric bike for the quick ride home. I stowed my laptop in my pannier, donned my helmet and unlocked my bike with joy. As I started to leave, I waved goodbye to a couple of coworkers. Then one of them made a “vroom vroom” throttle motion with his hands, to which I nodded my head saying “Oooh yeah!” with full knowledge that 23 mph max speed is not what most people would consider a bad-ass ride.
Then my coworker threw up his hands in feigned disgust. “What are you doing? That’s not biking!” My excitement was quickly turned to momentary shame.
You see, in Northern California, cycling is serious business. An estimated 75% of my coworkers own Spandex and do not hesitate to flaunt it during lunch or afternoon rides. Before meetings they discuss their times on a local road route, which to my knowledge was invented by people at my work. Over lunch they discuss the $2,000 improvement they made to take an ounce out of their cycling set-up.
Those who are not removing ounces from their ride are fortifying their mountain bikes for dangerous downhill treks, which is their version of vacation. The jaw-dropping GoPro videos these guys show me after they return from their trips make me a little queasy from a classic nausea cocktail: one part super shaky camera, one part video of risky airborn maneuvers.
I, on the other hand, have owned three bikes while living in California. My starter commuter was a Schwinn purchased from Target on a “If I don’t try this know, I’ll just keep putting it off” whim. (I get those whims a lot.) After that was stolen, my next commuter was a Craigslist beater hybrid, a ten-year-old Giant with chipped paint. I put in over 1,000 miles commuting on that bike, and at this point I’ve spent more on replacement tires and lights than the original bike cost ($50!).
Finally, my third bike is an electric bike – it has an electric assist that does most of the work for me. No Spandex needed, but no glorious YouTube videos of death-defying jumps and no medals in the workplace cycling competition. I am truly not a cyclist when compared to these people – in shape, clothing, and equipment. Where do my bicycle insecurities end?!
All of these thoughts were bottled up in one split second when my coworker threw his arms up at my electric bike choice.
Then, a split second later, my insecurities were washed away as I said: “I’m commuting!” We all smiled and I particularly rejoiced in the power that comes from an abundance mentality. Why limit your conceptions about what it means to be on a vehicle with two wheels and pedals in the middle? There was no need to compare, we all use the bicycle concept for great outcomes – sport, speed, adrenaline, environmental friendliness.
I have tremendous respect for the cyclists and mountain bikers at my work. They are true athletes*. They dedicate time and brainpower to improving their tools and bodies for the sport. I also have great respect for electric bike commuters as well. They reduce the number of cars on the road and the amount of CO2 emitted into our skies.
*I prefer the German term in this instance, Sportlers. “They are true Sportlers.” Try calling the most athletic person you know a Sportler, and make sure to do it in your best German accent: “They are true Sch-port-lers”
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