My father was sparing with advice, believing, quite rightly as it turned out, that I would ignore pretty much everything he told me. One pearl of wisdom he did choose to drop, however, was “Never get old”, and while I laughed at the time – it’s a singularly unhelpful piece of advice for a 17 year-old after all – I have recently not only come to see what he was driving at, but have started to share his wise words with anyone I come across. My back went, you see.
Nothing to do with the new bike you understand – despite being somewhat cumbersome when being manhandled into launch position she is a wonder when under full sail – it was “just one of those things”. On Friday I was a bike-riding, allotment digging, walking football-playing Silver Fox, by Saturday morning I was a broken man – a broken old man, at that – and out of commission for over a week.
If it hadn’t been for the gun to tape coverage of Le Tour on ITV4 and the efficacious application of a vin de pays from somewhere near where Stage 14 finished I would have been proper miserable. As it was, after some long days on the sofa with Ned and Dave the worst of the pain dissipated. With a week’s worth of riding of the gentler sort under my wheels – is that a cycling expression? – I am reaching a state not far removed from “right as rain”.
Two things I know about my Scott E-Sub Tour 2017 powered by Bosch – who regular readers will know better as Nelly – is that a) she is not a mountain bike and b) nor is she a finely tuned racer of the sort pro riders hurl into ditches when motorbikes run over them and render them useless (see Tours de France passim). As a road bike, Nelly has all the flexibility and manoeuvrability of a tank. As a mountain bike she is the very definition of hard tail. With my back not fully restored I have, therefore, contented myself with sedate trips around town and have even tested the assertion, and the assumption of colleagues, that she is the perfect vehicle for the environmental warrior who commutes.
I am lucky to work in the third sector, a milieu where Jeremy Corbyn is held to be a good egg, where every third person keeps chickens and where boiling a kettle twice to make your nettle tea is anathema. I love it. It means that using a bike to get about is a standard, common-sense thing to do rather than the arrant pretensions of a virtue-signalling lentil muncher. Remember: I live in the North – and a semi-rural, non-diverse, signally unreconstructed bit of the North at that – where the Daily Mail is believed and sales of French wine have halved in Tesco since Brexit. So idiotic attitudes about everything from bicycling to bisexuality are commonplace.
But not where I work. Where I work a cheap alternative to the car which is far quicker than walking and can be achieved in the yawning time gaps between busses is held to be “a good thing” and even the younger element on the staff have cast envious eyes at Nelly, at least when the sun has been shining. And whoever hit on the marketing wheeze of saying you sweat a lot less when you commute on an E-bike was actually spot on. Most of my meetings happen in the centre of town – it’s where the coffee shops are – and our high street is actually a foothill of the Snake Pass. You know the bit where the rouleurs on the pro teams stretch the peloton to breaking point as they race to position their patron perfectly for the defining climb and the road rises ever steeper until there’s sharp right and the countdown to the summit appears alongside the gap to the day’s escapees? If you’ve never watched the Tour de France, then maybe not. But anyway. That.
It’s no Alpine pass, but the look on the faces of out-of-town bike riders as they go past The Globe Inn (cheap vegan food, terrible beer) on a Sunday morning ride out speaks volumes. Their eyebrows start to echo the immortal words of Jamie Lawson “I wasn’t expecting that”, and little beads of sweat prick their furrowed brows. By the time they pass Dukes Coffee House (best coffee in town, great cake and cyclist friendly) they have dropped a few gears and are wondering whether they want to go ALL the way to Sheffield this fine morning.
But on Nelly it’s a skoosh. You just up the ante on the Intuvia inboard computer and let your heart rate loiter around “slightly elevated”. The response from the motor is more immediate than when you change gear as the gradient is virtually nullified allowing you the luxury of gliding to your meeting with the beatific smile of the true smartarse on your face. With four settings from Eco upwards you can do all the work or not so very much at all and if you don’t want to appear at your “catch-up” with the HR director looking like Rocky when he got to the top of those steps you have the solution at your fingertips. Turbo.
I share my father’s attitude to advice and seldom give it unasked, but, were you to be thinking about improving your quality of life, your health and your work-based productivity – all of which a two-wheeled commute offers – but you have concerns about distance, the bumpy bits in between or arriving looking, feeling and smelling like a Turkish wrestler’s vest you could do worse than consider an E-bike.