If you’re reading this website you’re very likely already familiar with the many advantages of e-bikes: commuting less sweatily; transport for less-mobile folks; e-cargo bikes that enable load-carrying almost impossible on an acoustic bike; and the sheer fun of feeling a bit superhuman, to name but four.
Well I have another use case you may not have thought of: aiding recovery from serious illness, in my case, cancer.
Back in March I was diagnosed with stage four bowel cancer.
A quick aside: if you’re eligible you should get a Faecal Immunochemical Test right now. Eligible currently means over 56, but as this test is being expanded to everyone over 50, I’d get one done if you’re over 50. If necessary, fib to your doctor and say you think you’ve seen traces of blood in your poo. And if you have seen blood in your poo, get to your doctor right now.
My initial prognosis was not good. The cancer had metastasised and there were two growths in my liver that were too large to remove surgically because that wouldn’t leave enough liver to do liver things.
A four-month course of chemotherapy and immunotherapy followed that left me knackered and very unfit, though I still managed to to ride my Radrunner Plus 3 to many of my appointments. Fortunately I live just a 15-minute ride from Addenbrooke’s hospital.
Then came the good news: the treatment had dramatically shrunk the tumours in my bowel and liver. They were now operable. I’ve never been so relieved in my life.
For any major surgery, you want to be in the best possible physical shape. Being fit speeds up recovery and reduces the chance of complications. Problem was, I was in lousy shape. The last couple of rounds of chemotherapy had hit me really hard; I hadn’t ridden a bike in weeks.
Fortunately I’d seen this coming. When I was first diagnosed I arranged the long-term loan of a Giant Revolt-E so that I could keep riding more than the short-range commutes my Radrunner enables.
Thanks to cancer charity Something To Look Forward To my partner Caroline and I were gifted a week in west Wales at Cwm Connell Coastal Cottages. Where better to restore some fitness than in some of Britain’s lumpiest and most beautiful countryside?
There is no way I could have ridden here on an acoustic bike. The area teems with climbs of 10% and steeper. They’re not as long as the epic climbs in Eryri (Snowdonia) or Bannau Brycheiniog (Brecon Beacons), but they come one after another on practically any route you plan. There can’t be more than a few hundred metres of flat road in the whole Pembrokeshire Coast National Park.
This terrain really brings home how much difference hills make to an e-bike’s range. In Cambridge a 40km ride only just nudges the Revolt-E’s battery meter down from five bars to four. My longest ride in Wales, 73km with 1,400m of climbing, induced range anxiety as the gauge showed 20% with about 10km and a final hill still to go.
My various Garmin devices were telling me my fitness had improved over that week and the riding either side of it. Hills FTW.
These rides also provided really solid evidence against the idea that riding e-bike makes you a slack-arse. That 73km ride? My power meter says I burned 2,200 Calories for a Training Stress Score of 377.2. Slacking, I was not.
Thanks to being in not-awful shape when I went under the knife a few weeks ago I’ve recovered fairly well from surgery to remove the tumour from my bowel. That’s just one step on a long road though. I’m now waiting to hear whether the next step is more chemotherapy or an operation on my liver. Either way, thanks to my e-bikes I’ll be able to keep riding through as much of the process as possible.
You can read more about John’s experiences with cancer on his Facebook page.