Marolt: You just might find you get what you need for speed
What I wanted for Christmas was a mountain bike with big, fat tires. Because they are much harder to pedal with those bloated, bouncy treads, I also wanted it equipped with one of those pedal-assist electric motors. You know what I’m talking about, a motor that only runs when you pedal. You do a little work and it will do a little work, too; kind of like having your bratty little brother help you rake leaves.
I test drove … er, rode … er, drove/rode one last summer. I was walking through town, not wearing any Lycra or anything, and a friend buzzed by on one. He let me take it for a spin. I took it out on Owl Creek Road. It had a funny effect on me, probably similar to a lot of people who have them — the faster I went, the faster I wanted to go. I hammered the pedals and pretty soon found myself keeping up with the automobile traffic.
Cars would see that it was a bicycle of sort ahead of them on the narrow, country-ish road and they would beep their horns in anticipation of passing me or just to let me know I should get my butt and bike onto the bike path where I belonged. Little did they know.
Instead of passing me in a blur, like they thought and hoped, it took a minute or so to catch up and then get by only with a serious stomp on their accelerators. I could see the astonished looks on the faces of passengers in them. We were head-to-head long enough to get a good enough look that I could have easily identified them in a police line-up had the driver decided to run me off the road and into the barrow ditch on the side. I think we were doing about 35-mph up the hill by the red barn on the straightaway out there.
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Anyway, I didn’t get it.
I got a couple of nice shirts and some argyle socks and an electrical device of some sort that I am still trying to figure out what it does, so I’m not complaining, but there was no shiny bike with balloon tires and motor leaning against the Christmas tree. Perhaps the visual image of me test riding it on the icy streets early that morning in my bathrobe was enough to convince Santa that I wasn’t quite mature enough for one.
I console myself with the thought that, without a vested, roughly $5,000, interest at stake, at least I don’t have to get directly involved in the controversial argument about where those bikes will be allowed to go. They can’t quite go fast enough or accelerate quickly enough to be considered very safe on paved roads and highways, yet they have enough oomph to make them scary on bike paths and mountain bike trails.
I hear the argument that they are a lot like shaped skis. The motor-assisted bicycles allow older people to participate in an activity they might otherwise have to give up at a much earlier age. I like that. The more fit and active we are as we age, the higher the quality of living we can experience.
On the other hand, the higher speeds the modern centaursish contraptions can attain with the determined mind of an aging mountain biker in decent shape spurring their electric motors along a dirt trail out in the woods can really tear up the terrain. Their velocity can be as dangerous to traditional riders as they can be annoying. And, there is always the argument for maintaining relative tranquility in our backcountry. If we give these pedal-assisted electric bikes an inch, they could gobble up a mile in no time at all.
In the end, I guess I’m OK with not getting my Christmas wish fulfilled this year. It’s no fun to get a toy that you are not sure when, where, or how you will be able to play with it. At least I know for sure that I can wear my nice new shirts to the office and my patterned socks to church anytime. They are as practical as they are useful gifts.
Besides, not getting what I wanted this year allows me time to reflect on what I ask for next year. I won’t be so impulsive next Halloween when I begin to put my list for Santa together. Maybe next Christmas I’ll ask for an electric motocross bike. Yeah!
Roger Marolt sometimes feels like an elf in coveralls. Email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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