AT THE SUMMIT OF UNION VALLEY ROAD

Lord knows I don’t mind exercise but riding a bicycle up the Union Valley Road falls under masochism, not exercise.  Our house is a mere 6 miles from town but distance is not the problem – it’s the elevation change.  The road climbs 2,300 feet in that distance.  Back in 1980 when I was building my cabin in Union Valley and a mere thirty years old I rode my Schwin 10 speed to town – once.  It was such an ordeal to pedal back up the hill that I did not attempt it again for another thirty years.  

Bikes have improved since 1980 and I’ve made the ride several times in each of the last five years but I don’t do much else on those days – I’m tapped out.  So why do I do it?  Part of the answer is that sometimes I feel rambunctious and nothing quells my “rambunctuosity” like that tortuous (and torturous) ride.  But the other part of the answer is that it bothers me to use a 2,500-lb vehicle to transport my 170-lb body up that hill.  If I just need to pick up the mail or buy a couple of bolts at the hardware store it seems like such a waste to use a gargantuan machine to do it.  I’ve always thought there has to be a better way.

Well now there is.  It’s called the e-bike.  Thanks to the lithium battery revolution it is now possible to get way more bang for your buck (actually amp-hours per pound) than was heretofore possible.  Throw a small electric motor into the mix and strap them to a bicycle and call it an “e-bike.” They’ve been around for a few years but they started at around $3000 and for that price you can get a conventional motorcycle that has a lot more range and power.  They didn’t seem like a good deal. But an Internet pop-up ad appeared on my computer recently offering me an e-bike for $545.  On a whim, I ordered it.

The burning question was: “Would it power me up the Union Valley Road?”  My bike, the Cyclamatic Power Plus from Walmart.com has a 250-watt motor and an 8 amp-hour battery which is on the low end for e-bikes.  I had my doubts.  Unlike some e-bikes, mine expects the rider to contribute to propulsion.  If I stop pedaling, the motor stops running.  But that’s fine with me.  I enjoy the exercise.  It’s just that there is a limit to how much exercise I want and Union Valley Road crosses that line.

Well, the good news is: the Cyclamatic Power Plus gets me to the top of the hill with power to spare!  (There is no bad news)  When that motor kicks in it feels like Lance Armstrong is pedaling behind me.  Equally important is the fact that it gets me up that hill for 1.62 cents of electricity (I calculated it).   I figure I’m saving about $5 per trip to town over using my car.  Since I’ve already made five trips to town, that means that I only need to make 104 more trips to recover my $545 investment!

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