The Blog

Monday, October 31, 2011

Climate Ride on an electric Bike

On October 2nd, Catherine, my brother Michael and myself headed out of Fortuna, Ca on our electric bikes for a 5 day ride to San Francisco.  The ride sponsors support the ride and non-profits of our choice by getting us to raise donations from our personal networks  There were about 125 riders on the adventure and the three of us were the only ones with electric power assisted bicycles.  It felt great to get out on the road again even though I was worried about my aging rear tire and my weakening battery packs.
The first day out was wonderful.  We gently pedaled through the awesome columns of giant redwood trees on the Avenue of the Giants.  The rest of the riders were curious and courteous towards us and our electric rigs.  That night we settled in for our first nights rest and then the rains began.  Around midnight it started to pour and it didn't stop until about 7 pm the following evening.  Unable to wait out the weather, we all rode through worse weather than anything my sister and I had encountered on our 2 month cross country trip.  About halfway through the day and near the bottom of a very large hill, my batteries started to fail.  If I pulled too many watts out of them, they shut off and I had to restart the system.  Fortunately, I could watch my real time drain on the batteries and was able to get over the hill in my lowest gear pedaling as hard as I could.  After lunch, the batteries failed and I was in the rain with a 80+ pound bike and almost no muscle energy left.  The support vehicle was able to pick up my batteries so I lost about 25 pounds but I was still too tired to do much climbing.   About 5 miles before the end of the day, my rear tire went flat.  So everything that I feared happened, and I still survived.  After finally succeeding in patching my inner tube in very wet weather, I rolled into Fort Bragg on the California coast and that evening I gave a short presentation on electric bicycles and our cross country adventure.  My experiences of the day dampened my enthusiasm for electric bikes but I did manage some humor and I was able to convey a few of the advantages of electric assist bicycles.
The ride went on with bad weather harassing us most of the rest of the trip.  I do remember the last day, the sun came out for a while as Catherine and I powered our way up and out of canyon that took us over the ridge into Sausalito from Stinson Beach.  It was a short day, only 40 miles, so we used lots of battery power to pass most of the riders ahead of us.  There were riders who were stronger than us even though they had no electric assist.  They had very light bikes and very strong lungs and legs.  I was glad to see that pure pedal power in strong hands can top an electric powered system ridden by a couple of aging siblings.
The trip was a personal test of will for many of the riders and a very strong bonding experience for most of us.  Someone mentioned that it was like a forced military march (I wouldn't know) but we did not have the option of bailing out.
Still sunny! Brother Michael on his electrified "Big Dummy" cargo bike.

The three sibs enjoying a dry dinner.

Morning of the Century Ride - Fort Bragg to the Russian River
The group is very active still and informal rides are organized almost every weekend.  Last week we went to a Keystone Pipeline demonstration in San Francisco and ran into 2 other climate riders.  We are a big family, bonded by hardship, laughter, a love of bicycles and the planet.