Are e-bikes the key to conquering the hills of Bowen?

Bowen's hills can get the best of even the most dedicated bike rider so how can one get back in the saddle? Rob Wynen has some thoughts

Cycling has always been a big part of my life. I remember traveling on the back of a bike in the Netherlands at a very young age. It was how most of us got to school as cars were not still aren’t a primary mode of transportation in many European countries. I continued cycling after moving to Canada in ’79, riding to school, road racing and right up to the age of 45 it was my sole mode of transportation other than my feet. Moving to Bowen unfortunately changed much of that. No transit on the north end of the island, a long gravel driveway that was horrible to cycle on using a road bike, a long commute to work at Lonsdale and 23rd plus the hilly topography of the island all lead to my bike collecting dust in our barn.

The bike was replaced with a motorbike, my blood pressure jumped up significantly and I put on a bit of extra weight, not great for one who works in the health profession. With the bike commute gone, I knew I had to start focusing on keeping fit. What was so amazing about the change was how fast it happened. After decades of cycling on a daily basis, I just stopped. I had thought the habit would have been tough to break but unfortunately it wasn’t. So this winter I bought a new bike. It is considered a gravel bike, in short, a road bike with lower gearing, wider tires and a bit more of a comfortable fit. It has gotten me out more and back into a healthier pattern. I even started occasionally commuting to work but it is a workout. 

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On my last bike ride back home I ran into Jan waiting at the ferry. She was sporting a brand new bike as well, but an electric one. Jan had just ridden it in from Yaletown, right from the shop, impressive as she is in her late 60s and wasn’t in full on lycra gear. Two weeks later my wife got a visit from Maria, it was another electric bike, she had just ridden it across Seven Hills all the way to our place on the north end of Killarney Lake. My colleague David Hocking is also sporting a new electric bike. While I am loving my new bike I wonder if an electric bike is next on the horizon. 

I have yet to try one but the feedback from those who ride them is very positive. For many on island it is a game changer with our topography. One rider recently commented that it basically takes out all the hills, probably the major factor stopping many from cycling on island, the lack of good facilities a close second factor when I ask people why they stopped cycling after moving to Bowen. 

The trend toward electric bikes I think is here to stay especially considering the improved technology now widely available; it is exciting to see this change in transportation coming to our island. A cyclist friend of mine recently commented that on a trip to Europe he visited a hilly town and noticed that electric bikes outnumbered push pedal bikes without assist at a ratio of seven to one. This would have been unheard of even two years ago. Even die hard roadies are beginning to take a second look at electric bikes. Many are buying an electric bike as their second bike, the “I’m feeling a bit lazy today” bike. 

I’ll wait a bit on that before I raise the prospect of another bike purchase with my wife.

So here is hoping I stick with my return to an old habit. I’ll hopefully use the motorbike a bit less, work on getting back in a bit better shape and maybe even pull on some of that old lycra I have laying around (that may take a bit more time though).

For those considering an electric bike, I heard that at this year’s BOWFEST there will be a display of electric bikes and an opportunity to give them a try. The municipality will also be installing electric bike charging stations in the new bike barn, I suspect it will keep the barn nice and full. With construction soon to begin on the first phase of the across island path we will also see some significant infrastructure improvements which should get many more of us out on the road. 

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