Getting an Electric Bike Is an Uphill Battle

Ah, the joy of riding a bike, except when hills come in to play.

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Not long ago, I was reading an article about bicycling in which a non‑cyclist commented to the author how well-suited the roads in their area were for cycling, pointing out that they were nice and level. The cyclist said that when one is cycling, there is no such thing as a level road. Since then, I’ve been looking more closely at roads, and the author is right: There isn’t a level road to be found. At least not where I live.

Growing up, I lived on my bicycle, then at the age of 16 discovered the motorcycle and never looked back. There are times I miss bicycling, the quiet of it, and the pace, just fast enough to feel progress is being made, though slow enough to watch the scenery unfold. The downside, of course, is the hills, more specifically the three of them between our house and town that guarantee I will reach my destination weary and sweaty. Now science and capitalism have leveled the high places with the electric bicycle, one of which I will obtain just as soon as I convince my wife that Jesus wants me to have one. Jesus often sides with me in these matters, and still my wife resists.

To be fair, her concerns aren’t theological, but practical. She has rightly discerned that having filled my half of the garage with motorcycles and power tools, my electric bicycle would occupy the space currently inhabited by her car, and this is her line in the sand. She recklessly suggested I sell a motorcycle to make room for a new bicycle, as if that were a reasonable option. What’s next, I asked her, the sale of my antique chair collection? The disbursement of my six motorcycle jackets and five helmets? The giving away of my grandfather’s table saw, drill press, and band saw? I love my wife, but sometimes I fear she has lost her mind.

“You have three perfectly good bicycles you never ride,” she pointed out when I first mentioned buying an electric bicycle.

“I’ll give them away. Then instead of having three bicycles, I’ll only have one,” I said, appealing to her Quaker affinity for simplicity.

“I have a better idea,” she said. “Give away the three bicycles you don’t use, and don’t buy another one. Maybe then you’ll walk into town and lose a little weight.”

When we married 39 years ago, I weighed 119 and now I weigh 153. My wife weighed 143 and now tips the scales at 130, which means I’ve put on 34 pounds while she’s lost 13, something she mentions each night when we look at our phones to see how far we’ve walked. She’s good for 12,000 steps a day while I rack up a thousand or so. Last winter, there was one day I only walked 185 steps and I wasn’t even sick, just lazy. I spent 15 hours on the couch binge-watching YouTube clips. It was the best day ever, and now I’m proud to say I’ve seen every episode of The Beverly Hillbillies.

One thing about me: I don’t give up easily once I’ve decided to buy something. It turns out people who own electric bicycles get more exercise than people who don’t. They ride more often, and much farther, undeterred by hills. Because they’re pedaling at a steady, consistent rate for longer distances, the aerobic benefits are significant. How can my wife dispute that?

It just occurred to me I’ve told the entire country how much my wife weighs. If I disappear and she tells you I wrecked and died on an electric bike, don’t believe her.

Philip Gulley is a Quaker pastor and author of 22 books, including the Harmony and Hope series, featuring Sam Gardner.

This article is featured in the July/August 2022 issue of The Saturday Evening PostSubscribe to the magazine for more art, inspiring stories, fiction, humor, and features from our archives.

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  1. Oh, so funny! Lightheartedly earnest, self deprecating, bolstered by solid arguments in favor of acquiring an electric bike. You might consider using the argument that one’s knees, having taken a beating over a lifetime, could benefit from the bike’s main feature, that of easing the burden of constant pedaling by switching to the booster, thereby allowing you to still get out and about, soak up Vitamin D, run errands into town, meander down the roads less taken…

  2. I want you to pursue getting that electric bicycle. It won’t take up that much room. Have your wife try it when you do, and hopefully she’ll come around. You need her on your side for this. It IS an electric after all.


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