When I realized the gift was for me, I cried.
You never meant to let your bike get dusty, but life happened. You let a week slip by, maybe a winter. You blinked, and bam! You’re feeling too old, fat, and out of shape to dust off those wheels.
Wait, hang on! That’s not what happened at all—that’s not how it went down. I never wanted to quit riding my bike; I never wanted huge gaps of time between my bike rides. I had an injury, one that put me on the sideline for too long, and now the thought of getting up and going again is just hard.
No, that wasn’t me; my story is different.
I haven’t been riding my bike because I’ve been so darn responsible. Before I had kids, I rode my bike all the time. Heck, exercise in general was easier. But now I’ve got several kids, a career, and a commute. I would love more than anything to have the freedom to ride, but the logistics with kids feels undoable, and there’s no way my legs are strong enough today to pull the littles in the child trailers I bought last summer.
No, no, no. You make it sound too simplistic.
I’ve got kids and health issues. My life is way more complicated. Don’t you see?
I have always loved biking. I don’t care if I’m on the road or a backcountry trail. But I had a triple-whammy come my way. In addition to some of the common things my friends above are describing, I also have asthma that is slowly eroding my cardiovascular strength. Asthma is one of those diseases that can be a total mind-#^@%. I spent years thinking, “oh, I just need to try harder.” And when that didn’t work, I spent years going to specialists in hopes of being able to heal my lungs enough to bike up that old hill without feeling like I have sandpaper rubbing the inside of my bronchial tubes.
But I finally had to accept that my efforts haven't yet healed my lungs back to their old self. These days, I can no longer keep up with my friends on the bike. I need to go slower to protect my lungs. I have one loyal friend who is willing to ride with me at my snail’s pace, and I haven’t found “slow” friends to ride with yet. I’m not even sure if they exist.
I never gave up on biking. I never got lazy. Heck, I’m a certified cycle instructor. I have miles of single-track literally out the back door of my home. But those hilly trails I love have slowly grown into impassable mountains to me. Ever so slowly, the trails I love became out of reach for me.
I’ve put on a few pounds. OK let’s get real, I put on 20 pounds. This trajectory is freaking me out.
My body won’t keep up with my spirit.
On a recent business trip, I called my hubby and told him how now, more than ever, I need to not give up on the hills in our neighborhood. I needed to figure out how to both continue to heal my lungs and ride my bike. I need to keep my chin up and bike however I can, even if it meant biking alone for now. I must keep smiling. I said these things knowing full well that realistically, I may never be able to ride those hills again. Ugh.
In comes the surprise.
When I came home from that business trip, I walked into my family room and saw a pedal-assisted* electric bike with a bow on it. A gift for me.
(A pedal-assisted bike has a silent electric motor to help make pedaling easier when you need it.)
It was one of those whirlwind moments when the emotions are all over the board. Sadness, because a pedal-assisted bike meant I had to accept that my hurting lungs need help. No more denial. Excitement, because I now could re-join my friends on bike rides instead of staying home alone. Love, because my hubby came up with this way to support me. Humbled, because I hadn’t thought of it myself. Fear, because not everyone in the biking community is open-minded to bicycles that have a silent electric mini-motor attached.
Hold on. Pause.
To my biker friends who are self-professed “real“ bikers: If you’ve got your panties all in a bunch now because your mind has wandered to the technicalities around pros and cons of pedal-assisted versus leg-powered bikes, maintenance costs, and how to legislate it all, and if you’re finding your head spinning around whether or not pedal-assisted bikes should be allowed in events or in clubs, yada, yada, yada, just stop. Please, just stop it right now. I hear you. You’re missing the whole point. Hang with me and hear the heart of how this technology enables the health of people not as fortunate as you.
Back to the story.
I took all of those emotions, threw on my winter bike riding gear, and headed out the door. For the first time in years, I felt the freedom and joy of biking hills without an asthma attack leaving my chest in pain for days. I wasn’t getting light-headed from a lack of oxygen, I wasn’t the slow-poke holding everyone back, and I was getting a great workout.
It wasn’t about the bike. It was about the freedom.
The freedom to get outside at a pace that is healthy for me, right now, today. The freedom to re-grow my physical strength in a way that brings me joy.
For this, I am more grateful than you know.
If you relate—if you miss your dusty old bike and long for the days for freedom on the trails—then this might be exactly the micro-solution that enables you to take your next step back to an active lifestyle.
About this article.
This is a mash-up of stories from several clients and friends, along with pieces of my own story threaded through. My hope is that it inspires you to look at your lifelong journey as a biker in a new light and challenges your opinions regarding pedal-assisted bicycles. I hope that if you are a struggling biker, you can also feel empowered to power-assist your journey back to health. *
*Disclaimer: There are a myriad of electric and pedal-assisted bikes on the market, and I endorse none of them in this article. Be sure to do your own solid research on bikes and find the bike that is right for you.
Live a life you love,
Your bad couch guru