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Crap, My Analog Bike Feels Antiquated

And maybe, just maybe, the entire world won’t come crashing down

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It happened suddenly. I didn’t plan on it, didn’t see it coming, and definitely didn’t want to wind up feeling this way. But you can’t always choose who you love, can you?

I was out for a ride early one morning about a month ago. The sun was still low in the sky, casting morning light across the dewy meadow I was riding through. A little bobcat crouched down in the grass, watching anxiously as I passed by. It was one of those magical mornings where I knew I was exactly where I was supposed to be.

As the grade steepened and I settled into the hour-long climb ahead of me, the thought just hit me: “Wait, what the hell am I doing?”

“I’d be having way more fun on an e-bike,” my brain told me.

It wasn’t always like this. I’ve always considered e-biking to be a different enough sport that it occupied a whole other slot in my brain. Riding e-bikes didn’t affect my love or desire to ride normal bikes or vice versa. And then just like that, they merged—and apparently the e-bike won.

I unintentionally started equating riding this analog bike—a 140mm-travel, carbon, full-suspension, 12-speed marvel of technology and engineering—to singlespeeding and telemark skiing, two activities that it seems like people do just to achieve that extra level of masochism. That’s never really been me. I like suffering as much as the next rider, but that’s not the only reason I ride. It’s not where my identity lies as a rider. I’m just here to have fun and explore the mountains.

That’s what mountain biking has always been about for me. There has never been a fitness element to my motivation to ride. Getting fit has always been a side effect of mountain biking, not the goal. And as far as suffering is concerned, e-biking hasn’t removed that element. I still punish myself plenty.

But e-bikes are simply more fun more of the time. I can climb steeper hills, ride terrain that would ordinarily be inaccessible, cover more terrain in a shorter period of time, and have the power to control when and where I want to go hard. I can control my suffering more, and have a bigger smile on my face when doing so.

Haters can hate. I’m having more fun than them. (Photo: Anthony Smith)

On every e-bike ride I do, I wind up going totally anaerobic just like I do on a normal bike. But there’s a big difference: When I’m going as hard as I can up a steep climb on a normal bike, I look down, watch the ground creeping by, realize that a fast trail runner could scoot right past me, and feel demoralized. When I do the same thing on e-bike, I’m hauling ass, my endorphins are going crazy and even though I’m suffering, I’m much happier about it.

When I was more fit, my body gave me that feeling. I could stand up, accelerate, and crush climbs with a smile on my face. But I’m not that fit anymore, and I’m fine with it. I have other interests these days, and I simply don’t want to spend all my free time riding bikes or working out.

And even if I were still super strong, the e-bike would still make me faster. It would still allow me to ride more difficult terrain. It’d still get my endorphins pumping more. It would still be the key to maximizing fun.

I’ve been mountain biking for 30 years. I no longer have an ego attached to how I suffer, or explore, or enjoy the experience of riding. I’m not concerned about proving anything or getting to the top of the climb in a way that’s more legit in anyone else’s eyes. I don’t give a shit if someone thinks I’m cheating, because there’s no such thing as cheating fun. Go ahead and hate me, I’m just out here doing what makes me happy.

This shift would not have been possible without one key factor that has nothing to do with the ability to climb faster or cover more distance. The main underlying reason I can have more fun on an e-bike is because they’re good enough now to descend as well as the best analog bikes. This is obviously a huge factor because for me, and for most mountain bikers, it’s all about the descents. Getting to the top faster would not matter one iota if going back down sucked. And for me, it really, really, doesn’t suck on an e-bike. They’re heavier and take getting used to, but my favorite ebikes don’t slow me down in any way on the descents. Many times, I’m actually faster and more confident on an e-bike because they’re more stable. So nowadays, there’s not a part of any ride that’s less fun on an e-bike.

I still had an amazing, fulfilling ride that morning. I settled into my climb and made my way up the canyon to the top of the ridge. I soaked in the view, felt grateful for being out there, and dropped into a ripping descent. It was a great ride. But I just got this strange feeling that I was missing out on more fun.

When the feeling hit me, I was unsettled by it, I hated myself a little bit for giving in. I questioned my identity as a rider, and felt less pure or something. But if the idea is to maximize fun, I might just have to admit that the e-bike is the purest way to accomplish it.