By Cathalynn Labonte-Smith
This blog will be about a lot of topics that will bleed together sloppily, like cheap carmine lipstick blotted on a paper napkin. Those of you who appreciate pinball machines will follow along happily waiting to see what lights and sounds are triggered as you scroll along. However, those who prefer orderliness and structure may be irritated. There will be some fast-paced action through the trees, slurping of coffee, exploring a china cabinet, sifting through family and personal history, and an ebike.
Coffee of Origin
In our house, the 1970s percolator began its watery burbs and breathing out of rich java breaths just as the sky blinked its rose gold lids towards the rising sun. Dad delivered the first cup of day from the shiny coffeemaker with the faceted glass top to Mom, who was still in bed catching the last seconds of precious sleep. My mom, Cecile, remembers as a child in the Peace River region of Alberta, drinking a splash of coffee with lots of sugar and cream. My grandfather added grounds continually to the coffeepot on their wood-stove until the pot was all grounds.
On their 40 mile drive to the city of Lethbridge, Alberta from our small acreage in Raley, Mom and Dad quaffed another cup to tide them over until they reached the eponymous antique/secondhand store, Trader Vic’s, where they started another pot going. Throughout the day they kept a coffee pot going. Much of their business was done over cups of coffee with their customers at the Lethbridge Hotel coffee shop. They lost count of how much coffee they drank on a typical work day, and they worked six days a week.
Then one day my parents read Food is Your Best Medicine by Dr. Henry G. Biehler (1987) , that said coffee was bad for you. Perhaps, that was the thinking in the 80s. Perhaps, there are some (misguided) people that still believe that, but Dr. Art Hister, a local doctor who appears on television here on Global TV says, “Coffee is a health drink.” Nevertheless, they made the decision to stop drinking coffee cold turkey.
As an adult coffee drinker, I now know how difficult that must have been. I vaguely remember them having withdrawal headaches and being uncomfortable. To go from that much caffeine to 0 must have been hell. Even though I didn’t drink much coffee, except extremely milky sugary coffee on occasion, when the coffee disappeared from our family I missed the intoxicating scent, the rituals surrounding it, and the comforting heat of the cup as I ported full steaming cups to my parents, especially on those frigid prairie days.
I usually drink just one cup of coffee in the morning and not every morning. I tend to be hyper as it is. My spirit animal is the chihuahua. One cup of coffee is enough for me if I’m going to continue to interact with other humans. I tend not to use to transitions or segues, so unless you’re a skilful and patient listener you will be hopelessly lost right after I’ve ramped up on an Americano.
Ecycling to Drink from the Sippy Cup
I’m a bit sad that I can’t “go for coffee” with my non coffee drinking parents, but we have tea together at home. They don’t much go for fancy teas served as a side hustle at coffee chains we all know so well, or locally-owned coffee or tea shops. They like their leaf Jasmine green tea they get in Arizona and it’s super healthy.
The other day in Gibsons one of our writing companions invited us to meet up at the coffee shop that shall remain nameless. This was the perfect opportunity to hop on my new Cannondale hybrid ebike and take the back road away from ferry traffic to the one of two pocket-sized shopping malls in our village.
I’ve had severe inflammatory arthritis for about 10 years and had to give up triathlon among other sports, but when I saw Elizabeth Rains pull up to our writer’s group on her adorable Rad ebike my interest sparked. Could the extra boost of the motor might be what I needed to avoid putting excess stress on my joints needed to negotiate the killer hills of the Sunshine Coast? Also, would it help me keep up with Hubs, who belongs to a mountain bike club and does serious cycling three times a week on trails like Sprockids? We’d just donated our 30 year-old pair of Costco mountain bikes to some teens, so there was room in the garage for a new ebike that I’d actually use.
I checked out Elphie Cycles at their Gibsons location and they carried Cannondale ebikes. Due to Covid there’s a worldwide shortage of bike parts and a dwindling supply of all bikes. However, I was lucky to have the choice from two colours of a Cannondale 2020 Quick Neo 2 SL Remixte: grey or turquoise, that suited my riding needs. Most of my riding will be short distance errands around the village.
Turquoise is my favourite colour, as demonstrated by colour of our front door, so that was a no-brainer. Elphie Cycles got the bike ready for me within an hour, so buying local was a big win. Plus, I know they will provide excellent service based on how well they’ve repaired Hubs’ bikes (a mountain bike, a spare mountain bike when he breaks his main bike, and a road bike that he rarely uses since his encounter with a mama bear and cubs).
The salesperson let me take the ebike on a trial cycle to my house and back. I could feel the motor kick in right away to give me a boost up the first hill. I flew home in about 10 minutes turned around and made it up the hills with no difficulty running through the nine gears easily. The pedal assist button blinks through colours as you ride: white for On, green for Level 1, orange for Level 2, and red for the highest assist, Level 3, for hills. Red drains the battery the fastest.
There’s an app that you can pair the ebike with your Smart phone, indicating your speed, RPM, distance, time cycled, plus a GPS. I got a silicone phone holder for the handle bars from Amazon for $5 that arrived in a couple of days, as well as a massive U-lock. Bike stores are competitive on bike prices, but really mark up those accessories.
The frame is heavy at the back due to the motor and battery, so you need the motor to be on when you’re riding hilly terrain. Especially true for mine, because I added a rack to mount a large market basket I already had on the previous bike to tote groceries and the monster lock (there’s been an outbreak of bike theft in our village). The disproportionate weight on the back makes the front wheel somewhat wobbly, so that’s something to be cautious about when steering.
You get only about 70km/charge in our hill infested area, which is further than I can imagine riding due to the narrowness of much of Highway 101 that runs the length of our coast from Langdale to Earl’s Cove. Far too dangerous with no shoulder available for much of the way. I shiver when I think of mirrors on wide RVs scraping my back as I squeeze to the right of the thinnest strip of barely there asphalt. Also, I’d run out of charge before reaching the end of the 88km journey with no juice to return. However, you can purchase an external battery/charger for the bike if you want to go further.
The external battery/charger made by Orbea adds significant weight (over 1.6 kilos), costs about a third of what the ebike does, and is hard to find in stock online due to its popularity. But if you use it for commuting (if anyone is doing that right now) or long trips it’s pretty handy. It’s the size and shape of a water bottle and mounted in a similar way to your bike with secure locks.
You can remove the battery when you get to your destination and charge it at your desk, if where you park your ebike doesn’t have an outlet to charge it for your return trip. And look at you, as fresh as if you just stepped out of the shower because of pedal assist.
The external battery power is used first before the built-in battery power is drained for the first 2A and then the energy is supplied by the main battery for parallel supply.
As a Prius driver, it annoys me that my ebike doesn’t recharge as I cycle and brake. Instead, if the battery is engaged it’s continually draining. The Prius recharges the electric motor by converting the energy generated by braking into energy available for air conditioning and other functions, but this external ebike battery does just that. When you ride downhill, with no assistance, or over 25km/hour the battery is recharged. I hope in the future this technology will be built into ebikes extending the life of the main battery without the extra weight and cost of an external battery.
If you’ve lost the plot, it’s no wonder with all this digression about batteries, ebikes, and you looking fabulous, healthy, and flushed from your ride minus the sweat, when we were on our way for a socially distanced cup of over-priced mediocre coffee on a patio at a strip mall beside Highway 101.
With the ebike I’m able to keep up with Hubs and admire his bulging calves and rock-hard buttocks as we whirr along the pot-hole scarred road that only locals know about as the shortcut to the ferry lineup. Within 10 minutes, Hubs double locks the bikes, I don my mask, fumble with my phone to log in to my loyalty account where it takes 35 passwords attempts before finally unlocking it to find I still have money in the kitty. Hot chocolate for Hubs and a fruity tea drink filled with ice for me served in a sippy-style cup, as it’s far too late in the day for me to have a big whopping dose of caffeine.
Our friend arrives and we have a lovely catch up and chat about bikes. She’s inspired to get out her rusty bone-shaker for some rides before we lose our beautiful weather, but not to purchase a pricey ebike. Places like London Drugs carry ebikes for around $2000 or lower; however, the downside of entry level bikes is that their batteries will last about a year. I don’t know what your options are once the one-year warranty runs out and your battery dies? If you step up to ebikes in the over $2000 price point with a three-year warranty, you’re going to get a much better quality ebike.
For goodness sakes, don’t buy a bike pre-assembled from the Costco show floor, or anything put together unless you want to reassemble it. Their staff tries hard but bikes are complex and need experienced specialists to put them together properly. Costco prices are low for ebikes, but keep your expectations low as well. Our Costco mountain bikes were indestructible but heavy and uncomfortable, therefore, underused. However, the escooters look like at bargain and I’ve read that they’re excellent.
An Outlander at Inland Lake
One option I hadn’t considered with my cute hybrid ebike was riding on trails, but Hubs knew of a good one for me to trial on during a recent trip to Powell River (PR) that allows Class 1 ebikes (those without throttles). Inland Lake loop trail is a favourite of his for running, but it’s ideal for someone like me who doesn’t want to be injured but wants a car-free option. Mom produced a vintage percolator much like the one from her coffee drinking days and I brought out the mason jar of coffee I brought over of freshly ground beans. Mom still makes a great pot of coffee. Caffeinated up we headed out for my maiden voyage.
True confession, I’ve never tried anything akin to mountain biking, except the Seymour Demonstration Forest road; a paved trail through the woods where you might encounter bear, deer, squirrels and rollerbladers.
The 14km loop trail is just wide enough to ride single file through the woods where you get plenty of glimpses of the lake. We went before 9 am on a weekday and had the entire trail to ourselves. There were lots of bridges and mud puddles to negotiate. I loved the cedar chips. My ebike had no trouble on this gentle rolling forest path.
“I should’ve got the $10,000 mountain ebike from MEC after all. I’m loving this,” I called out to Hubs who was just slightly ahead of me. He mumbled something about not getting myself injured.
“I’m kidding,” I said.
But this zipping through the forest on a bike is seriously addicting; reminiscent of the forest chase scene on one of the Star Wars movies with the Ewoks on flying scooters. I can see why the Hubs loves it so much. I used to hike with him, but was always dragging along far behind, but at least with a motorized boost I can keep up and not hinder him. Plus, safety is a concern as we have to watch out for dogs, hikers and other cyclists on the trail, so it’s an easy-going pace where you can still appreciate your surroundings without worrying about cars and trucks.
Thus ends my multi focused blog. Time to find some coffee in the PR townsite. Thanks for hanging in there for the full ride.