The electric bicycle acid test
May 7, 2018 § 17 Comments
It had to happen.
I stomped hard at the beginning of the Donut Ride on Saturday coming out of Malaga Cove Plaza, and they let me go. At the top I glanced back and there was no one, which kind of sucked. I had fallen into the overtrained-tired hole, and didn’t have the legs to stay out there by myself for very long, but with a gap this big I’d be alone until Hawthorne unless one or two riders bridged up.
I hunched down a little more and kept the gear rolling.
As I whipped down Paseo del Mar I saw a shadow on my right and a shadow on my left, and knew that these would be my breakaway companions for a couple of more miles until we got caught. After having done this ride a million times, there are only a couple of variations, and this was one of them.
Then I heard the noise of many bikes and glanced back. The entire peloton was there, and the rider whose shadow I’d seen in front was a guy who, as far as I know, has never chased down anything. He had brought me back instantaneously and wasn’t even breathing hard. I sat up confused, but glad that I could soft pedal and wait for the right moment to pull the plug and go home.
Meet the new boss
The PV Estates police, with their new lease on life, have been staffing every stop sign along the Donut route every Saturday, and they were out in force again. The group mostly put a foot down, got through, and started rolling again.
That’s when I noticed.
The dude who had brought me back was up at the front again, and he had a happy grin on his face, the grin of someone who was about to do some damage. I know that look. But what I didn’t know, and couldn’t believe even though I was staring right at it, was that he had shown up on the Donut and led the charge on an electric bike, or, as I like to call them, electric motorcycles with goofy footpegs.
So I said a few things to him, among which were phrases like, “Excuse me good sir but would you please be so kind as to remove yourself to the rear of the peloton?” and “Are you aware, good sir, that riding an electric motorcycle at the front of a group ride like this is ungentlemanly?”
To make sure he understood, some other vocabulary was also used, including references to various acts of reproduction, as well as references to individuals who do not play by the rules and the various parts of their anatomy in which their electric motorcycles should be stored.
To make extra sure, I said all of this several times in a rather loud voice. The dude slunk to the back, and even though I quit soon after to help mediate for a couple of riders who had been stopped by the cops, he apparently got the message and didn’t do any more chasing at the front.
Build it, and they will cheat
I continued on after the police dragnet and passed a friend going up the Switchbacks. “How’s it going, Mike?” I asked as I rode by.
“I may be last but at least I’m not riding an electric bike,” he said.
At the college several other riders expressed their contempt for the electric biker.
“He’s a good guy,” I said. “He’s been doing this ride for years.”
“Fuck that,” said one rider. “This has nothing to do with good guy/bad guy. That was a total douche move. He flipped the switch going up that hill and dragged the whole peloton up to you.”
“I was going to quit anyway.”
“Fuck that,” said another. “He’s giving everyone else the message: E-bikes are not only welcome on the Donut, they’re welcome to chase breaks. Why don’t we all just show up on motorcycles?”
When I got home, the dude had written me a very apologetic text message, promising to never do it again. And while I believe him, his rationale for doing it in the first place will likely occur to others.
- I want to give my friends a draft.
- I want to run interference to alert the riders about the cops.
- I want to carry snacks to hungry riders so they can eat if they get hungry.
Number one? Yeah, buddy, don’t we all? Problem is, to do it you have to have the legs, and once you do it, you’re done.
Number two? Please. We still got pulled over.
Number three? You’re kidding me. What’s next? Bringing a stash of clean diapers?
The real problem with cheating
When you bring an electric motorcycle with goofy footpegs to the Donut Ride, it’s my opinion that you are cheating. Why do I consider it cheating? Because you are using an electric motor to pedal your bike while everyone else is using their legs, and as the steam drill showed John Henry, the machine is stronger than the man.
The problem with cheating is that it is unfair. But that’s not the only problem. Once you cheat, other people will imitate you, and they will cheat, too. Soon, it won’t be cheating anymore, it will be the new rule. And in one fell stroke you will have killed a ride that has been around for more than forty years. How many of the people who were there on Saturday will show up when it’s a pack of e-bikes?
What’s so brazenly bad about this is that you, dude, have enjoyed this ride for at least two decades, being the beneficiary of participating in what is surely one of the best hard group rides in the country. And now, because you’re older and your nutsack is droopy, instead of bowing to physics and physiology like thousands have done before you, you are bringing a motorized cycle to a bike ride, and what’s more, using it to kick everyone’s ass.
If you doubt that cheating changes the rules, look at the President. By lying multiple times every single day about every matter big and small, people have gotten used to lying. And once they get accustomed to lying, they stop insisting on facts, because the liar is never held to account. And once they stop insisting on facts, it becomes a contest of who can lie the biggest, the boldest, the most outrageously. After the shouting contest? Of course, disagreements are settled with fists, because without facts it becomes the rule of might makes right. Do away with laws, and you’re left with the law of the jungle.
Which is what will happen on the Donut, and every ride like it where electric motorcycles with goofy footpegs are allowed to drive the front, chase the break, and lead the charge up the climb. You’ll win, all right. But when you get to the top to celebrate your awesome purchasing skills, you won’t find that special thing inside you, the residue of having given it your all called satisfaction. You’ll find something entirely different.
You’ll find that you’re empty, and that you’re all alone.
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