The View from a Bike is Worth a Thousand Miles

I’ve nearly done it – another 1,000-mile season on my electric bike.

That’s a lot of miles to some people. It’s certainly enough for me, considering our biking season is probably six or seven months at best and then only if you’re willing to ride in a snowmobile suit at times. But there are all sorts of bike riders out there, including those who ride year-round, even in snow, with bikes and tires designed for it.

Some ride thousands of miles each year to stay in shape and for the bragging rights. Others just hope their bikes’ cracked tires survive another season so they can accomplish a ride or two and then claim that they’re definitely bicyclists.

Yes, I know. I’ve written about my e-bike before. I never intended to set any mileage goals when I retired and bought my bike. But it turned out that way because it’s been so enjoyable. Isn’t a major goal of retirement to feel like you’re a ten-year-old again? I’ve now ridden 1,000 miles each of the four years I’ve had it. That’s even more miles than I rode when I was a real ten-year-old.

And it’s gotten even more fun. On a backtracking ride home due to a sudden outburst, I met a man who directed me to a much better route which included permission to ride through his yard anytime. Bonus!

E-bikes Have Class

Now, I’ll quickly own up to the fact that an e-bike provides clear advantages. Mine is a Class 1 pedal-assist bike. You go nowhere unless you pedal. The assist just makes pedaling easier. It’s easier in the sense that you get more confident tackling the challenging streets of Red Wing and you dare to ride faster and farther.

My brother Dave bought a Class 2 electric bike this summer. It can be used like my bike in pedal assist mode. But a key difference is that his bike also has a throttle that allows you to ride up to 28 mph without pedaling. I tried it once and it was like riding a motorcycle. Cool, except that I’d use the throttle all the time. It’s too convenient. Maybe in a few years. Unfortunately for Dave, his unlocked bike was stolen from the bike rack on the back of his car while in Hastings. It was found in Bloomington – after he bought another one.

You’d think that my 1,000 miles would include riding on trails all over the area. But that’s not the case with me. I buy a pass for the Cannon Valley Trail each year but rarely ride it. It’s too much of a commitment to ride even to Welch and back if I’m alone. I don’t mind riding with someone else but I usually ride alone so I can take a ride at the spur of the moment and not need to coordinate with others.

I sometimes ride the Hay Creek Trail. It’s much shorter and when I do ride it with others, we usually have a bite to eat at the Hay Creek Campground restaurant.

Keeping the Rides Close to Home

The majority of my riding is on the streets of Red Wing where most bicyclists would not ride because of all the traffic and intersections. But I ride in town for many reasons. I’m always close to home (and the bike shop) if it has a problem like a flat tire. The chain has come off a number of times and while I can get it back on, my hands get full of chain grease. I carry tools and paper towels to wipe my hands off. I think I need to carry some disposable gloves, too.

Riding around town is no fun if you don’t feel safe. One safety accessory I added to the bike is rechargeable wireless turn signals. They are a great addition to the bike’s own LED headlight and taillight that run off the bike’s battery. They help allay the distrust car drivers have for bicyclists.

I mostly avoid the main downtown area because you can’t ride on the sidewalks and riding on a street full of angle-parked cars backing out (from either side) requires too much attention and detracts from enjoying the ride. So, I mostly ride on the south and east ends of town.

The things I see are always interesting and sometimes surprising. It’s fall now so some people are moving before winter sets in. And some of them are generously offering free furniture on their boulevards. This time of year you can also see that boats and campers are gradually disappearing across from town on the Wisconsin side of the river. The pedestrian-accessible view upriver from the new high bridge is spectacular, especially as the leaves change color. 

There are a lot of dead and dying trees everywhere, it seems. Disease and drought have been brutal to them. Many large pine trees have dried up into skeletal branches that look petrified. On the other hand, the flowering crab trees along East Seventh Street are beautiful when in bloom. It’s just too bad that the project to resurface the last half of that street is delayed for another year.

E-biking is fun. I wouldn’t get to 1,000 miles in five years on a non-electric bike. I would become the guy with the cracked tires.