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What I learned along the way

Words by Jenny Hadfield

Jenny Hadfield is a best-selling author, speaker, coach, and health and fitness expert. She has competed in running and adventure races around the world, including the Antarctica Marathon, Inca Trail Marathon and Mark Burnett’s Eco-Challenge Expedition Race. In a career spanning more than 20 years in coaching and writing, Jenny has influenced thousands of runners, walkers and fitness enthusiasts.

The first time I saw an e-bike, I wasn’t impressed. I was being passed on a gravel ride, and the word 'cheat' came to mind. After the ride, I connected with the e-bike rider. He shared his tales of exploring the Rocky Mountains and riding 50-mile routes to places he would have never been able to reach without the extra assistance. His adventure changed my thought process, and I left the conversation with a newly found inspiration to give an e-bike a try. I challenged myself to ride an e-bike for a month in lieu of driving my car to see if I could save money on fuel, use a different mode to run errands and increase my non-exercise activity.

It's not cheating

When I rode Trek’s Super Commuter+ 8S, I immediately felt the smooth pedal-assist and respected the fact that if I wanted to move forwards, I had to pedal. I also loved the flexibility of having a range of assistance from a little assistance in eco mode, to lots of assistance in turbo mode.

My first ride on the e-bike was in the Un-El Tour Ride, a fun ride around central Tucson, Arizona, exploring the famous street art. I had ridden the Tour de Tucson hard the day before, and the casual nature of this ride was the perfect environment for a test. I not only covered the 10 miles to the start of the ride at an average of 22 mph, I enjoyed using the pedal-assist to get in a light ride to warm up and shake out my tired legs after the previous day’s race. I turned off the assist for the Arts Ride and then used turbo again on the way home. Cheating it is not. It is another opportunity to play outside

I drove less, explored more and found a whole new rhythm

Though I did drive a few times during that first month, I found that I consistently chose the e-bike over my car. The e-bike was an easy replacement for trips I used to drive. For instance, I regularly rode to the trail head to warm up before trail hikes. As the month went on, I found myself getting into a new rhythm with the e-bike, where I was in tune with my surroundings, my body and my mission for the ride.

I shopped more regularly and saved money

I normally shop for groceries once a week and get everything we need in a single trip. Because I was riding to the supermarket now, I found I had enough room in the bike’s panniers for about two bags of groceries, so I had to choose wisely. Rather than toss things mindlessly into my shopping basket, I walked round the shop planning meals for a few days, which evolved into buying more veggies, fruit and proteins, because that was on top of the list. The result was a lot less wasted food in our cupboard and monthly savings of around $78.

I moved more

I’ve always been active, but my career path has recently more dedicated to tasks that require more sitting, like writing and creating. I have a daily goal to improve my NEAT factor (non-exercise activity thermogenesis), the energy expended for everything we do that is not sleeping, eating or sports-like exercise.

I achieved this goal daily by riding the e-bike to run errands. I rode to meetings. I rode to collect our post and to send parcels. I rode to the café to write and then began exploring all the other shops in town. After a month on an e-bike, my daily NEAT factor got a boost and I felt fewer aches and pains because I was sitting less and moving more.

Movement makes us better. On my e-bike, I fell into a more active routine that called for bike locks over car keys, and it inspired me to choose veggies and fruit over a big bag of tortilla chips. Plus, it was a heck of a lot of fun, and it’s all thanks to a friendly e-bike rider who cruised by me on a gravel ride, then shared his story and encouraged me to try an e-bike before passing judgement. I’m sure glad he did.

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