During my trip to Paris I did something I have never done before – I took a paid bike tour. It was just a few hours and was focused just on sites within the city. This was a double first in that I also had never ridden an electric bike before. Here was the standard issue bike.
The company had a fleet of them in an underground parking garage.
The controls were straightforward and operating the bike was easy. There was a key that needed to be inserted into the battery unit and after turning it on a battery indicator on the handlebars let you know how much juice you had. The bike had three modes – manual, low speed, and high speed. The mode is selected with a simple thumb lever.
I have always looked upon e-bikes with a bit of disdain, and after my experience my opinion has not changed much. My feeling has always been that people act differently when not actively engaged in powering the bike. There is this one e-bike idiot I encounter quite frequently on a bike path I ride on who is never pedaling and chooses the fastest speed possible and swerves dangerously between pedestrians and other cyclists. I could say the same of several other riders on race bikes or even fixies who ride as if slowing down would cause their world to collapse, but there is something about seeing someone whiz by without pedaling that bothers me.
While on my tour I did a bit of whizzing along myself and it definitely made the ride feel different. I don’t want to get all existential and say that pedaling makes me one with my bike, however when my legs are powering me I feel more aware. I can understand why an e-bike would appeal to some, but at present they hold no appeal for me.
The one other thing I will comment on is that the tour did not require, encourage, or even have helmets. I wear a helmet every time I ride because I think it is better to be safe than sorry, however spending time in Europe and seeing relatively few cyclists wearing helmets and not wearing one myself on the tour made me feel . . . jealous.