My New E-bike Battles My Inner Cynic

After much debate, I decided to buy an electric bike. The source of the debate is that I’ve never been a bike person. So my Inner Cynic said “Who are you kidding? You’ve never been a bike person. You’re going to spend all this money on a bike and then never use it.” My Inner Cynic talks a LOT. Mostly like this. But my Inner Optimist said “You know better. You’ve been reading loads of upbeat articles about e-bikes. With the right bike, everyone is a bike person.” I almost referred to my Inner Optimist as my Inner Sucker. But that’s just my Inner Cynic talking. I wish that guy would just chill sometimes. He can really kill the mood in the old noggin party.

So anyway, I dropped some cash and took delivery of a VanMoof S3. And I’m happy to report that the early verdict is that it is indeed awesome. Here it is posing by the Charles River in Watertown. Today was a splendid afternoon for a ride.

What’s most on my mind as I get used to my new bike is the difference between me and proper bike people. You know: “real” cyclists. Am I faking something, or am I really riding? But beyond this, why is this even a question? Why do I spend any time thinking about this? It seems to be largely about cultural judgment and virtue signaling.

Once again, here’s the cynical view: “Real cyclists don’t need batteries to help them go up hills. They have actual muscles. You could too if you had any self respect. Fake cyclists are plump waddly creatures who don’t look good in spandex, but nevertheless want to pose on bikes for social credit. It’s sad. If you can’t pull your own weight, soft boy, just stay home!”

Does that sound about right? Where does this inner voice of ridicule come from? Why is score-keeping and virtue-signaling so important to us? We just love judgment.

A more generous view of things goes like this: “If you find a bike you like, it doesn’t matter if it has electric assist. Because you enjoy it, you will actually use it and thereby get all the benefits of bike riding: better fitness, better mood. It doesn’t matter if you’re not training for a criterium. You’re enjoying yourself, and that’s good enough. Full stop. If Mr. Inner Cynic can’t handle that, then he can lump it.”

When I get past all the head games, I find this bike is just a delightful way to get around. It removes almost all the hassle I formerly associated with cycling and gets me out on the road where I can enjoy myself.

Here’s a fun Bloomberg article about e-bikes in New York City. It’s one of the upbeat articles I was referring to above. And I believe the premise: e-bikes are winning over a whole new group of Americans (people like me!), and those people (us!) will increase the political capital and willpower to improve cycling infrastructure. Cynical translation: real cyclists will benefit from the soft-boy vote. Or as the article’s title puts it, “The E-Bike Effect Is Transforming New York City.” It won’t be rapid, but there is an inflection point, once you bring enough people into the tent, where improving things gets easier and easier.

Verdict: Inner Optimist wins this round.

Oh for God’s sake, stop sulking, Inner Cynic! You almost always win.

3 thoughts on “My New E-bike Battles My Inner Cynic”

  1. The way that I silenced my inner cynic was by reminding myself that my (absolutely beloved) e-bike—the RadWagon cargo bike that fits both the kiddos on the back—doesn’t replace a bike, but rather a car. In the six months I’ve had it, I’ve ridden 750 miles—all of them within the same 5-mile radius, all of them miles I would have driven, all of them completed with the goofiest grin on my face because it’s just so much fun.

    Happy trails from Greensboro !

  2. Good point! I recently biked over to pick up burritos at our local Mexican place. That’s something that I had only ever done in my car before.

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