You don't need me to tell you that 2020 has been a shit year. Most say it's “strange” - but that's an understatement, and a deflection of the way the world has changed. Few realise the true impact that this significant event will have on all our lives in the future, and that they too will be directly affected by this sudden, unexpected development.
Yes, E-bikes have gone mainstream.
If you'd told me at midnight on December 31st 2019 that I'd be evangelising pedal-assistance for mountain biking, I'd have rightly claimed you were drunk and somehow dizzied by the euphoria and expectations of a bright new year. Well, that all got turned on its head around the middle of the year, when everyone cottoned on that riding bikes was a good way to pass the time. Suddenly, we had a lot more of it on our hands due to the other big event of the year: the death of Sean Connery. The weeks of stay-at-home mourning for the great actor and inspiration to bald men worldwide, opened up a chance to look deeper into our souls and ask: “do I want to ride more?” The collective answer was a resounding ‘yes’.
Apart from Bond dying and electrification of the world in full swing, ‘20 was shit because I spent most of the early part of the year with only nine functioning fingers - one too few for any kind of off-road bicycle action, which had caused the injury in the first place. Forbidden under the Connery lockdown anyway, it wasn't too much of a problem and the now-compulsory, solitary confinement Zwift seminars became a tolerated form of simulated exercise - without all the distractions of 'fun' and 'fresh air' and unneeded peripherals like 'dirt', 'rocks' and 'trees'.
Eventually, we were released back into the wild, Bond was burnt to a crisp and we all got on with our lives, albeit now always carrying that dreaded number with us everywhere: 007. Everyone was thinking the same thing; “gotta get an e-bike”. But, as with all great crises, supply was outstripped by demand and the masses started to gather in larger groups at the local dispensaries, fighting over any remaining stock and trying to get as high up on the lists for the new drug as soon as it was released. The people needed E and, like street junkies, they were prepared to do anything for a fix. I had to use my insider trading knowledge to get ahead of the pack and secure my own hit first, even if there was unsurety as to whether I actually needed it or how it would be of any benefit to my life. Fuck it - what harm can throwing oneself into the deep end of a black, deep, murky pool while hooked up to mains power actually do? The results would be shocking, but not totally unexpected.
“E-bikes are for the lazy!” … “They'll make you fat and unfit!” … “It's cheating!” … These were all warnings that were heeded then dismissed like a true junkie. “This smack has battery acid in it? Meh, can only give it more kick, right?” These doomsayers were no doubt uninformed, biased and had no actual experience in the real world. I'd dabbled in small doses, and have never been afraid to get in at the pointy end when others would take a wait and see approach, looking for safety in numbers and a degree of 'everyone else is doing it now, so I will too' safety-net thinking. I was ready for the backlash and public shaming, but it never really amounted to any level that would cause banishment from society. Maybe I was onto something?
When a commodity is in high demand and short supply, the truly addicted will do whatever it takes to acquire it at any cost. I was prepared to pay more than I ever had for my addiction, and even look beyond my regular dealers. After a lean year when other substances from the same cycling family took over, I wondered if this was really still a habit I wanted to feed. I'd grown tired and bored of the slog uphill for a run back down, and even that aspect didn't deliver the same euphoria as it once did. I was fat, lazy and drunk - the perfect criteria for buying an e-bike, surely. It was time to reopen the gateway that mountain biking offered so long ago, and let in a new beast altogether.
For a so-called drug of choice, the options were more than a little limited with the uptake of new users. My research led me to a list of requirements that were met by the Scott Genius E-Ride. I'd ridden a mate's bike and wanted the Bosch motor and bigger 625wh battery. I couldn't get the first hit quick enough but, like an overeager kid in a candy store, I managed to put myself out of action for another week while heaving the beast into a work stand. Remember kids, some drugs are heavier than others so proceed with caution. Finally, garnished to my liking, we hit the trails.
Spoiler alert: I enjoyed it. I really liked it. I fucking loved it. Being fat, lazy and drunk doesn’t help - but it also wasn't a hindrance either. I finished that ride spent, if not more than I would've been on an old-fashioned bike. I'd ridden further, faster, and had a hell of a good time. Sorry. Sure, I couldn't walk comfortably the next day, but I couldn't wait to do it again. As with any drug, the long-term effects are the most important, but for now the short-term ones are hitting the spot. Whether the good times endure, or there's a massive comedown, will surely be determined in the honeymoon period between now and the next issue.
Words: Brett Kennedy
Images: Fin Lloyd