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This post is all about how great it feels to commute to work on my BionX electric bike!
What’s so wonderful about cars, anyway?
The other day it was raining heavily (in Vancouver, imagine that), and I happened to have my wife’s Mustang at work (instead of the bike I usually commute with every day). “Aren’t you happy you don’t have to bike home today?” asked one of my colleagues brightly. I replied with a non-committal grunt. But I almost believed her. After all, don’t we all assume that cars are faster and easier than bikes?
Until I drove home, that is. Sitting in the parking lot that is ironically referred to as the Lougheed “Highway,” I found myself wondering, once again, WHY people profess to love the “freedom” of cars.
Finally I arrived home, late, and more stressed and tightly wound than when I left work. This horrible experience caused me to wonder how truly awful people must think cycle commuting is, if they seriously believe being trapped in a stationary tin can is better.
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A typical commute to work on my BionX PL-350 bike
I have a couple of bikes that don’t have a BionX assist, but I use my BionX PL-350 bike to get to work for two reasons:
- I have to travel from Burnaby North, over the Metrotown hill, and right down the precipitous decline to the mighty Fraser River. And then coming home I do it in reverse, which is even worse. It’s almost 4 km of continuous uphill.
- I don’t want to arrive at work sweating like a race horse, and the BionX PL 350 helps me enough that I don’t have to. I do still get plenty of exercise, though.
So at six in the morning, I set out. I zoom off, using the throttle on my BionX PL-350 and one strong kick off from my leg to make a snappy start. At first it’s bracingly chilly because it’s all downhill, but soon the route is uphill, and I start to warm up and really settle into enjoying the exhilaration of watching my legs hammering away at the pedals, and feeling the blood starting to pump through my veins.
I reach Lougheed Highway and the thunder of motorized traffic, but I don’t really care, as it’s exhilarating to race along the broad shoulder as fast as I can. I race to keep up with cars – which might be impossible as I can only get up to about 35 km an hour – but is actually often quite possible, even this early, as the traffic lights in Burnaby are notoriously uncoordinated, so I catch up to the cars at every light. (I have a theory that teams of engineers spend endless hours figuring out how to make sure that no one can ever catch two green lights in a row. I lived in Burnaby and only once in six years caught two green lights in a row. I was so excited that I stopped to pick up champagne – then realized I had totally cancelled out the time savings from the two green lights. Damn.)
Ahead of me I see another cyclist. I expect to catch him easily, but to my surprise, I don’t. It’s slightly downhill now, and I guess he must be doing around 45 km an hour on his racing bike. Good for him … he must be quite an athlete. I pedal along unconcerned doing around 35, confident that I will overtake him as soon as we get to an uphill. (Not that I’m competitive or anything.) Of course it’s not really fair, as I have such a powerful assist. But it’s fun anyway, especially as I’m the wrong side of 50, and most of the guys I pass are a whole lot younger.
I pull abreast of the super athlete cyclist at Lougheed and Gilmore, where we are both turning onto Gilmore. I am already full of happy endorphins, so I give him a cheerful “Good morning!” I can tell he is equally pumped after his downhill sprint, and he gives me a cheerful “Good morning, how are you?” I tell him I’m great, because I am … it’s 6.15 in the morning, and already I feel totally ALIVE.
Of course once we pull off and head along the flat part of Gilmore, and then the uphill, I leave the super athlete in my dust … you’d have to be Lance on steroids (imagine that) to compete with a BionX PL 350 assisted bike on an uphill. I pass a guy who is standing on the pedals, and sail serenely past, seated comfortably in my saddle. Even though it’s so early, I still have to deal with the minor inconvenience of the occasional idiot drivers who do dumb, dangerous things around me.
Just to add the cherry on the top, the sun starts to break through the clouds. After the rainiest April I can remember, this is a very welcome sight. Sure, I can be cheerful cycling in rain … but it’s a lot easier under the gentle dawn sun. Even the ugly buildings of Metrotown look somewhat attractive with dawn’s sunny fingers creeping up them. And even the crows sound happy to see the sun – I fully expect them to dance a tango of joy, but they don’t. They settle for singing (even worse than me).
I get to the steep uphill on Patterson – one of the two reasons why I bought the BionX PL 350 (the other being McKay on my homeward journey). It’s hard to walk up this hill, but with my BionX PL-350 I easily cruise up at around 18 km per hour. This is one of those unfortunate roads that Burnaby calls a bike route (specifically, the Sea to River bike route, reviewed here), that isn’t a bike route at all – just a narrow bus and car route with some signs suggesting that people “share the road”.
This could be intimidating on a regular bike, but the BionX gives me enough speed and power that I can keep myself out of danger with some nifty zigzagging and some pretty impressive speed.
I pass a bunch of miserable looking people waiting for a bus, and wonder why the physically able among them don’t buy a bike. On my BionX PL-350, I am faster than the average bus, once you factor in the fact that buses have to stop constantly.
The singing of the birds is starting to swell – and unlike my singing, it’s very beautiful. This is of course one of the great joys of being on a bike – one can actually hear the birds, rather than being hermetically sealed against nature, as one is in a car.
Then I get to the part of my ride where I rocket down a nature trail, bouncing over tree roots, and I find myself spontaneously yelling “Yeahhhh!” That’s another thing I love about commuting on a bike – sometimes I just feel like a big, happy kid. I cross the pedestrian overpass and stop to look at the poor suckers in their crawling cars. “What is the point, guys?” I find myself saying, pityingly. I have the bridge all to myself, unlike the motorists in their lemming-like lanes.
Then I am next to the Fraser, and gently squeeze on my disk brakes to stop as I spot a huge blue heron beside the river. I pull out my camera to take a couple of shots, thinking how lucky I am that I am not in a car, so that I actually get to see this beautiful sight. I spot his mate high up on a light pole, gazing admiringly at the rising sun.
I drag myself away from bird-watching and cycle the last bit to work as a short hammer fest. I get to our offices feeling in great shape, ready to hit the gym for a workout before starting work. It’s a great time for a workout, because I don’t have to do a boring warm-up – I’m already well and truly warmed up, as well as pumped full of endorphins to power me through a few hard sets of bench presses. I’d bet good money that by the time I start work, I am feeling way better than anyone who has crawled to work in a car, perhaps stopping to join a line-up at Timmies for lumps of starchy, sugary donuts!
I love my BionX PL-350!
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