I’ve always thought that I could be the kind of person who bikes everywhere.
I’d have a cute little basket up front to carry organic beets home from the market, and wear a Fjällräven Kånken backpack to tote my bathing suit to the gym.
I’d have killer calves, no doubt, and would feel only mildly superior to car drivers for my reduced carbon footstep.
I’d petition passionately for more bike lanes and would of course always wear a helmet, and look adorable in it to boot.
I could be this person, if only I didn’t live north of Davenport.
Biking as a midtown-living, downtown-loving Torontonian requires one to study maps with a keen understanding of topographical detail, as well as greater quadriceps power than I will ever have.
Going south is no problem. I’ll fly down Christie any day! But getting north is a drag, and the up-up-uphill journey up Oakwood is enough to make me long for my reliant little Elantra, which I have never had to shamefully push up a hill on foot.
And then I met Elby.
Elby is an electric bike, and Elby changed how I saw Toronto.
Before I tried Elby, I had wrongfully assumed that electric bikes were basically wimpy versions of a motorbike, a pitiful Vespa of sorts. But Elby is an actual bike. You have to actually pedal it, but with its four-power boosting settings, you have, well, more power, and no sweat.
In one weekend, I gleefully pedalled over 60 km.
Much of that was powered solely by my breakfast burrito and my own legs, but when I needed a little help, Elby was there for me with a tap of a finger.
I no longer needed to plan out my attack for the uphill ride home, searching for the street with the gentlest incline.
In fact, you may have seen me: I was the girl giggling doing 30 kilometres-an-hour uphill toward St. Clair recently, and I may have been shouting “F*&% you Bathurst hill! I’m not scared of you anymore!”
Can you fall in love with a bike?
I did … though, like all great loves, I eventually became acutely aware of Elby’s shortcomings.
For one, Elby is stunning. She catches peoples’ eyes, and I couldn’t go anywhere without hearing what a beauty she was. Like a jealous lover, I became suspicious of anyone admiring my girl — and was too scared to leave her unattended. Not that my lock could have fit around her anyway. And so, I had to become strategic once again, only riding where I knew I could bring her inside or keep a keen eye out for bike thieves.
Another problem was her heft: Elby is not a dainty ride. She’s heavy. Really heavy. Which wasn’t a problem while riding around, since she powers herself with grace, but schlepping her up my porch steps to the safety of my house was a pain in the ass: literally a pain in the ass, as it woke up my dormant sciatica.
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For me, Elby was a short-lived fling, on loan to me for one wild but not sweaty weekend.
I do think I would be willing to invest more in this relationship, and to be clear at around $4,000 Elby is an investment.
But can you put a price on health? Or the environment?
Or biking to work and not needing a shower?
I will remember fondly our late night rides lit up by her powerful headlight, our trips way across the city that I never would have attempted on my fixie, and the throttle boost that let me make left turns into traffic with perhaps a little too much confidence.
I’m back on my old bike again these days, riding a little less and cursing at hills. I’m considering that maybe it’s me, not the bike?
Perhaps I’m just a midtown gal, an occasional biker only? Who could I have been, with Elby as my ride?