Friday, 29 December 2017

MY 2017 in review

I write this 99% as a record to myself, but invite others to read it (but it is long and boring if you are not me).

I am a very reflective person. I've written similar things in the past more as a "Christmas letter" kind of thing and I've tracked the highlight events of a year since 2003 (not consistently).  I do it to remember, and to refine my "process" of planning the next year to shore up what things I think I've neglected, but more to try to load up on the things I know make us happier.  I have difficulty finding optimal balance,.. but the effort is something I enjoy and tinkering with the perfect formula is something I know will never lead to the "perfect year",... but it grounds me and gives me the feedback loops to remind me to stay on track.

What is important to me in life (with Laura):
  • seeing enough family
  • seeing enough friends
  • keeping work in proper context
  • ensuring we see/try enough new things: travel destinations, local activities, restaurants
  • health

2017 Overview

This year was destined to be a weird one.  In 2016 we decided my job was not a long term match and that it was time for Laura to use one of her leaves (3 months). We worked the first quarter and on April 1st we embarked upon a series of trips we likely will never rival in such density.  I did even more that Laura afterwards.  

I was determined to not consider my next work move for another 3 months (Q3) so I did a number of "projects" while she unfortunately went back to work. This included volunteering, multiple injury rehab stints, our complete and intensive diet change, completing a hiking milestone, and the 'not to be underestimated on effort' photo of the day project (among other pet projects).  I also dabbled in a few side jobs.

In Q4 I began to process what I'd learn in an effort to figure out my work life. More on that below.  As it stands I'm cautiously optimistic I'll be working early in the new year (slightly behind my plan). One of the potential options might be different enough from what I've done before to offer a new path for me and the balance I seek.


Travel is what will mark 2017 for us. In 2016 we went to Spain, so it felt absolutely decadent to embark upon something like this so soon after.  The whole thing I documented heavily in photos and can be found here.  We've started to call it the "friendly people tour" because the countries and provinces we went to are a collection of some of the nicest citizens and that is exactly what we experienced.  We never fought once (we never do),.. but noone is easier to travel with than my wife Laura. 

Phase 1: New Zealand, Hong Kong, Thailand
NZ was the longest stretch in one place, close to a month. The whole things was longer than either us had ever been away from home without living in one place. The highlights are too many to mention but if I had to pick, I'd say:
New Zealand: the stunning 4 day Tongariro circuit, Wellington, steamy Rotorua, and staying on a working sheep farm
Hong Kong: the giant Budha, and HK Disney on my birthday!
Thailand: the food, Tuk Tuks in Bangkok, killer temples, and the elephant sanctuary.

Phase 2: Peru
We had booked the maritimes trip already but left space after Asia to chase a deal,.. and Peru came up. Neither of us had ever been to South America at all. The highlights here included Machu Pichu (no surprise), all the street festivals, and staying with a family in rural Lake Titikaka.

Phase 3: Newfoundland
This trip was unique in the set because we went with Wendie and Pete! In a roadtrip format we crossed the province.  The hiking here was a bit limited by a knee problem of mine but we saw plenty of nature.  The true highlight here was a magical evening on a dock with musicians and local townsfolk as the moon set over the water.

After Newfoundland, Laura and Pete had to go home but I went with Wendie to do what became the start of "tour de cousins" project of 2017.  We visited Macleans and Vanderwoerds and formed many great memories along the way. A perfect Peggy's Cove sunset and the Northern mud flats will visually mark this trip for me, but the people we got to see were the true take-away.
I also went to Toronto piggy-backing a Laura work trip and loved it. We also did Portland,Victoria, and many local day trips.

One take-away I feel the need to record is the feeling that too much travel is possible.  The "peak" experience of getting away seems a bit diminished if you were already away for a month.  I truly think we became a bit jaded.  It is unfortunate that the work world forces us to do all or nothing, or not enough,.. just think of how many people probably would work for less money and more time off... and be better workers as a result (by spreading out the highlights).


I maintain that I'm the worst (Laura is better). The worst son, cousin, nephew, brother, and grandson before that,.. at least from the perspective of keeping in touch on a regular basis. For both friends and family,.. I just feel I don't invest enough time. 

This year I feel slightly less guilt about that.  In part, my awesome trip with Wendie to Nova Scotia allowed us to catch up with Macleans and Vanderwoerds (Aks, Grants, Hollands too) out there.  Although Anne and Wayne have always been there a number of our cousins from Alberta have made part or full time homes out of the Maritimes too and it was a riot to see them all.

Back home we were lucky to have a short visit with my cousin Murray, and Jim. I also managed to see more of my cousin Elly, and Jim and Irene than I typically do and it was great.  I also went to Victoria with my dad and Wendie for a great day trip to see Jean and Lorne.  We really covered the bases and to top it all off we celebrated my dad's 80th birthday by co-planning a party with Patti. Having more lunches and bike rides with my dad are a great dividend of having time off too.

On the less positive side my uncle Jim had to spend some time in the hospital dealing with a new wave of health concerns.  Not to be outdone on my mom's side, aunt Jean also has been fighting like a trooper a number of serious issues (but you wouldn't know it when you look at what she still manages to do in a year, really amazing).  Both of these stories cement my will to ensure I don't let spending more time with family slide.

The new family (for me), was less of a success. Ellen and Dave have a new family member but the busy side of that makes time tighter and we saw little of them (though Ronan and Dave came down to VC).  Even worse for me and my in-law parents, I didn't see them at all.  Upside - cousins Johnny and Danielle are expecting a baby and we managed to get together with the Garinger side of the clan for 2 (and counting) events over the holiday plus many a great meals at Tracie's for Game of Thrones!


This wasn't a good year for our social lives.  Between limiting our own diets, Laura's increased work duties, and being out of the country for over 4 months we have been feeling a bit cut-off. Having more time off allowed us to see my friend Dave and his family this summer (and our friend Teresa), but saw less of other people we usually see more of.  Part of that is our social network is a somewhat hiking-centric and health things limited our hiking (see below).  Other people also seemed really busy.
Friend highlights for me this year included Dave's visit and also hiking the Chain Lakes trail with Peter and Olivia. Many BBQs and brunches were also more frequent than I'm giving credit but we want to increase that even more.
We are getting a collapsible teak table from Laura's parents and we hope that might inspire us to host more events at our home.  


2 annoying injuries this year luckily impacted the travel part very little. My knees and now my shoulder.  A great physio helped my knees but something bigger is going on with my shoulder (a WiP).  Though hike season was mostly curtailed by weather and other things we were doing,. I had planned to make this season a life topper - it wasn't.  I did at least finish the 109 Walks book and got half a dozen light hikes in.
The other big thing this year was that when I asked Facebok for physio suggestions, a former co-worker suggested a diet change to address the inflammation head-on.  Together, we embarked upon a very time consuming project: Whole30. For me, it allowed me to shed some weight but also feel alot better in general, but it is a bit all consuming. My joint inflammation did go down though (until now when I fell off the wagon!).  My cholesterol levels also dropped which is important for me. Onwards and upwards and a goal for 2018 is to bike consistently for commuting.


I struggle here. I am liked at work and think I do good things, but I find it is often a source of my imbalance and a disproportionate amount of unhappiness. I resigned my former position for a number of reasons but mostly knowing something in me was not a match. My former employer was very gracious about it which I appreciate,. timing wasn't great but I gave 6 weeks notice which I hope reduced the impact. I was gratified to hear that the army of people I used to manage considered a gofund-me campaign to subsidize my salary and bring me back.  Little do they know, money was not the main issue.
I sought help and have done considerable self reflection. What is clear is a I need a mission I can stand behind and the mission cannot be "keeping the troops in line".  I'm looking to sectors that impact my city and would be pleased to be doing something related to community building or cycling and city infrastructure.  I'm looking away from IT and tech. Wish me luck!


In addition to the upkeep of a new diet regime, a huge and daily part of my year since mid March has been doing a 2017/18 photo of the day project.  I did this in 2012 and found it well worth it.  It changes how you see the world, and forces an unassuming introvert to go find new and cool things every single day (and learn my new camera's features).  I do think it has distracted me from doing other things though (like career related).

I also explored local transportation by doing a personal study of my travel habits and borrowing e-bikes.  

I've gone down many whimsical rabbit-holes, and enjoyed having the time to do so.


  • find a good job that aligns with my values
  • keep up the good work seeing more family
  • see more friends**
  • hike way more**
  • get health under control (all of the above IMO impact that)**
  • travel will probably be a lower priority for 2018
  • continually learn from my experience

Thursday, 16 November 2017

MOBI (Vancouver Bikeshare) expands!

Make no mistake about it, I'm a big fan of MOBI (Vancouver's bikeshare offering).  Along with my wife, I was an early adopter and found it to be well worth renewing my annual pass this fall.

Early on I had written about my experiences as the program was rolled out:
July 12, 2016
Aug 6, 2016

Back then, the concerns were "Will people use it?", "Are they placing the stations properly?", "How will the helmets work?" - all of those issues seem in the distant past now as it has turned out to be a huge success and the MOBI operations people must be either reading my blog or view the movement of people in the city much as I do.  In other words,.. for my purposes,.. they nailed it.

This week it was announced that MOBI's home-zone was going to be expanded eastward to Commercial drive.  Well worth reading the whole article: HERE

I'm really excited to see this.  Is that because I want to ride further east using MOBI than I do now? Actually no.  Like most MOBI riders, my MOBI usage tends to be under 4km per trip and because of the limitations of my membership,.. I'm limited to 30 min.  I'm a pretty strong cyclist so can get some distance even on a heavy MOBI bike in 30 min, but every time I plan to leave my home I make a simple, but conscious, calculation to determine what mode I'm going to travel that includes:

  • weather in combination with what I need to be wearing (eg. work clothes)
  • distance
  • direction (including uphill/downhill)
  • do I want to be tethered to a locked bike or parked car?
  • security of the area I'm going to
  • am I meeting people that need me to transport them, or vice versa
  • do I know if for some reason my return trip has to be a different mode of transportation?

Based on that, I choose. For the most part... short distances I walk, medium I bike (my own bike), longer I'll bus or drive and for me, MOBI fits between walk and my own bike. (note: I live at the south end of the Mobi map so most destinations for me are downhill, so often a MOBI choice means I'm coming back a different way).

All this to say that I could probably get to anywhere on Commercial Drive (the new East edge) in a 30 min MOBI ride,.. but I probably would choose my own bike for that distance.  The reason this expansion excites me is something else: it could remove more car congestion from the road.

Car and bike shares have been a huge contributor to the relief of congestion.  The amount of people in Vancouver keeps growing and though people love to blame bike lanes anyone who looks at any data knows that is not really how it works here or elsewhere (and we here in Vancouver are still early in the game, the build for true impact can take years,.. but already is exceeding expectations here).  Population growth is the problem,.. anything getting people on a bus their feet, or bikes,.. for some or all of their trips, offsets that growth on the road level.

This expansion, specifically, has the potential to connect some pretty critical dots for some clear multi-modal movement opportunities, and reduce overall single occupancy car "rides".

It can all be seen by looking at maps.

First off, let's take a high level look at what is "within" the expansion zone (Main to Commercial, Powell to 16th).

  • 3+ post secondary institutions along with dozens of small ESL schools: students are a key demographic in transit and cycling initiatives.  Combine Mobi with a skytrain and all of a sudden the fastest way to Emily Carr or VCC is no longer a car (whereas they might have been too far to walk from a transit hub, and buses too infrequent).
  • 3+ excellent east/west cycle paths: Union/Adanac, East 10th, and Great Northern way make the last leg of a trip easy. People needing to walk 6+ blocks from a transit hub probably will seek a different option,.. but now there is a bike sitting waiting that could cut that down depending on station placement.  There also is an orphaned section of cycle path parallel to Terminal that can carry more confident riders quickly to Columbia college etc.
  • Hills aimed towards the city centre: People are more concerned with getting TO work/school faster and less sweaty. Commercial is the high point of the slope (a sub-ridge running north south) and like 16th west of Main, the south end of the Mobi map also offers a desirable morning start point.  Yes, those hills are a barrier going the other way for weak cyclists,.. but once a car has been left at home.. the decisions is made, carshares and transit can accommodate the return trip.
  • Chinatown, dozens of bars and eateries: Now someone planning to drink can pick up a bike significantly further East and get from Commercial area with no wait in 11 minutes.  Why drive?
  • All of Strathcona, most of Mt. Pleasant: This new zone, aside from the area around the train yard,.. is mostly condos and houses full of people,... these people did not have Mobi close by until now.  Not being in Surrey or Burnaby it seems they might have more likelihood of being able to make a trip to the core by bike.  The area just west of Commercial... also heavily condos and full of potential riders close enough to downtown to appreciate another, flexible, short distance option.
  • VCC skytrain station: HUGE! If you live in Mt. Pleasant but need to go east via Millenium line ,.. the often lengthy walk to the station is replaced by a quick coast downhill. Burb commuters going to False Creek no longer have to suffer the indignity of getting off at Commercial,.. and taking a B-line only to somehow need to go down the hill still ... use MOBI. (GNW is only 8 min ride in entirety).

Then, let's look at what is "next" to the expansion zone (or on the edge).
  • Main St. development: wouldn't we all prefer these new home owners leave their car at home? However Main has horribly slow transit...MOBI offers a quick solution (nothing downtown or False Creek is more than a 20 min ride from Main and Broadway).  Now these people can also go east.
  • Commercial Drive itself: major dinner, entertainment, and shopping destination... 
  • The biggest transit hub in Vancouver:  Multi-modal utopia with MOBI.  Anyone ending or starting a trip at Commercial and Broadway no longer need to be dropped or picked up or maybe even transfer... just MOBI. 

Lastly, now that all of these connections will exist,.. lets remember what niche MOBI fills that a personal bike does not... you need only look up to see if you want to ride in the current weather,. once you have made that trip,.. you are not committed to your next leg,.. but you know it will not include a personally owned car requiring parking and even should you choose carshare,.. at least part of your trip did not contribute to congestion.

The value isn't only that people with ride instead of drive,.. the value is that Mobi makes other non-car options the optimal choice by making the last leg faster and more convenient.

Friday, 27 October 2017

I'm anticipating this as much as I anticipate a Star Wars sequel: 105 Hikes

I cannot sit on this any longer: spoilers ahead.

Anyone who knows me or that can read the title of this blog knows that for a time I was a fanatic about peak bagging hiking guide books, most notably "103 Hikes in SouthWestern BC".  I own copies of all 6 editions, and have hikes most of the trails within all of them.

Recently, a string of sequential discoveries blew my mind. I'm glad they didn't come all at once because the shock might have killed me.

*FIRST: Rumours started circulating that a new edition of "103 Hikes" might be getting written.  But who would write it? The original writers have unfortunately moved on and the last collaborator expressed little interest.

*NEXT: Wanderung board member (and established writer) Stephen Hui was toying with compiling a book of his own. His secret "Death Star" project was shrouded in mystery (at least for me), but between his callouts to such a variety of places, and his prolific photography,.. it seemed like maybe it was hiking related.

*NEXT: Spoiler alert: Stephen Hui is writing what will be called 105 Hikes In and Around Southwestern British ColumbiaNot since Darth Vader was revealed to be Luke's father did I feel such simultaneous confusion and "wow it all makes sense now".  But wait, is there really going to be another edition with those cartoon maps that I love, but others criticize so much?

*NEXT: Hold on to your asteroids, this ain't like dusting crops folks! Founder of Canadian Map Makers, and Coquitlam SAR volunteer Steve Chapman was assigned by Greystone books to collaborate with Stephen on the maps. BOOM!  Steve has a long history in this arena and even pitched an early product idea on Dragon's Den.  He also was a Wanderung subscriber and participated in many an adventure with yours truly.

Now I don't want to say that Wanderung made this all happen but... (well it didn't,.. but I love the connection!).  I've hiked with both of these guys on many a "103" hike through Wanderung (Alouette, Mt McGuire, Widgeon Lake, Williamson Lake) and could not be more excited to see the final product coming from the minds of 2 guys I've shared these kinds of adventures with.

So let's recap:  Stephen Hui is writing 105 Hikes.  Steve Chapman is doing the maps. I cannot wait.  I will be there lined up like the next Harry Potter is coming out.  

May, 2018?!!?  Oh well, at least I've got Episode VIII in December... (my birthday is in May, hint, hint).

Move along, move along.

Thursday, 31 August 2017

109th Walk of the book BAGGED!

In addition to completing "Dawn Hanna's Best Hikes in SW BC" in 2007 and "103 Hikes (5th edition)" in 2015, I now have completed the 5th Edition of "105 Walks in British Columbia's Lower Mainland"!

Ok, maybe somewhat less of an accomplishment, sure, but for 10+ years on rainy days and through injury recovery I've been chewing at the edges of this one and and happy report I've now seen them all.

This book, like when I finished 103 hikes, was quite outdated, and there are newer editions but the reason I like to "bag" books cover to cover is to introduce the "random factor".  Especially with this book, what it did was allow me to explore parts of Surrey or the Sunshine Coast, for example, I might never have been inclined to check out. I now feel more in touch with my home (the Lower Mainland) as a result.

Many of these walks could not be more flat,.. hardly worthy of walking your dog.  Others,.. full on hikes with elevation gain.  They were nothing if not inconsistent.

My final walk was South Elphinstone Heritage Trails which turned out to be logistically painful unless I wanted to pay for my car on the ferry to Langdale, both ways, only for a 3 hour hike.  In this case I rode over solo, climbed the hill from the ferry by bike, locked up and switched to my hiking boots. FINITO (actually it was a pretty tough trail for an out of shape guy recovering from an injury).

Looking back, I think of all the trips and people I did them with (many of these I did solo) and sure they were not all super exciting adventures,.. but the whole experience was what mattered.  Owls, history, and just something to do after work instead of TV. It was good enough for me to seriously consider walking the gaps between the 5th edition, and the lists in editions 6 and 7.

I'll release a list of "worth doing" sometime soon (and the "these were crap" list also).

The hikes:

UBC Gardens
Pacific Spirit Park
Chancellor Woods
Point Grey
Jericho Park/ Spanish Banks
English Bay
False Creek
Stanley Park
Renfrew Triangle
Champlain Heights
Burnaby Heights/ Trans Trail
Capitol Hill
Burnaby Mountain
Burnaby Mountainside Trails
SFU/Stoney Creek
Burnaby Lake
Brunette River
Deer Lake
Molson Way (Central)
Molson Way (South)
Burnaby Fraser Foreshore Park
Mundy park
Shoreline Trail
Sasamat Lake/ Woodhaven Swamp
Belcarra Regional Park
Buntzen Lake
Colony Farm Regional Park
Ridge Park Loop
POCO Trail
Woodland Walks (Lower Burke Ridge)
Minnekhada Regional Park
Seaview/Baden Powell
TransCanda Trail/ Nelson Creek
Point Atkinson
Cypress Falls Park
Black Mountain Loop
Cypress Bowl
Baden-Powell Trail (Hollybrun Ridge)
Lower Hollyburn
Brothers Creek Trails
Hollyburn Heritage Trails
Capilano Canyon
Bowser Trail
Baden Powell Trail Grouse Mountain
Mosquito Creek
Upper Lonsdale Trails
Lynn Headwaters Loop
Rice Lake
Two-canyon Loop
Hastings/Lynn Loop
Historic Mushroom Loop I
Historic Mushroom Loop II
Goldie Lake
Dog Mountain
Mytery Lake and Peak
Baden Powell Trail
Indian Arm Park
Lulu Island Dyke
Richmond South Dyke Trail
Richmond Nature Trail
Deas Island
Brunswick Point
Boundary Bay Regional Park
Crescent Beach
South Surrey Urban Forests
Tynehead Regional Park
Derby Reach Regional Park
Campbell Valley
Aldergrove Lake Regional Park
Matsqui Trail
Seven Sisters Trail
Teapot Hill
Coquihalla Historic Trails
Chatham Reach
Alouette River Dykes
Pitt Wildlife Management Areas
UBC Malcolm Knapp Research Forest
Mike Lake
Alouette Nature loop
Gold Creek Trails
Kanaka Creek
Rolley Lake and Falls
Hayward Lake
Hoover Lake Forest Trail
Mission Trail
Weaver Lake
Campbell Lake Trail
Sasquatch Provincial Park
Killarney Lake
Porteau Bluffs
Shannon Falls
Squamish Estuary
Four Lakes Trail
DeBeck Hill
Evans Lake Forest
Brohm Lake Interp Forest
Brohm Lake
Crater Rim Loop
Cheakamus Lake
Shadow Lake Interpretive Forest
Soames Hill Regional Park
South Elphinstone Heritage Trails
Triangle Lake
Mount Daniel
Skookumchuck Narrows

On to complete DWYT, and Car-free BC...

Monday, 28 August 2017

There and back again - E-biking to SFU

Earlier this week I returned my borrowed e-bike for the 2nd time and so ends my experiment to determine what my future with e-bikes would be.

I tried to approach it scientifically.  I tend to be a bit obsessive with all things transportation related and want to be practical and not driven by emotion if the "right choice" for cost, time, and convenience is not what I expect.

With this installment of the Momentum Mag E-bike Library checkout I had a plan ready:
  • try testing the edges of a commute by e-bike (how far can I get in 1 hour in any direction).
  • what are some challenging commutes that would completely change (for a cyclist) if hills were not an issue
  • understand more about how the battery really works and drain it to zero.
SFU and back:
SFU is about 20km from my home, but more importantly on a mountain. By car it would be a 40 min commute in good traffic conditions and by normal bike close to 1.5 hours (also 1.5 hours by bus).  In other words, further than I ever want to commute on a daily basis.

The first 10km of my journey was my old commute (see below): flat, and one of the best routes fro non-stop travel in the lower mainland.  Once you hit Boundary though serious undulating hills begin and then there is the mountain itself.

For part 2, all I could think was that I was happy I had electric assist,.. a nice route but hilly. Unfortunately this is when I began to regret using too much assist for the first 10km. I had used 25% of my battery by the foot of the mountain. I had to use mode 3 and 4 the entire ride up.. and though it was thrilling to be able to cut through that distance so fast,.. I got there with 42% battery left. Seen the movie Gattica? I had not budgeted for the full trip home....

I plugged in to ensure I didn't get stuck but the 125km range clearly is misleading,.. that could only be possible in optimal flat conditions or seriously mindful riding.  I also took this chance to test the controversial Bionix ability to charge using negative settings on a steep downhill. Many poeple say this is a myth but I did manage to gain 3% back by descending the mountain.  Not much, but tell that to someone 1% short of home!  I got home by hypermiling it,.. but I might aswell have been riding a non-assisted bike for most of it.

My old commute(s):
I also took the time to ride 2 of my old commutes because I knew exactly how long they took on my regular bike.  As everyone probably knows,.. bikes usually win out on most shorter commutes because there is not walk to the bus stop, parking lot, or even car,.. it is all motion and bike paths tend to be designed for less stopping.
My last job was right on the Central Valley Greenway route so mostly flat and straight for about 10km (and less than half the lights of the equivalent car commute).  I was shocked that even with hitting the lights pretty well, a 35 min ride only dropped to 27min. I felt like I was flying but I think only the hills were significantly faster.
My previous commute from the Fraser River up Ontario was way faster however.  Something like an hour cut to 35 min. The hills are where this matters,.. clearly.  


Would I buy an e-bike? 
Despite the high entry price, yes, but not right now. I think it is inevitable when I'm older and can't cover the same distances I can now.  Also, I'm not that fit these days so reducing my exercise effort is probably not the best idea.
What might change that is a medium-long but hilly commute to a job.  A 4k bike could be worth the investment if you are no longer taking a car to work 5 days a week.  To make it work, you'd need:

  • a place to charge at work
  • **secure storage (these bikes are very valuable and I simply would not trust street parking)
  • the right commute - especially imagine a 2 car family being able to replace car #2 with a 5 k bike that only uses electricity (and very little of it).

I should also mention something else. I have been nursing a messed up knee. The ebike allows you to take a ton of pressure off of your joints when you are starting from a full stop.  It allowed my to get exercise for the last 2 weeks.. where I otherwise couldn't.  This cements my above comment about when I'm older.

If the price of the bikes were to drop, I could imagine buying sooner. 

Lastly, make no mistake about it... these are FUN. If battery tech changes and you could do a 2 day camping trip without charging,.. I could also see buying sooner.

Other learnings?
  • Using anything beyond mode 1 or 2 on flats is wasteful,.. once you are up to speed on this bike 1 or 2 is enough to keep you going faster than you can ride a normal commuter.  Sure you can ride faster in mode 4,.. but not 2X as fast and your battery will pay the price for marginal gains on speed.  
  • I felt weird on some bike paths riding a partially motorized vehicle.  It was more that I felt people thought I was cheating,.. but if you are riding 25km to work.. (anywhere with mixed use paths I actually slowed down to a safe "minimal assist" setting)
  • Everyone that tried the Ohm was blown away.  I think most people think e-bikes are like electric scooters and less like bikes. These really are like being a superhuman cyclist and Ohm did a great job.  For now, while you can use better roads and routes than cars can and cycling in Vancouver is still young,.. this really is a way to construct the fastest commute and everyone should be sure to check these out and just use road sense when other people are around.  Think of it more like "extended range and less effort" than "super fast".

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Riding an E-bike: more than around the block

Testing any kind of bike (or car for that matter) is a strange thing if you ask me.  Bikes and cars are some of the biggest investments in a person's life yet a 15 min test drive (and hopefully some research) is enough for us to decide what we will drive to work in every day for potentially 15 years...

When my father was deciding which e-bike system to buy 4 years ago, he had no choice but to select based on "rides around the block" and word of mouth on a relatively untested technology.  That being said, somehow he had decided he was getting one even before trying any.

I however, want to answer the questions:
  • Do I want an e-bike at all? 
  • If so, now or later? 
  • Which kind?
  • How would the investment of an e-bike impact my need for a car or future car purchases?
  • What is my use-case and justification for an e-bike?
  • What have I not considered?
Fortunately, the Abus/Momentum initiative I mentioned in my last blog post allowed me to borrow a bike for almost 2 weeks (I'm on my second rental now). So back in June that is what my wife and I did.  She booked the EVO MD-2 and I took the Ohm Urban.

Our 2 bikes
Right out of the gate when we picked up our bikes it became clear our 2 models were the best options in the fleet (the purchase price should have tipped me off).

Though both bikes had serous pedal assist power, the Ohm had more and just seemed less like a bike and more like a "vehicle".  The power in both was impressive, the power of the Ohm,.. insane.  I'm a strong cyclist so with my actual leg power the 4th mode allows you to ride 40+k/h uphill

 The Ohm also has a "turbo boost" (that is what I call it), which allows you to actually not pedal and get power for a few seconds.  I found this a nice feature for starting from a stop light if I had not geared down or I just was lazy and needed some umph to get balanced and start pedaling.  This feature should not be under-rated (it is part of all Bionix implementations unless I am mistaken).

The EVO-2 doesn't have shocks but I was surprised to look at the relative weights,.. the EVO is not much lighter but the Ohm's tires and shocks give you an almost motocross sort of feeling. The Ohm is a cadillac for sure, but it also has $1500 higher price tag.

For specs on these bikes go here:

First Impressions

The first thing anyone on an e-bike wants to do is get a sense of how much battery power they have. Range anxiety is a legit thing when your bike is heavy enough to be a boat anchor without the pedal assist.  I could pedal the Ohm powerless but only on flat or downhill.  

With both bikes it became clear that the 125+ km range estimates are for optimal conditions.  If you rode full tilt in the 4th mode,... it would be less than half of that (but to be fair the readouts help you understand that and the distance is a variable,.. I do not feel like I was mislead).

Full tilt you can easily get the Ohm up to 45kph on the flat. However, it is rare you can do that in a city.  It is fun to play with doing that in a safe situation but realistically the real advantage is not increasing average speed by riding everywhere faster, but rather by reducing the pain of the things that slow you down: hills. Hills hills hills are what e-bikes are about.

I'm a natural hill climber on a bike but I also am pretty analytical about route planning,. it became obvious that the flattest route was not always the "best route" for a commute.  I had to reprogram my mind for this new capability. 

On our first charge, another key difference was discovered.  The EVO has a huge charger AND you have to remove the battery.  The Ohm plugs in like your laptop.

After riding them a while
  • Clearly e-bikes are "a thing". People interested in them or that also own them want to talk to you and try it, and they are almost always impressed. I have heard very few non-success stories, the usual jist being that it allowed people to do more for less effort and still stay active and leave the car at home.
  • The shocks made every speed bump a sweet jump!
  • I can still get a leg workout but sweat much less and get where I need to go
  •  They are so expensive,.. we didn't want to leave them anywhere (yes, even with an Abus lock).  Years ago I thwarted a failed attempt to steal a part off my dad's bike outside of a restaurant.  E-bikes look different and the battery alone you probably have to remove and take with you.
  • They are also heavy.  I constantly found myself wondering if Ohm could have made the bike lighter and more "like a bike".
  • These things are as expensive as a second hand car.
  • People give you dirty looks when you ride by fast.  I tried not to use much assist when on regular bike routes and still think pedal assist is nowhere near as dweeby as people with the fake pedals riding electric scooters but noone will agree until the try one and realize it is still a bike requiring work.

What next?

Despite having a blast riding these bikes, I still hadn't really answered my questions.  Namely, what would make it worth investing 4-5k?  That is what I'm setting out to do on my second "borrow" from the program.

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Have you tried an E-bike?

Image result for ebike engineIn Europe and Asia e-bikes (pedal assisted) are a significant portion of new bike sales and have been for many years. The trend is clear, e-bikes are the fastest growing segment of bike sales since 2012 and even then they were something like 9% of all bikes sold.  In North America, and even cycle friendly cities like Vancouver,.. they are still rare to see and continent wide, are supposedly less than 1% here.

Have you tried riding an e-bike?

There are so many models and approaches that trying one may not translate to trying them all.  What is clear to me and most that do try them is that anyone that has concerns about hills,... this is the solution.  Anyone getting older or has has knee injuries but needs to remain active,.. you should be looking at an e-bike.

For me, the attraction is extended range and speed of commuting.  In Vancouver, our infrastructure for cycling is getting to the point that if you are lucky enough to commute along certain routes, you may actually to do 10km faster than your commute in a car,.. with a normal bike.  Now remove the hills from that,. and you can see the appeal.

My father rides an e-bike (his is a Bionix kit added to a bike he already owned). Although at 80, he is a strong cyclist,... but he'd never go from Point Grey to West Van on his bike for coffee with the guys if it were not for the electric assist.  It has allowed him to stay active and given him a much larger range for doing trips car-free (or shortening trips if the weather is not optimal).
Abus locks and Momentum magasine have teamed up with several successful e-bike manufacturers to tackle the ignorance factor here in Vancouver by setting up a free e-bike lending library, allowing up to 2 week signouts (much like a library book).

Although I've ridden early e-bikes, I'm also aware they have come a long way so have decided to try some of these bikes (and blog about it) in an effort to share my experiences in this blog. It is my secret hope that Vancouverites, especially those that may never ride a non-pedal assist bike on a regular basis, see this as a way to remove certain barriers, and might consider e-bikes as a an option for their commute and Vancouver's growing traffic and parking issues.