Say you were going on a long-distance bike ride with your sister and you had never been able to keep up with her in previous trips. And now she will be on this next ride with her newly purchased electric assisted bike. She will travel halfway around the world while I am putting on my shoes.
I will only be on the trip for one week – she goes on forever. During that one week of my pedaling, there will be one day of gravel riding. I have a road bike, which tend to go over on gravel.
But I also have a mountain bike that has been converted into some Frankenstein monster bike: no knobby tires, no bar ends but now with fenders, two bells, compass and headlights. The fenders, bells and compass could go away to make it at least somewhat presentable on the trail. Ride that bike for a week? After riding my road bike for several years, I feel uncomfortable on the faux mountain bike, like my torso is being bent upward between the handlebars and the seat.
So given these choices below, offered to me by biking friends, what would you do:
Buy a gravel bike: “It’s all I ride anymore,” says a riding friend who also owns a road bike. Clerks at three bike shops tell me it is the bike to have for Seattle: low gears for hills, wider tires for wet streets and the option to start riding non-paved roads and trails. My sister has already suggested two other gravel trips we could in the years ahead. So, dear bike riders, would you buy one of these:
Buy an electric assisted bike: In even suggesting this, I have already been called a wimp by a biking friend. A gravel ebike could go every day on the upcoming trip except that the battery range is up to 50 miles on a trip that has at least one century day. The battery goes dead, and I’m left pedaling a 40-pound bike up hills. My sister would go twice around the world while I’m doing the walk of shame up mountain majesties.
The bike above is not the Marin Four Corners, but it is close enough, and the Four Corners could have electric assist added. That’s part of the problem on this bike and others like it: The electric assist looks like something added later. Mostly because it was added later. One of the problems with buying the Richey above would be if I added electric assist later it would look like something that had been added later.
This is the Hilltopper Discover Electric gravel bike. The battery is in the front tube as if the bike had always been planned to be an electric assisted bike and not cobbled together later in its life. However, it is out of stock. I talked to someone who answered the phone at Hilltopper, who said COVID had done no favors to its supply chain or its ability to bring people together to build bikes. I heard that from other bike reps I talked to: Lots of people want bikes now, perhaps to stay socially distanced and go somewhere, and the ability of the bike builders to keep up with the demand ain’t there. Maybe by summer, as Hilltopper’s website says.
Switch bikes: The first two days of the trip cover 105 miles, including the gravel trail. I could ride the Frankenstein bike for two days and have a SAG person carry my road bike for me to switch to for the rest of the week. Frankie could be left out back of the motel and could be picked up later, depending on how I felt about it after riding it for two days.
What would you do, dear biking friends – or strangers. I’m willing to listen to some sage advice before digging – or not – into my wallet.