Fish & Bicycles is a general topics blog, currently published out of Bellingham, Washington, USA. No, not a blog ostensibly about Bellingham, although our fair hamlet is mentioned regularly. Think of it as the voice of someone from Bellingham, someone who writes about whatever strikes his fancy at any given moment, on any given day: current events, life experiences, art, design, music, film, theater, the written word, technology, travel, sustainability, spirituality, fatherhood, etc.
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“I see the light at the end of the tunnel now… Someone please tell me it’s not a train.” ~from “I See The Light” by Cracker For the past six months or so, I’ve spent most of my writing time online using my Twitter account: @FishAndBicycles. Now, some writers would argue that calling this “writing” … Continue reading The Future Is Unstoppable – Death Throes Are Ugly...
“I see the light at the end of the tunnel now…
Someone please tell me it’s not a train.”
~from “I See The Light” by Cracker
For the past six months or so, I’ve spent most of my writing time online using my Twitter account: @FishAndBicycles.
Now, some writers would argue that calling this “writing” is being generous, and there are times when I question it as well. And yet, ultimately I really do believe that there is a value to regularly writing these short, formerly 140 and now 280-character, compositions; forced, as you are, to trim the fat and think creatively about how to say a lot with a little.
BUT, there is one significant drawback of spending so much time on Twitter: the daily barrage of bad news can wear down even the most enthusiastic optimist.
Today started out as one of those days, it was really getting to me, the despair threatening to drag me down. I thought about reposting a post that I wrote back in October 2017 about reaching a saturation point and the impulse to hide one’s head in the sand.
But then, a thought — one I’ve had before and have hoped to explore in writing at some point — changed my direction. A thought that, on my best days, I can actually believe:
The Future Is Unstoppable
…and, the future, despite any appearances to the contrary, will be much, much better.
There’s plenty to complain about when it comes to Hollywood, but one indisputable fact is that movies and TV shows are steadily and increasingly presenting images of a diverse world populated by people of color, powerful women, and non-binary gender identities.
In other words, Hollywood is more reflective of the world we actually live in than it has ever been before, and it’s having a very positive, normalizing effect. Young people who are not brainwashed by bigoted families and communities see diversity and equality as the normal, positive state of things, they are more likely to stand up for and with people of color, to see women as fully equal to men, and increasingly LGBTQ young people are feeling safer and safer coming out and claiming the right to be their genuine selves.
This is the future.
Demographic trends prove it is unstoppable.
Death Throes Are Ugly
At the same time, those who believe in white patriarchal supremacy are trying to fight off the unstoppable, and they are resorting to increasingly brash and violent measures, pushing the boundaries of legal behavior or embracing outright lawlessness and authoritarianism.
But make no mistake. These are death throes. They are ugly, but they are futile.
On My Best Days
Anyway, as I said, that’s what I believe on my best days, and there are other days when these ideas are no solace at all.
“I see the light at the end of the tunnel now…
Someone please tell me it’s not a train.”
I can’t believe it’s been 10 weeks! This is the 5th and last post in my series on my experience with the Viking E-Bikes program, offered by my employer, Western Washington University, a program promoting electric bicycles as a sustainable transportation alternative. As I mentioned in my first post in the series, the program provides … Continue reading Viking E-Bikes, Vol....
I can’t believe it’s been 10 weeks!
This is the 5th and last post in my series on my experience with the Viking E-Bikes program, offered by my employer, Western Washington University, a program promoting electric bicycles as a sustainable transportation alternative.
As I mentioned in my first post in the series, the program provides participants with a loaner e-bike, specifically the eProdigy Jasper pictured here, for the length of a 10-week academic term, asking only that the participants write a little about their experience, to be shared on the Rider Stories page of their website.
In my 3rd post, I made a simple Good and Bad list, with my findings up to that point, and as promised, here are my updated and final observations:
- Staci at Earl’s Bike Shop — the shop contracted to perform maintenance on the Viking E-Bikes — is awesome! When I needed to return the bike a second time, with suspicions that the calibration was off, Staci offered to pick the bike up at my home, which was a huge gift. As mentioned, with the bike being so heavy, I’m unable to put it on my car’s bike rack, and also unable to get it in the car, and so I would otherwise have had to ride the bike to the shop and then get a ride home. Staci then delivered to bike back to my home when the work was complete. Like I said: awesome!
- As for the calibration, it turns out that this was indeed the problem. Somehow, the bike’s computer had been switched from MPH (miles per hour) to KMH (kilometers per hour) and this threw everything off. I don’t fully understand the technology, but I suspect that if the bike is set to KMH the sensors on the brakes and gears need to be calibrated differently than if the bike is set to MPH. Sure enough, the first ride out once the bike was recalibrated to MPH was a dramatically better experience, from shifting gears and power assist levels, to using the throttle.
- The power assist is simply exactly what I need in order to continue to be a bicycle commuter, and I REALLY want to be a bicycle commuter, as I feel SO much better leaving the car at home and reducing my carbon footprint. As mentioned previously, the 5-mile each way commute, with hills in both directions, would be prohibitive without the power.
- As also mentioned previously, several other features of the bike were very much appreciated: the upright riding position, the suspension, the fenders, and the built in rear rack with provided pannier were all great.
- The battery, while unfortunately heavy, was more than adequate for my daily commute. I suspect that I could even get two whole days use out of it before recharging, but I opted to just bring the battery in every night and charge it.
- Jillian at Viking E-Bikes is awesome! She gracefully put up with my complaints about the bike and was very responsive, making arrangements for getting the bike to and from the shop in a very timely manner.
- The Viking E-Bikes program is a GREAT idea! It’s incredibly useful to have 10 weeks to ride and evaluate an electric bike, especially considering that it’s several thousand dollars to buy one. Normally you’ll get one or two test rides. Getting to take the bike home every night allowed me to experience the entire commute routine many times, in various weather conditions, and I even was able to fine tune my route in order to reduce time spent in traffic.
- The eProdigy Jasper is simply not the bike for me.
- At nearly 55 pounds, I found it really cumbersome to move around; I was unable to put it on a rack on either my car or a bus and unable to put it in my car
- Power assist was needed on the flats to compensate for the weight, and I could only ride without any power assist at all when descending a hill
- I have concerns about the weight as a safety issue: in a situation where a sudden danger presents itself, it’s hard to imagine being able to maneuver the bike as nimbly as can sometimes be needed in order to avoid accident and injury
- While it is true that I enjoyed the upright riding position of this bike, which is partially the result of the bike’s geometry, I do suspect that the geometry plus the weight contributes to the overall clumsy experience riding, that feeling of a lack of nimbleness that evoked safety concerns as I mentioned. I’ll need to test this theory when I test ride other e-bikes.
- Love that the front headlight is powered by the bike’s battery, though the mount isn’t well-designed. The screw where the light pivots comes loose very easily due to vibrations of the bike.
- Also, it seems silly that a rear light is not provided and powered also by the bike’s battery: I REALLY don’t like burning through AAA batteries.
So, I handed my bike in this morning and I was a little sad to do it
It didn’t help one bit that this had to be done on the first day of spring, as the number of rainy days decrease, the daylight hours increase, trees are exploding with buds and blossoms…
But, I’ll probably be buying my own e-bike soon, so hopefully I’ll be back in the saddle before too long.
True Story: When I was a kid, there was this tiny magazine called TV Guide. I was thumbing through it looking for something to watch, when I saw: State of the Union. And I thought it was like an award show, and one state would be declared the best state. So disappointing. — Fish & … Continue reading State of...
Welcome to the 4th installment of my series of posts covering my experience in Viking E-Bikes, a program at Western Washington University (my employer), promoting electric bicycles as a sustainable transportation alternative. As mentioned in the last installment, the experience so far has been a mix of good and bad. As it turns out, a … Continue reading Viking E-Bikes, Vol. 4:...
Welcome to the 4th installment of my series of posts covering my experience in Viking E-Bikes, a program at Western Washington University (my employer), promoting electric bicycles as a sustainable transportation alternative.
As mentioned in the last installment, the experience so far has been a mix of good and bad. As it turns out, a miscommunication between the program and the bike shop they’ve partnered with for maintenance and repairs resulted in the bike not having had its quarterly maintenance.
So, that explained most of the problems I experienced.
The bike was returned a few weeks ago to the shop for the tune-up it didn’t have, and to address specifically the following problems that I reported when I turned the bike in:
- Rear wheel badly out of true, causing the whole bike to wobble severely
- Spongy breaks
- A clicking sound coming from the front wheel
- Broken chain guard, causing contact with the chain and a resulting grinding noise
Within a minute of riding the bike once it was returned from the shop, I was delighted to find that all of these items had been fixed: the wobble was gone, the breaks adjusted and trustworthy, the clicking sound gone, the chain guard replaced, aligned correctly, and the grinding sound gone.
However, I’m sorry to report that another issue I mentioned in my last post — the poor experience with how the shifting of gears and power assist work together — is now, inexplicably, worse than it was, and the throttle — the on-demand power lever for when you need immediate assistance, often in safety-related situations — only works intermittently.
Imagine, if you will, these three experiences from just one day this past week:
- It’s raining hard, wind blowing the rain in your face, normally an unpleasant cycling experience, but in addition, you approach a hill of any size or degree of incline, you shift down as you would normally do, this works pretty well initially, it’s easier to pedal as you start to climb, but then you want a little power assist, so you bump it up to level 1 or 2, any level actually, but the assist doesn’t kick in immediately as it should, and the immediate affect is that of the breaks having been applied — when they have not been — at the very moment you need help moving forward to most, rather than help stopping, the bike feels heavy and sluggish until the motor gains power, and by then it’s been a hellish minute or so.
- You’ve reached the apex of the hill, the road levels out and even starts to descend somewhat, but before you can shift gears and adjust the power assist level the motor just drop in power abruptly, wildly out of proportion to the momentum you’ve gained from the descent, and once again it feels like you’ve applied the breaks when you haven’t, maddeningly at the very moment when you REALLY want to enjoy the relief of the end of the climb. In response, you first try the throttle for immediate relief and nothing happens on repeated attempts, then you shift down as fast as possible, until you are spinning wildly, the feeling that the breaks are on finally goes away, and only then do you gradually shift back up to where your gear should be.
- At the bottom of this hill that you are descending is an intersection at which you must stop, you need to turn left at the light, where you will immediately head up another hill, you are thankful, in theory, that you have a throttle, so that as soon as you turn and hit the incline the cars waiting behind you don’t get impatient and make a potentially dangerous move to go around you while you’re shifting down and pedaling your ass off, only the throttle doesn’t work right away, you bump up the pedal assist level, but the response from the motor is so slow, by now, you’ve nearly ground do a halt.
There are at least two possible explanations for this behavior:
- Calibration: While I don’t fully understand how the bike is engineered and how the technology all works, it’s VERY possible that there is a calibration procedure that should have, but has not been, completed by the mechanic whenever a tune-up was performed; some process using the LCD display, perhaps, but possibly also involving physical adjustments to what’s called the ‘cadence sensor’, which the makers of the eProdigy Jasper describe as, “[helping] alleviate the burden to pedal hard or apply torque to pedaling.” Yeah, that’s clearly not happening!
- Poor Design: It just may be that the eProdigy Jasper is poorly designed, either in its entirety, or in that it is too susceptible to the calibration getting out of whack. As mentioned in my last post, the bike got good marks for smooth shifting and power assist adjustment when it was reviewed, but then I’m sure the bike was in it’s finest shape when the reviewer took it for a spin. Additionally, the bike can be ordered with an “optional NuVinci continuously variable transmission (CVT), which adds to the price and weight, but requires less maintenance, is very quiet and can be shifted at standstill, reducing wear from the mid-drive system vs. standard cassette and chain”, And so, perhaps this was not included on the bike I’m riding, and maybe the absence of this technology is a contributing factor.
For now, I’ve ridden my 5-mile each way commute route a dozen times since I got the bike back from the shop, and I’m disappointed to conclude that I’m gonna have to turn it back in. The performance is just way too uneven for me, causing considerable annoyance and frustration, but worse, in some cases, dangerous moments of the bike not responding when and how I need it to, a considerable safety risk that I’m not willing to take.
I’ll mention to the coordinator of the Viking E-Bikes program my suspicion that it could be a calibration issue, but I’ll end this post with one last observation that I think is very important in the context of the program’s mission of promoting electric bikes as a viable sustainable transportation alternative.
Reliability & Maintenance Level/Cost
It’s asking enough of prospective buyers to consider spending several thousand dollars on an electric bike — when they could easily walk into REI and get a decent conventional commuter bike for $500-$600, or half that if they buy at Walmart or a used bike via Craigslist — but many buyers are intimidated by all of the technology, the more parts, moving or electronic, goes the saying, the more that can go wrong. And even if they can perform simple conventional bike maintenance, like cleaning and lubricating their chain, adjusting breaks, or changing a tire, the learning curve for maintaining or repairing the added parts and electronics, or the prospect of regularly having to pay a mechanic at a shop to do it, could be enough to ward them off, and in the case of buyers who might not cycle at all if they can’t have the power assist, fossil fuel burning automobiles may be the only alternative for them.
Add to that the possibility that, since electric bikes are still so relatively new on the market and greatly outnumbered by conventional bikes, who knows if the mechanic at your local shop even knows how to maintain or repair one.
I am a prospective buyer. It’s the main reason I signed up for the Viking E-Bikes program. I’m 53 years old, and while not grossly out of shape, the 5-mile each way commute I have now, and the hills that come with it, is sadly out of reach for me on a conventional bike.
But I LOVE cycling and my hope remains that either this bike I’m using now can be calibrated correctly, so that it functions as it should, or that a better bike is out there, with only my research and test driving in the way of finding it.
Meanwhile, it’s back to the shop once more, and I’ll provide an update in my next post.
TFW you desperately check Twitter every morning, and many more times throughout each day, looking for breaking news that the criminals currently "running" our government have been brought to justice, the nightmare brought to an end, only to find the opposite. — Fish & Bicycles (@FishandBicycles) January 25,...
Heartbreaking to hear that this mighty legend is hurting so badly. Hang in there, Eric. You are loved! https://t.co/MzyiUYRe1Q — Fish & Bicycles (@FishandBicycles) January 12, 2018
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