On my Saturday ride I came across something totally unexpected…
(Evidently) the next generation of powered cycling has arrived – Hybrid Bicycles. Have you seen these things? They are absolutely ingenious, and in the right circumstances I am all for it! I’ll explain that later, but first, let me tell you about the Giant Twist, Freedom I saw and the great man who rides it.
The mid-point of my Roanoke circuit is a gas station on US-24. I don’t usually stop, but was a bit low on energy, so I pulled over for a Gatorade and rest. While there an old-timer named Bud pulled in on a brand new Bicycle. He gave me a warm smile and nod as he complimented my bike and entered the station. I casually looked over his bike and upon his return asked about what I was seeing.
His bike is a 2013 Giant Twist Freedom; It’s a hybrid!
Bud explained that a hybrid bike has an electric motor with battery pack and speed control. The motor doesn’t actually power the bike, it ASSISTS the rider. He has two adult daughters that ride with him, and according to Bud, “They pass me easily on the flats, but on the hills I pass ’em then tell them to pick up the pace.” I chuckled (remembering that immediately following this gas station are two of the more significant hills of this ride).
The bike has two panniers on the back, one being storage and the other a removable, rechargeable battery. This battery feeds an electric motor built into the FRONT wheel hub. That seemed an ingenious design to me. On the left handlebar was a basic control with an LED indicating battery power and allowing Bud to choose one of three electric assist levels. I noticed a gear shifter on the right handlebar but only a single rear gear. The 7 speed cassette and derailleur are on the crankset. Again… interesting design.
Bud volunteered that the bike retailed for $1,600 when he first saw it. He made it clear he wanted the bike, but couldn’t afford that price. Over the course of 6 months he waited them out and bought the bike for a little over $1,000. Ah yes… under that wrinkled tan and John Deere hat is a shrewd wheeler-dealer.
I’m something of a cycling purist.
I’m not a fan of the recumbent bike (It’s a recliner people…with wheels!), or the motorized bike for that matter. Some of you are too young to remember the motorized bicycle, but the premise was to put a small gas motor on a (somewhat) standard bike frame. You would pedal the bike as normal, but at some point you could engage the motor, start it by pedaling, then simply allow the gas motor to power the bike for you. I was never a big fan. It seems to me if you’re going to pedal the bike to start the motor why not skip the effort? Save your money and buy the moped! (Again, for the young an explanation; a moped was THE scooter of the 80s and 90s… um, the NINETEEN 80s and 90s.) However, I felt differently about the Hybrid bike. Probably because it assists the rider, it doesn’t take over. To me that’s the important part. Cycling is, in some way, about the relationship between rider and cycle.
The Bottom Line…
Here’s the bottom line for me; the hybrid technology allows my friend Bud, an 80-something year old farmer whose wife of undetermined years passed away of cancer four years ago, to do something he enjoys with people he loves. Without the assistance he wouldn’t be able to ride with his daughters. The tears in those wisened eyes told me this was the most important part of his current life (and as a father of two daughters…I can relate). In the end, that the most important thing isn’t it?
I left a few moments after Bud, and on the far side of the hills just past the gas station I saw something that made me smile. A man wearing a John Deere hat riding a brand new bicycle. I quickly overtook him and passed Bud on his hybrid bike. As I passed he gave me that familiar nod and smile. I simply asked, “Great day for a ride, eh Bud,” and closed with…