By Amy Morfas
Some days you want to suffer. Other days you’re just out to enjoy the ride. This story is about one of those latter days as I decided to join some friends and ride my e-bike up Mount Evans and have some fun. Yes, I own an e-bike, and I love it. I’ll admit that I was curious as to the reaction we’d get with our e-bikes on such a traditional Colorado cycling challenge route.
Due to COVID I’ve been pretty strict with remaining home and self-isolating during the pandemic, but I have a friend who is an epidemiologist (very convenient!), and she kept telling me that if I’m outside and keeping 6’ distance, chances are I’d be just fine. That’s led to me doing plenty of hiking both solo and with friends, but I haven’t been comfortable riding with anyone, so my solo miles are low this year. I miss my teammates.
I proposed a trip up Mount Evans on the e-bikes to take advantage of the car-free roads (normally the road is packed with cars and tourists, but because of COVID the Forest Service closed the road to vehicles). I did not want to miss what was possibly a one-time opportunity.
I invited my friend Rob and his wife Kirstin who is new to e-biking. Rob and I had both slogged up Mount Evans before the traditional way, but this time it was just for fun. Rob lives in the Denver area and commutes on an e-bike 22 miles one way multiple times a week. He also enjoys e-bikepacking trips as his bike has a double battery which gives him extended reach.
I’ve had my Benno Boost “etility bike” for a couple of years and I love it! I call it my Mad Max bike with its extra wide tires and a rear rack that holds 2 huge panniers. The 2,000 miles I’ve logged riding around Boulder have all been to replace car trips. I call e-bikes “smile generators” because they’re so much fun. It was time to take mine on a recreational ride.
We rolled out from Echo Lake as I only have a single battery on my bike and did not want to run out of juice. All of our e-bikes are Class 1 pedal-assist, which means just what it says – you have to work (pedal) to get the boost of the motor. Given that my bike weighs 58 pounds, you definitely need that extra power, especially on a ride like Evans! Rob and Kristin’s bikes are even heavier.
The most exciting part was seeing so many cyclists out! Like us, many decided to take advantage of gorgeous Labor Day weekend weather and not miss the opportunity to ride up on empty roads. I propose dedicated car-free days on Evans every season!
It wasn’t long after rolling out that I heard an under-the-breath grumble of “cheating.” While it makes me sad to hear that, I try to not let it bother me anymore. Someone also said that they hoped we’d get ticketed for having a motorized vehicle on the closed road. Again, I waved and rolled past.
My wish is to have ALL people who share a love of bicycling come together and celebrate all things bike, no matter what you ride. We’re not there yet, but I’m confident it’ll happen down the road. With e-bike sales increasing 84% in March, 92% in April, and 137% in May over last year, according to a recent BRAIN (Bicycle Retailer and Industry News) article, e-bikes are here to stay. I look forward to more of the general population joining the cycling movement!
Another encounter was more positive. As I rode past one rider on those final, endless switchbacks at the top, he asked (gasped) about the bikes and what kind of range we had, etc. He showed more curiosity and interest in the technology than judgment, which was nice.
I’ll admit it was fun to cruise through those final turns and make it to the summit. We took our time on the way up, stopped a few times, and made it in about 1:40. There were probably 30 cyclists or so at the top enjoying the fruits of their labor on a beautiful Colorado day. After a snack and pics of the mountain goats, we then donned many layers for the descent. One good thing about having grocery-shopping sized panniers on your bike is that you can carry all the clothing you want!
The descent was much more pleasant on my Mad Max bike than on a road bike. Anyone who has ridden up Evans knows that the descent can be sketchy. There are potholes the size of my kitchen sink, so it’s best to pay close attention.
My days of ripping it on descents are over – some may argue they never began! – so I enjoyed my cruise down. I had one bar of battery power left (out of 5), and turned the motor off to just coast. Since I’m on a townie bike, I’m upright and catch a lot of wind, so several roadies blew by me on the descent. I’d imagine it was satisfying for them on some level.
Rob and Kristin have dual suspension on their bikes, giving them a pretty smooth descent. I don’t have any suspension, but it was still WAY more comfortable than on a road bike. And the heavy bike made me feel much more grounded in the increasing wind gusts, which can be scary on a road bike.
Overall the day was a big success. The ride was awesome, I got to safely spend time with friends I’d not seen since March, we had awesome views at the top of one of Colorado’s highest peaks and got to see a baby mountain goat!
According to the U.S. Forest Service website, the road is closed at Summit Lake following Labor Day. I hope many of you got to take advantage of this amazing opportunity to ride Evans this year, no matter your choice of bike.