It's a beautiful, peak-foliage October day when we pull into the trailhead parking lot at the very end of Sterling Valley Road, about 20 minutes east of Spruce Peak. We're here for a mountain bike ride, and the crisp air elicits some debate: Is it shorts weather? Do I need a windbreaker? Is this wool shirt warm enough? Am I going to get really sweaty on this two-hour ride, or not?
My husband Chris and I often idly debate clothing choices before mountain bike rides, but after years of riding and racing bikes of all types, we tend to have our respective clothing systems pretty well dialed across temperature ranges. (Bottom line: Always start out just a touch cold; you'll heat up soon enough.)
But today, neither one of us knows what to expect, despite the amount of time we've both spent in the saddle over the past 20-some years. And that's because what we're doing is new to both of us: We're riding electric mountain bikes.
To be fair, I'd ridden an electric bike — or e-bike — once before, when a local bike shop owner let me take a newly purchased cruiser-style e-bike for a quick spin. I was wearing flip-flops and a skirt that day, but hopped on with enthusiasm and started making increasingly fast circles around the parking lot, laughing out loud as I realized how quickly you could rev an e-bike up to max speed. My delight was fleeting, though, as the shop owner subtly — but fervently — cut my ride short. The bike's owner had just shown up and was less than thrilled to find a stranger ripping around on her brand-new wheels.