Reconnecting to the Road

In my adolescent years, I grew up in upstate New York. We lived in the middle of the woods , just off Lake Ontario, five miles from a town with one stop light. There wasn’t much to do but explore nature – as a kid, the outdoors was a giant playground and where I felt at home.

My ticket to adventure was on my bike.  During the summers I could ride anywhere, exploring backwood trails, meet friends at the local baseball/soccer field to play pick-up, and occasionally sneak away to the girlfriend’s house.

I’ve always felt that time slows when pedaling, your body and mind are forced to be present and engaged with your surroundings, enjoying the process of the commute. You take in the fresh air, sounds, and sights in a totally different way than speeding down the road in a vehicle.  Even when I got my first car senior year, I still rode a bike most places when I could.

I lost that connection to biking when graduating high school back in 2006.  College brought me down to Raleigh and the city life; competing with a bunch of cars and stop lights just didn’t do it for me.  I needed that open road.

Fast forward 10 years, to fall 2016.  My buddy Pete and I were catching up over breakfast in Raleigh when he casually asked if I wanted to bike and golf with him from Portland, OR to Pebble Beach, CA.  I heard the word “yes” come out of my mouth before I could even fully process the question. I was drawn back to memories of the open road as a kid back in NY, and knowing what the Pacific Northwest entailed nature-wise, it was a journey I felt destined to take.

The details turned out to be pretty intense.  Whoops.  "I used to play high school sports, I'll be good, right?" was a reoccuring little voice thought.

Mapping out our route, elevation change would be constant, terrain grades unlike what I’ve ever rode before.  We would be bike 50-70 miles, haul our golf clubs, clothes, and camping gear on a trailer, and walk 9-18 holes on a daily basis.

Long days meant pit stops. Cue leg stretch, eat clif bar, catch up over what podcasts were listened to.

Leading up to the trip, we decided to do a one hundred and forty mile test run on touring bikes with a burley trailer in tow.  The plan was to pedal from Raleigh to Dormie Club, play golf/camp, and ride back the next morning.  On day 2, after mile 105, I had to shut it down.  In my right knee I felt a deep pain unlike anything I had felt before.  I tried grinding out a few more miles, using my arm to push down and help pedal, but it kept getting worse.  Boom, day over.  With a week to go before heading west for the trip, I needed a solution, and needed it fast.  A solution that would help me conquer the extreme distances we would do repeatedly for the next 2.5 weeks.

I started googling, starting with the search phrase: “electric bikes.”  I came across The E-bike Store, a specialized electric bike shop.  Coincidentally, their brick & mortar store was in Portland, the starting point of our bike adventure.

I called them up and was greeted by the owner, Wake.  He walked me through the basics on e-bikes (Wake is an incredible guy and knowledgeable as heck on the subject).  Essentially, the electric “pedal assist” style I was looking at would provide an adjustable assistance to your pedaling when turned on.  They had a limited range of miles it would assist that varied from the manufacturer, as it was battery powered.

After talking to Wake and going over the trip, the best option we thought would be the Raleigh Redux IE.  It is rated to have around a 50 mile range, which would effectively be about 30 with the trailer + terrain.  So, the pedal assist was something I could utilize when I was fatigued or needed help up the large hills.

When we arrived in Portland, we headed to The E-bike Store and took the bike for a test ride.  It was a blast; we weaved up and down city streets, through metro parks, and I was able to add help when needed. I could even pedal hard enough with the sport mode to get it going 20 mph uphill.  It braked on a dime, coming equipped with front and rear disc brakes.  Passing all of my tests, Wake + team got the Redux IE road ready.

Check these people out for anything electric bike related. Seriously.
Getting the Raleigh Redux IE tuned up.

Along the route, I would snag charges wherever I could, it plugged into any normal outlet.  Being in remote areas most of the trip, sometimes I had to get creative.  The thing I loved most was that for the majority of the ride I could have the assist off and feel the full test of the road, but when I needed it to give my legs a break and prolong my endurance, I had the option.

Found a ceiling outlet at the local watering hole in Reedsport, OR.

The Redux IE made it 900 miles down the coast with no hiccups or flat tires.  I did run out of range a few days, which made it grueling going uphill with the extra weight, but that comes with the territory of 70 mile rides.  It was a life changing trip, and I wouldn’t have been able to do it without the electric assistance.

What Pete did on a touring bike with pure leg power was the most impressive physical feat I’ve seen with my own eyes.  He never showed fatigue, wear, or defeat.  I'm honored to have been along for the ride.

Our final round from Portland to Pebble was at Pacific Grove. We weren't ready to stop pedaling.

Finding my connection with biking again is awesome.  I now ride to the course when I can, which gets my mind focused on golf and my body loosened up.  The best public course in the area, Lonnie Poole, is a perfect 13 mile round-trip from my place.  You can even scoop a charge from the cart barn.

For those who used to have a passion for biking and want to find it again, or maybe joint pain is keeping you from pedaling long distances, electric bikes are worth taking for a spin.  I’d start by checking out the Redux IE, it is adaptable to different needs and has a big range.  Raleigh Electric also has a fat tire version which I’m lusting over ... may need to buy myself an early birthday gift. 

Keep pedaling, homies. 

Author: Luke Davis