From food shopping to date nights, here’s how the e-bike has changed my life forever…
I once heard of an argument between a couple of friends when one of them had bought an e-bike. A protagonist reprimanded the buyer for ‘cheating’ on the bike by having pedal assistance. This is a common critique of the e-bike concept, but completely misses the point. The e-biker in question was using it for a daily 34-mile round-trip to work. Considering the proportion of journeys less than 2 miles that are done by car, this is staggering and, in my view, pretty impressive. The e-bike in this case does not substitute a regular bike; it takes a car off the road, and for that should be hailed.
E-bike as car alternative
In a world where it seems that nearly every household has a car per person, my partner and I like to do things a little differently. We have a small, relatively economical car (which we barely use – more on this in a later post!) – and an e-cargo bike as our second vehicle. Technically the car is mine and the bike is his, but we essentially share them both to get best use out of each.
Jason has always been an active traveller and buying the e-bike – a Tern GSD – was an inevitable extension of this because he carries a lot of gear for work. It’s an amazing machine which carries up to 200 kilos, rides like a dream and turns heads everywhere it goes (not least because of the colour!). Whilst gaining access to the Tern was, for me, a mere by-product of Jason’s choices, I wouldn’t want to be without it now. Quite frankly, it’s changed my life.
For Jason, this bike is an extension of his personality and of the lifestyle he’s led for decades as a ‘utility cyclist’. For me, it’s a game-changing tool in my quest to live sustainably. And for both of us, it’s an absolute joy to ride.
GSD stands for Get Stuff Done. That’s a pretty apt strapline, and I’d like to tell you a little bit about some of the stuff we get done on the Tern (and where we might like to take it next!)
Shopping & deliveries
I used to despair over food shopping because I simply couldn’t carry everything on a regular bike (bulky items like loo roll soon fill up a bog-standard rucksack or pannier!), which forced me to drive to the supermarket more often than I’d like. Whilst my guilt was tempered by the fact that I barely used the car outside of this, it felt so wrong doing such a short trip by car.
The Tern has transformed my weekly routine into a much greener one.
With two huge panniers and a front rack, my days of being unable to carry a bulky food shop are over. Sometimes it takes a bit of careful arrangement to fit it all in securely – cue anecdote of the time I went over a bump causing several items to bounce out of the front and scatter across the road – but by and large the machine carries everything with ease. If I’m doing a big shop I’ll take a rucksack as backup, and have been known to transport wine in the bottle cage!
The e-bike has been especially helpful during the COVID-19 pandemic, when we’ve shopped less frequently and collected groceries for relatives occasionally. We were particularly pleased by how the box of Corona we picked up – which was on special price because of damaged packaging, not because of its connotation! – fit snuggly in the front crate on one such occasion! (We don’t actually drink that much; I promise!!)
If we needed to, we could actually carry a massive crate on the back as well as the panniers. Such is the versatility of this machine though that it transports more than just cargo. Fitted with a comfy removable pad, the back of the bike doubles up as a people carrier! A GSD comfortably carries two kids (with the right configuration), or in our case one delighted, child-like adult (me!).
On these occasions we tend to stick to gender stereotypes, with Jason piloting and me riding on the back. (We tried it the other way round once when J needed a lift to the station with a chunky weekend bag. This was before the front rack had arrived and the bag wouldn’t fit in a pannier, so he had to hold it on his lap whilst riding. The movement of the bag as we travelled kept shifting the balance of the bike and making me wobbly. Not an experience I’d recommend!)
These ‘couple-trips’ – visits to the cinema and the like – are some of the most fun times on the bike, and by far the most head-turning. We literally watch people gawping at us, open-mouthed in astonishment, as we go by. Whilst I’m far from the type who seeks to be centre of attention, it does make us chuckle and we get a glimmer of satisfaction from being a bit out of the ordinary!
My favourite example is the time we used the Tern as our taxi to and from a friend’s wedding reception! The ceremony and reception were 8 miles apart; not a distance I’d expect any wedding-goer to make by bike. Fortuitously, both venues were situated conveniently: the church nearby my parents’ house, where I happened to have stayed the previous night to cat-sit, and the reception just a couple of miles from my current abode. So, post-ceremony, we strolled back to my family home, hopped in the car and popped home to grab the GSD. We landed at the hotel just in time to see the bride & groom arrive, and didn’t have to stress about tackling a jam-packed car park. It was a beach location on a glorious day so the road was teeming. We enjoyed being waved and called at by car-dwellers edging their way towards the sand as we glided past on two wheels.
Hopes & dreams
Having the GSD in my life has undoubtedly changed it for the better, but I think we’ve only scratched the surface of what’s possible with this ingenious machine. When the time is right I’d like to test its limits and see what more it can do for us. We’re particularly keen to see how it handles a weekend away or camping trip…
Watch this space for more on my e-bike adventures!