Alma took up cycling later in life and has been riding with the local bike club’s C group for the past 12 years. She came to us looking for a boost to help her extend her range and keep her from falling off the back of her group on the climbs. The Vivax was the answer. Alma shares her thoughts on how the Vivax changed her group rides. Full disclosure, the Vivax can become addictive, as Alma expresses in her report
To sum up at the beginning, biking is no longer about suffering. You can enjoy the ride without worrying about what’s ahead. But you’ll likely feel like a fraud.
After an awkward break-in period (the first couple of times I rode it in a group, I felt like a criminal, I wanted a paper bag over my head) it turns out my Vivax-equipped Seven does just what I got it for. It extends my range.
Within limits, I can consider riding what, where and with whom I want. More climbing over longer distances is doable, and I can go with stronger riders. Decision-making is easier—can I do this ride . . . will I be dropped . . .how painful will it be? The anxiety at the start is gone. The desperate, futile attempt to keep up with disappearing backs is mostly gone. Gone as well is the joyful hammering away in a successful chase, on a featherweight bike, under your own steam.
For it also turns out that an e-bike is a double-edged sword. It takes away the fear and loathing, but it takes away too the tired, deep sense of satisfaction, the surety of accomplishment.
When I first started riding with the Vivax, I engaged the motor only on long hills, powering up short ones, never contemplating using it on the flats, working almost as hard as ever, refusing the assist except when I absolutely needed it. I was scared to pass riders I had no business passing. I had to slow down as much as the bike allowed in order not to do so. I was more comfortable in my familiar fatigue. I knew my place in the pack.
Things have changed. Now I use it all the time: on any slight climb, including ones I could do on my own, against a headwind, on long flat stretches just to avoid expending too much effort to keep up. I pass strangers on a climb without hesitation, though I’m still reluctant to pass my laboring friends—who know perfectly well my climbing abilities. I usually apologize. I feel ashamed, I feel illegitimate. But I’ve become totally dependent on my Vivax, rarely going on a group ride without it. And while tempted to use it more than necessary, I’m learning to adjust.
It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. On a bad day, or more challenging ride, use it more. On a good one, use it less, or not at all. Unlike much heavier, if more powerful ebikes, with a custom Vivax you still feel you have an (almost) real road bike.
On long, gradual ascents however, which is where the Vivax Assist really shines—truly, fantastically shines—you may find yourself wondering “Why is everyone so slow?” as you cruise effortlessly past. You may even get a little impatient. (You have to turn the motor off to realize what kind of a grind this is that you’re sailing through.)
How do people react? I was horrified the first time someone yelled “Cheater, Cheater, Cheater” at me (the second time it was a sotto voce “cheater”), knowing it was deserved. But most people are perfectly nice about it, many are intrigued and not a few envious. “I want one.”, and “That’s my next bike.” are not infrequent comments.
As for the Ugly, I’m going to get fatter, lazier and weaker, no pain but no gain.
Bottomline, you have to relax, ignore the feelings of inadequacy, forget about the cyclist you used to be, and appreciate the joyride.
There’s also this. If you’re accustomed to coming home after a ride and collapsing in exhaustion—you won’t. It feels odd.
N.B. I’ve talked about riding with the Vivax only in the context of a group. When I bike alone, I go back to my old Serotta. It feels like a thoroughbred racehorse. I’m slow, I suffer, it’s a pleasure.