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Figure 1: Me and my Fantic full suspension mountain ebike in front of my Tesla Model 3 on Blue Ribbon Bridge, Three Lakes, Wisconsin. September 4, 2021. Photo by Mary Hasler.

Bicycles

Still Ebiking at 83

The point of this article is to explain how ebiking can keep you biking into advanced ages, even for some people who have severe handicaps. Here’s the background to my story: When I was 77, I had a serious injury while trick water skiing. I tore my pelvis apart and it took emergency orthopedic surgery, 17 days in the hospital, 6 weeks in a wheel chair, and several months more on crutches before I was walking unaided again. Since then, I have had balance issues — technically, a degraded vestibular system. Here’s what I like to tell people: If you see me walking on uneven ground, I do a good impression of a 90 year old. On the other hand, when riding my ebike, I feel like I’m 20.

Why can I even ride a bicycle at this point? My older sister has been riding an adult tricycle since before she was my age. I was an avid bicycle rider before my injury and never stopped riding. There are three components to your vestibular system. 1) Your inner ear. 2) Your vision. 3) Feedback through the muscles in your legs. I had a complete medical workup done of my vestibular system after my accident. My inner ear is okay, and my vision is okay, so my problem is related to the feedback through my legs. So, why can I still ride a bike even on moderate (L1 & easy L2) off-road trails? If you think about how you balance on your bike, it is by turning the bike with your handle bars. So, my explanation for my bike balancing capability is that I have bypassed my degraded balancing system through my legs.

Figure 2: Me ebiking. Kolob Canyon, Zion National Park, Utah. January 14, 2022. Photo by Mary Hasler.

After playing many sports all my life, including competitive water skiing in which I won an age group gold medal at 60, almost none of those activities are possible for me anymore. Even running, walking, and hiking more than a few yards have been off the table. I still snow ski, but you can only do that in the winter. What I can do is ride a bike, and in particular my ebike, and I do it year-round. Balancing with my arms works great, and the ebike makes up for my lack of strength and stamina at age 83. Bottom line: I’ve always loved physical activities and ebike riding is the one thing I can do where I’m not restricted by my physical handicaps. I still feel like I’m 20 years old when I’m ebiking, and I love it!

Figure 3: Me with mountain ebike. Slick rock mountain biking. Saint George, Utah. January 2, 2021. Photo by Marta Hasler.

Where & what I’m riding?

Before ebikes, I was primarily a road biker, I never got into any off-road biking. My first ebikes had no suspension or just front shocks, so I continued riding on paved roads and trails. However, about five years ago, I purchased my first full-suspension mountain ebike. The full-suspension ebike lured me off road for the first time and changed my life. I’m limited to relatively easy trails (L1s and some of the easier L2 trails). However, this opened me up to some gorgeous off road trails in Northern Utah, Southern Utah, and Northern Wisconsin where my wife and I now spend our time. A typical day for me involves a 20 mile ride taking about 90 minutes. Of that ride, usually about 17 miles are on paved trails and 3 miles are off road. While I have a bike carrier for two big ebikes on the back of my Tesla Model 3, I generally use them just for transporting the bikes to our various homes. I like to ride my ebike out of the garage, starting on paved roads and trails and reaching the gorgeous off-road trails up to 10 miles from our homes.

Unless you live in the Netherlands, almost anywhere you wish to ride, you have hills to climb. There are also days when you are going to be riding into a strong wind. Off-road riding almost always involves some steep hills. Whether I’m riding in Saint George (see Figure 3) or Zion National Park (see Figure 2) or Northern Wisconsin (see Figure 4), there are hills to climb that would make my bike routes impossible for an 83 year old. With an ebike, even climbing the steepest hills and riding into the strongest wind are a breeze. (Pun intended.)

Figure 4: Me and my ebike with bow saw & clippers for trail maintenance. Three Lakes, Wisconsin. May 17, 2022. Photo by Mary Hasler.

Please tell me if you ride bikes in your later years? How many of you 70, 80, and 90-year-olds are still riding bikes, ebikes, recumbent bikes/ebikes, and adult trikes.

 
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Arthur Frederick (Fritz) Hasler, PhD, former leader of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization & Analysis Laboratory (creator of this iconic image), and avid CleanTechnica reader. Also: Research Meteorologist (Emeritus) at NASA GSFC, Adjunct Professor at Viterbo University On-Line Studies, PSIA L2 Certified Alpine Ski Instructor at Brighton Utah Ski School.

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