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Soft Pedaling Del Mar
Art Olson | Avenida Primavera


Arthur Olson cruising up Avenida Primavera on his e-bike.
Photo Shirley King. Click on photo to enlarge.

For me, bicycling has always been a pleasant experience – taking in the scenery while moving through it at a reasonable pace. The bike is an extremely efficient and environmentally friendly mode of transportation. And, biking has significant health benefits –a great low impact workout. Touring, commuting, and exercise – bicycling seems to have it all.

Of course, for many there can be downsides to cycling – especially in a place like Del Mar, with its hilly neighborhoods and unruly traffic along CDM. If you just want to tour around town or visit friends, you might not be in the mood for a strenuous workout. And, if you want to commute by bike to a topographically challenging location, you might need to reserve time for a shower and a change of clothes before starting your work day. Then there is the issue of safety – physics tells us that if a motor vehicle and a bicycle unexpectedly meet, the bicycle and its rider come out worse for the encounter.

Especially as we age, these concerns present formidable barriers to simply hopping on our bikes instead of jumping into our cars. Thus, our trusty bicycles become our rusty bicycles. This was the case for me until I became aware of the new crop of electric bikes that have shown up lately in local shops. After researching an article on e-bikes for the Sandpiper last September, I decided to buy one – and my relationship with biking has changed dramatically since. Like many cyclists, I had considered electric bikes as a kind of cop-out – a performance-enhancing cheat. But, now I am a firm believer in performance enhancement, and accept the somewhat diminished capacity and appreciation of assistance that inevitably accompanies ageing.

Many people think that an e-bike is a type of electric motor scooter – just turn it on, sit down and go. I see it more as a bicycle with an electric motor assist. In fact I can get as much or as little exercise as I want. When I ride it for pleasure I am usually pedaling – but if I come to a hill, I can send some juice to the electric motor built into the rear hub and shift into a lower gear to adjust my pedaling effort. Miraculously, the Del Mar’s hills suddenly flatten, and I pedal as easily as if I were on a level street. What used to be a barrier has become a new scenic path through our town and beyond. I think nothing of riding to Albertsons or Flower Hill, over the North Hills and onto the boardwalk and trail along the restored San Dieguito River Valley. I try to avoid riding on Camino Del Mar when I can, rather taking side streets where traffic is sparser and calmer. My work commute to the Torrey Pines mesa has become an immensely pleasurable ride along side streets and the State Beach, and then up the grade inside the Torrey Pines Reserve and along the golf course. I try to get a reasonable amount of exercise – comparable to a well-paced 20 minute walk –and arrive at my lab ready to start the day without need for a shower or change of clothes. And, I have to admit that I get a slight twinge of pleasure when I pass a spandex-clad road cyclist powering up the steep grade. Who says that performance enhancement is such a bad thing?


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