At 6am last Thursday I launched into the dark, slightly misting unknown. Dark and wet conditions are dangerous enough to ride a bike in. Add Los Angeles commuter traffic and the fear I’ve sometimes felt as a mountaineer climbing and hanging off rocks at high altitude came screaming back into my head and heart.
So I was taking seriously this ride across town from Long Beach to Manhattan Beach to connect with a buddy. Raingear, food and water – check. I researched the route the night before and chose direct and relatively safe streets with a couple of exceptions. And the bike I rode was made for this type of riding.
My trusted steed for this adventure was a Bulls Dail-E Grinder , a German designed and built electric bike. Fitted with state-of-the-art components – Bosch motor, Shimano Ultegra Di2 electronic groupset, Schwalbe Evolution tires, and a couple of completely effective fenders. This ebike delivers the solid, high-performance, no-frills confidence of another German brand, BMW.
My confidence spiked when I powered up the bike and switched on the headlight. The Supernova headlight pierced the darkness like a sword. The rear taillight brightened my tail and even increased intensity when I braked. This felt good. My European import had some gravitas.
I maneuvered through familiar neighborhood streets and onto Anaheim Blvd. The streets weren’t as slick as I expected them to be and the traffic wasn’t heavy yet. With full “Turbo” power selected among the five options available, I moved with adjacent cars block to block with little speed differential. My usual approach is to let the platoon pass so that I have the right lane pretty much to myself, which worked fine on this cool SoCal winter morning.
I was headed about twenty miles to rendezvous with Peter Flax, who used to be editor of Bicycling Magazine, now a writer for the Hollywood Reporter. He’s gone from chasing fasty cyclists to chasing fancy celebrities. Peter lives in a quite neighborhood few blocks from the beach, so our plan would be to navigate from his house to the beach bike path and beyond to his office about sixteen miles away on Wilshire Blvd.
Bike lanes in Los Angeles are intermittent. They are certainly welcome but usually show up only where there is plenty of space anyway. The city went on a painting spree a few years ago with a plan to put miles of lanes down. That meant the low hanging fruit; easy bike lane placements were completed, leaving gaps. So as the sun was rising and my confidence with the Dail-E Grinder was increasing, I was making good time and having a good time.
Electric bikes are faster and take less effort than traditional bikes, especially when you’re in Turbo power mode. Imagine angels aside your pedals, giving about a pound of power for every pound of effort you put in. Sweet mechanical advantage! And on hills, have you ever had somebody come up from behind and help push your bike up by the seat? That’s what pedal assist feels like.
So I was cruising with little effort between signal lights at 20 to 28 miles per hour. But I was burning my battery power fast. By mile 10 I had lost the first of five bars on the power meter. And thinking I had about another 30 miles to go, I backed down the power mode from Turbo to Tour. Less electrical power meant shifting to a lower gear to keep an easy spin cadence. Not a bad trade off I found, for longer range.
I got to Manhattan Beach almost twice as fast as I had planned, so I dawdled around until the 8am appointment time with Peter. He met me at the door and off we went.
We didn’t talk about Peter’s bike history but from the skinny wheeled, lighter-than-a-feather racing bike he rode, along with his flat-bellied physic, I could see he was no poseur. As we rode he demonstrated his confidence and skills while regaling me with stories of Lance and other sparklies.
The peaceful beach bike path route we took was a welcome relief from the constantly guarded, road warrior mode I had just experienced. We rode and traded stories while catching views of the ocean waves breaking just offshore. We passed under jets taking off from LAX then turned inland at Ballona Wetlands and took the Ballona River Path to Culver City. This was Peter’s preferred route to work and he’s done it hundreds of times. He knows the regulars along the way, the eccentrics, and the difficulties riders have when it rains and the trail gets closed.
At Culver City we took to the streets and worked our way through rush hour traffic the last four miles or so to his office on Wilshire. Neighborhood scenes from the Andy Griffith Show were filmed long ago in Culver City, so you can imagine how relatively peaceful and easy it was to ride there. Aunt Bee and Opie would still feel at home here.
We arrived at Peter’s office about 9am and parted ways. He had some breaking news related to acting schools and casting fraud to tend to. I had a stop at a nearby designer coffee shop and emails to tend to. After that I put the Dail-E Grinder on the Wilshire Express Bus to downtown LA, connected with the Metro Blue Line and was back in Long Beach by noon.
Using an ebike for this adventure was sweet. The route was flat and the distance was enough to get a modest workout. The Bulls Dail-E Grinder performed like I expected a well-engineered German product to do. And Peter provided the narration and color commentary of his LA bike experience just like the pro I expected. All in all, a bullishly good morning on an ebike in LA.
Learn more about Bulls eBikes at: www.bullsebikes.com
Come and test ride Bulls bikes and over 20 other premier and emerging eBike brands at our Electric Bike Expo in Long Beach Feb., 24-26 in downtown Long Beach in the Convention Center parking lot. Learn more and register easily online here: https://electricbikeassociation.org/events/longbeach/.
About Charlie Gandy
Charlie Gandy is the special advocate adviser for the Electric Bike Association. He is a nationally recognized expert in bicycle and pedestrian advocacy, and a popular consultant and speaker known for sparking innovation. Charlie founded Bike Texas, created the Thunderhead Alliance retreat for biking and walking advocates, played a key role in raising funding for and running the original “Bikes Belong” national political campaign to fund biking, walking and public transit at the federal level, and originated and developed the Bike Friendly Business Districts program in collaboration with Bike Long Beach for the City of Long Beach. He is the Vice Chair of the California Bicycle Coalition.