Today the planet reaches the orbital position and rotational orientation of my exit from the birth canal and out into the world (It’s my 45th birthday). As a way to celebrate being one more year closer to death, I decided to write this crazy article. I have a lot of anxiety about being alive, every day I imagine a giant LED bomb-style timer rapidly counting down to zero. I can’t see what the numbers are no matter how hard I focus, but when it hits zero I know I’ll be dead. It is this anxiety that causes me to work sucking the marrow out of life as if it were my full-time job.
A have a friend (true story), and his name is Eric Skawald. Eric has been one of my best friends for a long time and totally embodies what I want to be like 24 years from now (I’m not allowed to publish his age but I’m 45 and he’s 24 years older than me so you do the math). Eric is also old, really old, like one foot in the grave old. Currently retired, he spent many years teaching remedial English and Math skills to inmates at a maximum security prison, so you can see why we get along (they haven’t caught me yet). I have never sold any of my precious electric fat bikes because it’s a fine line between trying to promote the industry, and not doing it on my home turf and making myself a target for my non-ebiking friends. I decided to sell my Bullseye monster with a converted BBS02 to Eric last year for quite a bit less than what I paid for it.
To put it mildly that ebike purchase has completely changed his life. I’ve heard similar stories from lots of other people all over the world.
Eric is an amazing downhill skier, and like myself, he prefers skiing in the woods on extremely steep terrain (over 35 degrees). Back in my downhill skiing days, I used to hit the mountain with Eric and he was one of the only people who could keep up with me. That was saying a lot because he was 24 years older than me, but he skies like a hot-blooded teenager. Eric’s daughter Ella is also an amazing snowboarder and started to learn to downhill mountain bike and within a few short years was competing on a national level in downhill racing. Eric wanted to learn how to trail ride, but he knew he didn’t have a prayer of ever being able to keep up with Ella on the trails. Buying a cheap home built electric mountain bike changed all that for him and opened doors that he never thought would be possible. This article is about how you’re never too old to pick up a new sport and how an electric bike can level the playing field when riding with these young whipper snappers.
I find it a huge disservice to the elderly for ebike companies to focus their product line on the infirm and enfeebled. Although I’m sure that makes up a large portion of their market demographic, there are plenty of old people out there who want to stay young at heart. Learning to ebike on the trails even when you’re over 65 can be done, and done well. The first time Eric went out on my singletrack trails I was amazed at how well he did. I just set the BBS02 to PAS level 1 and let him go. He was a bit slow and had a hard time keeping up with me, but he didn’t wipe out that much and didn’t hit any trees with his head. The wipeouts he did have were pretty spectacular and it was worth putting up waiting for him just to witness them firsthand. Yes, I really am that kind of friend.
After the first couple of times I decided that we were more evenly matched if I rode my normal non-electric bike and he rode the electric fat bike. Although he screams by me up the hills on power level 2, on most of the level terrain we run at about the same speed and he just sets the PAS to level 0. I can’t emphasize how awesome this really is that someone in their mid 40’s who has been biking almost every day for 10 years (that’s me) can ride along with someone in their mid 60’s who has NEVER ridden a bike on singletrack in their life. Although Eric had ridden bicycles about 10 times on the road since his teen years, before he started riding with me he had never been on singletrack before. Before I knew it he was texting me every day to go riding. It was pretty cool (except the part where I had to fix his bike for free every time it broke, which was almost every time we rode together).
That brings up another thing that the uninformed reader should know, under no circumstances should you EVER sell an ebike to a friend of yours. Have them buy their own ebike online so you don’t get stuck with the ‘free repairs for the life of the bike’ deal. That deal ends up sucking for the seller (but it’s really great for the buyer) and it will strain any friendship to its limit. If they don’t feel comfortable building their own ebike, then they should just buy one prebuilt, preferably with a Ludicrous controller, because 50 amps on an e-bike feels just plain awesome.
It’s not just that ebikes are the perfect tool for getting the elderly off their walkers and onto the singletrack, there are also people who are grandparents that are actually leading the direction of the entire industry. Curt Fisher from Torrence, California is one of those people. Curt has been working for Luna on many secret skunkworks projects that I can’t really talk about here and has been instrumental in their overwhelming success. He works ‘behind the scenes’ and is also one of the coolest human beings that I have ever met. My last trip out to LA he let me stay in his house and took me out surf kayaking twice along the LA coastline when it was not windy enough to kiteboard (which was every single day I was there). I have to say that the time I spent with Curt was the highlight of my trip to LA, and I enjoyed my time with him even more than thrashing on Eric’s $160,000 Audi R8 through the streets of LA or taking his custom Apocolypse 10,000W kickscooter up to a GPS verified 50mph.
Curt was the first person to mate his Lunacycle cargo bike to a 3000W Cyclone motor and run it with a 72v battery. Long story short, that setup is just plain awesome. Lunacycle decided to copy it on the factory Rhino build throwing on an even more powerful 5000W motor on that bike with a more powerful Kelly controller to mate with it (50 Amps instead of the 40 Amp stock Cyclone controller). Curt took time out of his busy schedule to ride with me together through Torrance and I got a chance to test the Rhino with a Luna Lander front suspension fork which was a setup that I enjoyed much more than I thought I would. When someone says ‘Hey let’s go trail riding and you can take my 70lb cargo bike that is throttle only’ it’s hard to get excited, but I had a really great time and didn’t even break anything even though I was riding someone else’s bike. How often does that happen?
Do you know an old person who could benefit from all the positive things you get out of learning to trail ride?
- They can go out and ride with younger riders and keep up no problem
- Using different PAS levels they get to choose their exercise levels
- Whenever they wipe out they can use the ‘help me I’ve fallen and I can’t get up’ line
- By learning a new sport they can stay young at heart, as long as their health insurance is paid up
- Getting exercise is one of the most important parts of aging and many elderly basically die right after they retire
I think it’s time for ebike companies to stop treating the over 60 crowd like they should all escape from the old folks home on their ebikes and start realizing that there is actually real market potential for singletrack ebikes for the grandpappy generation. Selling 350W hub motor comfort bikes to the elderly is doing them a huge disservice when they could be out shredding on the singletrack with us. I’m not making this up, I really do have a friend and he really did learn to mountain bike with an electric fatbike with almost no effort on his part whatsoever even though he was pushing 70. Now he’s totally hooked. If I can’t bike/kite/paddle when I’m 70 then frankly I don’t really want to be alive. Kill me now.
Your parents and grandparents can get hooked too. Just get them on an ebike, point them to the trails and watch the magic happen.
Ride on Grandpa, ride on.
Disclaimer : Technically I’m a Grand-Uncle, but my own son has yet to breed. Get cracking boy.
26 thoughts on “Shred Till You’re Dead : Get Grandpa On An Ebike And Out On The Trails”
Great inspiring piece, as usual. As someone personally creeping towards geezerhood at 62, I will only confirm Karl’s thesis that getting old doesn’t mean you still can’t stomp on the pedals like a 10-year-old, and feel the same wind in your (albeit thinning) hair. In fact I recently upped my ebike to 1500W+ level and just ordered a 58T chainring to be able to push the pedals beyond 30 mph.
Thank you, thank you, thank you. I’ve been telling all the e-bike haters…”just wait until you’re OLD!” I started mtb when I was 50. I’m 57 now, and I pray I’m still doing it as long as your friend. I’m still able to chug up and down the hills under my own power, but I purchased an e-bike for my wife to ride with me on the road. It has been a great investment. I definitely can see an e-bike mt bike in my future!!
Great article!!!! Going to hit 55 this year. Going to get my first eBike this year! Thanks again for a great piece!
Around these parts the old farts weekend warrior on quads, which I learned a few weeks ago, is painfully boring. Freezing my ass off while choking on half burnt petroleum and dust from the convoy along a fire road, not to mention waiting hours at a gate for Captain Facebook to return back from town with a portable grinder, wasn’t even as interesting as just reading about these ebike things. I can hardly wait to show them some photos of me and my new fatbike in places they can never get to on those ridiculous abominations. I expect that experience to be vastly more satisfying than winking at lycras!
firstly, a happy birthday to you.
Well, I’m turning 60 this year, and only last year competed myself in the Enduro One race over here in Germany with my Surly ICT AWD (2xMAC). After 3 trail sections (5 in total) my battery went limp, but I pushed the bloody thing uphill – and did not even come last! Earned me a lot of respect from the crowd, mainly young ones.
But hey, I realised that fatties do not compete well on downhill races, and that this was my last race.
I love my fatty, currently rebuilding it to last me till I drop dead, preferably when riding it.
Big plans for retirement, like riding it around Australia (I lived there for 20 years)…
Yep me too, I am just about 62 and its awesome out riding with my Son and Nephew. Even though they make fun of my e-bike they probably would not invite me out with the pace I would set on a non electric. E-bikes are awesome!
Thanks, Karl, and happy birthday!
I’m 70, live in a hilly part of the Maine coast, and have been having a ball with my first (Sondors fatty) ebike. Trail riding really interests me, and you’re inspiring, but first I’m looking for a gnarly folding ebike that can fit well on my boat in case I remember to take it south next fall 😉
Ha ha ha! At 67, soon to be 68, I’m younger then old fart/bad ass Curt, but older then most posting here it seems. But, in my first full year since discovering e bikes, I lost 5 lbs., and I was still within 5 lbs of my high school weight at the time, so I didn’t start off as a fattie (not that there’s anything wrong with that) and have always been in shape. I just rode the 3 mile round trip to my rural mailbox, and see that my max speed was 43.5 mph on my BBSHD/Rohloff hubbed folding Montague bike I haul around in the airplane, big whoop. I have been above 10K elevation on two different rides last year, and log lots of time at 8 and 9 K in remote areas after flying in and landing (no airstrips, I find my own places to land, ) a kitplane, RANS S-7S, tying the plane down, and then getting the bike out. I use the bike to find places to land, and the plane to find places to ride, it’s a vicious circle, but wow is it fun.
One thing about being an old fart on a ebike….if anyone ever gives me any static about “cheating”, etc., (hasn’t happened yet, in the real world, e bikes seems to be pretty well tolerated and even admired, unlike the BS on the internet) I’ll use the old fart “get out of jail free card”, and act all infirm and semi impaired. E bikes are the coolest most engrossing activity I’ve come across since my introduction to aviation 44 years ago, they are the perfect blend of work/exercise and practicality/play. Being able to tie in this new activity with my main squeeze of flying, is just so damn cool it makes my nipples hard.
Ben, check out a Montague, I’ve had 3 of them. The Para Trooper Pro is my current ride. The BBSHD is a natural for it, as was the Rohloff. I now have a rock crawler AND and a high speed cruiser all in one, plus it folds super quick! I’ve tried hard to break one but they hold up fine.
Happy birthday Karl i hope you are having a good one 😉
At 79 going on 80 I discovered E bikes 3 years ago and they are amazing for old blokes who want to keep
Fit. Victoria (Australia) has a marvellous set of trails left from closed rail lines so gradients are reasonable
and surfaces are not to bad .Go for it oldies. Happy birthday Karl .
I consider myself to be just another fucking pussy… playing in the shallow end of the kiddy pool. That said, just before my 60th birthday I pedaled my fat ass across the USA on an old Schwinn mountain bike all by myself. I took lots of detours, took my time, and saw the sights. I followed as many of those Rails to Trails routes as I could between Seattle to Halifax, Nova Scotia. I still love pedaling but I’ve caught the E-Bike bug. It’s all good!
I’m 66…been road and mountain biking all my adult life….diagnosed with Parkinson’s 15+ years ago… Can’t do what I was doing….bought a trek super fly 7…😎…look out world….I feel excited about biking again!
I got into ebikes after building one for my grandfather, who at 97 was complaining about riding home in the cold windy winter rains. He’s 100 now and still riding the ebike. He just loves getting out for a bit of exercise on the bike.
I started riding again at 63. Last time I rode a bike, I was 15. I bought a new conventional bike, then added a Sondors. I rode it 1500 miles, then recently moved up to a pair of Haibike’s. I now have a full suspension eMTB and eTrekking bike. Plan on over 2000 miles this year, putting on over 60 miles a week right now. I’ve never had muscles in my legs like this, even on the eBikes. BUT, I only used the throttle to get the Sondors rolling, and now since the Haibikes don’t have a throttle, all pedaling. I’ll be 65 this fall.
As an 82 year old e-bike, single track trail rider, and level-3 kiteboard instructor, this article rings true. If you’re older and not doing anything that challenges you and is fun, you’re just waiting to die. It is also true if you don’t exercise your mind. Life is an exercise in keeping moving forward and growing. We’re like the Great White shark – if it stops swimming/moving it dies.
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