Tuesday, October 12, 2021

E-bike experiment going well

We are car-less in Montecarlo! We returned last week from a fantastic two-week excursion in Basilicata and Campania, and I turned in our rental car after I took our friends to the airport. I caught the train home, and now we are finding out what life will be like here without a car. So far, so good.

E-bikes on the Lucca wall make us happy!

We actually advanced our plans, because we had only planned to purchase one electric-boost bike this fall and then get another in the spring if the fall car-less experiment proved successful. But a Facebook friend near us had purchased a new e-bike earlier this year, and then she and her husband decided to move back to the United States. She had been advertising the bike for sale for several months, without success, and we decided to make an offer much below what she had hoped to receive. She accepted the offer, and we drove to Gallicano to pick it up two days before we had to relinquish our rental car. We also stopped at Esselunga and bought about 200 euro worth of groceries, knowing that for the next three weeks, we will be limited to buying only what we can carry on our bikes.

We only had two days to try out Lucy’s bike before we had to put it to its first big test—riding 3.2 miles one way to our church in Altopascio. During those two days, Lucy resisted trying it out. She was tired from our southern vacation, and she still had vivid memories of a time she had taken a fall on her shaky old mono-speed bike some years ago. That happened when a motorcyclist frightened her by coming up behind her suddenly on a bumpy road in Altopascio. She wanted to have some time to get used to the new bike gradually, but Sunday came too suddenly.

The weather was beautiful, but Lucy wasn’t ready. Had we been able to start out on level ground, she would have been fine, but exiting Montecarlo requires going downhill on a steep incline. She got on her bike and made it down a lesser incline, but when she reached the first steep part, she backed out. Ironically, she had done fine in Basilicata going at a speed of 70 mph on ziplines 3,300 feet high—and walking over two narrow suspension bridges that were 400 feet from the ground. The problem here was that Lucy had not ridden a bike since 2015, when we bought our Montecarlo home, and she had not had time to learn to trust the brakes of this new bike. I assured her that the disc brakes made this the safest bike she had ever used, but she wasn’t convinced. I escorted her home, and then went on to church without her.

What would it take to get her to try again? She said she wanted the bike checked out in the bike shop in Lucca. The seat was too low, and even though we tried to adjust it several times, it would not remain at the proper height. The disc brakes squealed a bit, and that contributed to her lack of confidence. She also wanted the option to take her time and walk the bike down the steepest parts, if necessary. But the only way to get both Lucy and the bike to the shop in Lucca required riding to Altopascio and going on the train.

We decided to try again Monday afternoon, with no fixed deadline. We set out to take the 1:30 train, but there would be another train an hour later if we didn’t make the first one. This time, without the pressure of the clock, she made it down fine, going slowly at first but still riding all the way. Once we got on level ground, she gained even more confidence, and we made the train with time to spare. And even better, by that time, Lucy’s brakes no longer squealed.

Mauro and Laurie at the bike shop where we had purchased my bike were amazingly helpful. Mauro took us to his workshop and installed a new clamp that kept the seat stable, and he tightened some other fittings that could have become problems in the future. He adjusted an out-of-alignment fender and assured us that it was normal for new disc brakes to make some noise until they are fully broken in. Mauro refused to take payment for his help, but we went back into the store and bought a pump and two new chains to securely lock our bikes when we go grocery shopping.

We had 45 minutes to wait until the next train, so we took a leisurely lap around the city wall, something we have not been able to do on bicycles for several years. Then it was back on the train to Altopascio—with the ultimate test yet to come: the climb to Montecarlo. For the most part, the fears that Lucy had been feeling dissipated more and more with each meter she climbed.

“I counted again, as I did on the Ponte alla Luna, to keep my mind off the idea that I can’t make it,” she said. “My fear was that you had to keep pedaling all the way to the top, that if you stop, you can’t get started again, but that’s not true.  I took a couple of short breaks and was easily able to start up again.”

Today I rode to Pescia to visit cousins Grazia and Marta, and then I picked up a few groceries at Esselunga. The ascent from the Pescia side of the hill of Montecarlo is much steeper than from Altopascio, but I made it home without breaking into a sweat. I think we’re going to do this!


  1. Well done, Lucy! So proud of you! Sounds like it's going to work well 😊🚴‍♂️🚴‍♀️

  2. Better safe that sorry Lucy - but . . .much more control on the bike than that big horse you rode for Birthday 2018. Just be aware of cars and crazies. We get about 20 miles per charge on ours, depends on the amount of pedal power you use. Cheers.


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