The Joy of Electric Bikes Like I've Never Experienced Before

“The Bicycle Has A Soul…It Will Give You Emotions that You Will Never Forget.”
—Mario Cipollini

My friend James “Jimi” Hunter, a self-described former “extreme biker,” invited me to go riding with him one day. He has two Sonders E-Bikes in his garage—charged and ready to go. All I had to do was drive to his home and we were off to the races—so to speak.

In 1987, while racing in the Veteran's Class (men 35 and older), Jimi finished 3rd in the Cross Country race, and took first place in the downhill at the World Mountain Biking Championships. He also won the sport and masters class in the Ultimate Kamikaze Downhill in Bishop the same year. Eventually, a nasty crash, broken collar bone, severe concussion and severed vertebral artery forced him to give up high risk biking and racing. 

Upon reflection, he said, "It was all about ego. Now, I just ride for pleasure. E-BIkes are about hitting the EZ button and enjoying the ride,” he added. “It allows people who wouldn’t consider riding a bike any more to revisit the recreational aspects of the sport.” His enthusiasm for E-Biking has won over some converts. His 70 year old brother in law, a psychiatrist in Texas bought one and “fricken loves it,” he said. His sister and nephew are getting one, and after two outings with Jimi I found myself hooked and placed my order online.

We rode the hills and valleys of Los Gatos, Monte Sereno and Saratoga, CA. After living in this area for over 40 years, Jimi knows all the nooks and crannies like the back of his hand. We explored the sweet spots—quiet neighborhoods off the beaten paths, including magnificent estates, vineyards, and breathtaking panoramic vistas of the Santa Cruz Mountains.

People have been riding bikes since the 1800s. The precursor to a bicycle as we know it was a Draisienne or “Running Machine,” invented by Barn Karl von Drais of Germany. It had frames and two wheels but no pedals. It was propelled by walking and gliding.
I still remember my first Schwinn bicycle and the feeling of joy and sense of freedom I felt when I took off my training wheels. The advantage of an electric bike is it makes riding more convenient, easy and fun, and a healthy addition to any lifestyle. The pedal assist feature of electric bikes not only works out your muscles, especially on an incline, but provides the rider aerobic exercise as well. For those using it as a means of transportation to get to and from work or, run an errand. It shortens the time and distance to your final destination.

Another advantage of an E-Bike, is you can navigate hilly terrains without a sweat by the push of a button at the top of the handle bar that activates the pedal assist feature. As we age, we have less capacity to power up. Knees and quads tend to ache, and the back can stiffen. With an electric bike you don’t need to worry about getting halfway through your ride and caving-in to exhaustion, worrying whether you’ll make it back home. In that sense the electric motor of an E-Bike is your friend.

And, who cares if someone thinks you’re cheating? It’s not like we were taking steroids or looking to compete in the tor de France. You can’t cheat at getting around and having fun. Besides, Electric bikes are designed to break down the barriers to entry to the world of cycling. It’s no more cheating than using gears that were invented to assist a cyclist to climb a hill more efficiently or increase your speed on the straightaways. Electric bikes make it possible for more people of all levels of fitness to ride without being intimidated by hills, wind or any extra weight they may be carrying. For non athletes there are other fringe benefits of cycling including the freedom from traffic jams, not having to stop for gas, and not having to pay a parking fee.

During my first ride out in the Santa Cruz foothills, I couldn’t stop smiling. It was so liberating. The motor powered electric assist feature is what transforms what would normally be an ordinary bike ride to a Zen-like experience. The experience leaves you with a sense of awe, appreciation and gratitude for being alive.

So where does one get an E-Bike and how much does it cost? E-bikes can range from $800 to $8000 or more. I mentioned earlier that I placed my order online. I chose a white bodied Sondors Premium Electric Bike with pin stripe blue trim on the tire rim as created by Storm Sanders as seen in the photo. It was like placing an order for a Tesla. They had a special pre-sale program of their lastest two models are going for $699 and $899. The main features that sold me were that it was lighter and slimmer than the older models, holds a longer battery charge and can be folded in half for easier storage.

I also liked the bio of its creator, Storm Sonders who grew up in Latvia and makes his home in Malibu. Ever since he was a young boy his parents believed there was someting “off" about him. He was socially awkward, yet displayed a talent for brilliance. He finished high school at 14 and went to an art school to study to be a sculptor. In his early 20s, he was living in Chicago, building wooden models for Mattel and Fisher-Price. He went into business on his own, was very successful with many ventures but it didn’t bring him happiness. He sought out therapist and found out he had Asperger’s syndrome, a mild form of autism. 

He got interested in electric bikes following a knee injury. But, it retailed for $4000, far more than he was willing to pay for a bike. So, he decided to design his own, found a fundraising partner and together they developed a crowdfunding campaign. Early investors committed $499 for a brightly covered, fat-tire beach cruiser. Thanks to my friend Jimi, this was my first introduction to E-Bikes and I didn’t need to look any further. I liked what I saw and experienced, and can’t wait for my order to be shipped.🙂

Electric Bike Review (EBR) website:

Entrepreneur with Asperger’s peddling affordable electric bike by Charles Fleming