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HEDELT: While e-bikes were a revelation, cycling trip memories will be of newfound friends
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HEDELT: While e-bikes were a revelation, cycling trip memories will be of newfound friends

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Perhaps the best moment of a great cycling trip my wife and I took last week was riding into the fishing village of Menemsha, in the town of Chilmark, Mass. on Martha’s Vineyard.

That was mainly because the spot, ringed by piers where well-worn fishing boats were tied up, had an authentic feel to it, so much so that much of the movie “Jaws” was filmed there.

For someone who grew up in the Chesapeake Bay region and who’s spent his share of time on boats, it was like coming home, riding into the little village where oyster rolls and clam chowder are dispensed through sliding windows at fast food restaurants.

The other upbeat thing about the arrival was the fact that it was the end of the day’s ride for me. We had trekked 24 miles from Edgartown, where we were staying. Our adventure took us along roads and bike paths where not even some drizzle could dampen our spirits.

As on the other five days of our cycling trip with VBT Bicycling Vacations, my legs felt great, and l still had some miles left in them.

I’d like to say that was because I’m in tip-top riding shape, but in truth a big part of that was due to the fact that my wife and I had been riding electric bikes, or e-bikes for short.

As we learned, they’re not like mopeds in that you just hit a button and you’re propelled down the road.

You pedal the whole way, but with the particular e-bikes that VBT had given us, you were able to select four levels of “help” to make it a little easier to pedal when hills, wind and other challenges presented themselves.

We learned this on a short ride the afternoon we arrived at Chatham on Cape Cod, where we stayed for a few days until ferrying over to Martha’s Vineyard.

Slowly getting used to the bicycle I’d been given, I was a bit surprised when we rounded a turn and a small hill presented itself, as everything had been perfectly flat until that moment.

“Hmmmm,” I thought, “maybe I’ll see what this e-control will do.”

I punched the button until the word “eco” popped up. And suddenly, it wasn’t so hard to pedal up that hill, and I managed it without slowing my roll at all. As the week wore on, I become a big fan of the other assist levels: touring, sport and turbo.

“Oh, this is cool,” I thought in that initial e-assist, only to see my wife pedal by me as she tossed off the comment “I want one of these for Christmas!”

And I couldn’t blame her, as I suddenly did, too.

What followed was a great week of cycling and touring some beautiful places. We saw amazing beaches, soaring lighthouses, pristine farmland with stone walls and homes and shops that dot this playground for the well-to-do like sprinkles on ice cream.

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And everywhere you looked: water. From ocean vistas to ponds to harbors where boats are anchored in neat little rows a kindergarten teacher would love, it’s clear that people are drawn to the soul-salving effects the water provides.

Also making our week such a treasure were the people we traveled with.

They came from California, Idaho, Colorado, Arizona and Virginia. Many of them were veterans of VBT trips in the U.S. and Europe.

At first, I was concerned about keeping up with the veterans in the pack. But with the help of the e-bikes and the kindness showed by everyone in the group, soon enough, my fears were allayed.

I could hang, and because these were some of the kindest and most fun souls you could find, I actually wanted to.

Over the course of the week, we became a sort of extended cycling family, learning about each other’s families, vocations, hopes and, at times, even dreams.

We spent a lot of time together,—doctors, architects, artists, teachers, business owners, nurses and nurse practitioners. We had discussions both serious and silly.

There was plenty of good-natured ribbing as well, like when one member of our group spread out on the floor of the hotel patio to help hold down a map.

Another in the group pointed to his midsection and quipped, “Oh, I see our ride today has some good-sized hills in it as well.”

When I went into a town hall to use a bathroom, I forgot to bring the mask from my bike saddlebag, so I pulled my shirt up to cover my face.

Recounting that when I rejoined the group, another member of our pack verified my story and added, “It wasn’t pretty.”

And I would be remiss if I didn’t note that our tour coordinator was a former Olympic skier from Norway with the stamina of the Energizer Bunny. From before dawn until well after dusk, she hopped from the bike trailer to mealtime logistics briefings to heartfelt encouragement. And she kept it fun for everyone.

She, the irrepressible Toril Førland, was one of the many reasons I was sad when our group split up to head home.

There are a million other things I could mention—from a bike ferry operated by James Taylor’s brother to cycling through Chappaquiddick to eating lobster everywhere.

But the best part was getting to know all the great folks who I rode beside each day.

Even if it did take an e-bike to keep up with some of them.

Rob Hedelt: 540/374-5415


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Here for more than four decades, I'm a feature columnist out and about seeing what people are thinking and sharing what interesting things they're doing.

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