Learning curves. I’ve been surrounded by them lately.
Navigating a fun new area of volunteer work, but struggling to learn people’s names and not always sure of my responsibilities or authority.
Writing someone else’s memoirs, then trying to piece together how to self-publish the most meaningful project I’ve ever attempted.
Also scrambling to set up emailed newsletters in a format everyone can access; finally navigating the wonderful-but-mysterious world of using an online mailer service.
Then Brent proposed we sign up for Ciclismo Classico’s “Bike Across Italy” tour.
I looked at a map. “But it looks like there’s a mountain range running through the middle of the country.”
A euphoric grin spread across Brent The Voracious Climber’s face. “Yeah, there is. Don’t worry; we’ll get you an e-bike.”
If you’re not familiar, an “e-bike” has an electric motor that gives the rider a boost up hills. Or so I’d heard. I’d never actually touched one. But I’ve seen people on bikes zooming along a level or slightly uphill road… without pedaling. This seemed kind of unsafe. “Wait, what if I’m going around switchbacks and that thing sends me hurtling off a cliff?”
Too late. We were registered, bikes requested and sizes sent, airline tickets bought…
The day we met up with the tour, we all test-rode our bikes around the parking lot for a bit. Tracie, the only other female guest in our group, had also reserved an e-bike. Providentially, she also had one of her own, and knew how to work it. Good thing… I’d have to learn, because that bike was so heavy, I’d need assistance to make it up a driveway ramp, never mind 8-to-12-percent grades.
After Tracie and the guides repeatedly assured me that the motor runs only when you’re pedaling and would NOT send me hurtling off a cliff, we took off on our warm-up ride. The route went through busy traffic (couldn’t be helped, we were at a hotel in a popular vacation city), then up a long, winding hill.
At this point, multiple learning curves collided: 1) I was using my touring pedals and cleats, which I rarely use and hadn’t practiced with. 2) The bike’s gear shifting works differently from “Sully,” my current bike. It’s the same as on my old bike (“Mrs. Tweedy“), but I didn’t think to practice with that either. 3) The motor’s “off-plus-three-levels” power system operated by the same logic as a ceiling fan’s pull chain (which I rarely use and hadn’t practiced with), using only ONE button.
I maaaaaay have felt slightly overwhelmed.
At least the power levels were color-coded. If the button was lit up white, the power was off. Low power was green; Medium, orange; Max power, red. If you’re struggling uphill on Max, then the road levels out enough to use Medium, you can’t just go back one setting. You have to push the button three times: to Off, Low, Medium. If you advance too slowly, you lose all momentum while the power is off. But if you push the button too fast, it’s super easy to hit it four times instead of three, which puts you right back at Max power.
So, yeah. Learning curve(s). It was sort of like trying to hang wallpaper with one arm in a sling.
That first ride left me with serious misgivings, but the next day we had a longer stretch of quiet roads that weren’t so hilly. I soon got past the worst of the single-button awkwardness. After that, my main concern was trying to balance power levels to conserve the battery (Max drains it pretty fast) while conserving my own power (i.e., don’t kill myself by hammering too hard in an effort to keep up). Each day I felt both more efficient and more confident.
This photo shows the almost unprecedented sight of me riding ahead of Brent!
Gratifying, if temporary.
The e-bike never sent me hurtling off a single cliff. And I never arrived at a lunch stop after everyone else was finished eating and about to leave*.
*Some days that was only because I rode along in the van part of the time instead of biking. Don’t judge; it’s a vacation.
As always, the Ciclismo guides made everything fun and as smooth as possible.
Do you feel as awkward as I do when trying unfamiliar things? Ever get flummoxed by having to learn too many new things at once? I welcome your comments in the box (or “Leave a comment” link) at the bottom of this post.
Thanks for reading!
In one day, I was looking for my phone twice and it was in my hand. There is no way I could try something as stretching as riding a bike in Italy, much less an e-bike. You are way ahead of me!!!
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Hi, Donna! Girl, I’ll be talking with someone on my phone, and need to look at a map, and I wander around LOOKING FOR MY PHONE so I can check the map! Yes, phones are way too good at multi-tasking.
I really enjoyed this…you are such a really great descriptive writer!
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Thanks, Shelley, for stopping by and taking time to comment! Hope to see you soon.
Jan you are a very strong rider and I am happy we were able to learn together. You taught me things too and your bike handling skills were evident. This story is so engaging and inspiring. I still share the #1 rule: it’s a vacation not a race. So happy we have created memories together. Keep on pedaling my friend 🥂.
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