Like many New Yorkers, and specifically New York City bicyclists, I have a deep-seated hatred of electric bikes. Not only do they seem to go against everything a bicycle stands for — that is, man’s ability to move through space by his own force — but they are zooming menaces whose riders rarely follow established bicyclist etiquette, let alone traffic laws.
But recently my opinion has changed. For the last three years, weather permitting, I pile my two kids onto the back of my decade-old Yuba Mundo when we have to go to school, or want to scope out a playground or even want to take a turn on the Deno’s Wonder Wheel in Coney Island. And, as I’ve gotten older and the kids bigger, I frequently find myself out of puff by the time we arrive. A few weekends ago, I tried to take the kids to dim sum in Manhattan’s Chinatown. By the time we made it, I was a quivering sweaty mess. What had started as a great adventure had turned into yet another instance of Dad being in a foul mood. It was time to revisit my bias.
The reevaluation couldn’t have come at a better time. This month, Yuba introduced its Electric Boda Boda, a slightly more compact model frame than the Yuba Mundo but one still capable of carrying two little guys on the back. (The Mundo is 6’9″ to the Boda Boda’s 6’1″). The Boda Boda frame isn’t new but its electrical componentry is. This version comes with a sleek e6000 Shimano Steps electric kit, which nestles onto the frame like a lamprey eel does a shark. It’s both fetching and repulsive to me. The first time I saw it I was both turned on and abashed, like when you realize you’ve gotten yourself into a compromising situation at a company trivia night. It’s thrilling but also cheating.
Would I become a cheater? As soon as I clambered onto the bike, plopping my kids on the back, my questions were answered. Yes, I could go for this. Unlike a lot of the delivery men e-bikes that really get my goat, the Boda Boda is pedal-assist, meaning it’s not as if the motor just does your work for you. It just allows you to be a better, more powerful version, of you. There are three levels of assistance: Eco, Normal and High, which correspond to 70-, 140- and 230-percent assistance.
For our inaugural Boda Boda trip, I decided to take the kids to Coney Island. Why? Because Coney Island is rad, only about five-and-a-half-miles from my house and I’d made the trip tens of times. Usually what happens is we’re all happy when we get on the bike. Somewhere around Avenue J, the kids begin to get antsy and fight with each other. This moment corresponds to exactly when I reach the moment when a fun bike ride turns into a tiring trek. And by the time we make it to Nathan’s, we’re all a sunburned, over-heated, and irritable, a family shitshow on wheels. But, O, Boda Boda, how pleasant you made it.. How fast we zoomed down Ocean Parkway, wowing the Hasids and the Russians! [Answer: 15 miles an hour!]
Yet even as we zipped along, my legs still moved, just moved better, faster and with less resistance. And how jolly we were when we arrived to the boardwalk. The sweat had not cut rivulets through the sheen of sunscreen on our foreheads, burning our eyes and befouling the adventure. No, we were rather cool still. And only 22 minutes after we left my house, we were mounting Deno’s Wonder Wheel. Slowly we rose toward the sky until at the apex, high above all my biases and prejudices and misconceptions, Iooked down and saw the sea and the sand and there on the boardwalk, locked to a post, my electric Boda Boda shimmering in the sun.
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