Gear I Hold Dear: My E-bike

Riding an e-bike opens up the ability to travel farther, faster and with more cargo. Plus, it's joyful.

I fell in love with my e-bike while scrolling through my Twitter feed last summer. Someone shared a photo of the Tern electric bike and I knew I had to have one.

With an electric assist and the ability to carry up to 440 pounds of cargo, I started thinking about all the things I could do with the bike: make larger grocery trips, take longer trips without being exhausted or super sweaty, give a friend a lift, haul heavy things I’d normally use rideshare for, travel faster with ease and so much more.      

Woman in front of her blue e-bike
The author with her Tern GSD S10, which she nicknamed Blue Boo II. The e-bike is her primary form of transportation.

Most Americans view bikes as recreational toys, I see them as a sustainable form of transportation. Before buying my e-bike, I primarily got around Chicago by a regular bike and public transportation. My Tern GSD S10 is now my primary form of transportation. With my e-bike, I knew I could help expand my own and other people’s minds about what’s possible with a bike. I also wanted to show others that biking can be joyful.

With this e-bike, I’ve been able to do things I previously wouldn’t have. If it wasn’t for the electric assist, I wouldn’t have had the confidence or motivation to make the weekly 20-mile round trip for a movement class last summer. I wouldn’t have had the confidence to make my first century ride from Chicago to suburban Grayslake and back last fall. Another time, I biked 15 miles with a large dresser strapped to the back of my bike. I was determined not to use a vehicle for this large load. I wanted to prove that bikes are more than capable of moving large goods. In the first month, I logged 500 miles on Blue Boo II, my nickname for my baby blue Tern. (I will be hitting the 3-year mark this July 2023, and will likely reach 13,000 miles.)

Photo of groceries in a milk crate on back of bike.
E-bike loaded with groceries in milk crate and panniers.

Like others who bought bikes during the pandemic, I’ve found that riding my bike around Chicago has been so beneficial for my mental health. I’m able to get movement into my day and travel around town in a way that matches my values. I’m able to take my time and enjoy views of Lake Michigan, beautiful homes in a nearby affluent suburb, a plant or a cat in a window, the flowers and trees, the smell of someone’s dinner and so much more. During the early months of the pandemic, I enjoyed waving at the scores of new cyclists who hit the streets. Even if we couldn’t stop and talk, I was grateful for some sort of social interaction. I’m looking forward to creating more connections through biking.

Photo showing a portable music speaker and a water bottle held in the water bottle holders of a bike.
More tunes, more fun. Water bottle holder purposed to hold portable music speaker.

Since getting my Tern, I’ve added accessories to make it even more fun and useful. I bought a pair of panniers to coordinate with it. In case you’re unfamiliar (I know I was for a while), panniers are like saddle bags for your bike. They go on the rear rack. I was so excited by the prospect of filling up my panniers with groceries, boxes, whatever. I also bought a new speaker and a second water bottle holder to secure that speaker—new bike, new tunes, right? Some people may find my blasting of music to be obnoxious, but I see it as a crucial part of having fun on my bike. I like to embody joyfulness and “cool” when I’m on my e-bike, and what better way to do that than play music that makes me want to dance and sing?

Author’s addendum May 2023: I’ll be honest, the three years of riding my e-bike as my main form of transportation have been a mixed bag of joy and fear. Even with the e-assist that allows me to travel faster along residential streets (my preferred way of getting around to avoid busier main streets), drivers still aggressively pass me or honk at me telling me to get off the road. There are growing numbers of people buying e-bikes to commute, get exercise and have fun, and many more who would like to do so, but our infrastructure hasn’t caught up. So, I’ve channeled my frustration into advocacy efforts for safe cycling infrastructure in Chicago because it shouldn’t take bravery to go on a bike ride. You can help too by supporting projects in your community that protect people on bikes and create safe, fun places for people on foot or bikes to get outside.

All photos courtesy of Courtney Cobbs

For more odes about our favorite stuff, check our Gear I Hold Dear series.