Pain and discipline, that’s what makes manual cycling such a joy

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Natasha Robinson, left, prefers natural pedal power to the powered cycling option favoured by colleague Ean Higgins. Picture: Jane Dempster Source: News Corp Australia

IT would be pretty easy to be a ­purist and condemn the motorised bicycle out of hand. I mean, what’s the point of a bike if your own two legs aren’t powering it? This is a machine that demands effort and delivers rewards: the joy of cruising merrily downhill after the pain of getting up it; the delight of speed as your legs spin faster.

A good quality, well-maintained bike is silent and sleek, and mind-bogglingly light when you consider all of its machinery. Your Fifi la Beaujolais is hardly a greyhound on wheels, Ean, and I hate to tell you but she is a little stinky. Riding behind the belching Fifi is a bit like tailing a two-wheeled lawnmower, complete with the fumes but without the aroma of freshly cut grass.

You have mounted an admirable argument for the benefits of motorised cycling but I cannot help but conclude there is one overriding motivation for your ­vehicle of choice: laziness.

Yes, cycling up hills hurts. It makes you gasp for air. It makes you sweat. And no, there aren’t that many of us who jump out of bed in the morning and proclaim that we can’t wait to feel the poison of lactic acid hammering through our veins.

But the reason most people jump on a bike instead of hooking up a petrol-powered engine to their cycle frame is the same reason most people make their bed in the morning. It would be easier to just leave the covers scrunched up, ready to get scrunched up again that evening, but a little bit of discipline in life will get you a long way. Discipline pushes you to get on your bike for a pedal-powered commute when you’d rather just take a taxi and still  have  time to eat a croissant.

I’m not totally dismissing the motorised bike crowd. Forums on cycling are full of people talking up the benefits of electric bikes.

There’s quite a big difference between a modern e-bike, powered by battery, and the petrol-powered Fifi la Beaujolais, mind you. For one thing, many e-bikes are pedelecs, or pedal-powered, meaning the electric assistance kicks only in if you’re actually expending a bit of effort, unlike your throttle-powered bike.

Lots of the e-bike lovers fall into one of two categories: lovers of cycling who have suffered injury, or commuters who ride as much as 100km a day. If you’re doing that every day, a bit of help up the hills is reasonable.

But Ean, I know where you live and it is 7km from where you work. You have no physical disabilities. You may find it a bit cold and miserable cycling home in the dark in the middle of winter but you need to slap on a hi-vis vest, turn your LED lights to flash mode and push some pedals at high rotation.

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source: The Australian by Natasha Robinson

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