One thing we know very, very well after e-biking 21,000-plus kilometres – more than anyone else in history on an e-bike in just one calendar year – on our ongoing e-bike adventure is our bodies.
Sure, it is easy to gloss over the figures – 12 months of cycling e-bikes day in day out, 21,000kms, 13 countries, a new world e-bike long distance record, etc, etc, but don’t think for one moment that those statistics haven’t come at a cost.
While, clearly, we are both fitter than we have ever been at any other stage of our lives – we are 61 and 57 years old respectively – the constant grind of being on our Haibike xDuro Trekking RX e-bikes for a total of 1152 hours over the past year has, at times, taken its toll.
As a result we have become experts at not only keeping our bodies in perfect working order, but in finding ways to treat niggling ‘problems’ caused by long hours of cycling.
Essentially this means we have had to become experts at maintaining not only our own, but each other’s bodies to ensure our muscles are constantly supple, our ageing joints are in good working order and that minor ‘issues’ don’t become long term injuries.
That said Rachel lives with two perforated discs in her lower back and has to constantly manage her exercise program to ensure she has maximum lower back core strength.
Such are the lengths that we go to maintain our bodies, it would actually be good for some of the people we have met along the way on our travels who have been all too quick to tell us that we are “cheating” by riding e-bikes, to actually sit in on one of our recovery sessions.
We Regularly Stretch and Do Pilates and Massage
What they would witness is a rigorous routine that includes stretching, massaging and pilates – surely something that would be totally unnecessary if riding an e-bike meant we were not working our bodies to the maximum!
To the contrary, from the experience gained from riding e-bikes day in day out over the past year what we have discovered is that an e-bike actually provides a more ‘body friendly’ total workout than that available on a traditional non-electric bicycle.
Not only can greater distances be covered in a shorter period of time, but the electrical boost on steep inclines takes the strain away from knee joints and it is easier to maintain a consistent heart rate over all types of terrain – essential to avoid burning out when you are cycling every day for weeks on end for up to eight hours per day.
But that said, the ongoing effort required to keep our Haibike pedals turning has meant we have had to take our recovery sessions very seriously.
It has also meant that we have had to be very particular with the set-up of our Haibike xDuro Trekking e-bikes and our individual bike fits to create the perfect synergy between ourselves and our e-bikes – a mix if you will between comfort, efficiency and safety.
Where in the past we have taken a ‘near enough is good enough’ approach to our individual bike fits, on this trip we have been nothing short of fanatical to ensure that everything is “just right”.
Correct Bike Fit is Essential
This has meant that as well as ensuring we are both sitting in the correct position and have the height of our saddles centimetre perfect, other factors such as our individual flexibility, range of motion and riding style have also been considered.
The result has been two very different set-ups that have, thankfully, translated into trouble free e-biking.
Another major factor that had to be considered to ensure we could both back up day after day was the type of saddles used.
For Rachel a basic gel seat has worked just fine in conjunction with a sprung seat post.
For Gary, well, that is a totally different story, with chronic tailbone soreness nothing short of an ongoing nightmare.
The result has been a number of different saddles that have been tried and rejected.
Finally, after many trials and tribulations, an aged sprung Brookes saddle was finally settled on in conjunction with a sprung seat post, the use of two pairs of cycling knickers every day and, on occasions when the pain is particularly bad, a strategically placed piece of foam between the two pairs of cycling knickers. Any advice to help overcome the above problem would be very welcome!
Finally, a footnote about two items that we have used every day to help maintain our bodies that have proven to be our saviour – two tennis balls taped together and a stretch exercise strap.
The tennis balls have been used for everything from massaging tired muscles to breaking up muscle knots in our backs caused by long hours holding onto handlebars, while as far as Rachel is concerned the exercise strap in conjunction with her pilates exercise routine is her “lifeline”.
The bottom line for anyone contemplating a long distance e-bike adventure such as ours is to treat your daily recovery program just as seriously as you would your route preparation or daily spending budget.
Because if you can stay fit and can avoid any unwanted “issues”, you are guaranteed to enjoy the journey all that much more.