I hadn’t been on a bicycle in years. Since then, I had been pregnant, had a traumatic labor and delivery, cared for a sweet baby who didn’t sleep much, and had just started my recovery from all of the above.
On one bright September day in Northwest Florida, my now-18-month-old was running around and talking up a storm at a friend’s house. I was to spend the afternoon checking out one of YOLO Board and Bike’s new electric bicycles for a magazine article I’d been hired to write.
Surprisingly, I found myself a little nervous. Not only had I not ridden a bike in years, I had just started exercising since having my baby. Plus, this bike was going to have new and potentially confusing parts.
And, honestly, I had some reservations about motor-powered bikes. When I first saw one years before I had scoffed and thought, “that’s cheating.” Why would you need a motor to ride a bike? I thought it must be noisy and I actually thought the bikes had gas-powered engines, puffing out little plumes of carbon dioxide to really counteract one of the benefits of riding a bike.
After a brief intro to the mechanics — I had already been disavowed of my gas-powered engine notion — I hoisted a leg over the seat, settled in and was off, surprised and awed as I tackled ten miles with ease.
Electric bike motors assist the rider, not do all the work for them. YOLO’s electric bikes offer five levels of assistance ranging from speeds of six miles an hour all the way up to 20. I was pedaling away, but the motor was giving me a little extra boost behind each push.
After the ride, I felt like I had taken a long, brisk walk. I had the calm, energized feeling I get after a workout, but I wasn’t going to be stiff and sore for a week.
It wasn’t just the exercise that was rejuvenating.
As soon as we broke away from the crowds and the bike path cut through a stretch of pristine state forest, I felt what this tool was really allowing me to do.
We cruised over a coastal dune lake, seeing the water stretch out to the white sand and sparkling Gulf of Mexico.
My shoulders relaxed. It felt like a weight dropped off my back, clattering to the ground behind me. A grin spread across my face.
We didn’t see any other people or cars. Just us and nature.
I spotted a deer standing a foot or two off of the path. We slowed way down and she didn’t dart away. She looked at me and we literally locked eyes as I passed.
On a breakaway, I eased my speed up to 17 miles per hour, breezy and exhilarating. It’s a speed I had only reached on a bike while coasting down a big hill. I laughed and felt tears in my eyes.
This feeling is what captivated me and drew me to move here 10 years earlier. These moments: under the sun, right up alongside nature, the crystal-clear water and soft white sand, the tall pines and scrub forest that rub right up against the coast. We get busy and we feel stuck and we forget how easy it can be to just step into this beautiful space. Not that day. That day, I remembered.
It was the perfect moment and the perfect time in my life, but that's exactly what YOLO designed these bikes for. They're tools for anyone and everyone to be able to get out and experience the natural world — no matter if you’re a triathlete or a woman about to turn 40 who thought she might have forgotten how to ride a bike.
Lauren Sage Reinlie is a freelance journalist living in Freeport, Florida.