Biking Naked (Not)

It had been a long time since I’d let out a “Woohoo!” while riding a bike. But fifteen years ago, that’s the word that escaped the first time a friend’s electric bike gently boosted my pedaling up my gravel lane. Ever since then, I’ve been breezing through headwinds and up hills on my own electric hybrid bicycle, inhaling the sweet smell of lilacs and manure as I sail past grazing sheep and cows on my way to town. Although Lopez is known as “the flat island” and “the biking island,” it still has plenty of hills to tax my aging knees and lower back.

My first e-bike, an artic blue Merida Powercycle, had a 24-volt lead-acid battery pack. That kind of power meant the energy most people expend to walk briskly will propel a bicycle 13 miles per hour on level ground. And with such a crank-drive bike, you only need moderate pedaling to get up hills that even a serious cyclist might push a standard bike up. Or, as a friend who recently received an electric bike for her birthday says, “It’s like having an angel at your back pushing you up a hill.”

My IZIP, Penny, loaded with groceries

A few years ago, after many miles of riding—and replacing two batteries—I decided to upgrade to an IZIP Trekking electric bike. This pedal-assist model is powered by a 24-volt Lithium-ion battery integrated in the copper-penny frame with its specifically-designed down tube. The IZIP a bit lighter weight than the Merida, and it gives me that same angelic nudge when the road upslopes. Sorry, IZIP no longer makes the Trekking version, but their newer models offer the latest advances in e-bike technology.

And no, I don’t bike naked.

But I do feel some of that metaphoric exposure I describe in my memoir, Hiking Naked: A Quaker Woman’s Search for Balance. For one, I’m free of the steel shell of my Subaru that blocks the scent of Nootka roses, temperatures that warm or cool my skin, and the brush of wind on nose and lips. Even when rain dots my glasses, I relish the tactile encounter with the elements. More importantly, though, my pedaling and panting stimulate thoughts and ideas. Sometimes the bike leads me through uncertainties and questions that perplex; other times, the combination of exertion and sensory input opens me to insights, clarity, and calm.

bike sticker.jpg
Penny’s down tube holds the battery – and wise words

I could use some of that inspiration when a bystander shouts as I pedal past, “Hey, that’s cheating!”

I’m searching for a quick comeback like the one I’ve developed in response to questions I frequently hear when talking about my book:

“Did you really hike naked?” My husband did.

“Isn’t that painful?” He says it’s not.

“Are there pictures?” No (but there’s one in this post).

My simple reply is, “It’s MOSTLY a metaphor.”

hn (1)


As far as I’m concerned, there’s nothing dishonest about that “angel” at my back when I turn into a headwind or approach an incline. As I sail past the snarky commenter, I’d like to smile and let my jet stream hold a few words that set the record straight.

How would you respond? Any suggestions are welcome.










  1. Iris, I am terrible at making snappy comebacks. I’m not sure what your comeback might be. But I’m guessing no one is yelling this at motorcyclists or people driving in big SUVs with terrible gas mileage. Cheating is definitely a matter of perspective.

  2. Iris,Many thanks! I LOVE reading about your bicycling and other adventures…as always, I appreciate your stories and being taken via words to places –like bicycling on Lopez –where I am toooo slothful to go!! I just am rereading (and enjoying) Hiking Naked and actually find myself seriously contemplating a trip up that gorgeous lake. ..perhaps the Stehekin Chamber of Commerce should have you on retainer…

  3. After hiking/trail running without shoes for over eight years, I’m used to all kinds of comments from (mostly well-meaning) people . . . and I’ve given up trying to have a witty reply on hand; instead I just give a smile & thumbs-up and chirp, “It’s fun,” and keep on moving. Love this post (and all your posts!) . . . the picture of your husband’s lower half is hilarious in its “suggestiveness” 🙂

  4. Hi Iris, first, using an e-bike is SO not cheating! What, like there are bike police out there monitoring effort? Or would those folks rather see you in your car? That sort of classism among bicyclists drives me nuts.

    Anyway, congrats on your new e-bike! My husband has one and loves it. Riding an e-bike makes it possible for him to commute by bike without, as he puts it, getting pitted out on the big hills between our home and his office.

    I just finished a book about bikes as transport that you might enjoy; your comment about being able to smell the Nootka roses reminded me of it. Check out “Copenhagenize” if you’re interested. As always, thanks for your engaging posts!

  5. Cite your age – “So is living this long!” “Crone privilege.” “Age has its privileges.”

    Lie – “wooden legs(shrug)” actually not a lie,b/c your legs wooden get you up the hill :-0

    Taunt – “Catch me if you can!” “So’s your car!”

    Rhyme – “Can’t be beat!”

  6. I think my new response would be, “Ah, just wait.” We should all be so lucky to be able to be biking into our latter years…and thanks to this technology, we may be able to do so without all those pesky knee replacements. I’ll probably be fitting my own bike with a battery within the foreseeable future, and feeling just fine about it.

Leave a Reply to Iris Graville Cancel reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s