August 17th, 2020

E-Bikes: A Boost for Wine Country Rides

Easy Cruising
Photo Credit: Carla Shryock

I can’t help but smile as I speed past vineyards along North Valley Road. The undulating road with its short, steep rises would require some effort on a typical bicycle. On this e-bike, it is laughably easy.

I quickly understand what a difference an e-bike – a bicycle with an electric motor – can make for anyone looking to get outside and ride. More people can ride farther and more often with a little help from the bike.

Interest in bicycles continues to skyrocket with the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic. People are looking for ways to go outside, get some exercise and have some fun while keeping their distance from others. And while e-bikes are not new to the marketplace, sales have rivaled traditional bikes this year.

E-bikes have attracted steady sales growth at Tommy’s Bicycle Shop in downtown McMinnville, according to owner Pat Vala. “At first, I thought age would be a determining factor, but all ages seem to have an interest,” Pat says. “E-bikes are also a great equalizer for riders of different abilities. They allow a novice rider to be faster and go farther than they ordinarily would.”

And when riding the occasionally hilly wine country roads near McMinnville, that equalizer comes in handy.

Our ride starts at Newberg Cycle & Skate where co-owner Danny Sikkens rents both electric and standard bikes so people can explore Yamhill County’s wine country. Danny leads this day’s ride from his downtown shop. We head north on College Street and eventually to North Valley Road where the pavement flows up and down as we cruise west.

“Being able to ride bikes has allowed people to get out with safe distancing,” Danny says during a rest stop at Domaine Divio winery. “You can ride with a group because you’re easily six feet apart.”

The rest stops in wine country are beyond compare.
Photo Credit: Carla Shryock

An e-bike is not a motorcycle; you still must pedal to go. The electric motor provides assistance when you want it. With a quick click of the variable speed settings, the motor gives a boost you can feel. It also regulates speed. Most e-bikes restrict speeds at about 25 miles per hour, Danny says.

But you must keep pedaling. If you stop, the electric motor stops.

That’s not a problem. We move along at a steady pace as we wander the countryside. I move through the power settings and bike gears to find the combination that works best for the changing terrain. When I try to go fast on a downhill slope, the bike controls my speed and my safety.

It’s important to follow normal bicycle safety precautions whether riding a traditional bicycle or e-bike. Wear a helmet. A flashing taillight is a good idea, especially in high traffic zones. Bring a bottle of water to stay hydrated because this is still exercise.

Ride single file on roads and use hand signals when turning. Be aware of your surroundings. Expect that a motorist doesn’t see you.

Danny Sikkens carries a battery charging cord when he leads wine country bike tours. He connects the bike to a standard electric wall outlet at each winery to bring batteries back up to maximum charge. Most area wineries, he says, are accommodating.

As we ride back to Newberg, I realize I never thought a bike tour could be so easy.

Dan Shryock

Dan Shryock regularly writes about McMinnville and Yamhill County. His finds his escape from the pandemic blues on his bike.