Playing With Dolphins

Posted January 19, 2021 – Narrated by Carmen

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“Riding a bicycle is the closest you can get to flying”

       – Robin Williams, comedian and life-long bicycle enthusiast

We finally took the plunge and joined the e-bike revolution.

RVing cross-country from San Diego to Florida with our sassy new Dolphin e-bikes has opened up a new dimension to LIB. We get out more now – go farther – see places we’ve been missing due to the limitations of distance, winter daylight hours, and the natural effects of aging.

If there’s anything more exhilarating than a good bike ride, don’t tell us because it’s either illegal, immoral, too dangerous, or we can’t afford it.

Cycling time is adventure time. Riding through new places every week makes us feel like explorers – but bicycles alone are a mystery of the universe.

Science understands more about the aerodynamic force of lift in flight than about the stability of bicycles. So, when you straddle the seat of a two-wheeled conundrum of geometry and physics that even MIT can’t explain … and then, place your feet on the pedals, bear down and move forward steadily in a balanced position – Voila, you are participating in an experiment of human potential and contributing to the future progress of safe fuel-free transportation. May the camber forces be with you.

Cycling is rebellious.

As cycling advocates since way back in the 70’s in San Diego, we were demonized by motorist groups. As life-long cycling enthusiasts, we were early adaptors – among the first to have a Winchester child trailer in San Diego,

and, to wear Skid Lids which saved both our lives in 1981 when we were young, clueless immortals riding downhill during heavy storm runoff.

If you don’t take the time to slow down and calculate risk, life will step in and do it for you.

So, there was no dragging our heels toward e-bikes. We were holding out for a model that could efficiently and safely partner with the LIB lifestyle – biding our time until a lightweight folding model with all of the safety and comfort measures we require grabbed our attention.

Portable folding bikes are essential LIB equipment.

They serve as both recreation and alternative transportation – especially when we’re in congested metro areas or old towns with narrow roads where driving and parking The Beast is problematic.

Our first year on the road, we bought a pair of pre-owned folding Dahons in Tennessee.

These trusty bikes were our traveling companions for our first four LIB years.

In 2018, on a tour of the Eastern Seaboard, we encountered the thrill of rail trails …

… and during that time, we longed for e-bikes.

But the internet search was not productive. It was a like a bad dating site experience. Every good-looking contestant was either out of our league or not up to our potential. Our e-bike hadn’t been born yet, so we put it out of our minds. We were good with the Dahons.

Then, last year, Jim damaged his achilles tendon. The therapeutic boot presented a cycling challenge. Uphill peddling around Lake Tahoe caused awful chaffing and blistering on his leg.

So, I began pushing hard for e-bikes as Jim continually cooled my wheels with his exasperating list of bullet-pointed must-haves:

  • Adjustable height hand bars
  • Easy to access battery to recharge
  • Recharge the battery on the bike or off the bike
  • Safe space for a chihuahua in a front basket.
  • Pedal assist and a throttle 
  • 20 inch fat tires
  • Disk brakes
  • At least 6 gears
  • Fit in the same spot on the back seat of the truck as the old folding Dahons.
  • Use common bike parts so we can take to any bike shop
  • As easy to fold and unfold as the Dahons.
  • Light enough to lift it into the truck without assistance
  • Comfortable to ride
  • Battery Range at least 40 miles
  • Stealth. Quiet motor and invisible battery casing so it looks and sounds like a normal bike
  • User-friendly motor/battery/speed LED monitor 
  • Rides like a normal 6-speed without the motor engaged

And … it had to be affordable.

By far, the most forbidding requirement was space management. There’s no messing with Jim’s organizational triumphs – no way he’d give an inch.

But, he felt hopeful that soon there would emerge a model in dimensions comparable to the trusty old folding Dahons which fit positioned side-by-side, on half the length of The Beast’s back seat.

No fair, I pouted. That’s the kiss of death, I argued. E-bikes tend to run heavier and larger than average, I reasoned.

“Hey, what about a bike rack inside the trailer, you know, something to hold them in place, wedged into the bathroom between the toilet and the shower while we’re in motion … Or store them on top of a tarp spread out over the bed. Yeah, that’ll work. And, when it rains we can put them under the trailer or in the Clam Quickset …”

Jim responded calmly (so annoying) countering my arguments with the dozens of reasons (which I already knew) about why settling presented more problems than solutions, “Something will come up,” he said, “Let’s keep looking. Maybe the right e-bike is already out there and we just haven’t found it. Until then, we have the Dahons.”

Flashback to six years ago, pre LIB: We learn that Full-time Airstreaming is a luxurious travel lifestyle, but only for dedicated Minimalists. So, well before we started out, we made a pact (but not a blood-pact, which leaves me some wiggle room) to travel as small as possible – no follies, fantasies or flamingoes. The key to more adventure (accomplishing more in less time) is to travel light (with, of course, the notable exception of wine).

But I was feeling desperate – for Jim’s sake, and also for my own. These sixty-four year-old knees are okay, I guess, but grinding uphill in granny-gear is certainly not getting any less painful for each of us as the years go by.

Patience, he says.

Yeah, tell that to my arthritis.

The Perfect LIB e-Bike Is Not A Myth

Then, early last September, Jim texted to me a video of the Dolphin by Qualisports USA. Under the video he wrote, “Eureka! Our e-bikes really do exist. The price isn’t over our heads and I found two in stock in Dana Point.”

We were traveling south through wine country on our way to San Diego. In three days, we’d pass through Dana Point. Just like my old man said, our e-bike solution would surface out of the blue with every bullet point accounted for. I felt like jumping up and down like a nine year-old. Okay, I jumped up and down like a nine year-old … and squealed, “New bikes for Christmas!”

Let’s Take a Ride

The Dolphin, by Qualisports USA, emerged in 2019 but somehow this bike escaped our sketchy powers of internet research which we paused in frustration back in 2018 – so now we’re putting it out there for other RVers and boaters who are looking for a similar e-bike solution.

As we drove south toward Dana Point, we kept up the Dolphin research. Apparently, it has a larger battery than most and is far less expensive than we expected. Also, the Dolphin is light-weight for easier lifting, handling and assembly, and the universal parts are available in North America – so, no dependence on proprietary parts or specialty maintenance.

It all seemed too perfect. Doubts began to set in.

We had to go see it.

As we pulled into Dana Point our excitement escalated. We parked The Beast and took a moment to prepare.

We’ll be cool. Take’m for a ride, kick the tires, and if we’re stoked we’ll perform the Cinderella test and try to cram ’em into the Dahon space.

If they don’t fit, or if we can’t lift them with average effort, we walk away. No big thing.

But the moment Robbie, owner of EZ Green Bike Shop rolled out the Dolphins we knew this was it.

We love everything about these bikes! Even our lil’ wolf, Pico de Gallo, is delighted with the upgrade. The fabulous front rack makes his ride more stable and less bumpy.

Someday soon we will outfit the Dolphins with panniers, and replace our homemade dog carrier with something snazzy. The front and back racks will be perfect for grocery shopping and picnics.

The batteries are better than expected. In several months of riding, we’ve never lost power. Haven’t even come close.

At the end of an all-day forty-mile urban bike ride around coastal San Diego, the batteries were still half full.

So, moving forward, hello Dolphins and goodbye Dahons.

“‘Hello, Goodbye’ …There are Geminian influences here I think: the twins. It’s such a deep theme in the universe, duality – man woman, black white, ebony ivory, high low, right wrong, up down, hello goodbye – I was advocating the more positive side of the duality, and I still do to this day.” Paul McCartney quoted in “Many Years From Now” by Barry Miles

Old bikes carry your story. It’s tough to let them go. But, when we arrived to San Diego, we posted the pair on Craigslist. Due to COVID and closures, a bidding war began. But in the end, we let them go to the first contact who offered our original full price. The next morning, an excited young couple pulled into our campground in a brand new Lotus. They were delighted when Jim rolled the bikes out and gave them a short tutorial. Then, the Dahons split with the Lotus and never looked back. That’s what bikes do – move forward. Ride on, Old Friends, ride on.

Now, that our bike riding possibilities are kinda endless, we’re thinking bigger and more strategically about rail trails and off-street bike lanes like Tammany Trace, Luce Line, maybe the entire Erie Canal

Whee! … Pico at the helm … Sun on my shoulders … Wind whipping through Jim’s chest hair … The Dolphins make us feel plucky as the cares of the world recede into the background.

Here’s the deal: we take the Dolphins out as often as possible and they make sure we’re home in time for dinner. In the last few months, we’ve ridden with them over all kinds of surfaces – pavements, packed earth, gravel and sand. The fat all-terrain tires smooth out the rough spots and take the hit for our old butts.

So, yeah. The wait was worth it. The Dolphins are getting us out there, coaxing us to go farther, stay out longer – encouraging us to experience the world like a couple of forty year-olds with a happy puppy-dog.

We’re so fond of these bikes that we’ve reached out to the awesome folks at Qualisports USA, and asked them to give LIB followers a discount. So if you decide to go with a Dolphin, use this discount code: LIVINGINBEAUTY, and the link below, to receive a $100 discount per Dolphin and free shipping at checkout.

Have fun. Stay safe. Look both ways. Respect the rules of the road, wear a helmet, avoid crowded areas and …

See you out there!


History of Bicycles

Bicycles are fascinating contraptions. The Bicycle Museum Of America is a great place to stop and learn The History of The Bicycle.

Bicycle Museum Of America

Fun Facts:

In 1815 the eruption of Mt. Tambura in Indonesia resulted in a drop in global temperatures and famine across Europe and North America. Horses and livestock were no longer dependable for transportation. So in 1818, Karl Drais invented the Laufmaschine (German for “running machine”), the world’s first bicycle.

Susan B. Anthony considered the invention of the bicycle to be the single most important factor in women’s fight for equal rights.

Henry Ford’s invention of the “quadricycle” in 1896 served as forerunner for the Model T in 1908.

The military introduced bicycles in 1908 to conserve fuel and steel and horses.

In 1940, the military’s most extensive experimentation on bicycle units was carried out by the 25th United States Infantry, an African American regiment known as Buffalo Soldiers. Stationed in Montana, the soldiers rode bicycles across harsh landscapes without roads for hundreds of miles at high speeds, making mountain biking history.

If you want to see our exact route, click here.

*photos in this post (unless otherwise noted) were taken and copyrighted by Living In Beauty.