Verina Henchy, a self-confessed non-cyclist, fighter and survivor of battles with her arteries, nature- lover and dreamer of unrealised cycling journeys…and then she encountered E-bikes! Read about her experience in her own words below:
“My name is Verina Henchy, I’m 60 years old and I consider myself to be a non-cyclist and yet I’ve just cycled 320 km through Tamil Nadu, Southern India with relative ease!
I can of course ride a bike. When I say that I’m a non-cyclist, what I mean is that cycling any distance, especially in heat, is an overwhelming experience bringing little joy and a great deal of difficulty. In particular, hills have been so hard and so daunting that I have always been beaten by them almost at the starting point. Recently diagnosed heart disease has gone some way towards explaining some of my difficulties but even after having 2 stents fitted just a couple of months ago, my general fitness level has still left me struggling with even gentle exertion. This is all before I discovered E-bikes!
I have been a regular supporter of the bi-annual HEAL India charity bike ride, supported by Kalypso Adventures for the past 12 years but I have cycled less and less each time to the point of complete non-participation in 2016 and non-attendance in 2018.
I actually purchased my own E-bike about 18 months ago (2018) because I was thoroughly fed up with being a bikers ‘widow’. My Husband, a keen cyclist will disappear on his bike for hours at every opportunity and having no hope of keeping pace or distance with him I used to stay at home feeling some resentment. With my E-bike, I found that I could not only keep up with him on the ‘flat’, I found definite advantage on hills on when faced with a headwind! After several longish rides with him, I had a sense that I might be able to join him again in India for the 2020 HEAL India cycle challenge and with an E-bike perhaps even finish the whole course which would be a first! I contacted Kalypso Adventures to ask them if they could source a bike for me and in true Kalypso style I was told “no problem”.
Kalypso is a company with a strong commitment to Eco Tourism so their approach to my request has been both experimental and collaborative. Working with local engineers they have been experimenting with batteries and frames to make bikes that are suitable for the Indian terrains. E-bikes have heavy frames because the batteries can weigh 4-5 kilos and the charge life needs to be sufficient to cover long distances. The components need to be sufficiently protected to ensure that they are not effected by the dust and sand roads and the pedal assistance needs to be sufficient to give help when needed while keeping cadence comfortable. I write this section as a complete non technician……there is plenty to read on line if you want to fully understand how these bikes work and how to choose a model that works for you!
We arrived in Pondicherry in early January and to be honest, I was very anxious indeed. What if I still couldn’t manage? Would everyone think I was ‘cheating’?. Would the battery last? The bike work?.The heat overwhelm me.?…..I was scared!
Did I manage to complete the programme? YES! Was it a challenge? YES! An electric bike certainly takes the strain from pedalling but because of the size and weight required to carry the battery there is still considerable strain on your back, wrists and feet not to forget the saddle soreness suffered by all who take part. Did I ever feel overwhelmed? NO! I used a moderate level of pedal support throughout knowing that I had additional levels of support if needed so I was able to challenge myself to the max without ever feeling that I might over exert. Did I feel a sense of achievement? HELL YES? Was I cheating? ABSOLUTELY NOT. I feel strong, fitter, toned and exhilarated. These feelings only come after exercise!
So if like me you are a non-cyclist, with support from Kalypso and the HEAL cycle team, you too could take part in the HEAL India cycle challenge or any other challenge of your choosing. It’s as easy as falling off a bike!”