The Go Slow – Life At 13mph

The pace at which we live our lives can be influenced by many factors.

One of these is the modes of transport we use.

I recently purchased an ebike for my work commute. It’s a modest 3.5 mile journey into town, but with enough undulations to invoke a little too much sweating and discomfort on a regular bike.

My electric companion has three electric speeds, which dictate how fast you go if you’re relying purely on the motor. I’ve stuck with the medium setting so far, which is 13mph.

Which means for much of the journey (and especially the uphill parts where the bike’s doing the brunt of the work) I’m travelling at 13mph.

I’m coming to really enjoy this speed of life.

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At 13mph, it’s fast enough to feel the rush of the wind of your face and whooshing past your ears, a visceral delight you don’t get in a car (unless it’s a cabriolet travelling at considerably more than 13mph).

It’s fast enough to zip past traffic in town whilst they wait at roundabouts and traffic lights.

It’s fast enough that by the time I arrive at work I feel my breathing and heart rate have quickened from the pedalling I have been doing.

And it’s fast enough that my journey takes under 20 minutes and doesn’t cut too much into my time at home with the kids beforehand.

And yet, 13mph is slow enough that I’m able to smell the freshly cut wood emanating from the local timber merchant as I cycle by, something that never happens by car.

It’s slow enough to appreciate the textures of the ancient brickwork around the door of a local farmhouse on my route that are just a blur by car.

It’s slow enough to notice a smile on someone’s face, or to give a nod hello as I pass.

And it’s slow enough to feel like I’ve almost entirely opted out of the daily rat race of single people in bloated blingy 4x4s, getting nowhere fast and frustrated with it.

It’s no coincidence that one of the major reasons I love photography is that it slows me down in a similar way.

Hunting for photographs encourages you to find you own (gentle) pace whilst you wander, noticing dozens, sometimes hundreds of tiny beautiful details that you wouldn’t have done just hurrying by.

I’ve found that just having a camera in my bag or round my wrist prompts me too look more eagerly and carefully, even if I don’t take any photographs.

So my new slowed pace of transport is extending this experience further. It’s something I should have done years ago.

How about you, what’s your favourite pace of life? 

Please let us know in the comments below (and don’t forget to tick the “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).

Thanks for looking. Please share this post with others you feel will enjoy it too. If you’re interested, this is what my photography life looks like right now.

12 thoughts on “The Go Slow – Life At 13mph”

  1. Dan, my favourite pace in life is always being able to say to shopkeepers and other people who feel under pressure “I am not in a hurry. take your time”. Many of them appreciate me saying that xoxo susanJOY

    1. That’s a really thoughtful approach Susan. I remember in my younger days working in a large supermarket and how they wanted you to make conversation with customers (which most don’t like anyway, they just want to pack their shopping and get back to something more interesting) but at the same time scan the shopping at a certain speed. It was an almost impossible balance, and rather silly.

  2. Yep, I’m a bike man too – without the electric assist though. Embrace the effort too, it really doesn’t take long for your fitness to improve and become nowhere near as much effort as it seems now at all, something that won’t happen as fast with assistance on all the time!

    My preferred pace is walking or cycling, driving is used for a necessary utility, not a pleasure.

    1. Thanks Bear, well the ebike I have has sensors so it helps you as little or as much as you need. Even if the electric assist is on, if you’re always pedalling hard, it doesn’t assist at all, only if you ease off on the pedals and let the motor take over.

      So depending on how energetic I’m feeling, I use it for between perhaps half the journey or only for the biggest hills.

      The trouble with an ebike (and mine is not the heaviest by a long margin) is because of the extra weight of the battery and motor, without the assistance it feels (and is!) far more sluggish than a standard bike. Plus suspension forks add bulk and weight.

      A quick weigh in just with bathroom scales showed my ebike was about 23kg (over 50lb), and my Rockhopper about 12kg (26lb).

      I have plans to strip down the Rockhopper by making it single speed, so it should be nearer 10kg (22lb), well under half the weight of the ebike.

      The difference in riding the two, and how fast and nimble they feel is significant.

      With the aid of the ebike I hope to get to a level of fitness that I can use the Rockhopper for my commutes some days.

      Also though, I’m experimenting with the ebike for other journeys that I would usually make by car.

      For example, getting some DIY stuff last week at a local B&Q, which was about 25 mins each way on the ebike. With the panniers I had enough room for the items I bought, and using the car would have taken at least 15 mins anyway.

      The two nearest towns are 15 mins with the ebike too, so no real reason to use my car unless I’m taking the kids somewhere or need larger items than will fit in my panniers (a rare occurrence).

      I wouldn’t likely make these journeys on my regular bike, and don’t have (and don’t want) fairly large panniers on it slowing me down.

      So the ebike is becoming replacement transportation for the car for many occasions, and the regular bike being used more for simple (c)lean fun.

  3. I have an ebike as well, and it’s great for Korea’s hot months when sweat pours out of me when I walk or use a regular bicycle. Now I can get to the school and teach class without stinking up the classroom (the university has no shower facilities for faculty). It’s also great for going to the shops. I can follow the river path all the way through town and riding my bicycle gets me there almost as quickly as a car because I don’t have traffic lights.
    I like the pace of my bicycle (25km/h on full auto, if I use it) and it’s a nice way to get to a photo destination. I still find that walking is the best way to discover things to make photos of.

    1. Thanks for your input Marcus, yes that was the main motivation for me, I get too hot and sweaty on a regular bike when it’s warm, which I don’t care about on leisure rides but like you, don’t want to arrive at work in that state and have eight hours ahead of me.

      The river path sounds an interesting ride, and reminds me of a holiday we went on and hired bikes to follow a canal path. Very pleasant!

      Yes I’m also starting to use bikes to get to photo destinations. Places I considered too far on a regular bike (currently anything over about 5 miles!) I want to try now on an ebike.

      For example one of my favourite local churches and walks is at a place called Hamsey which is about 8 miles away. So that’s about 35 mins on the ebike, very doable.

      One of our neighbours has an ebike with fairly big panniers and does his food shopping in a town about 10 miles away with relative ease. Really makes you think about what you can do that you don’t need a car for.

      1. I don’t have any panniers yet; the local shops don’t carry them and I’m worried about bags I order myself not fitting properly. They would be very convenient, though. I use a backpack for shopping, but when I get home my back is covered in sweat.

        1. Marcus, that’s exactly what was happening with me. Although I was much cooler on the ebike than with a regular one, I was still getting sweaty on my back and shoulders with a backpack on. So I got the pannier rack and bag. I think they’re pretty standard in fit, just make sure your bike has the right lugs to bolt into. I also made my bag more secure with a couple of strategically places zip ties, so it can’t drift at all as I navigate pot holed roads!

  4. One of the best things I did was to get an eBike. I have mobility problems & can only walk the odd kilometre before the pain kicks in but with my eBike I can travel much further & somewhat faster too. In fact I was so pleased with my eBike that I now have two. My original full size bike & now a little folding job that I can pop in the back of the car or in our camper for weekends away.

    1. Sounds brilliant Nigel! I have been half looking at the DIY kits and wondering about trying to put together my own based on an old mountain bike or hybrid. But probably better to just use the one I have that was designed for the purpose!

      We’ve been thinking about a camper for some years. The idea of having an ebike (or two) on the back for local trips is very appealing.

      Another thing ebikes are great for is “equalising” the difference in ability and fitness between bike riders. I went for a ride with the family recently, and I used my Rockhopper and my wife used the ebike. The kids used their regular bikes. My wife is pretty fit but biking is not her favourite activity, but with the ebike it made it more relaxing and enjoyable for her.

  5. What a wonderful post, Dan — reading it felt almost like meditation! I do envy you (and a couple of my local friends) for being able to bike to work, for all the reasons you’ve cited. But if left to my own devices my favorite pace is on foot. Perhaps it’s because I like to listen closely, as well as see. Or perhaps it’s because I’m too lazy to step off my bike to examine things more closely as they whoosh by. Or maybe it’s because it invites conversation with passers-by. No matter the pace we set, though, you’re right that we must strive to allow ourselves time to stop and photograph the roses. 🙂

    1. Heide, thank you, very pleased you enjoyed this one.

      I’m a huge fan of walking too, usually with camera. I’m experimenting with ways of combining these three loves – cycling, walking and photography. It’s a simple formula – cycle to a favourite haunt, lock the bike up and wander for a while taking pictures, then cycle home again.

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