The Good Dirt: How Ebikes Made the Trails Accessible for Vern Boyles
Imagine having someone tell you; you cannot ride your mountain bike. What would happen if the one hobby you find true joy in is not accessible to you anymore? That is what happened to Evergreen Statewide Board Member, Vern Boyles.
In 2011, Vern was diagnosed with cancer and was fortunate to keep it at bay until winter 2018 when his cancer reappeared. Again, he won the fight for his life, and in January 2019, he bought a new Specialized Enduro to celebrate all he had gone through and coming out on the other side healthy. Or so he thought. Vern had an exceptionally difficult climb when he rode at Tiger Mountain soon after purchasing his new bike. His heart was racing no matter what or how slow he climbed. After another doctor visit, he discovered he suffered from atrial fibrillation, resulting in a persistently high heart rate. Medications would help, but the side effects precluded him from generating sufficient cardio to ride mountain bikes.
For those who know Vern, he is filled with well-humored jokes, generating laughs from anyone within earshot. He is a kind fellow who brags about his amazing family, wife, kids, and grandkids. It was easy to hang up the bike to keep enjoying life but a sad reality. Mountain biking brought Vern incredible joy and connection with friends and family.
Vern grew up hunting and fishing in Alaska. It was there that he developed a deep affinity for the mountains. Early on, he became an accomplished mountaineer, summiting Rainier before discovering mountain biking. “Ever since I found mountain biking, I love being on a bike in the woods.” Needless to say, it was crushing for him to find out he could not bike anymore.
In May 2019, a ‘miracle’ happened. Vern’s doctor told him he could ride again with an ebike.
Vern had known about ebikes for a long time. He had seen them zipping up the trail and admired the technology. So when the doctor gave him this option, he knew he needed to grab the opportunity to stay connected to the woods in his favorite way.
Vern said, “I immediately bought a Specialized Levo. The entire summer of 2019 I rode anywhere that I thought I was allowed. Suntop, Corral Pass, Palisades, Ranger Creek, Raging River, and more. I could ride by myself and feel comfortable and safe with my heart condition.” He learned that even with his health problem, he could be outdoors, riding his bike and became a much better rider with the time he now had on his bike.“Since then, I have fully recovered and am now an ebike advocate for Class 1.” He says.
“There is a lot of misunderstanding about a Class 1 ebike. When someone tests my bike, they are shocked. They think of motorcycles or rental bikes downtown (throttle, class 2-3). Class 1 is not that much different than an analog (term used for non ebikes) bike. It allows everyone to go farther safely and be comfortable along the way.”
E-biking opened up a whole new community to Vern as well. Last year he raced in the local Cascadia Dirt Cup put on by Race Cascadia. His first race was at North Mountain in Darrington. “There weren’t too many ebike people, but it was eye-opening to see the racing community first hand. An ebike helped me get there and expand my community.”
Now, Vern spends his time mountain biking with his wife, grandsons, and friends. He and his wife will go to Highway 18, ride Return Policy, and back again. They love it for the long 16 miles of gorgeous fall leaves. “My grandsons love Port Gamble, and we will spend 4 hours there when we were only supposed to be there for a couple of hours! The grandsons can’t get enough of it! We use TowWhee bungee cord tow straps to get them up for more laps.”
Vern reflects on his experience with analog bikes to ebikes. He has a close group of riding friends. He spent the summer of 2019 riding without his friends because he didn’t want to impact them (because of his condition and on an analog bike, he was slower on the climbs). “Riding the ebike allowed me to stay in touch with my friends and keep that community. The funny thing is now they all ride ebikes! We ride the road instead of a single track uphill, chat and catch up with life. It's much more social on the climbs now, but we are still our own person going downhill. There is much more common ground between ebikes and acoustics than there are differences. It’s easy to get hung up on our differences. It always comes down to the humanity of the person riding the equipment.”
Vern has been working on Evergreen’s ebikes committee for the past 18 months. At our Virtual Membership Meeting, Executive Director Yvonne Kraus, along with our Statewide Board Members, will be announcing Evergreen's stance on ebikes. Vern’s story is just one reason why ebikes make sense; through his time on the committee and talking to other users, he wants everyone to know that ebikes simply offer more opportunities for people to ride.