Using eBikes as medication in the battle against depression

October 29, 2019
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Millions of people suffer from serious depression. If you haven’t ever suffered from depression, then this article is probably not for you. If you’ve had mornings where you just couldn’t get out of bed from the crushing pressures of the world then this article is about how bicycling and ebikes can be used effectively as a tool in battling depression. It’s not for the meek of heart, down the rabbit hole we go.

For those who haven’t felt it, it’s hard to understand what it’s like

I’ve suffered from severe depression for most of my life. The last several years have been really quite a bit better, and my over-the-top ebike addiction has had no small part to play in that. This article is not scientific in any way, it’s based on my experiences alone, and it may not apply to anyone else.

Things, even little things have often weighed heavily on my mind. As a child, I felt isolated, alone and spent most of my childhood daydreaming. As I grew I learned to relate to others, but always felt like an outsider, an alien from another planet. People always seem so genuinely happy to be alive, somehow I sometimes forgot that I was alive and the statistical improbability of my continued existence. The first break in my depression was when I started riding my bike to school in middle school. The endorphins that I got from 2 hours of exercise every day regulated my brain chemistry and made me feel a lot more ‘normal’. I started to make friends and the world got a lot more tolerable.

This image accurately represents what bicycling means to me, an escape from the darkness

My trip through ‘adulthood’ was a total roller coaster ride and at one point I got severely depressed. After a year of not working and barely being functional, I ended up discovering that if I megadosed on Vitamin B3 (Niacin) that I would feel totally normal. I wrote an article about my experiences and from what I can tell B3 megadosing has helped a few other people as well. The problem is that doing it long term (over a year) will turn your liver into Pâté, so keep that in mind while you’re gobbling those vitamins down like candies. I don’t really take Niacin anymore unless I really start struggling with depression or obsession.

Daily meditation makes me almost tolerable

I have a mantra that I repeat to myself when I start falling into the deep pit of despair and that mantra is “Just do the work”. ‘The work’ is not working at a job, but rather just taking care of myself.

  • Eating healthy
  • Drinking enough water
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Meditation (I practice self-taught TM , my meditation mantra is “I love myself” although I’m not sure the Maharishi would approve)
  • Exercise

Exercise is the most important thing for my mental health by far. Exercise seems to regulate my brain chemistry and makes the darkness go away. The problem with exercise is that there is almost always resistance to actually getting out and doing it. There are 2 big things that can help me get past that resistance of getting outside and getting on a bike.

  1. Riding with a friend
  2. Riding an ebike

When I make plans to ride with someone else that is not only way more fun, but it also gets me out the door. I’ve had lots of riding partners in the past, but my main partner in the last several years is my good friend 70-year-old Grandpa Eric. I taught Eric to ride just a couple of years ago on an ebike, and now he rides several times a week. I can barely keep up with him and our rides are always a blast. The best part of riding with Eric is that I can leech water off him and don’t have to carry my own water bottle (ewww). If you need help getting out the door and on a bike, find someone to ride with. It works.

Nothing is more therapeutic than spending unstructured time with friends in the woods

As for ebikes, my wife lives on 450 acres of incredible hilly terrain with lots of bike paths I have made in the woods. The problem is that there is a lot of up and down. I have taken my non-motorized trail bike there, but it’s not much fun because there is just way too much slogging uphill. I’ve been riding my new Luna X-1 (reviewed here) every day for the last couple of weeks and it makes it way more fun to go out. I ride about an hour a day and that bike can scream uphill almost as fast as it cranks downhill. It’s just a blast to ride. I still feel energized and exercised when I return from my ride and I always have a smile on my face. I am blessed with a wife who literally kicks me out the door every morning because she knows that I will be far more pleasant to deal with if I get my morning ride.

Nothing cures Seasonal Affective Disorder like an AWD torque-sensing 2500W ebike with Snowshoe 2XL tires and a homebuilt 25Ah 52v backpack battery

Wintertime used to be the hardest time of year for me. Now, when the snow starts falling, instead of getting depressed, I get excited that I can start riding my oversized fat tire builds in the snow. On a day with lots of powder I get up, look out the window and there is an amazing feeling of anticipation like I can’t wait to go out and play. When I was a child I used to go sledding outside in the winter and I would stay out in the snow until I couldn’t feel my hands and feet. Screaming through the woods in deep powder on a custom-built 2500W BBSHD ludicrous bike is one of the best feelings I ever have. Last year I purchased a Christini Ludicrous Ultra Max Fat-E AWD Snowshoe 2XL bike (review here) that is more fun than any bike I have ever built or will likely ever build.

I think with the way the world is right now, if you’re not depressed about what’s happening, then you’re just not paying attention. In a country where a large percentage of the population is in complete climate denial, it’s hard to function or relate to deniers. Often it feels incredibly pointless to do much of anything at all. I’ve decided that just because a large percentage of people insist on living with their head in the ground and acting like climate change isn’t real, I will not relent.

I will do as much as I can, for as long as I can. That is the most I can do.

Ride on.

The only thing that makes me feel like I’m not a part of the problem is when I plant trees, now I just can’t stop

Karl Gesslein is a degenerate hooligan of the highest caliber living in upstate NY. His passion for e-bikes and all things sustainable causes him to be obsessed with climate change and finding solutions that will keep humanity from becoming extinct from our own hubris. His personal blogs include electricbike-blog.com, awaken-spirit.org & chestnutparadise.com.


4 Comments

  1. Thank you, Karl. For better or worse, you are the poster child showing that suffering can be infinitely productive. Of course, the opposite is also often true. Many of the greatest have suffered deeply. Rudolf Steiner said that human evolution is leading to the place where a human being will suffer if we know anyone else on the earth is suffering. You are leading the way. Thanks again.

  2. Great story!

    I live in Seattle Washington. Our summers are great with lots of riding available. You can ride anything you like from amazing mountain trails to cross state road rides and Even along the coast line. However, when the weather turns and we enter the long dark tunnel of winter finding a good ride gets harder.

    In the city there is a lack of off road parks and trails for riders who do not wish to ride with busy traffic. I believe your article is a very clear example of why places to ride, even in the winter are important to the whole community.

    Thank you for sharing your experience,

    -J

  3. Thanks for sharing Karl. There are so many reasons to ride and your story amplifies the importance of activity as well as simply getting outside for those of us who live in the north. And for the GWN (Great White North), the cold can become an excuse, when in all reality, you can dress for it and enjoy the high oxygenated air.
    Well done!

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