My own, personal e-bike: How to riide

After my excitement about dockless e-bike share in Washington, D.C. last spring, I started shopping around for an e-bike for Double Arrow Metabolism to use for short business trips.

I wanted a bike that was adjustable so that more than one person could use it without much trouble. I tried to find refurbished Jump bikes, but I struck out. I think they’re just too new. Many of the purpose-built bikes on the market are really expensive and/or look like Kawasaki motocross bikes (you really get how some people are complaining about e-bikes being e-motorcycles in disguise).

So it took some looking. I really like the retro fabulous looks of Faraday bikes. I love the looks and techie features of Stromer bikes, but the price is way too steep (especially for Stromers), at least until I really know what I want. And for the money, the looks of the mainstream bikes like Specialized and Trek just aren't what I’m looking for.

I considered building my own e-bike by adding an aftermarket hub motor and a battery to a bike I already have. Then I looked around and found a page for refurbished Riide bikes. The price on these was what really attracted me. They don't cost the three or four grand that some of the other bikes mentioned above cost. In fact, they're within a few hundred bucks of the Money Mustache conversion that piqued my attention toward e-bikes in the last couple years. Riide has an interesting subscription-based business model for its new bikes, but more important to me, they’ll sell their old ones: 

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They'll allegedly fit a rider between 5'2" and 6'2". That easily fits my wife’s and my height, and it gets close to my daughter's. So I hit the Add to Cart button and waited. Unfortunately, when I ran out giggling to greet the FedEx guy, I found an open box and no front wheel. Somebody decided they needed it more than I did:

The front wheel is apparently in the same place as Jimmy Hoffa.

The front wheel is apparently in the same place as Jimmy Hoffa.

But not to worry. I got to spend some time talking with Riide founder and owner Amber Wason via email (and even with a personal call to my cell phone [!]), and we got it straightened out. We got the missing wheel replaced, and we had a new e-bike in no time. 

If you doubt the size difference in riders the Riide can accomodate, that's a 4'7", 60 lb human riding the same bike that'll haul my 6'1", 180 lb corpus around.

If you doubt the size difference in riders the Riide can accomodate, that's a 4'7", 60 lb human riding the same bike that'll haul my 6'1", 180 lb corpus around.

The ride of the bike is different than the Jump tanks I rode in D.C. First, the bike is a fair amount lighter, since it doesn't have the built-in racks and electronics of the Jump. Also, Riide isn't controlled by pedal assist. Instead, you twist the throttle like you're riding a Yamaha.

This doesn't really affect the sensation of riding the bike. When you twist the throttle you still get a satisfying little kick from the motor. It does affect the appearance of the bike, though, since you can easily cruise along without even turning the pedals. I’m not in love with the twist throttle, though. My thumb and forefinger get crampy from holding it in place. I think I would like a thumb throttle better.

One feature I really like is that the brakes kill the motor. My son learned the value of this the hard way on about day two, when he accidentally twisted the throttle as he was dismounting and skinned a knee. Use the brakes. 

I eventually rode it to work:

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After taking these pics, I immediately deleted the rides from Strava. Strava is the de facto place to log rides, but it doesn't feel right to post e-bike rides on it. Strava's for human power only. But I can't help but obsess over data, so I put Map My Ride on my iPhone for ebike use only. Then after a few hundred miles I deleted it and just let the abject lack of data wash over me. Digital minimalism forever.

The advertised speed of the bike is ~20 mph, but I think that estimate assumes a new bike and battery, and I think it assumes a smaller rider than me. I can only get ~17-18 mph out of the Riide on flat ground. That’s still pretty good. It gets me to where I'm going faster than I could get there on the fat bike I often commute on: 

Sure, a different route. But a significant increase in speed, with a significant decrease in sweatiness.

Sure, a different route. But a significant increase in speed, with a significant decrease in sweatiness.

At the end of the day, I think the Riide may be what I want, not the bike I ride while I'm deciding. It looks good in a way that doesn't draw a lot of attention, it is inexpensive and comes with a warranty that I've already tested and that works, and it gets me around in a satisfyingly blue-collar way.


Now I’ve ridden it a thousand miles, maybe, and I feel pretty good about it. The bike didn't come with any rack or panniers, so I had to add one. No problemo. Because buying bike stuff is. The. Best. The front rack from Velo Orange. It looks great and can hold a ton (or at least a case of beer). I’ve found it easier to strap my soft-side briefcase to the front rack than to stuff it in a pannier bag or strap it to a skinny rear rack like I do on my fatty.

A few Riide-specific tips, if you care:

Don’t air the tires up to the maximum pressure. It’s tempting to do this to try to maximize battery efficiency, but the bike rides like a lumber wagon that way. And remember that higher pressures aren’t always better. It’s way, way more comfortable to pump the tires up to a nice, soft-ish pressure to allow a little give over the bumps.

The battery is really glitchy about over-charging. I’ve found that if I accidentally leave it plugged in overnight it’s out of commission for the day. I don’t know why, and I’m no stranger to plug-in electric vehicles:


The phenomenon is reproducible. In my mind it’s a complication of over-charging. But that could be my imagination running wild. Anyway, either set up the charger on a timer that shuts it off after ~3 hours or set a manual timer to remind yourself to unplug your Riide.

Finally, if you have multiple people using the bike you’ll need to put the brake levers in a medium position. Since I’m a foot-and-a-half taller than the other people riding it but I use it 90+% of the time for work, I keep the levers pointed down a little. But not as far down as I would if I were the only rider. I tip them up just a little to make them reachable by everybody else.

Riide on!

The pleasure of going deep

I took the ABIM endocrine maintenance exam a couple months ago.

I love the ABIM logo. It reminds me of the logo for the  Southeastern Conference .

I love the ABIM logo. It reminds me of the logo for the Southeastern Conference.

Spoiler alert: I passed. But this isn’t about my ability to pass a standardized test designed to fail only the small number of docs who can’t achieve a minimum level of competence. This post is about how good it feels to set aside the distractions of the world for a fraction of the day and really concentrate on learning something.

Ironically, the format of the exam was new. The test now includes sections in which UpToDate is available for reference. These were tricky because the availability of a reference was so seductive, much like the availability of the internet in your pocket at all times is so seductive. Lucky for me, my preparation had somewhat steeled me against this. I forced myself to use the physical version of the Endocrine Self-Assessment Program (ESAP), and I forced myself not to look up answers on the computer or my phone willy-nilly. I read through the questions, answered, read the responses, and took old-fashioned analog notes that I reviewed later. I studied around 30 minutes a day, five days/week for September and October. I kept a “30 min board review” item on my daily to-do list. I attended the Cleveland Clinic review course, which was helpful. I was amazed at the new diagnoses that have come about since I last did full-time endocrine practice. Pigmented macronodular hyperplasia? Okay then.

Analog study materials.

Analog study materials.

Ironically, I’ve somehow activated notifications on my computer so that Apple News headlines keep popping up in the corner of my screen as I’m typing this, which only serves to show how much attention residue I avoided by doing it the old-fashioned way. But even still, the first section that allowed access to UpToDate almost tripped me up. I found myself second-guessing even simple answers and clicking on the UpToDate icon to double-check myself. Even though I’m a pretty fast test-taker, and even though every UpToDate check took only a minute or so, they really added up, and I had to really hustle toward the end of that section to get done on time. For the next two sections I forced myself to finish the questions to the best of my ability and then go through any that I’d marked as potentially wrong to check them. This method left me much, much more time.

When I finished the test, mostly sure that I’d passed, I felt a sense of satisfaction that only intensified when I got my test results back. I had prepared for the test, performed well enough to pass, and legitimately increased my knowledge of endocrine diseases and their treatments. As big a pain as the board certification process is, it ultimately made me a better doctor and reinforced some of my technological minimalist views of the world.

Many of us do the same job tasks day after day. I’ve warned med students and residents about the “Groundhog Day” phenomenon. If you go into general surgery, you better like gallbladder disease, because you’re going to see it all day, every day, forever. If you become an endocrinologist you better like hyperthyroidism, because again, it’s gonna take up a lot of your day. (I would have said diabetes there, but it’s so rapidly automating that I’m not sure it will be part of the day-to-day of endocrine practice for much longer.) I’m sure the same thing is true of banking, law, manufacturing, farming, or a thousand other professions. But by going deep, you can find new sources of pleasure and satisfaction even in work that has a tendency to become rote.

Links for Wednesday, October 17, 2018: TV's first drug ad, does mold really make us sick? and big-ass Canadian pumpkins

Behold: the first television drug ad in the US

It was taken down after 48 hours. And now the US is one of only two countries worldwide to allow direct-to-consumer advertising of drugs.

Science has yet to prove that mold makes us sick

I grew up in a farmhouse that was originally an in-ground house and, well, you know how this ends. The basement, which was originally just called “the house,” leaked like a sieve. This led to chronic, unrelenting nighttime exposure to mold in the nooks and crannies of the place. I never felt like it made me sick, but relatives tell me it makes them feel bad. It’s a bummer that medicine can’t tell them whether they’re wrong or right.



Canadians (Canadians!) are racing to grow their first one-ton pumpkin

In my day, we were happy with an orange decorative guord that you could hold in your hands and gently disembowel for purposes of internal illumination. We didn’t want anything to do with these monsters that gain 50 pounds a day to deform under their own weight and need a forklift for transportation. But I do admire they’re trying to do it a different way:

“…weights in the United States and Europe have long passed 2,000 pounds. In Canada, where regulations prohibit some of the chemicals used elsewhere, they have yet to hit this mark. Getting there has become a point of national pride.”

FYI: tells me the current world record is owned by German Mathia Willemijn at 2,624.6 lbs in October, 2016:

Links for Monday, October 15, 2018: Uber quantifies the curb, non-yelling coaches, criminal malpractice, and handlebar shapes

Uber—not a bus company—has proposed a formula for optimization of curb space that makes buses look pretty good:

(quoting directly from the article)

Activity/(Time x Space)

“Activity” is the number of passengers using the curb space by a specific mode, “time” is the duration of their usage, and “space” is the total amount of curb footage dedicated to that use.

Here’s the example that the consultants use in their report, where a 20-foot length of curb is used for four hours as a parking spot by a single car carrying two people:

2 passengers/(4 hours x 20 feet) = .025 passengers/hour-feet, or 0.5 passengers per hour per 20 feet of curb

But if that space is instead used as part of an 80-foot bus stop serving 100 people in that four-hour block, the equation looks like this:

100 passengers/(4 hours x 80 feet) = .3125 passengers/hour-feet, or 6.25 passengers served per hour per 20 feet of curb

Clearly, the bus stop is a better use of public space. And naturally, those Uber cars that don’t take up curb parking look good, too. No surprise there, considering the source.

John Gagliardi is dead, which means that the Nick Saban school of coaching just got a little stronger. That’s a tragedy

My antipathy toward football is cresting (just search for “football” in this site and you’ll see why). But who can argue with a philosophy like this one?

“Gagliardi essentially preached a philosophy of anti-coaching, one that prized self-reliance and self-motivation and abhorred cruelty and authoritarianism. These were not bullshit, repackaged, supposedly out-of-the-box ideas like you find coming out of Silicon Valley. Gagliardi’s philosophy was deeply HUMAN, and deeply trusting. It also happened to be highly effective, so much so that similar techniques are now widely used in parenting books, academic teaching, and other fields.”

One thing the best coaches I’ve had did well—in sports, medicine, music, or other—was to make me feel good about what I was doing. They made me feel good about the process of improvement, no matter my starting point in terms of skill. They essentially told me, “I know you’re a person who tries hard. Let me help you direct that effort in the way that will get the most out of your foundational ability.”

A Texas neurosurgeon was so bad at his job that he got life in prison

When I was a resident, a local doc prescribed so many narcotics to so many patients at such outrageous doses that admitting one of his patients was a near certainty on any overnight call shift. But what did the guy in wasn’t that he was committing malpractice on a daily basis; it was that he improperly supervised his wife as a mid-level provider, leading to money laundering and conspiracy convictions.

We in medicine do a bad job of policing our own. The surgeon who body-checked Dr. Death away from the operating table in Texas deserves major credit.

On a lighter note, What Bars? lets you compare the shape, drop/rise, and weight of a few dozen different handlebars

Links for Tuesday, October 9, 2018: Overtreatment of subclinical hypothyroidism, altruism and specialty choice, and Roman wiping technology

Treating your TSH level of 10 mIU/L with thyroid hormone probably won’t make you feel better

But your doctor will probably try to talk you into it, anyway (paywall):

“Although current guidelines are at first sight cautious with treatment recommendations, more than 90% of persons with subclinical hypothyroidism and a thyrotropin level of less than 10 mIU/L would actually qualify for treatment. However, results of this meta-analysis are not consistent with these guideline recommendations.”

Are altruistic students more likely to choose lower-paying specialties in medicine?

This paper is complex and paywalled, and I won’t pretend to understand it. But yes, it does seem that altruism is related to choosing lower-paying specialties and more underserved areas:

<$300,000 per year is defined as a lower-paying specialty, which calls my career choices into doubt.

<$300,000 per year is defined as a lower-paying specialty, which calls my career choices into doubt.

How did ancient Romans wipe without toilet paper?

Let’s all share a collective shiver at the thought of a communal, stall-less bathroom with sponges on sticks, shall we?

Links for Wednesday, September 5, 2018: docs are nervous about weight loss meds, risky low-carb diets, why I'm not a pediatrician, and continuity of care is good

Why don't more docs prescribe weight loss medications?

Speculation: 1) cost (and by extension, prior authorization requests); 2) residual fear from fen-phen, as one of the docs interviewed alluded to. We can surely put this to bed, since the current crop of meds has been on the market much longer than fen-phen had been when its harm was revealed; 3) nihilism. Five percent weight loss is meaningful from a medical perspective, but unless the doc is consciously, prospectively measuring outcomes like blood pressure, lipids, and fasting sugars, it won't knock her socks off. Patients won't be thanking her for getting them ready for bikini season; and 4) the old Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS) for Qsymia was such a PIA that it scarred some docs to prescribing these meds.

Can we stick a fork in low-carbohydrate diets? (Ba Dum Tss)

What's a 32% increase in mortality among friends? Investigators (in a study that, to my knowledge, has not yet been published, so caveat emptor) found an association between the lowest quartiles of carbohydrate intake and death:

NHANES data. Model 1 is unadjusted for other risk factors. Model 2 is adjusted. These are ugly, ugly numbers.&nbsp;

NHANES data. Model 1 is unadjusted for other risk factors. Model 2 is adjusted. These are ugly, ugly numbers. 

Remember: we can't draw causality from this. There is some chance that people who are sick and more likely to die from heart disease, cancer, or stroke are more likely to adopt low-carbohydrate diets. But it doesn't seem likely. The people at highest risk in this study were those over age 55 and "non-obese."

Reason # 1,001 I'm not a pediatrician:

Can. Not. Do. It.

Special shout-out to the 100 cell phone text alerts during the video. 

If lack of continuity is a mark against telemedicine, then it's a mark against the hospitalist model in general

Links for Tuesday, August 21, 2018: patients love good news. And weed. Patients love weed.

Patients liked a blood pressure app better because it was inaccurate

If I were to pick a single study that wraps all my angst about medicine up into a tidy bow, it would be this one:

"...user enjoyment and likelihood of future BP monitoring were negatively associated with higher-than-expected reported systolic BP. These data suggest reassuring app results from an inaccurate BP-measuring app may have improved user experience, which may have led to more positive user reviews and greater sales."

A better writer could hold forth on how doctors (and devices?) are so bad at giving negative but meaningful information to patients that patients simply avoid the process altogether, leading patients to seek a relationship with their doctors that more resembles that between a shaman and a subject than that of a modern, informed, dynamic doctor-patient exchange of information.

*head explodes*

Dr. Robert Badgett, on seeing this study, reminded me of a quote by Voltaire:

"The art of medicine consists in amusing the patient while nature cures the disease."

I certainly feel like I'm in the entertainment business some days.

With wider availability of cannabis comes wider use and wider abuse

"Public-health experts worry about the increasingly potent options available, and the striking number of constant users. 'Cannabis is potentially a real public-health problem,' said Mark A. R. Kleiman, a professor of public policy at New York University. 'It wasn’t obvious to me 25 years ago, when 9 percent of self-reported cannabis users over the last month reported daily or near-daily use. I always was prepared to say, ‘No, it’s not a very abusable drug. Nine percent of anybody will do something stupid.’ But that number is now [something like] 40 percent."

I knew guys in college who were stereotypical "potheads," and I think my bias at the time was that all but a few of them would be reined in by the relative difficulty of getting the drug (not that it was difficult). Now that the reins are off, we're stuck addressing possible solutions to the problem. This is not an argument for going back to hard-core criminalization. As Annie Lowrey points out, the US still arrests more people for marijuana offenses than it does for all violent crimes combined. That seems, shall we say, excessive.