Octogenarian discovers the joy of cycling through e-bikes

19 August 2021    

An 82-year-old retired widower on the Isle of Harris has found fun, fitness and friendship by riding e-bikes provided by local charity the Embark Project based in the Hebrides.

Tony Dolby was in his twenties the last time he rode his bike.

In the late 1980’s, Tony honeymooned with his wife on the Isle of Harris, an island in the Outer Hebrides. The couple fell in love with the island and within a year they had moved permanently.

Sadly, in 2019 Tony lost his wife to cancer. After a period of grieving, Tony set himself the challenge of trying new things. He joined a local music group, started going to the gym and became a befriender to an isolated person through a program run by a local charity, the Embark Project.

The Embark Project host activities and events for people on Lewis and Harris who may experience isolation or disadvantage. While Tony joined the weekly walking group, as a mechanic by trade, Tony was drawn to the Saturday morning e-bike sessions.

This meant climbing on a bike for the first time in almost 60 years.

I was amazed by the bikes. You know the electricity is in there, but they look just like a normal bike. Harris has so many hills that would be hard work to walk up but you fly up them like a steam train on an e-bike. I feel 20 years younger!

Beyond the enjoyment and increased fitness from e-bikes, there are more benefits for Tony. “There’s a real social side. I’ve met a great group of people, it’s really brought us together.

Cycling has helped Tony take even more pleasure out of where he lives. “There is a 5.5-mile trail maintained by the Stornoway trust. If I walk it, it’s really hard work, can take two hours, I don’t talk to anyone on the way round and I’m absolutely exhausted by the end. On the e-bike I can go round the trail twice, smiling all the way round.”

Without the e-bike, cycling for someone of my age living on Harris would have been difficult. Had they been available before now, I’d have been doing it for years.

Asked to sum up his experiences with e-bikes, Tony says “they’ve turned the everyday usual into something really enjoyable.”