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After heart attack, Gainesville man continues hobby with e-bike
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Chuck Dyarmett with his e-bike in Gainesville, on Tuesday, March 13, 2018. After having a heart attack, Dyarmett now uses an e-bike, which features a battery and motor that assists in pedaling. This long exposure photograph was created by illuminating Dyarmett and shining a flashlight toward the camera. - photo by David Barnes

Adjusting was something Chuck Dyarmett had to do, but not because he wanted to. 

He has been riding bikes practically his entire life, and it’s one of the primary things that brought him to Georgia. But after a heart attack at age 50, he had to make a change.

The Gainesville man tried to get back on his bike, but it didn’t last long. He continued to have problems related to his heart. 

That’s when he discovered e-bicycles, and he has been riding one without a problem ever since.

“Bike riders who, either from age or disability, have given up riding or are thinking they can’t ride, this bike offers the ability to continue riding,” Dyarmett said.

An electric bike has adjustable levels of assistance. The harder the ride, the more help the rider can require of the propulsion battery in the bike. It makes pedaling easier by using the battery to enable the rider to exert less force.

“The bike will not go by itself; you have to be pedaling,” Dyarmett said. “So it’s not like a motor scooter, it’s just got an assist on it. And it has nine speeds just like a regular touring bike.”

Dyarmett said it’s a way for older or disabled riders to still enjoy and reap the benefits of riding a bike. And that’s exactly what Dyarmett, 72, has done. 

From where he lives near Limestone Parkway, he rides up and down Clarks Bridge Road to U.S. 129 about three or four times every week. He’s logged about 3,900 miles since he purchased the bike.

Dyarmett grew up in Ohio, where the weather often wasn’t great for riding bikes. 

“The spring, summer and fall were OK, but it seemed like the winter dragged on forever,” Dyarmett said. “With the salt on the roads, that’s terrible on the kind of stuff I like to do.”

He landed a job as the assistant superintendent of the Gainesville City School System and moved to Georgia, in part, so he could ride his bike year-round. 

Stress and family history were factors Dyarmett said probably led to his heart attack. Before, he was taking trips on his bike from his home all the way up to Hiawassee.

On one of those trips, he felt a burning sensation in the center of his back. He called his doctor who said it probably wasn’t a big deal, but still wanted to see him. By the next week, he was at Emory Healthcare having heart surgery for a blocked artery. While in the hospital, complications from the surgery led to a heart attack.

“Following that, it was just a matter of trying to ride again,” Dyarmett said. “But I haven’t been back (to the hospital) since, and my cardiologist thinks bike riding is the primary reason I haven’t.”

He was able to get back into riding after taking a demo ride on an e-bike at a festival in Blue Ridge. After that, he knew he had to have one. So he did some more research online and learned they’re not cheap. His was $4,000, but he figured if he was riding at least three times each week, the price was worth it.

Dyarmett has been trying to get the word out about the bike because he said they aren’t very popular in the U.S. Not many places carry them because of the price, and it’s somewhat of a niche market. But he said once people realize the benefit of riding, even in old age or with some kind of disability, it will be worth it to them, too.

“I’d like to make sure that people understand this is an option, Dyarmett said. “My concern is that folks who are getting older and thinking they can’t do it anymore, that’s not necessarily the case.”