19 Oct 2017, Posted by Ski NASTC in Latest News

E-bike? I was skeptical at first. Just the thought of riding my bike with a little help from an external power source made me pause and wonder, “Is this the right thing?” I consider myself a core Mountain Bike Rider, jeez, I have been riding trails in Tahoe since 1986 when I bought my first real mountain bike, a Bridgestone MB 1 from Steve at the Village Ski Loft in Incline Village. He was very informative and promised that I would enjoy the Flume Trail more than ever with this advanced technology. I remember my first ride being revolutionary compared to the antiquated mule of a bike I had been riding before.

Bridgestone MB1
I justified the purchase of the MB1 with the clams of it being, a great around town transportation, increased fitness from riding more, and a fun way to get into the backcountry and enjoy the solitude of Lake Tahoe. I do remember getting dirty looks from died in the wool hikers who were perturbed that I was on their hiking trail with my bike, but it never resulted in any real confrontation. On this new ride, I became very fond of the speeds I could reach on the descents because of the improved suspension and stiff prestige frame tubing. The shifting was easy and reliable which helped me navigate the technical up-hills and tricky terrain. The $850.00 I spent on the bike was my entire IRS refund for that year. Thanks, Uncle Sam!

Specialized Levo E-Bike
So here I am 30 years later listening to 29-year-old Russell from Paco’s Bike and Ski in Truckee sell me on the virtues of peddle assisted mountain bikes. My first thought was, is he trying to sell me a dirt moped? As I patiently listen I begin to understand the big picture he was describing. He began talking my language. He mentions Northwood Boulevard the hill I have to climb with my bike to get home. Then there is the bit about a reduction in my carbon footprint by using my bike more and my car less. Then the advantage of tripling my riding mileage, adding length to my rides without the fatigue or the wear and tear on my 57-year-old body. That part really got my attention. He tells me that Specialized Levo was built from a well thought out cross-country design and added peddle assist. Not the other way around. After an hour of his low key sales pitch, I loaded the 42-pound Specialized Levo onto my bike rack for a test run. The shop mechanics smugly watched to see if the loading the heavy bike would bend me or my rack first. They were surprised when it did neither. Off I went headed toward a ride I have done many times and I knew very well. I thought this will be the best test because I had ridden this trail two nights before on my regular unassisted Mountain Bike.
As I unloaded, I looked around nervously to see if anyone was watching. I quickly pushed the on- button and launched turbo style into the woods. The wind blew through my hair, but how could it be, I was peddling uphill. As I climbed and began cornering uphill it felt strangely like the pull from gravity going downhill. I was actually tipping and leaning the bike into uphill turns. That was a new sensation. At least for me. I am sure there are professional riders that regularly generate 400 watts of power just with their legs, but I was riding like Lance Armstrong on POE. Wow, all the benefit of performance enhancing drugs without the side effect or the stigma.
I was soon at the top and stoked to let it fly. As I dropped into the first turn I felt the tires bite as I progressively leaned it into the banked turn, as the shocks engaged I thought,” hmm very much the feel of my Stumpjumper 29er” and that’s a good thing. The puzzle was, how could a 42-pound e-bike react like a 28-pound carbon framed Stumpy? I am not a bike engineer or even a mechanic, but the geometry, the breaking, the shock set up and the on command seat post produced a run that was exhilarating …, no, life-changing. I rolled over the technical sections with the ease of my other bike but felt more traction from the 4-inch tires. As I rode the grin on my face got bigger and as a ski teacher, I remembered when the first fat skis came out and changed the off-piste ski game forever. This bike is going to change everything I thought.
My mileage began to grow exponentially and my vision opened as I looked for the next hill to climb and my internal giggling became audible as I began my descents. I was chewing up vertical like the top riders of the Leadville 100. What was most astonishing was that I wasn’t tired of the amount of riding I was doing and my focus wasn’t compromised. I was as clear-headed as when I started. That alone made me think that the safety margin was bigger, now I was more awake and alert able to adjust to changes in the terrain with the alacrity of a much younger man, or more rested me. The sun got lower in the sky and after almost 3 hours of riding, I knew I would need to head back to the car. I was worried that my battery would die and I would be left pushing up the hills I had ridden down. I reached over and pushed the small button to the Evo setting to conserve my battery. This would give me enough assist to climb out of the valley and over to my car. Peddling a heavy bike is not a deal killer, but having a little help is always nice. What I found out later is that Specialized has developed an app for your phone that lets you punch in your ride and it automatically rations your battery, assisted by Google Earth.
As I drove back to the bike shop I concocted a story that would settle my frugal New England mind over the sticker shock, $3900.00. I also knew my wife would question my sanity when she saw yet another bike added to my growing quiver. I told Russel at the bike shop I wanted the bike to lower my carbon footprint, but the real reasons were the incredible fun factor and the feeling of human growth hormone. By the time I got home my story was calculated into a very convincing formula. Here it is: When an e-bike replaces a car the e-bike offsets 1,550 grams of global-warming hydrocarbons; 1460 grams of carbon monoxide; and 770 grams of nitrogen oxides for every 500 miles ridden. Plus I could take newbie riders out on equal playing ground and I would ride my old bike while they e-biked. My understanding wife got it and knew it was a great alternative to a midlife crisis car or something else.
Steve at the Village Ski Loft told me that I was buying the state of the art technology. In 1986 that Bridgestone MB1 was a top-tier mountain bike designed for a new generation of cross-country riders. Who could have predicted that 30 years later a relatively small battery attached to an expertly designed mountain bike, could extend ones riding fun factor, extend ride mileage, increase riding hours, help with climate change and increase the safety margin too?
by Chris Fellows
October 18, 2017