I’m in Ketchum, Idaho, for a new event called CrankTank. It’s a successor of sorts to PressCamp which was shut down after last summer. The format is a bit different, with fewer presentations and more time outside on the bike. And the schedule is jam packed, making posting rather difficult. To top that off, I rode a very interesting bike yesterday that is under embargo, so I can’t even tell you about it yet.
What I can say about the event is that ebikes are a significant part of the event, something the degree to which all the attendees are just beginning to find out.
My takeaway is that more and more, bike companies really don’t want to talk about ebikes.
Let that sink in a second. They don’t really want to discuss ebikes. What they would rather do is just get people on them and let them ride the bikes. The belief that seems to pervade manufacturers is that the only time to discuss ebikes is after people have ridden them.
To that end, yesterday, we were taken to some Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land outside Ketchum, with a significant trail network that is open to ebikes. We were each set up on bikes, and in theory the suspension was properly set up—more on that later—and two different groups were taken for rides on the trails.
Ketchum sits at 5853 feet. Just high enough for me to become winded doing, well, anything other than sitting down. This little detail makes my willingness to ride an ebike instead of a regular bike rise like a hot air balloon on a cold morning.
I was given a Specialized Turbo Levo to ride. And while the tech took me through the normal steps to set up the suspension, he got something wrong and I ended up on a bike with suspension set up for someone who weighs 200 pounds, not 160, something I didn’t pick up on until we were out on the trail and it was too late to do anything. Sigh. Yet another eMTB ride where the suspension wasn’t set up right.
And yet, I had a great time. It wasn’t significantly difference than the experience I’d have had on a traditional mountain bike. The biggest difference of course is that I was able to get to the top of a climb without being utterly destroyed. The way it zeroed out my experience of the altitude was remarkable, making the riding much more enjoyable. Plus, there were several steepish, sandy pitches that I’d have had trouble riding up at sea level where I simply bumped up the power assist and I was able to pedal right up.
The Specialized Levo is not a light bike. It weighs roughly 52 lbs., more than my eight-year-old son. One of the things that makes the Levo different than my experience with other ebikes is how well balanced it is. With the Brose battery and motor slung as low as possible, the center of gravity is a bit lower than on a standard bike, which makes leaning it into turns easy enough.
The bike ran on plus tires, 27.5 by 2.8 inch Specialized rubber. If ever there was a terrific application of plus wheels/tires, this is it. With the extra weight, a rider is able to achieve much better traction on a big footprint.
To a person, we got back to the trucks in the parking area in agreement that the ride had been fun and we didn’t feel that we’d been out for a motorcycle ride. And that seems to be the strategy. I’ve been troubled by why Specialized and other companies are pushing so hard to get these bikes out there without devoting enough energy to advocacy to help pave the way for their arrival. The challenge is simple: most riders badmouth ebikes, especially eMTBs, before they ride them. No one seems to dislike them once they ride them.
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