Posted by: Tom Boyd
Don’t worry … you still have to pedal
By Shauna Farnell
It happens a lot lately … there you are, slogging up a trail, tossing your handlebars left and right and grinding out each pedal stroke, when someone blows past you. It’s hard to tell where his/her pedal power is coming from. Is it a steel-legged cardio champion or someone with a hidden motor? It might be a little bit of both.
For the first time ever, GoPro Mountain Games becomes the stomping ground for an electric bike race – the Bosch eBike Boogaloo – at 2 p.m. June 9 at the base of Golden Peak.
Before you envision a loud, motocross-style extravaganza and begin scratching your head about how the GoPro Mountain Games are supposed to celebrate strength and self-generated speed, keep in mind that this event is limited to Class 1 electric bikes, i.e.: bikes with pedal-assisted motors (not more than 750 watt) that max out at 20 mph.
“These bikes, they’re all human-powered,” says Boogaloo spokesman Jonathan Weinert. “It’s a bioelectric hybrid. You put in your own human effort and the motor adds onto it.”
The inaugural eBike race, together with Troy Lee Designs, took place three years ago on the trails of Mammoth Mountain, California – the first area to allow eBikes on its trail system. Ensuing races have grown in popularity, topping out at around 300 racers of all ages and ability levels, from 10-year-old kids to 75-year-old grandpas.
“We’ve had pros race – like world-champ Brian Lopes and former motocross legend Jeff Ward – but also complete amateurs. The race is as competitive as racers want it to be, but more about having fun, building community and inclusiveness. eBikes are all about inclusiveness, because they level the playing field,” Weinert says.
The Vail race will mark the Boogaloo’s debut event outside of California and will be limited to 80 registrants.
“We first participated in the GoPro Mountain Games last summer doing eBike demos and had a great experience,” Weinert says. “We realized there is a lot of interest in eBikes among GoPro Mountain Games crowds. eBikes tend to flatten hills and make the uphills as fun as the downhills. It was a natural synergy.”
Free Class 1 eBike demos will be available for racers in small, medium and large sizes.
Bosch, Boogaloo title sponsor, is a pioneer in the world of pedal-assisted motors. It is featured in eBikes by brands such as Bulls, Haibikes, and Trek and will celebrate its 10th anniversary this summer. These days, Class 1 eBike components can be so covert you often don’t see or hear them because they’re hidden within the frame of the bike.
“It’s definitely evolved. Now we have several different options for batteries, some that integrate into the down tubes. The software has gotten better to give you more of a mountain bike type experience, so you don’t feel like you’re on an electric bike, but you feel like Lance Armstrong … or maybe Brian Lopes,” Weinert says.
Most Class 1 eBike motors have settings that can be adjusted to assist a rider’s pedaling efforts from 50 to 300 percent. Competitors in Boogaloo races naturally elect for maximum output.
“Most people are in turbo mode most of the time, except for the true masochists,” Weinert says. “I’m a long-time eBiker, more of a commuter than a shredder, but I’ve done a couple of eBike races, and was completely winded at the end. In last year’s Boogaloo race, the people who came out on top were very fit, but also had great handling skills. The bike is limited by the [slope] pitch and the effort. If you’re going up a steep pitch, you’re probably going 10 mph, whereas on a non-assisted bike, you might be going 5 mph. People think an eBike race would be easier, but you push just as hard as you would in a cross-country mountain bike race. Everyone is gassed at the end.”
Mountain biking experience is highly recommended for anyone registering for the Vail Boogaloo, which will be comprised of short laps ascending and descending the singletrack and dirt roads at the base of Golden Peak. Even with the help of a motor, Weinert says eBike racing isn’t something a person can do straight off of the couch.
“They’re built for people who don’t like to climb as much, yes, but we find that people who are aging out of cycling are adopting these to keep riding, to ride with their friends and family,” he says. “Anyone who has different riding abilities can stay together. Some people are just using them to go out on bigger adventures – to go higher, go farther.”
When: 2 p.m. June 9 (registration closes at 1:30 p.m.)
Where: Adventure Village, base of Golden Peak in Vail
Cost: $70 for early registration. All adult entrants receive a free TLD helmet
Required gear: All racers must compete on a Class 1 electric bike (equipped with Bosch, Brose, Shimano or Yamaha systems, with fully operable pedals, no throttle motors must be max 750 watt, pedal-assistance that ceases at 20 mph). Free demo eBikes will be available to racers.
More information: There will be pro, junior and open race categories. REGISTER HERE.
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