By Will Greig, 303 Ambassador
The GoPro Mountain Games is a major event hosted in Vail, Colorado that took place from June 7th through the 10th. Many cycling competitions are part of this mega-event including enduro, XC-mountain, and road time-trial races along with other non cycling events and competitions that easily filled each of the four days. Vail’s narrow streets were filled with people looking for free swag to fill their pockets. My father and I arrived on Saturday just in time to start the mountain bike cross country races. A 14 mile, 4000 foot climbing affair (21 mile and 6,000 foot for the pros and elites) through the aspen forests and serpentine descents that was completely exhausting – but a blast. Upon completing our races we visited and talked to many of the vendors along the streets of East Vail. A great way to discover many new products and trends – it seems craft brewers have ceded their dominance of the Colorado beverage scene to kombucha fermenters.
One of the more interesting vendors at the Games was Bosch. They were making a big effort to get people “amped” up on e-bikes. We had to try. Off we went, me on my 29er, my dad on a cruiser. I have to admit, they were fun. Fifty watts up a hill never felt so fast. The Bosch e-bike system has four different power settings, Eco, Tour, Sport and Turbo, with Turbo being the most powerful. When given the choice, it was easy to settle into Turbo mode, and very hard to get out of it. Once you go Turbo you never go back. The motor’s acceleration felt very natural, just as it feels when pedaling with a 30 mph wind at your back – soooo easy. This natural feel is a result of a combination of a speed, cadence and torque sensors. However, gearing was still necessary and I found that a lower gear than normal was more desirable; spinning a really high cadence makes the motor turn on and off intermittently reducing that natural feel. No doubt the bikes are fun, but one loses the sense of satisfaction powering up a nasty climb under your own power. The center mount drive system puts the motor and gearbox mass low and in the area of the bottom bracket. So although the bike was heavy, very heavy even compared to a full squish bike, the handling was acceptable due to the low center of gravity.
The debate continues. Bosch has been working with IMBA in an effort to increase accessibility of e-bikes on to trails. To date, most trail custodians in the US have prohibited the use of e-bikes on their trails. Ms. Claudia Wasko, Regional Business Leader for Bosch e-bikes, states that ‘an IMBA study indicates a Class 1 e-bike (pedal assist limited to no more than 20 mph) has minimally more impact on the trail surface than a traditional human powered bike. And that an e-bike allows persons that could otherwise not easily access a trail due to a physical limitation, find joy in mountain biking.‘ Ms. Wasko did concede, though, that a concern put forth by opponents was that e-bikes could ultimately congest trails with many more riders all moving a little faster than they otherwise might, or should.
Did I mention they were fun?
The Sunday morning road time trial race took place along the classic Vail route, the same one used during the Coors Classic as well as the more recent US Pro Cycling Challenge. No doubt it attracted many of the super fast, super slick time trial experts for whom this state is home. Time trial kit is fast, sleek and other worldly. Except sometimes. For some it’s hopping on the bike that brought you with the threads you were camping in last night. These are the people that make the race interesting.