This past Saturday I had a great opportunity to represent the Gears Brand at the Spring Epic 8 MTB Relay Race, a fun-filled grassroots mountain bike race presented by the good folks at Chico Racing.
In years past I would have been one of the racers on the course, flying the colours for the LapDogs Cycling Club (emPowered By Gears) but his year, my roll was a little different.
With Gears Bike Shop being one of the sponsors of this event, I thought it might be pretty cool to introduce this crowd to the latest in pedal-assist mountain bike technology. So beyond the usual box of swag, I also took a nice little collection of 2018 bikes with me to… shall we say, “test the waters” with what, I was thinking would be a rather skeptical demographic.
My quiver of “demo” bikes included the following:
- Bulls EVO e-Stream, FSR
- Cube Acid 1, Hardtail
- EasyMotion Atom, Hardtail
- EasyMotion BigBud, Hardtail FAT Bike
- Haibike SDuro HardFour 4.0 24″ Kids Bike
I arrived at this event about an hour or so before the start of the race and despite a bit of rain on the way up, the sky was now bright blue with glorious sunshine. Chico had arranged a great spot right beside the timing tent and transition zone for the racers. I quickly parked the Gears Humberview Garage transit van, set up our tent and pulled the bikes out for display.
Knowing that our audience would be somewhat pre-occupied with the start of the race, I then made my way to the start-line to watch the launch of this sell-out event. With 850+ folks participating… and racers ranging from Provincial Champions to weekend warriors and rookies, the start was going to be very exciting.
Got to say, it was rather spectacular watching several hundred participants leave on mass in a huge cloud of dust, cheers and enthusiasm. And yes… for a few minutes the old racer in me wished I were joining in the “fun.”
It was then time to head back over to the Gears set-up and see what I could do to introduce this crowd to the world of e-Mountain Bikes.
I felt is was going to take a bit of time before folks began to realize that the bikes I had on display were not the usual bikes seem at a mountain bike race. Yeah… there was something a bit different about what I had brought to the event. At first I just fielded a few questions from the curious… but no one was taking me up on the offer of test rides.
Undaunted, I persisted and eventually got two buddies to take a 5 minute spin on a couple of the bikes. Both of the guys were your typical MTB weekend-warrior and after first commenting on the whole “cheater-bike” thing, they took off for a spin.
Given their skepticism, I was ready for some negative feedback as they came back to the tent. But as they approached, I soon noticed that they were both grinning from ear to ear. Needless to say they had a blast on the bikes and were instant converts to the concept. They both realized that is was not about cheating… it was about fun. Nothing more, nothing less.
With the ice now broken, I spent the rest of the day talking to lots of folks about eBikes and getting as many of these people as possible to take test rides. And just like my first two riders of the day – everyone who took out a bike came back with massive smiles and a new understanding of the joys of pedal-assist mountains bikes. Even the most “hardened” racer, quickly changed his or her tune after spending just a few minutes on the bikes. People were beginning to “get-it” and realized that its not always about testing one’s meddle and that sometimes we just want to ride our mountain bikes for fun. They also realized how the technology would also allow many more people to enjoy the pleasures of riding in the woods without the need to “suffer” on every climb.
Oh… but for those who are interested in testing themselves… it will not be long before we see eMTBs getting their own races in Southern Ontario. We’ve already begun to see this happen in Europe and parts of the U.S.
I certainly feel that we planted more than a few seeds in the minds of many at the Spring Epic 8. Hey, even Chico himself was putting serious thought into the benefits of a pedal-assist MTB. He loved the idea of being able to use one of these bikes for trail maintenance, running sweep at a race, and yes, being able to do a 60k mountain bike ride, when one only has time for 40k.
Thanks to everyone who expanded their horizons a bit this past weekend and “took a chance” riding an eMTB. And special thanks to Gus (seen in the above photo) who took out this awesome Cannondale Moterra on his final lap of the event and used it to help push several very tired and exhausted Solo Riders up some of the many unrelenting hills on the race course.
BTW: Despite not racing, I was thrilled to see many of my LDCC Teammates at the event and got to witness several of them take well-earn steps up on to the podium.