Test Ride: Specialized Turbo Levo FSR 6 Fattie

What’s a guy like me doing riding a bike like this? The short answer is, having fun!

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Although I love riding trails, I’m not a mountain biking kind of guy, but this Turbo Levo is a kind of cycling machine that I have not before experienced

Specialized has attacked the concept and design of this full suspension e-mountain bike by building a trail bike with the hallmarks of their highly respected mountain bikes, while streamlining the design for full integration of their Turbo technology.

Like those trail favourites, the Turbo Levo FSR has the feel, response and agility mountain bikers want, however the power on board allows them to go longer, further and higher than possible on a regular mountain bike.

Again, I’m never been a mountain biking guy but after a brief rip in the nearby trails, even I get what this bike is about; I can only imagine the experience with a really rider aboard.

Looking at the tech side of it, the Turbo Levo FSR 6Fattie is nicely set up on its aluminum frame using a 140mm RockShox Revalation fork and the trail tuned Fox Float Performance rear shock for suspension. Hydraulic disc brakes are SRAM DB5 and the group set is SRAM one-by 11-speed. The trail tuned 250W motor is custom-built for Specialized and it is powered by a custom LEVO 460Wh battery.

As the e-mountain bike scene continues to develop in Asia, Europe and North America, more and more thrill seekers will want to personally know the experience of a pedal assist e-mountain bike. It’s not that they’re better, that’s for individuals to decide, but they are different, offering an enhanced ride on the trails.

If you are thinking about how to enhance your ride, drop into any of our Gears Bike Shop stores to talk about the soon-to-arrive 2018’s and to go for a test ride. You will easily imagine yourself riding trails, as you never have before.

Focus… on the Future

So this is pretty cool… Focus Bikes (known for creating some of the very best bikes in the world) is investing in the future of cycling with the development of high-performance road bikes which feature, fully integrated electric motors. Developed under their Project Y Program, Focus is looking to create bicycles that have all the same ride and performance characteristics of a traditional “analogue” bike until you need the “help” and assistance of the motor.

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Details on this offering are still being worked on, but it looks like Focus will have at least three models or genres of bike available later in 2018. A road bike, a cyclocross bike and gravel bike. Each will be assisted by a 250-watt Fazua motor which has a top speed of 25km/hr. Not enough to win a race, but certainly enough juice to help a rider when the going gets a steep.

As someone who rides with some very accomplished and yes, admittedly often younger riders, this old cyclist sees the day when such a technology offering may be in my future. The ability to still “hang” with the group is rather appealing… or dare I say, electrifying.

Photo Credit: Benjamin Hahn Fotografie / Focus

So… is it going to rain?

DarkSky.net

Start time at the shop was noon, but all morning CBC Radio One has been talking about rain coming and staying around till nighttime. The commuter e-bike I’m trying this week isn’t equipped with fenders, so I thought it best to consult DarkSky.net to see what messiness was heading our way, and when.

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After checking the site earlier I saw the storm system and it was somewhere southwest of Lake Erie with winds pointing directly at us. Now, after refreshing the site, rain was was much closer so plan B went into effect – leave early, beat the wet.

This is another instance where an e-bike can prove to be a great city vehicle, in a dramatic race to beat the rain (well I thought it was dramatic). The first drop of rain hit my arm before I left my backyard, but it turned out to be just a forewarning. As hoped for, my plan was a success; the rain held off and I arrived at the shop dry as a bone.

Given my early arrival time, I left for a close-by café to do a little work. It was on the walk over to Tim’s when the skies decided to open up. Just a little damp, I settled in to my seat with a piping hot dark roast to write a few thoughts down and it came to mind that I just experienced three things that I really like; Tim’s, DarkSky.net, and e-bikes. So does the whole crew at Gears, Leaside. Not much need be said about Tim’s, that’s a reputation as big as the breadth of Canada, and we love that there’s an outlet only 2 minutes from our store.

Although DarkSky.net isn’t as well known as Tim’s, it is growing on the radar of cyclists and indeed all outdoors enthusiasts. And speaking of radar, that is one of DarkSky’s great features; it shows rain clouds on radar along with an indication of wind direction by using a series of mini arrows. Furthermore, it will say what time rain is expected to hit where you are at the moment. It does this by zeroing in on your location and computing, with distance and speed of the system, exactly when the rain can be expected. The fact that it gave me the opportunity to create a plan B bears out why we heartily recommend DarkSky.net to all our customers and indeed all cyclists.

Lastly I come to e-bikes. This is a subject we are enthralled with because it’s the newest technology in the biking world, and their popularity around the globe is now being mimicked in North America. We see it every day in the store, and all our stores are witnessing the same increase in interest. If you don’t yet know what all the buzz is about, drop into any of our four locations and test ride one. You will be part of the growing group of people who know what e-bikes deliver and why they are a major development in the effort to remove cars from the road. What’s more, they’re a blast to ride! Come try one out!

Test Ride: Pedego – City Commuter

Today, I took out a Pedego City Commuter for the ride home and my end-of-the-day takeaway is that it has definitely earned its place in the rising popularity of e-bikes. Pedego’s City Commuter is a Class 2 e-bike and its name says it all (almost).

Pedago City Commuter

This bike is a commuting beast, and although it can certainly be used to run local errands as well as go on recreational rides, it seems singularly well designed for commuting. What the name leaves out is the fun aspect of riding it. The City Commuter handles city roads easily, and blends into traffic effortlessly with pedal assist. If, however, you find yourself in a particularly sticky situation where a little bit of brisk acceleration will alter the traffic dynamics in your favour for safety, then the City Commuter’s power-on-demand throttle is conveniently available for your benefit. Simply twist the right half-grip to engage the powerful 500w motor and you are quickly and effortlessly on your way.

Overall, the combination of the upright riding position and the power delivered through its drive train gives the rider a feeling of being in full control. Contributing to this overall feeling is the bike’s heftiness. It must also be said that although it provides a great sense of security when riding, the 30kg (66lb) weight makes it a little difficult to lift if or when the need arises. The Pedego City Commuter represents the top American-made entry in the category of commuter e-bikes.

For the most part, we live and work in the GTA and for anyone researching and/or considering an e-bike for their commuting pleasure (did we mention the fun aspect of riding one?), the City Commuter should definitely be in the running. To test ride one is to understand, so come into Gears anytime to ask for a review and test ride; it may just change your outlook on getting around the city.

Tires, too much pressure… or not enough?

Tire pressure has two primary impacts on how your tires perform.

First, it affects grip and the rider’s ability to control and handle the bike in corners or over rough terrain. Second, it affects rolling resistance and the amount of effort and energy a rider need to maintain forward momentum.

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Grip Levels

The more your tire can conform to and make contact with the surface, the greater the grip level it achieves. However, at the opposite end of the spectrum, this means that an over-inflated tire will bounces over a surface and will suffer from a lack of grip… something to consider in rough or wet conditions.

Rolling Resistance

Rolling resistance is how much friction occurs between tire and surface; the greater the friction, the greater the resistance. An under inflated tire will provide too much contact with the surface, and therefore too much rolling resistance. This not only increases the odds of a puncture or “pinch-flat,” it also requires more effort to move the bike. (with an eBike this will also decrease the efficiency and longevity of the charge in your battery).

Surprisingly, an over-inflated tire also increases rolling resistance; because it constantly bounces on the surface, rather than rolling smoothly along it. This “bounce” can also effect the performance and grip of the tire (as mentioned above).

For you to achieve the best balance between grip and rolling resistance, be sure to check the inflation specifications usually found indicated on the side-wall of the tire.

In addition to the recommended pressures indicated on the tires, the best pressure for your bike will depend on the kind of bike you have, and also important factors like rider weight, bike weight when fully loaded, road conditions and weather conditions, etc.

How often should one pump up their tires?

It is important to know that all tires will loose pressure over the days and weeks between rides. Some high-pressure tires will loose between 5 to 10 psi per week. As such, you need to check your tires frequently and then pump them up accordingly to avoid any issues. I highly recommend that all riders should own a proper floor pump with a gauge.

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In addition to owning a proper floor pump with a gauge, its also important to ride with a minimum of gear with you, just in case you should suffer a flat with on a rides:

  • Spare tube or patch kit
  • Tire levers
  • Mini-pump of other inflation device

Its also important to know how to fix your flat when on the road. It is a relatively simple thing to do, but not something you want to have to learn during an emergency situation. Be prepared and practice this a few times first.

BTW: Pro Tip, anyone with a CAA Membership can take advantage of the CAA’s bike pick-up program. Contact the CAA for details.

Test Ride: Easy Motion, EVO Cross

Today, I ventured out on the Evo Cross from Easy Motion – what an awesome e-bike experience. The mission was to head to the nearest ravine/bike path (Cedarvale Lower & Upper), over Eglinton and up Marlee to pick up the Beltline as a way to put the bike through its paces.

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Sporting a beautiful colour scheme, and looking very sleek and not much like an e-bike, the Evo Cross is an ideal urban vehicle. It can be all business as it carries you from point A to B with style and efficiency, or it can be the adventure vehicle that you take to explore the trails in Southern Ontario.

The Cross is just one of many models in the e-bike line up from Easy Motion. Within the spectrum of their offerings, they provide a solid solution to whatever the rider seeks in transportation and/or fun.

Easy Motion is the e-bike division of BH Bicycle Co. of Spain. BH is one of Europe’s premier bicycle designers and manufacturers and Gears is very proud to carry their products for the GTA market and beyond.

Test Ride: Specialized Turbo Vado

The Specialized Turbo Vado (recently previewed in Wired) is a beautiful thing. Once again I have the opportunity to try another in the awesome line up of e-bike brands and models at Gears Bike Shops and the Vado is certainly a pleasure to ride.

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My day off started with a short trip to get a brief treat, aroma espresso bar in Forest Hill Village. Taking a meandering route through the surrounding neighbourhood, I eventually found my intended destination, parked the Vado beside the patio and brought my coffee out along with my laptop.

One of the greatest attributes of the Vado is its belt-drive motor – it is very quiet! The low hum of the tires overpowers whatever sound may be coming from the motor itself. The Brose motor and Shimano drive-train provides an easy shifting and very responsive assist to help achieve any cycling challenge.

Looking for an interesting backdrop in a nearby neighbourhood to take a pic of the Vado, I went to Wychwood Barns in Hillsdale. After achieving my mission I started on my trip back home when I saw a woman standing with a folding e-bike (quite a popular model). She was speaking with a friend and when I noticed the conversation turn to the bike and its features, I went over to join the session.

My observation from this little ‘everyday story’ is that e-bike owners come in all shapes, sizes and walks-of-life, and each one of them becomes an advocate for this new wave of transportation and fun.

To understand what all the Vado buzz is about and why e-bikes are creating such a stir in cycling circles, drop by any of our Gears stores to try one, just for the fun of it. The guys and gals at Gears will welcome you and chat about your e-bike interests even if it’s just to learn why e-bikes are becoming so popular.