Beginning my eMTB journey

Specialized Levo FSR

Bikes have been a massive part of my life in one form or another from my infant years right through to present day. It was a natural thing following in my moto trials-fanatic dad’s footsteps. From an early age he had me ripping around fields and then into the woods on a little TY80 trials bike and then progressing onto more modern machines as I grew older and my level improved.

Alongside the trials obsession, enjoying bikes without engines was an equally natural path to take. Biketrials, dirt jumping, a little bit of downhill with what limited stuff we had in our area, were all part of the fun whenever I had a weekend that wasn’t spent on the motorbike or a light evening in the week.

I still enjoy riding trials regularly and infact my career is heavily trials orientated, working as a designer for the biggest trials brand in the world. Before that I ran my own brand called Amped, which was also heavily involved in the sport as well as other two-wheeled disciplines.

I took an interest in the e-bike world quite a few years ago, I even wanted to at some stage sell them hence buying this domain name. Oset were one of the first brands to really crack it in trials with their electric kids bikes becoming hugely popular and a complete game changer, but other brands in mountain bikes were also pushing the idea and the technology. It’s great to now see the boom kicking off in both worlds, and with big bike brands like Yamaha, Honda, KTM and even trials brands such as Gas Gas and Electric Motion investing time and money into projects, there are exciting things around the corner.

E-bikes are met with a fair bit of skepticism and criticism from both worlds. Mountain bikers and moto lovers. Moto lovers enjoy the engines and the noise, which I understand. There’s nothing quite like revving a Montesa 4RT full chat and tackling a climb in the woods. But on the other hand, land to ride on and public perception is becoming increasingly difficult, especially here in the UK. We probably have half the venues we had 10-15 years ago available to us to ride and it’s only becoming a bigger and bigger issue. This is probably the biggest appeal to me for the electric trials bikes as I have a number of wooded areas around me (some even owned by family) that I could easily ride in, if it wasn’t for the noise factor and upsetting locals. I can put aside my love for the noise and engines if it enables me to enjoy a few more riding spots and equally I’m a geek so I find the technology going into these new electric bikes fascinating and exciting.

There’s also a bit of a push back from Mountain bikers when it comes to eMTBs. Even before my first taste of riding an eMTB, I was nothing but excited about the possibilities. I plan to write a post dedicated more so to this at some stage, but in a nutshell eMTBs are generally met with the same comments. It’s cheating, it’s for lazy people, or it’s for old people. I think these are all huge misunderstandings. These couldn’t be further from the truth and I think people are completely missing the point and perhaps not thinking creatively enough about the new world of riding it opens up.

Last week I borrowed a Specialized Levo Turbo FSR. With a number woods and trails on my doorstep I’ve been out most evenings to see exactly what this thing is capable of. Coming from a trials background I was especially interested to see what exactly this machine could do going up hill and boy was I surprised. I took it into some woods that we used to ride on the mototrials bikes (before it got stopped) and went to find some of our old hillclimbs and it was honestly some of the most fun and hard work I’ve ever done on two wheels. I couldn’t believe what the bike was capable of, with a bit of creative thinking, especially on some of the steeper climbs, there wasn’t too much that was impossible for the bike. Of course there were a few exceptions, but even some of those could be overcome with a slight change of attack and maybe a bit of weaving and change of line.

Wearing an Apple Watch and seeing my heart rate (borderline heart attack at times I think) and the other obvious indicator of being completely breathless at times, you can quite quickly eliminate the lazy factor or saying your body isn’t getting a work out. I was tackling climbs a standard mountain bike wouldn’t get close to and working damn hard. It was amazing. So this was the first thing that I really loved with the bike, it’s almost a new style of riding, almost a cross over between moto trials and enduro, but with pedals and no throttle. It felt like a new riding discipline altogether. I think this is the biggest point haters are missing with eMTBs. EMtbs aren’t making life easier for the rider if they are looking at the next level of terrain they can tackle and thinking differently from the typical MTB perspective. If you push yourself there is absolutely no reason why this can’t be an even better work out then just your normal MTB ride.

Tackling hills leads on to the more obvious benefit of also having an uplift. In my area we have quite a lot of fun trails and downhills, but ultimately they are very short and some you’re only getting back up by pushing. Those of them that you can cycle up, you’ve got a good amount of time doing that before you can go again. For short sections a lot of the time it’s hard justifying the trip back up. But with the e-bike you don’t even think twice. I found sometimes when I got to the bottom, half the fun was then to see if the bike would go back up somehow. Sometimes you’d have to find a slightly different route, but the journeys up at times were just as fun and challenging as heading down because of how difficult it was.

Finally, the other major thing that really struck a chord with me was the feeling of the bike and how it handled. The extra weight of the bike, combined with it’s much bigger tyres compared to any other MTB I had ridden before, gave the bike a really similar feel to my mototrials bike. So immediately my confidence felt on a similar level to when I’m on the moto, which is pretty confident in comparison to how I normally feel on a mountain bike. There’s a much more planted feel to the bike and I felt super confident tackling gnarlier sections including some daunting root sections. A MTB to me typically feels a little skitty and sketchy on this type of going, but with the Levo I wasn’t thinking twice about them and at times I was even launching off roots at the start of the section and landing right down in amongst more more roots just knowing the bike would gobble them up like much motorbike.

So needless to say I’m a complete fan and I ended up buying the bike that I borrowed, and my journey into the world of eMTBs officially begins. It feels great to have an easy, accessible form of riding at my fingertips, especially for quick evening blasts when you don’t fancy the hassle of getting all your moto riding gear together, packing up the van along with getting permission for a riding venue sorted. Despite the usual grief I’m getting from MTB friends, I just feel like they are missing the point and more importantly, missing out on some serious fun. Having fun is the key at the end of the day. If e-bikes still aren’t your cup of tea then that’s fine, go enjoy whatever else is fun for you but don’t waste time and effort throwing shade at what other guys are doing for their fun. Put your energy into your own life and let others do the same for themselves.