E-Bikes: Progress Meets Hostility.

*For the purpose of this article, “E-Bike” refers to a non-throttle, pedal-assist bicycle.

E-Bikes may be the most controversial topic in cycling since Lance was first accused of doping. That may seem like somewhat of a false equivalency, but to many cyclists, both topics have one thing in common: CHEATING. The rapid increase of E-Bikes has sparked a lot of heated discussion in the industry. Many riders feel that E-Bikes offer an unfair advantage to other riders and shouldn’t be allowed to share the same trails. Other people view E-Bikes as motorcycles in disguise, and since they are just motorcycles, shouldn’t be allowed to share the same trails. Where is this bicycle segregation coming from?
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Even at my bike shop, located in an area where E-Bikes haven’t really hit the riding scene, we are having daily discussions about them with customers. There are shops now, often in urban settings, that exclusively sell E-Bikes. The demand for this technology is clearly there. So why are so many cyclists passionately opposed to the idea of E-Bikes? To some extent, the answer is in the question. The most negative opinions about E-Bikes come from longtime cyclists. People I talk to that are new to the sport of mountain biking have a much more open mind about the idea. That’s not to say that longtime cyclists are wrong. They have spent decades in the saddle and have developed their own justified ideas of what mountain biking should be.
A regular customer at my shop told me a story yesterday that blew my mind. He owns a hardtail fat bike. Since purchasing his fat bike, he has outfitted it with a large frame pack. He was recently riding a popular trail in our area when he was stopped by another rider. The rider looked at his frame pack and began lecturing him that E-Bikes didn’t belong on the trail. The customer made light-hearted efforts to explain that it was a frame pack full of food and clothing but the cyclist who had stopped him refused to listen. This particular situation is rare. However, it was very unsettling. After hearing that story, I knew it was time to get on here and try to open a discussion with you guys and see where everyone stands on the topic of E-Bikes. Let’s first go over the two most common arguments I hear around my shop.
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E-Bikes are just a new way to cheat.
It’s a common complaint I hear about E-Bikes. I think it has some truth depending on the scenario. If someone is sneaking an E-Bike, whether road or mountain, into a race, then yes we can all agree that it’s cheating. But if someone is taking an E-Bike out for some recreational fun, I don’t see an issue. One could make the argument that the rider is cheating his/her personal fitness, but that’s a conscious decision that person has the right to make. I took a Specialized Levo FSR Expert out for a ride this morning. In certain areas where I would normally be gassed, I felt strong. In what would normally take me a couple of hours to complete, I did in just over an hour. I had fun the entire time and never felt as if I was cheating myself or anyone else around me. If I was on my personal bike and someone passed me on an E-Bike, I would greet them and wish them a happy ride. That’s the type of attitude I would like to see cyclists carry towards E-Bikes, even if they’re purists. If you have moral objections to E-Bikes, use the proper outlets to express them rather than confronting riders on the trail (e.g. writing a letter to the National Parks Service or Bureau of Land Management voicing your concern).

E-Bikes are just motorcycles in disguise.
Let’s refer back to my opening statement: “E-Bike” refers to a non-throttle, pedal-assist bicycle. There is a vast variety of E-Bikes on the market. Some even have throttles and high-wattage motors capable of speeds over 50mph. Those bikes aren’t the focus of this article. Instead, I am referring to bikes similar to the Specialized Levo. This type of E-Bike has a pedal assist motor that only engages when the rider is pedaling. The more physical effort put into the system, the more output the motor will produce. The pedal assist won’t engage until the rider is moving just under 2mph. The pedal assist automatically turns off once the rider hits a speed of 15-20mph depending on location of purchase (USA/Canada). So is an E-Bike just a clever way of selling motorcycles? A quick search for the definition of a motorcycle produced this result:
mo·tor·cy·cle
ˈmōdərˌsīk(ə)l/

noun
noun: motorcycle; plural noun: motorcycles
1. a two-wheeled vehicle that is powered by a motor and has no pedals.
The obvious discrepancy in this comparison comes down to the pedals. By this definition, E-Bikes are not motorcycles. They also lack any characteristics one would look for in a motorcycle. I believe cyclists are running into a mental block at the mere mention of a motor. I think it is unfair to conflate non-throttle, pedal-assist bicycles with those stocked with throttles and motors capable of reaching 50mph without pedaling.

To wrap my opinions up, I will mention a couple examples as to why I support E-Bikes on the trail. I recently spoke to a couple that love to mountain bike but have reached an age where traditional cycling is taking a toll on their bodies. They love the sport and E-Bikes may extend their ability to ride for many more years. The couple isn’t looking for an over-powering motor, just the opportunity to continue their passion. I’ve also heard of several riders who have physical ailments that have left them with very low lung capacity. E-Bikes have allowed these riders to stay on the trail and continue riding. I find it very difficult to protest E-Bikes when some people benefit so much from them. The rhetoric surrounding E-Bikes is becoming increasingly hostile. I hope this article provides some insight to why E-Bikes aren’t as evil as they’re being portrayed.

Please share your opinions below. Did I nail anything in this article? Is there anything I should reconsider my position on? Let me know, I’m interested to see what you guys think.

As always, thanks so much for taking the time to check out my content. I hope you enjoyed this article. If you have any comments/questions that you don’t want to post publicly, email me at justinchiazza@gmail.com

Bike Review: 2017 Sun RevMX

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I’m not sure if I have ever been excited about a $300 bicycle. However, that all changed when I built up this 2017 Sun Bicycles RevMX.

The RevMX pays hommage to Klunkers (the style of bikes that began mountain biking).

It has many of the keystones that define a Klunker: steel frame, coaster brake, and large, aggressive tires.

Although this is a throwback bike, Sun Bicycles does a nice job mixing in a few modern amenities such as a treadless headset and 27.5×2.4 tires.

The RevMX is currently offered in one size: 18″. The frame fits a wide range of riders but would best be suited for a rider between 5’7″-6’1″.

I thoroughly enjoyed riding the RevMX. The high-rise handlebars are comfortable yet aggressive.
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Stocked with a 42 tooth chainring and a 22 tooth cog, the gearing is really nice for rolling around on level roads and slight inclines.

The RevMX weighs in at 34 pounds and retails at $300.
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I must say that Sun Bicycles caught me off guard with this bike. My shop has always dealt with their beach cruisers and adult tricycles. However, until the RevMX I never considered owning one of their products. I would highly recommend heading down to your local bike shop and test riding the brand new RevMX.

Here’s a bonus video of me assembling this bike:

Bike Review: 2016 Specialized Stumpjumper FSR Carbon 650B

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After nearly 3 years without a mountain bike, it was finally time to put something together. My previous mountain bike was a hardtail 29er. However, since I ride a small frame, the geometry between the large wheel size and small frame wasn’t exactly what I wanted. This issue helped guide my purchase and I ultimately decided on my first 650B.
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Once I had my wheel size selected, I needed to determine which genre of mountain biking I wanted my new bike to fall into. Previous to this new bike, I had always ridden hardtail cross-country bikes. Without exception. And for no reason other than wanting to experience a new mountain bike sensation, I decided to build up a trail bike. “Trail bikes” take on different meanings to different people. Personally I feel it’s a bike that offers a rider efficient enough climbing while providing comfortable and confidence-inspiring descents.
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With a general idea as to what type of frame I wanted, I decided to go with the 2016 Specialized Stumpjumper FSR Carbon 650b frame. A couple of years ago, the Stumpjumer FSR geometry went through somewhat of an overhaul. Now with a spacey top tube, slacker head tube (67 degrees), and a shorter chainstay/wheelbase, the Stumpjumper FSR is snappy and fun to descend on. The frame comes equipped with a custom Fox rear shock with Specialized’s proprietary Autosag system. With Autosag, the shock is inflated to 300 psi through the black valve. Then, with the rider sitting on the bike, air is released from the red valve until air no longer escapes the valve. This procedure automatically sets the sag. After setting my Autosag a couple of different times between six rides, I use about 90% of my rear travel on average.FUSE-SJ-7
The shock also comes with Kashima Coating. In essence, Kashima Coating provides better lubrication and reduces wear on the shock. For a more detailed explanation of Kashima Coating, click here.
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To match the rear shock, I chose the 2017 (yes we are heading into the future) Fox 34 150mm Fork.
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The choice came down to the Fox 34 and the RockShox Pike. And since I’ve never owned a Fox Fork in the past (always RockShox), I decided to give it a go.
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The fork has performed very well so far. The basics are as follows: Air chamber, rebound adjustment, and compression platform adjustment. I followed Fox’s recommended air settings for my weight and it felt fine during the six rides I’ve been on. The rebound, which is the rate in which the suspension releases energy after compression, is set somewhere near the middle. And as far as the compression goes, there are a handful of different settings to play with. The blue 3-posistion lever seen in the picture above has three settings: Open, Medium, and Firm. The Firm setting is not a complete lockout. However, it’s a great compression mode for climbing. I haven’t played with the Medium setting yet. The medium setting is recommended for undulating terrain. When in Open mode, the black dial gives the rider even more options. With 22 micro compression adjustments, the Open Mode Adjust is sure to give the rider whichever specific compression they desire. If after all of these adjustments the rider still doesn’t have the exact tuning they seek, there are always Cip-On Volume Spacers. The spacers rest internally on the air (left) side of the fork. If the sag is properly set, and the rider is still bottoming out the suspension, spacers can be added. And vice versa, if the sag is properly set and the rider isn’t using nearly all of their suspension, spacers can be removed. I found a really cool Youtube channel that explains this process clearly, click here to view the video.
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I had originally planned on using Sram’s new Eagle 1×12 drivetrain. However, patience is a virtue that I do not possess. I decided to run Shimano’s 1×11 XT drivetrain. I’m a big fan of Shimano products and this drivetrain is no exception. The cassette is an 11 speed with a 11-42 range. Combined with a Wolf Tooth 28 tooth chainring up front, there is plenty of low end climbing gear on this bike. I have noticed a couple of times that I can easily run out of high end gear with this drivetrain. However, that is a much smaller concern in my eyes than my climbing gear so I’ll stick with this setup for now.
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I decided to go with Shimano XT brakes. As far as hydraulic systems go, these have the most natural feel in my opinion. Maintenance is about as friendly as I have found with a hydraulic system. A lot of that has to do with the fact the Shimano brakes use mineral oil.
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I went with Race Face Next carbon handlebars as well as a Race Face Next SL G4 crankset. Both components are lightweight and aesthetically pleasing.
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My only complaint is the name “Next.” It reminds me too much of the Next department store bike. It makes me wonder when Race Face will release their new handlebar series, the Huffy.
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This is the first time I’ve ever used a dropper post. Overall I like it a lot. I do find, however, that dropping the post all the way down bothers me. The terrain I ride changes constantly and I find it to be a hassle going from bottomed out to fully extended. I seem to drop it halfway for descents more often than not. It allows me to pedal out of situations if I miss my opportunity to extend the dropper back to climbing position.
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There are a couple of components that I am going to divide up into separate posts. One is my wheelset: Hope Pro 4 hubs with DT Swiss M 442 rims. I’ll also go into a detailed post about a tubeless setup.
I hope you enjoyed this post. If you have any questions/comments, feel free to post them below 🙂

 

Bike Review: 2016 Specialized Fuse Pro 6Fattie

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Some of you may remember my buddy Ben from my Surly Straggler post found here. Well he is back! This time with his 2016 Specialized Fuse Pro 6Fattie.
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6Fattie, 27.5+, Mid-Fat, whatever you choose to call them, 650×3.0 tires have made their mark on on the industry in 2016.
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The most common question asked by riders who are inquiring about +size tires is “why?” There is no doubt that the cycling industry releases its share of gimmicks. However, +size tires are not one of them. Whether you are a seasoned veteran, or a beginner to mountain biking, you can definitely benefit from +size tires.
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The most obvious advantage is contact point. On average, +size tires adds a 69% larger contact point than tires in the 2.1 range. The larger contact point equals greater traction, greater stability, and increased rider confidence.
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Ben has quickly become an advocate for his Fuse Pro. Understandably so. And, having now ridden a Specialized Stumpjumper FSR 6fattie myself, I must say I agree. At the beginning of my first descent, I was weary of the tire’s riding characteristics. I approached my first corner very conservatively. The next corner a little less conservatively. Finally, I was bombing into each corner as hard as I could. At no point did I lose control with the 6fattie tires. I noticed my confidence quickly growing with the +size tires.
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To the seasoned veteran, try them. You will find yourself pushing your previously gained skills into unchartered levels.
To the beginner rider, try them. You will feel more confident with a +size tire than you will on a traditional 2.1-2.3 tire.
*Keep in mind that +size bikes are currently priced high. The Fuse series begins with the Fuse Comp at $1,600 and climbs up to the Fuse Pro at $3,100. There really isn’t a whole lot of down size to running +size tires. So I predict that within a couple of years the price of Specialized 6fatties will be in the $600-$1,000 range.
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The Fuse Pro itself is spec’d very well. All bikes in the Fuse series comes with Specialized’s M4 Premium Aluminum Frame and a 1x drivetrain. The Fuse Pro, unlike the Fuse Expert and Fuse Comp, is stocked with a 1×11 drivetrain opposed to a 1×10 drivetrain. With the 11 speed cassette, you get a 42 tooth climbing gear and a 10 tooth high gear. In comparison, the 1×10 offers a 40 tooth climbing gear and an 11 tooth high gear.
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The Fuse Pro is also the only model in the series that is stocked with a carbon crankset.
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Unless you’re riding a small frame, which comes with 100mm of travel in the fork, the Fuse Pro is stocked with 120mm. Combined with the pneumatic suspension in the tires as a result from their large profile, you should have no issue at all riding this hardtail. The fork itself is the Rock Shox Reba RC3, a lightweight and fully adjustable fork that handles the trail with precise riding characteristics.
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Only Fuse Pro is stocked with the Specialized Command Post, a cable-actuated dropper post with ten internal positions. Specialized claims that this new dropper post eliminates saddle wiggle, unfortunately that claim has not been met in my eyes 😦
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Another nice feature that is exclusive to the Pro level, and an easy after purchase add-on to any other model, is the SWAT (Storage Water Air Tool) bottle cage and stem cap chain tool. Specialized seems committed to keeping weight off your back and creatively dispersing throughout their bikes. I would look for other companies to fall in line with this idea as it is proving to be highly effective and favorable by those who are using the system.
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If you’re skeptical about whether or not you will like +size tires, I suggest finding a shop that will let you demo a bike off-road. It may be difficult to get the full effect of a +size tire on pavement. Or take my word for it. I’m confident in saying that the vast majority of mountain bikers out there will love the benefits of +size tires.
*Take your research further by checking out Bike Radar’s video comparing 6Fattie tires against 29″ tires by clicking here.

Trek Remedy 9 27.5

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This is hands down the coolest mountain bike I’ve seen in some time.  My coworker Sean built this up and has an endless amount of positive things to say about his new 2015 Trek Remedy 9 27.5.
Let’s tackle the wheel size debate right off the bat. Yes 29″ tires, over the course of a full ride, are the fastest tires you can ride. And yes, 27.5 are a better option for riders who like to catch air and throw their bikes around on the trail. Both 29″ and 27.5″ wheels are available in the Remedy line so put off the debate and pick whatever one you like. Sorry 26″ fans, your time has come and gone :,(
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So what sets the Remedy apart from other bikes? To put it simply, versatility. The Remedy has 140mm of travel front and rear but still offers efficient climbing. Through Trek’s proprietary DRCV(Dual Rate Control Valve) and Re:aktiv damping system, the Remedy smashes along with active suspension that automatically adjusts to whatever terrain you are riding. Imagine having two shocks in one; one shock is there to soak up big hits and still keep your tire on the ground, and the other is right there waiting for you to ride along long stretches of small bump rock gardens. This is what DRCV achieves while Re:aktiv allows you to continually pedal through everything.
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The drivetrain that comes stock on the Remedy 9 is 1×11. If you have a presuppositional denial towards the idea of a 1×11 drivetrain, get over it. They shift great and offer plenty of low end climbing gears. This particular 1×11 found on the Remedy 9 comes with a 32 tooth front chainring and a 10-42 cassette. Not low enough? Switch out the front ring to something lower and you’re back on the climb. Also, I highly encourage you to ask your local shop if they have a 10-42 cassette in a box that you can hold in your hand. You would be surprised at how incredibly lightweight the integrated one-piece cassette actually is.
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Bottom line.
If you’re main concern is climbing, you should probably be looking for a full suspension bike that comes with 100mm of travel. However, if you’re in the market for a machine that can take anything you want to throw at it, then you should really consider test riding a Trek Remedy.

I really hope you enjoyed this article. If you have any comments please contact me.
justinchiazza@gmail.com