One of the things that makes my Fighter so much fun is the effect it has on helping me up a steep climb when riding with friends. The more technical the climb, the better, as it just makes for a great skills challenge, drawing on balance, traction, strength and line selection - a great mix.
After weeks in front of the keyboard working on projects for Laughing Mind, with a demo ride looming, I headed out for a bit of location scouting today to try and find some terrain with a decent mix of challenges.
One benefit of having moved closer to the Watagans is the extent of trail networks that have been traversed by dirtbike riders over the years. The ride today gave me a chance to put the 'ebikes can't climb like an enduro bike' statement to the test, as well as capture some metrics on rider effort expended. After a quick scout, I found myself on some clearly well used sandstone rock ledge step-ups, clearly stamped with black rubber imprints from riders before me on much larger and more powerful machines. I didn't inspect the terrain closely enough to see if there was perhaps some residual blood stains as well, but am sure that if a string of expletives could leave a mark, I'd have found plenty.
I wanted to see how my little Stealth Fighter might cope with a decent series of step-ups and the amount of effort I would expend in a brief outing, as time was short and I wanted to cover the full spectrum of technique challenge, anaerobic and aerobic workouts. I wasn't disappointed with the outcome! Whilst speeds weren't high, my heart-rate certainly was, which meant two key (usually mutually exclusive) outcomes were achieved - I got a great workout whilst keeping my risk profile relatively low, climbing steep track at low speed/high effort/high concentration, as line selection was crucial. The terrain was all uphill, with a combination of deep slippery ruts, rock ledges and loose surfaces that were easy to lose traction on if care wasn't taken with the right hand and pedal effort. The results of one 30min section of the ride are shown below, captured from my Strava stream (note that average HR here was 165bpm, MaxHR-195bpm, so was working hard):
The overall conclusion - I can still get one hell of a workout, at lower speed and reduced risk, riding silently, without disturbing terrain or other track users / local residents / wildlife, without needing to be suited up like Iron Man - but 3kw is still no match for a larger motor when it comes to raw torque. However, I know which bike I'd rather be riding now and as far as I'm concerned, my Stealth Fighter climbs just fine. I'll be back for more just as soon as I can, with some more suitable tyres than my my Schwalbe Crazy Bobs, at lower pressures for less line deflection - 65psi was just nuts, so Duro Razorbacks for the next effort.
I might even try it at night, just to see how our new lights hold up to the challenge. Longer footage of the ride can be found at the bottom of the page.
One of the interesting aspects of running an eBike is the extent to which you can eliminate fossilised fuel dependence out of your riding - as the folks at Shrinkfoot have identified, your EV power source does matter. We get quite a few enquiries from people living offgrid, disconnected from electricity mains and running self-sufficiently with their own power generation.
The bikes are well suited to being used in these kinds of settings, but we need to address some of the issues of equipment specification to make it clear for owners and prospective customers what sort of capacity is required. Of course, an EBike is going to have a larger footprint than a standard bicycle, but that footprint can still be minimised.
The Stealth Bomber has the largest battery capacity in the Stealth range, which requires at least the following:
In our case, since we're mainly using a Stealth Fighter as our preferred demonstrator, we've opted for a middle of the road, RV-style configuration that consists of the following:
Whilst there are nicely prepackaged RV style kits such as this, they do take up a fair bit of space. In our case, we wanted a bare-bones setup that minimised space requirements and could be transplanted readily between fleet vehicles. So, we opted for an alternate inverter/charger and portable PV as the main changes from this example prebuilt bundle.
Other options that we considered on the way through this exercise were some of the products available from GoalZero, including their Yeti off-grid generator and panels (shown below). We'll be taking a closer look at that setup over the next few months.
This means that when we're attending ebike or sustainable living events, we're now power independent and have plenty of juice on hand for running a mobile office from our van, along with capacity to do a replenish charge in the event we drain the battery of one of our demonstrators.
A setup like this provided us with ample power to recharge at the recent 2013 HunterEVPrize race between qualifying practice and race time. It also forms the basis of our mobile office for the work we do at Laughing Mind, providing us with a high level of flexibility for working anywhere, anytime.
You'd think that there would be a lot in common between groups of people who share:
It's interesting to observe the comment threads for articles like the following:
It seems from reading through the comments that people fit into roughly three camps: Deniers, Integrators and Challengers
- Deniers take the line that anything with a motor is definitely not a bicycle - human effort alone is what counts, getting to the top of a hill can only be done by the applied use of personal sweat and determination (never mind if you've got a health condition that might compromise your ability to do so);
- Integrators take a more open view, noting that there is merit in giving some level of assistance to riders who need it or desire it, who might be happy to share a trail with an assisted rider, but it's not quite their cup of tea;
- Challengers are open advocates for mixed trail use and wanting to question why they might not be allowed to share trails, seeking well supported evidence to demonstrate why they should be excluded.
The thing is, they also have a lot in common:
Getting those trails endorsed and supported by land managers takes advocacy effort, time, clearly expressed positions and goodwill between the groups. But it can be done.
Using a multi-use trail in a way that endangers any other user risks the viability of that resource for continued use by anyone on two wheels. That too, can be done. It's a shared problem.
IMBA have made their position clear at the present moment, through:
Here's an extract from the first IMBA link
Will IMBA eventually need to retool our approach to sustainable trail design and construction to accommodate these bikes? We recognize the benefits of e-bikes, yet also recognize that this type bike creates many added challenges for land managers and for IMBA's approach to mitigating the impacts of bicycling in natural environments.
I wonder if advice like this would be given if the writer had bothered to actually try an eBike. Once you do, you very quickly realise that they're a long way off being a motorcycle. Especially at the lower end 200W output bikes.
Whilst the two tribes are recognised, their ability to play together nicely is not supported. It seems a little sanctimonious and elitist given the scale of the challenges our planet faces and the extent of population health issues. Which would you prefer: seeing an overweight relative die an early death, or making the modal switch from car-use with a bike that makes the transition easier to going completely unpowered?
I'd ask you to consider, when we have so much in common, why this should continue to be the case when the world needs a combined, urgent and relentless focus on getting onto a lower emissions trajectory - two wheeled transport is a big part of the solution opportunity for doing that. Especially when bikes such as these are fully capable of being charged in offgrid setups.