E-RACING: THE START OF SOMETHING BIG
Two years ago when he was recovering from serious injuries incurred on a racetrack incident on his motocross bike, Specialized gave him a Levo e-MTB to try out while he was trying to rehab his broken body. Within just a few pedal strokes, Troy became an enthusiastic e-bike convert (EBA, December 2017). In fact, Troy’s enthusiasm for electric bikes was so quick and thorough that he rushed out and bought them for his family and some employees at the company he founded, Troy Lee Designs.
Earlier in 2017 Troy took it a step further and teamed up with Bosch to create the first-ever electric bike race series in North America. “It’s racing, but it’s really more about fun,” says Troy, “[We’re] not taking it too seriously. That’s why we call it the Boogaloo Race Series!”
JUST THE BEGINNING
This series is truly a grassroots beginning, and Troy Lee right now is taking his place among other two-wheeled pioneers whose passion and vision for competition helped spawn history-making race series’. People like Scott Briethapt, who is widely regarded as the impetus behind the explosion of BMX racing in America in the early ’70s, just around the same time Mike Goodwin’s idea of an indoor motocross race—now known as Supercross—was just beginning to take hold. And, of course, there were the fun-loving NorCal hippies—Joe Breeze, Charlie Kelly and Gary Fisher among them—who did the heavy lifting to create the sport and industry of mountain bikes, pioneering the concept of electric mountain bike racing.
And now electric mountain bikes have started gaining attention, and with this a fledgling race series. Could it become the next big sport in cycling? From the racers we’ve talked to, they are fired up about it!
THE VERY FIRST
The first race of the series happened at the Kamikaze Games in Mammoth Lakes, California, in September 2017. It was a cool event with a BMX-style track that had a bridge to pass over the track in sort of a big, misshapen figure eight.
We took a couple of laps around the track, and at nearly 8000 feet altitude, that in and of itself is exhausting. The pedal assist is nearly the same for everyone, so the playing field is effectively level for all riders.
Troy had an ear-to-ear grin the whole time. The coolest thing about this race is that anyone can race. There is a Pro and Amateur class, and Troy was in a class with his own young son, and they had a blast! Young and old, male and female, all mixed in together.
The Amateur class was whittled down from 32 to 16 for the main event. Those 16 were stacked two-deep on the starting line, so obviously being in the front was an advantage. There’s no starting gate, not even a rope or rubber start line, merely a line drawn on the ground. The dense traffic this causes at the start is nerve-wracking to watch, and surprisingly nobody gets stuffed in the process.
The Mammoth round marked the beginning of the whole concept, and the organizers are still playing around with different tracks and formats. For fun, the Pro main was run with a Le Mans-style start. Riders lined up their bikes against the wall with the systems turned off. At “go,” they had to run to their bike, turn it on and take off.
The winner of the first Pro race was Expert-class mountain bike racer Evander Hughes. We asked him what he thought of the race, and he said, “It’s just as hard as racing my cross-country bike!” That’s a similar sentiment we heard from quite a few people.
ROUND TWO: VAIL LAKE
The track was very different at this event. It was much longer with hardly any jumps and a serious climb one-third of the way into it. The fact that this race was at a much lower elevation, around 1400 feet, made the effort much easier on all the riders. The format changed slightly. Still, it was grueling to say the least, but everyone was having fun, which, if you know Troy, is the most important take-away from anything he gets involved in.
In addition to Troy’s enthusiasm, there was more interest from racers than ever according to Claudia Wasko from Bosch, who told us if there had been more bikes available, there would have been quite a few more racers. Troy started out ready to race, but he backed out after he started dismantling his bike to loan parts to others who needed them.
We talked to Victor after the race. He explained that other countries run electric bike races differently, but he loves the way Troy is putting these on, putting his own spice on it, and that it suits American electric bike racers better. Victor helped design this course with Troy. He also thinks it would be fun to have a separate, modified class in future races. That’s not likely, though, with Bosch as a sponsor and Troy being adamant about Class 1 bikes only.
Troy has plans to expand the 2018 Boogaloo series to four to five races, repeating Mammoth and Vail Lake, also adding Crested Butte and possibly one in Italy! We’re excited about this, as it’s the first race series of any significance in the U.S. for electric bikes. It’s going to grow into something much bigger and is history in the making!
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