The 2nd annual Lost Sierra ebike festival was such a great event held in the Sierra Mountains near Buckwourth, CA. I arrived around 9:30am Saturday morning greeted by tents, campers, and ebikes everywhere. It reminded me of my dirt bike racing days except instead of two-strokes ripping around, all you heard were the hum of electric motors.
The event is on private land and this year there was a six and half mile cross country course of mostly fast double track. The big snow event last winter did not change conditions from the previous year's race, it was dry and loose. Did I mention the heat? It was hot and I learned last year not to leave your bike in the sun or your electronics will heat up quickly.
There were four races and first up was pedal only for the guys also running the open throttle class. The only rule is that you cannot use a throttle to activate your motor, if you have both, then you just have to disconnect your throttle for the race. Kyle Paredes won the one lap event in 20:06 minutes on his tangent drive with the astro 3210 motor.
Second place went to Rob Welsh in 22:46 and third was Chris Rothe with a time of 23:31. Next up was the kid's race then the third race of the day was for those only racing the pedal only class. The last xc race of the day was the open throttle class, this is truly a race whatever you want class, the only rule is you have pedals that can move you forward, which is handy for those of us like me that breakdown halfway through the course. It was a tight two lap race but Enleau's high powered hub motor was the fastest two laps in 33:30. Dave was second with a time of 36:54, and Kyle was third still racing in PAS mode with 38:22. ,
It's clear to me now that putting a lot of amps into a hub motor can overcome a lot of its drawbacks in handling. I learned more in 40 minutes of racing than I could in months of reading over forum posts. Nothing I saw that day was new or something I had not read in the forums, but there is something about being there and seeing it for yourself that made it really sink in for me. On Dave's last lap he got stuck behind an atv tour for several minutes that slowed down his pace imensely. I can only imagine the amount of time he lost. There were other factors, too. Enleau is a skilled dirt bike rider who competes in pro level races. He took a hard crash a few months ago and was hospitalized for several days. It would be safe to say he twists the throttle a little harder than most. Another big factor was top end speed, there were sections where I was topping out at 50mph briefly, and I'm sure Enleau was too. Dave's bike topped out at 40mph. Would a change in gearing made a difference? Maybe, but on that day, on that particular course, a high powered hub bike went faster around an off-road course than one of the best middrives on the market today. And that's what makes this race great, the ability to go head to head with whatever you brought to see who is fastest on that particular day. I can see a near future where races are separated into hub drives, mid-drives, below 1000 watts, etc. I don't think we are there yet. Even after the race I'm not convinced a hub drive is the way to go because of the factors I mentioned.
I spoke with Bjorn of Kranked Bikes and he mentioned a race concept where you brought whatever bike you wanted but everyone used the same battery voltage and capacity. This would be a real test of efficiency for sure, and although I can think of a few problems with that type of race, I like the concept. It places an artificial ceiling in which all the racers would have to adhere to, much like the artificial ceiling the current ebike laws do classifying ebikes into class 1, class 2, etc. I think we already have an artificial ceiling in place and that is the bicycle frame itself. What can be done within the confines of a bicycle frame? If space is not an issue, you can always throw more power and weight to overcome other problems, but what I find most interesting about ebikes is the innovation in making parts that are smaller, lighter, and higher performance. I rode Enleau's bike, after he turned up the amps for the drag race, and it was almost unridable for trail use. I was just trying to hold on and keep the front in down the whole time. I believe his bike was close to the amount of power you would want for an ebike on the trails. He mentioned longer swing arms made for the enduro frame and that is where you start to lose me, when you start going out of the confines of a bicycle.
I wish this race was held more than once a year, and that there were more races like this. I can only imagine the amount of work Chris Rothe, Kyle Paredes, and the rest of the Ecobike adventure team puts in to make this event happen. There is no way they are making money from this. My small entry fee could hardly cover the cost of this event. I believe they are truly doing this just to get the ebike racing movement to happen. They could easily restrict the race to the type of bikes they have, and I would probably buy a kit and race anyway, but they open it up to everyone because I think they truly want to see the ebike race scene become fun and cool and not just a lame sideshow event at regular mountain bike races.
I saw Dave Debuse of Tangentmotors unloading his bike so I parked right behind him, hopped out and started a conversation with him. It's hard for me to contain my enthusiasm when I'm at this event so I think that's why he remembered me from last year. It could be he just remembers the Frankenstein bike I brought last year that won the drag race, a mxus v3 strapped to a hardtail with a ammo can style battery box. I couldn't wait to show him my new off-road worthy Frankenstein bike, the same electronics on a $100 craigslist Rocky Mountain Switch with a DNM-8 up front. I could already feel the heat and was regretting not bringing my pop-up shade. In the end, having no shade was a good thing because after I finished with the zip ties and duct tape to secure my battery to the frame, I just hopped from camp to camp ducking under other people's shade and striking up conversations.
I met Enleau O'Connor. He was using the common enduro type ebike frame that many sell, a Q205 hub motor in a 18in moto rim with a 2.75 shinko sr241 tire, Kelly 300a sin-wave controller, and 84v 32ah Mulitstars.
I got really excited after seeing his build because it was exactly what I wanted to bring but didn't because of my frugalness or lack in confidence in building it correctly,(mainly frugalness). He had over twice the battery and twice the amps as me, how is thing going to handle the heat with no hub cooling? The answer…amazingly well.