The Broadmoor Pikes Peak Cycling Hill Climb just got a boost.
The Colorado Springs Sports Corp. recently announced the inclusion of electric bikes for the first time ahead of Saturday morning’s race.
“We want to keep pace with the popularity of these bikes and give their riders the ultimate thrill of climbing Pikes Peak,” Sports Corp. President and CEO Tom Osborne said in the release.
John Crandall, owner of Old Town Bike Shop, saw the rise of electrics coming about 15 years ago when someone used an adapter kit to give their mountain bike a little more juice. Some five years later, a representative from a major bike brand stopped by the shop with a prototype that wasn’t quite there for Crandall because the motor was attached to one of the wheels. Not only did that throw off the center of gravity, it also made the routine chore of changing a flat tire into an hour-long process.
A couple of years ago, Crandall was sold on an updated model with the motor neatly affixed to the frame with the battery sitting above the rear wheel.
“Now, the frame is designed around the motor,” Crandall said. “The motor’s center of gravity is down and lower, so the battery’s not right next to it. The balance is where it should be.”
If that wasn’t enough to get him on board, his first sale did the trick.
“The first e-bike we sold, I believe, was to a guy — I’m guessing 50 years old — that had one lung,” Crandall said. “So it allowed him to do a bunch of stuff that he had previously not been able to do.”
Starting at 6:13 a.m. Saturday, those bikes will help cyclists climb Pikes Peak in a noncompetitive race to the top of America’s Mountain. Electric bikes are either pedal assist, where the rider still has to work but gets a significant boost, or throttle control where riders “may get away with doing no work,” according to Crandall. There are three settings on most of the bikes sold at Crandall’s shop. During a test ride, Crandall said the lowest setting had him going 12 mph with a three-mph bump for each of the higher settings. Most of the bikes have a governor that stops the assistance at 18 or 20 mph.
Dylan Scott, owner of Pikes Peak Bike Tours, said the company introduced e-bikes on its hilly Garden of the Gods route this year, and they’ve helped people explore more of the park.
“They’re just saying ‘This has got to be the best way to experience Garden of the Gods,’” Scott said. “It really takes a lot of effort out of the experience but you still get the enjoyment.”
Scott and Crandall agreed that the pedal-assist versions still require a rider to have some cardiovascular endurance and familiarity riding, especially if the goal is to ride to Pikes Peak’s 14,115-foot summit.
“You certainly want to be an experienced cyclist. Again, doing Pikes Peak, there’s no air the last mile — period,” Crandall said. “So you couldn’t be a non-exercise person.”
The use of electric bikes has its critics among cycling purists, and Crandall understood the sentiment until his first sale helped someone keep riding. On top of increased inclusion in the cycling community, there’s the whole part about riding a bike being enjoyable.
“They just get a big ol’ grin on their face, because they’re not used to that extra kick,” Scott said.
“I think it’s great they’re doing e-bikes,” Crandall said. “It’s fun.”
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