Magura press camp: Riding e-MTBs, casual gear, and more
SEDONA, Arizona (VN) — Magura’s annual press camp in Sedona added Club Ride to the Magura, SKS, Uvex, Vredestein, and, for the second year, Bosch equipment lined up for testing on steep and rocky trails.
After the second day in a row of long, hard morning mountain bike rides, I rode down a 10-kilometer descent to go swimming at the trail crossing of Oak Creek with about 10 other people from the press camp, and all of us rode Bosch-equipped e-bikes. After that, my opinion of owning an e-bike changed; I could definitely see it as being a useful part of the bike quiver of an avid rider, namely for recovery rides.
After a long ride on a hot day, it’s enjoyable and it hastens recovery to take an easy spin and sit in cold water in a creek. But without flat roads, that’s not easily done, and there is no way I would have felt up to climbing entirely on my own power in bright sun and 90-degree heat back out of that 10km descent, much of it on dirt; it would have been counterproductive for recovery as well as mental attitude.
But with the e-bike providing triple our power (in Turbo mode, the highest setting), former world and national MTB XC champion Ruthie Matthes and I had a nice, conversational recovery spin up the hill after cooling our legs in the creek. And without electric-motor assist, there is no way we could have been roosting on fat bikes in a dirt parking lot with the front brake locked out, spinning out the huge rear tire!
It can be an amazing feeling to ride something like a Felt LEBOWSKe e-fat bike somewhere that would be impossible to go with human power alone because of the difficulty of maintaining momentum due to insufficient traction, steep topography, and obstacles.
The Bosch system has no throttle; it only assists the rider when he or she is pedaling. It has five mode settings: Off, Eco (50-100-mile range), Tour, Sport, and Turbo (19-40-mile range), depending on how much assistance is desired; it supplies 300 percent of the rider’s power output on Turbo. The PowerPack 400 battery recharges completely in three hours, 1.5 hours for a half charge, and two hours to gain an 80-percent charge.
Bosch-equipped e-bikes have either standard shifters or one of three versions of “eShift,” namely: cadence-based automatic shifting with a NuVinci continuously-variable-transmission rear hub; Shimano Di2 internal-gear hub with an up/down shift suggestion screen and automatic throttling back of the motor whenever a shift button is pressed; and speed-based automatic shift of a SRAM internal-gear 3-speed hub with a standard SRAM X9 derailleur, cassette, and trigger shifter on top of it.
While e-bikes have traditionally been seen as limited to bike commuting, e-mountain bikes and e-fat bikes are rapidly changing that perception. Bosch has promoted some of the world’s first e-mountain bike races, including the one at the Riva del Garda bike festival.
In addition to its use for recovery rides, passionate cyclists may want an e-bike around in order to increase enjoyment of riding with an otherwise slower spouse, child, or visiting guest. Or, an e-bike can make it possible for a rider who has slowed down due to age or injury to ride with faster people. Don’t think road rides, though, since most e-bikes have a legally-mandated governor that shuts off the motor at under 20mph; think lower-speed riding like on fat bikes, mountain bikes, and commuting/town bikes.
In addition to brands like Haibike and Lapierre, with whom Bosch has partnered for some time, some of the world’s strongest bike brands will offer Bosch-motor-assist bikes in the U.S. next year, including Trek, Cannondale, Scott, KTM, Felt, BH, and Cube (in Canada).
Bosch is a particularly strong company to be playing in the e-bike arena, with its massive size, global reach, and long history with motors and batteries. The company has over 130 years experience with transportation, from motors that propel vehicles all of the way down to the little motors all over your car that raise and lower windows, run windshield wipers or drive seat and mirror adjustments.
When he was in his 20s in the 1880s, Robert Bosch was already doing pioneering work with electric motors; he improved internal-combustion engines by using a magneto (an alternator, a type of electric motor that produces alternating current) to produce a spark to ignite the mixture of air and fuel. Another critical step toward e-bikes came in the 1920s, when Bosch’s company diversified into a multinational electronics concern, and by launching rechargeable battery packs for power tools in the 1980s, it had everything required for e-bikes.
With not only a huge global company like Bosch in the fray, but also with the entry of Shimano into the e-bike market, e-bikes are destined to grow by leaps and bounds in short order.
Founded in 2008, Sun Valley, Idaho-based Club Ride Apparel claims to be the first bike-clothing company to focus completely on “casual performance.” Whether it was first or not, it has certainly been joined in that by many others who also make practical, full-featured, comfortable clothing for riding that can also be worn in other contexts. For those who have spent decades riding in Lycra, casual riding clothes may hold little appeal, but I’ve recently become a convert.
I do much of my transportation by bike, and, as my business is at my house, I don’t commute. While for many years I’ve shopped and gone to editorial meetings, business meetings, lunch get-togethers, and even evening parties in logo-plastered Lycra, I have to admit that I’m considerably more comfortable in those settings wearing clothes that are more comfortable to sit around in and that look more like board shorts and a button-down shirt.
Since I developed a heart arrhythmia a couple of years ago, I’ve limited my rides in duration and tend to ride ’cross bikes a lot to open more terrain, dirt roads and trails while constrained to a two-hour radius around my house. Aerodynamic efficiency is less important on dirt, and casual cycling clothing works there and offers comfort for off-bike activities.
Club Ride distinguishes four levels of “innerwear” (thin stretch mesh under shorts with a chamois) by how long you’d ride in it. “One-hour ride time” innerwear has a small and thin (3mm) chamois, and the briefs can be colorful and very brief, especially the women’s bikini briefs. They don’t cut it for a couple of hours on a road bike, but if you’re going on a quick ride or have multiple stops on a longer outing, they dry fast and feel fine to spend all afternoon in if you get back to work and are overwhelmed with too much to do to shower or even change.
The “two-hour ride time” inner shorts have an 8mm-thick CoolMax chamois; the three-hour short has an 8mm dual-density perforated pad with gel, longer inseam, and leg grippers, and the four-hour unit is a full mesh bib short with an Italian-made 10mm gel-insert pad. Riding linerless MTB shorts with a bib short underneath is nothing new for mountain biking, but on a hot day, this thin mesh bib short has just as nice of a chamois and is way cooler.
As for the outer clothes, Club Ride’s offerings are made of technical fabrics in logo-less prints with a loose fit and features like back jersey pockets and mesh ventilation panels. Some of its board and cargo shorts come in durable and water-resistant stretch fabrics and are designed to fit over mountain-biking armor.
On the steep, rocky terrain of Sedona, the Magura brakes and fork on the Intense Carbine 29er I was riding worked flawlessly. Magura has made small incremental changes this year, as opposed to any large product introductions.
All Magura brakes now have top-loading pads, so you can simply remove the pin and pull them out without the need to remove the wheel to get at them. In answer to a common complaint, Magura has added much more reach adjustment to its brake levers. And the mechanical advantage graph for its levers is now linear, so no matter how close or far the lever blade is adjusted relative to the grip, the braking power is the same.
Magura levers may be a bit longer than some other brands, but Magura is unwilling to sacrifice the improved finger sensitivity and modulation they provide for an aesthetic concern about size. It has long used a radial master cylinder as opposed to an axial one (i.e., the piston pushes perpendicular to the bar, not parallel to it) for the same reasons it does this on its motorcycle brakes — namely to provide more room on the bars for other components and to give a more direct power application than do some linkages to axial cylinders.
Its longer levers are part of that power and modulation scheme; small movements of the fingers result in less movement of the piston, and the leverage is higher. There’s a reason why all motorcycle levers have super-long 10-finger blades, and this is it.
Almost 100 years old, SKS focuses on products to keep people riding more in any weather, and those products are made entirely in Germany. A vast array of full fenders as well as quick-install fenders for every kind of bike, including full-suspension 29ers and fat bikes, make it more appealing to ride in the rain. Carry-along tool kits, Velcro-on bottle cages, and myriad frame pumps eliminate excuses not to ride longer. And a wide selection of floor pumps and electronic pressure gauges, including some for fat bikes, get you out on the bike sooner.
Since 2009, Vredestein has been a part of the $3 billion Apollo Tyres Ltd, the world’s 17th biggest tire manufacturer. Its new reinforced Bobcat tire was developed in Sedona with Magura. It has a full line of road racing, touring, trekking, and MTB tires. Michael Marx, director of Vredestein’s two-wheeled division, is a former German and world champion on track and road.