Embracing The Mechanical Advantage

Specialized Turbo Levo SLWhen Pedal Assist bike conversations started happening at the shop, we originally held onto the impression that it was "cheating." We felt that folks were trying to take physical effort and activity out of cycling. You are supposed to work your legs and lungs when biking, weren't you? Suffering during your ride is simply part of riding in Decorah.

Our paved trail is challenging, some folks live on top of steeper hills in town, and our mountain bike trails are riddled with punchy ups and downs. A Pedal Assist bike would make all of that riding...too easy. It can't be too easy, otherwise, what's the point?

A few years back Travis was able to try a Specialized Turbo Como 2.0 and that is when he realized that Pedal Assist bikes were awesome. They were a bike that could actually make cycling fun for the local folks, ease concerns over the hilly spots in town, and bring smiles to the faces of folks who rented bikes instead of making them comment about how they hated the hills. 

Since Pedal Assist bikes have made their way into Decorah, we are seeing more and more folks experience the joy that two wheels can bring. Families are purchasing a Pedal Assist bike to use as another vehicle for in-town transportation. Folks are getting outside and exercising for the first time in years, increasing their mobility and improving their health.

I was not a true naysayer, but with the Pedal Assist bikes that we had available for the past couple of seasons, I would say I hadn't found "the one" until the Specialized Turbo Levo SL came out. The bike itself is a bit overkill in suspension travel for Decorah, but I have to say it is one of the most fun bikes I've ever owned.

Of course, I braced myself for the comments to come from folks who would identify themselves as "purists." 

"You're cheating."

"You're going to damage trails."
"You're not getting a workout."

I sat and thought about the whole "cheating" concept for a while, to which Travis and I talked at great length. In reality, I've been "cheating" with mountain biking for a very long time due to what we'll call "Mechanical Advantage."
Turbo Levo SL
Forms of Mechanical Advantage
gears vs. single speed
suspension vs rigid
larger wheel diameter 
tubeless vs tubed
Tire tread (big lugs vs. minimal)
disc brakes vs. rim brakes
carbon vs. steel
dropper post vs. no dropper post

One can even include
Driving your vehicle vs. riding your bike
Riding a bike vs. walking

In all my years of mountain biking, I have always had gears and I personally have no desire to ride a single speed.
I also prefer carbon frames when possible, because they are a lighter frame material. Due to my (invisible) physical challenges, I do what I can to lighten up my bikes as much as possible so I am pedaling less weight up all of our hills.
I love suspension and have pretty much converted myself to wanting to ride only full suspension bikes, at the very least, my ideal bike has some sort of front suspension because it truly is easier on my body. I am not getting younger and dealing with chronic discomfort for years, of course, I'm going to do what I can to make mountain biking more comfortable on my body.

My Specialized Turbo Levo SL is both a mechanical and technological advantage and in my mind, there is nothing wrong with 1. trying out the latest/greatest technology in Pedal Assist bikes and 2. Giving myself the opportunity to ride a bike that is not only enjoyable to ride (in general) but has been the least harsh on my body in a multitude of ways.

A couple weeks ago I ended up having a great conversation with a man similar in age to myself (I assume he was within the 30-45 age range) and he was looking at my bike which was on a display in the shop. I didn't mention it was my bike right away because I do not want to come off as "braggy"...this is an expensive bike, but one I chose to purchase because of the money I had available after my dad passing away. I also want folks to have an opportunity to make comments without feeling as tho they have to be reserved because it's my bike. Maybe I won't like what they have to say (at this time it's been nothing but positive) but I'm giving an opportunity for someone to be completely candid without reservation.

The fellow started up a conversation about Pedal Assist mountain bikes and ultimately he had come from the original camp of "they help you cheat." However, a person he knows and rides with recently acquired one, and yes, the person is in the older range of 50-65 or so. The Pedal Assist mountain bike allows this man to join group rides and have a great time. It keeps him active. The fellow has seen how it can help someone enjoy their time outdoors in a positive way, so doesn't hate Pedal Assist bikes anymore. He did say that he didn't see the point in someone "our age" riding them.

I smiled and said, "That's my bike you're looking at." which led to "I felt that same way, but then I bought that bike and it turned my world upside down for the better."

I explained that I have bad allergies and exercise-induced asthma, and my bike has allowed me to finally ride how I felt folks who do not have allergies/asthma do. It might be hard for someone who isn't afflicted with those two issues to understand, but it's essentially like riding your bike at race pace all the time. Your lungs are tight and you have a difficult time breathing, as tho invisible hands are grasping your lungs and squeezing them firmly. Even with using an inhaler, I never felt 100% Also, depending on how humid and hot it is outside, could put me down several notches during a ride.

I love riding with my friends, but I hate how I feel during most rides, especially if Libby and I are riding with our husbands. Sometimes they get wild hairs and decide that we should do "All The Climbs" and I basically feel like my lungs will explode.
I love riding with Travis, but unless I ride first I'm scrambling to play catch up with him and it's hard to breathe.
I have avoided leading out of towners on rides (especially guys) because I have been afraid that I wouldn't be able to keep up a "race pace" during a ride long enough for most strong riders to enjoy. Maybe I wouldn't have to ride at a "race pace" but I have had concerns over my ability to ride at a sustained pace for an extended period of time that could be tolerable for stronger riders.

After explaining my invisible issues the fellow completely understood why I would be so in love with my bike. I think that is something that more folks should take into consideration, a seemingly healthy and fit person could have more going on than one would realize. You typically can't tell in non-athletic circumstances who may have a bad knee or breathing issues. 

Recently a video was posted on YouTube that can be found here. It's a great video to watch on why someone may want to purchase a Specialized Turbo Levo SL.

My primary reasons for embracing the mechanical advantage of my bike are as follows:
The suspension is squishy and I love not feeling beat up after a ride!
The assist is tunable and overall just enough to take the edge off so I can maintain proper breathing. I have not had to use my inhaler once while riding my Turbo Levo SL!
If I am tired/fatigued, I can still focus 100% on my ride instead of riding sloppy because I'm so exhausted. This means less crashing or dabs.
I can ride my true athletic pace 100% of the time instead of having to wind down after exerting myself. This makes it a lot easier to be on a group ride and also takes away the anxiety of leading a ride for out of town folks looking for a solid trail tour.
Riding with Pedal Assist is a lot easier on my knees and I feel much less nervous going on mountain bike trips where I could take this bike and ride my heart out. I'm definitely a person who loves to rack on miles of riding, and I have pushed my knee past the point of no return a few times on trips.
Specialized Turbo Levo SL
With all things, I am a person who believes "don't knock it until you try it." This new technology turned me into a believer, and I will do my best not to preach excessively, but I have been converted. If Specialized ever makes another SL mountain bike styled more after the Epic or Epic Evo, you darn well know what I'm going to buy! (I take after my dad when it comes to collecting. He had 46 guns of all sorts, so I do not feel like I need to limit myself on my bikes.)