First Ride: When Things Get Racy
WHEN THINGS GET RACY
By Nick Claire
My answer came as quick as it did effusive. “Of course!” I said, after receiving a call from Chris at Foes Racing asking if I would like to race their E-Ticket e-bike at the upcoming WORCS race at Glen Helen. Considering I’ve been riding Foes mountain bikes for over 10 years, it was actually an honor and privilege to be asked. My only worry was whether or not I was in good-enough physical shape to deliver the win they expected.
My nervousness hit a new high when I visited Foe’s SoCal bike factory to pick up the bike, and company founder and bike designer Brent Foes was there to go over the bike with me. Having Brent himself describe every last detail of how and why he designed the bike was a treat. Even though I’d been riding second-hand Foes for years, I really didn’t know where Brent was coming from, and it was nice to finally hear his motives and procedures.
For those of you not familiar with the name, Brent Foes has been designing and building some of the most innovative downhill-centric mountain bikes for almost 30 years. The skill and craftsmanship that’s gone into his signature hydro-formed aluminum frames are the stuff of legend—and the very reason that he was inducted into the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame in 2017.
WHAT ABOUT THE BIKE?
Brent explained to me how he designed the E-Ticket’s frame around the same geometry used for his Mixer mountain bike that rolls on a mixed 29-inch front- and 27.5-inch rear-wheel combo. He said when you design the frame around the wheels, they rotate at two different arcs, which will result in the rear wheel always tracking the front wheel. This in turn results in a more secure feeling through both sharp and gradual corners.
This makes sense considering Brent has cross-pollinated many designs from his motocross background through to the bicycle world. Now with e-bikes growing in popularity, adapting ideas from what he’s learned over the decades of designing championship-winning downhill rigs, it seems to have great relevance.
The swingarm uses a double-row full-max main pivot bearings. This means you can go a tremendous amount of time without service because the bearings are much more heavy-duty and longer-lasting than what’s found on just about any bike out there.
Foes makes two versions of the E-Ticket available, with the entry-level Fox selling for $7999 and the higher-end Rox going for $9499. A frame and Fox shock combo sells for $4999. The bikes are available in four sizes and, like all Foes frames, are painstakingly handmade at his factory in San Dimas, California.
NOT THE BEST START
As impressive as the bike was, I knew I still had a job to do, and that was trying to get the best result I could. I honestly didn’t know what to expect considering I’d never previously done any type of bike racing. That being said, I was lucky enough to have recently been acquainted with a local pro that has been kind enough to give me some really useful training tips. I’ve spent the last few months really trying to get in shape and was feeling like I had a decent effort to give.
The race was held on the motocross track in conjunction with the WORCS (World Off-Road Championship Series) race held at Glen Helen Raceway in Devore, California. While treacherous for the high-speed motorcycles, there was nothing too challenging for the e-bikes.
As soon as I rolled to the starting line, I was reminded of my motocross racing days when one bad start would cause a whole lot of suffering. Because the bike was powered by a Shimano e8000 motor, I must have inadvertently caused a system error when I turned the bike on (the STEPS motor famously won’t power on if you have your foot on the pedal).
So, unlike everyone else that could enjoy some power assist when the gate dropped, I was left to pedal a 55-pound bike with just my own leg power, and when we hit the first hill, everyone left me in the dust.
Quickly realizing my error, I stopped and turned the power off then back on, which seemed like it took forever. Finally, I was able to start charging forward with a life-or-death mentality to catch back up to the leaders. The only problem I had was the competition was about two minutes ahead, which might not be a lot in a normal mountain bike race. But, with e-bikes, the gap was tremendous, and I was only able to pass a few riders for an eventual fourth-place finish.
I was pretty bummed out and slightly embarrassed. Again, it brought me back to my moto days and made me realize that, in racing, you must pay your dues and have ultimate focus at all times. Despite my results, Brent and Chris were cheering me on throughout the whole race.
The track was actually a great testing ground for the bike, and I was able to give Brent and Chris the best feedback that I could with only 40 minutes on the bike. Owing to their racing pedigree, Team Foes was still supportive of my effort and were happy just to see the bike in action.
It’s no secret that the world of e-bike racing is getting bigger and more popular. Although COVID impacted many races in 2020, I’m hopeful that the number of events will increase in 2021. And, as physically exhausted as I was (and still embarrassed about having no power at the start), I Ieft the track determined to take everything I learned and apply it to the next race.
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