Troy Lee loves electric mountain bikes

February 23, 2017

Betsy Welch

Troy Lee, the charismatic CEO and founder of Troy Lee Designs (TLD), takes the cake for our favorite email signature: Peace and Wheelies. How could you argue with that? If anyone is qualified to sign off with that message it’s Lee—he’s been having fun on two wheels for more than 30 years. TLD is known for customizing helmets, apparel and protective gear for off-road motorcycling and bicycling, but lately you won’t find Lee on his motorcycle or a mountain bike. Instead you'll see him out on an electric mountain bike (eMTB), his current favorite for popping wheelies. PeopleForBikes sat down with Lee to learn more about how he became a fan of eMTBs, his favorites places to ride them and more.

PeopleForBikes : When did you first ride an eMTB?

Troy Lee: I got a Specialized Levo last April, and before that I had a Turbo for a year or two. I had shattered my hip at the motocross track about three years ago—the recovery was intense and long, and I was off my bicycle and moto for half a year. Mountain biking has been a love of mine for decades, and I missed it but could only ride 30 minutes or so before my hips started getting sore. So, those first few e-bike rides for me were life changing, really. I went from riding a couple times a month to a couple times a week. And I was riding longer, exploring more and sometimes doing two rides in one day.

PFB: What did you think about eMTBs before you rode one? How did riding one affect your understanding of them?

TL: Oh, I was always intrigued once I learned there were going to be bikes that were STILL mountain bike but just with a little assist. I had no interest in a bike that was full throttle, I ride those already at the motocross track! But I was interested in something where I could still get the MTB experience, while taking the edge off of the climbs, and I love how you can tune the motors to your liking while on the ride. If I’m feeling good that day, I turn down the power and get a little extra work-out. Once I rode it I was even more impressed with the capabilities of these things and how they open up more doors without causing any trail damage or trouble.

PFB: What is your favorite type of ride to do on an eMTB? 

TL: It has been great to ride on the home trails because I have been able to check out some loops that I never would have done or have not done in years either because I was too slow or scared that I’d bonk before I made it home. There are some big hills in Laguna! So, I love just exploring, going and getting lost now. Riding with my wife and kids now that they have them has added to the fun. Like I said, my frequency of riding has gone up, and I am able to get more involved in the testing of our protection, helmets and apparel now because I am riding more than a few times a month, and I can ride with my younger employees who like to hammer me!

PFB: Why do you think people are so opinionated on the topic of access for eMTBs?

TL: I do understand the divide on this; so many great people have worked hard for decades to get us access to trails to ride our bikes, and I can’t thank them all enough. I understand the fear that this new genre of bike could result in trail closures, but that’s where we as an industry have to keep educating people that these are not motorcycles in the traditional sense. I am not going any faster or skidding more or doing burnouts, I am riding the same as I did on my traditional MTB.

PFB: How is Troy Lee Designs involved in the eMTB world?

TL: Well, my head of sales, Dave Cullinan (92’ World Downhill Champion) just got one. He is coming back from his third open heart surgery, and his doctor didn’t want him pinning it just yet, so Cully is breaking in his new valves with a Levo and he’s loving it. My head of marketing for bikes, Craig “Stikman” Glaspell, got his when I got mine, and he has been hooked from day one. So, we are riding them.

We are doing some things with Bosch, and I am working on some eMTB-specific products that are in the pipeline. This is a real emerging market that I am in love with, and it’s good. It’s getting my friends healthy, and if this is what it takes to add some years to their lives, so be it.

PFB: Have you gotten flak for riding eMTBs?

TL: People have been telling me I’ve been doing the wrong thing for years!

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