I received an invite last Friday to a media event for LeMond Cycles. The event was in five days’ time. They were going to showcase the allegedly lightest-in-class e-bikes that LeMond is building in his carbon-fiber factory in Knoxville, Tennessee. Greg himself would be there. The notice felt last-minute, though it was billed as “the first public media event“ for the bikes.
A handful of people showed. There were three bikes on display in a cavernous party space, with a fourth kind of around. And one of the bikes was a LeMond-labeled carbon-fiber TVT-frame bike with the paint job LeMond’s Z team rode in 1990. It clearly wasn’t LeMond’s, as not only was it too big, but it was built up with Shimano Dura-Ace components, whereas the team bikes were Campagnolo-equipped. No press information available, no presentation or announcement. Just LeMond and a handful of people—the CEO, the creative director, a few more—present to chat up the venture. Test rides might happen in the future. But they didn’t seem certain how they were going to be set up. Perhaps this event was for something else. Investors, perhaps.
The Prolog, a flat-bar e-bike, is allegedly the lightest production e-bike available. It’s supposed to weigh 27lbs in the base model, and comes with carbon-fiber frame, fork, and monocoque handlebar/stem combo. Add LeMond carbon-fiber rims and the weight goes down to 26lbs. Add LeMond carbon-fiber fenders and basket, and the weight tips up again. The bike has a front light integrated into the stem and rear lights integrated into the seatstays. The battery hides in the only slightly-oversized downtube. The motor can put out 250 watts and is rated Class 1, as its pedal assistance tops out at 20mph. Range is about 46 miles. There’s also the heavier Dutch bike, which is a step-through model, with the same spec.
The bikes, which are sold direct-to-consumer, get de-tuned a bit when shipped to Europe. There, the pedal assistance tops out at 25kph (15.5mph). Europe’s standards are different, and arguably demand more of e-bike makers.
Tomorrow is more exciting than today.
But the LeMond people, and LeMond himself, seemed more interested in talking up the future. They see their e-bikes as a statement that LeMond is doing something different. And they were bullish on claiming the future is looking really bright.
To be fair, LeMond does deserve some credit as an innovator. He put Oakley Factory Pilot glasses on his face in 1985 and ushered in sport sunglasses to cycling. He was the first top-level Euro Pro to wear an expanded polystyrene helmet in competition. He won the 1986 Tour de France while riding a carbon-fiber frameset for the mountain stages. He popularized aero handlebars for time trials. He was an early adopter of electronic shifting. He was an early adopter of training and racing with power.
His company, or rather various iterations of Greg LeMond Cycles, has done traditional steel frames, put his name on TVT carbon-fiber frames, Clark Kent-made titanium frames. Calfee-made carbon-fiber frames, Trek-made steel, aluminum, carbon-fiber, and hybrid frames. And more. More recently, he worked with Time to build LeMond frames.
The current iteration started with LeMond Carbon in 2016, with the acquisition of rights to technology that is supposed to both lower the cost and the energy consumption it takes to produce carbon-fiber goods. The current LeMond Bicycles started in 2020.
They bragged about buying test equipment from a German firm and are testing the competition as well as their own designs so that they can exceed safety standards. There’s a road bike in the works that they claim will exceed all safety standards and built so that the frames never have a catastrophic failure. Whether or not it hits the halo weight of 650g for a frame has not been determined. They say they don’t need to epoxy in aluminum fittings, like for thru-axles, because they figured out how to it better in carbon-fiber.
LeMond: Back to the Future.
They talked about building an updated version of that LeMond TVT bike on display. Something that would feature mostly round tubes and injection-molded carbon-fiber lugs.
They talked about building a mountain bike and adventure bike. They see the oversized downtube in their e-bikes as demonstrating that the downtube is also plenty strong when not housing a battery and a great place to store gear on a ride.
Going beyond bikes.
They talked about taking aerospace tech and bringing it to the bike biz. Their CEO came from the auto business where he managed factories; a sign that they’re serious about efficiency and making carbon-fiber production in the US viable. They say they’ve got some new processes in the works that they’re trying to patent. Their location, Knoxville, and their intellectual property, was chosen because their IP was developed at the Oak Ridge labs in Knoxville, and will hopefully benefit from being (relatively) close to other carbon-fiber production facilities, including Boeing’s.
They are currently producing their own carbon-fiber handlebars and rims. But they say they’re looking to fabricate just about everything. I’m guessing that would be bars, stems, seatposts, cranks, rims. Possibly hubs.
Their big message was “stay tuned.”
Photo Gallery shot by Alonso Tal.