Specialized Kenevo

Turbo Kenevo X Marshall Mullen

  Photos by Long Nguyen

You may remember the story we did with Marshall Mullen a few months back with his Fox 40 equipped Specialized Turbo Kenevo. After that tase of the desert, Marshall set his sights on a bigger goal: Utah. Not just any spot in Utah, but the sacred grounds of the old Rampage site. But how would an e-bike tackle the unforgiving terrain of Utah? This was uncharted territory, and something that would push his and the bike’s limits. He came back with video and photos from what is arguably some of the gnarliest terrain that’s been send on an eMTB. We caught up with Marshall for an interview about the project once the dust settled.

Specialized Kenevo

What were you expecting when you went to Utah to film this edit?

I was not sure at all what to expect. I think that is what made this project hard initially. Leading up to this, even through the car ride to Utah, I was uncertain how the whole thing was going to pan out. I had a good idea of what I wanted to do, but at the same time I was spending just as much time wondering if I was crazy trying to do this. I knew it was possible, and I knew what I wanted, but man was I unsure about it. It was unusual for me, whenever I take something like this on I won’t do it until I am 100% certain it will work. That wasn’t the case this time.

I was also expecting to go out there and just film the downhill lines. But on the first day while I was hiking up I thought, “I’m pretty sure I can climb this!” So I jumped on the bike and made it all the way to the top of the ridge first try. As soon as I got off the bike, Long and I looked at each other. We both knew this had just become a different project.

E-bikes have become pretty controversial lately. How did it feel riding an e-bike on what is basically sacred ground? 

E-bikes have become controversial, but only because a-lot of people haven’t ridden them yet. I’ve become so comfortable on my e-bike over the past two years that it seemed like it would be no problem. However, there was a part of me that was a little nervous because the bikes are quite a bit heavier. After riding the first 100 feet in Utah though, my fears vanished. The stability and grip of the heavier bike instantly proved themselves to be an asset instead of a drawback. It was pretty cool to take a new bike out to where it all started in Virgin, Utah.

Specialized Kenevo
Specialized Kenevo

Long is a photography legend of the sport who has shot the old Rampage site countless times. Did having him there influence things you rode? 

Long is so much more than just a photographer to me. I have known him for a long time now, and he has been with me through a lot. He knows me, my personal limits, and what I am feeling better than anyone. Long also knows the Utah ground very well, so having him around influenced what I rode in a big way. I could look over to him and without me saying anything, he’d give me guidance on what I should and shouldn’t do. I think he encourages me to do what he knows I can do, but at the same time, he is not afraid to steer me away from something I should not be considering.

But it goes beyond riding. He is such an asset to the whole process of a project like this. This project would have been very different if Long wasn’t involved. It’s hard for me to put into words how appreciative I am of him.

You’re one of a select group of people out there sending it on an e-bike. How do they handle in the air and what do you think the limits are?

My thought of the limits for e-bikes changed in a huge way after this trip. I originally thought I might already be close to the limits. We spent almost a week out there riding, and there was never a time where I wanted a different bike, or I felt this one wasn’t up to the task. If you think about it, e-bikes are really just a normal mountain bike with a little assistance motor, some extra weight and a lower center of gravity. So in a way, they are able to handle the terrain better than a normal bike. I really feel like the limits of e-bikes are much so much further than that of current mountain bikes. I am excited for what it is to come.

Do you think there are any parallels between people’s views on e-bikes today and how people viewed freeriders when the first rampage was happening?

I think there definitely are. Right now e-bikes are kind of outiders in the industry. It’s a new thing and people aren’t sure what to do with them. They defy the neat little boxes of the industry. I can’t say they’re the same a freeride, but I do think that just like freeride, e-bikes will be taking off in the future and will definitely gain acceptance in the MTB community.

How do you think e-bikes will evolve, influence or otherwise change big mountain and freeriding? Do you think they have a place in that genre of riding?

I think it will take a while for people to start using e-bikes for this type of riding. But when they do, big mountain and freeride will take off in a new way. The fact that you can now climb a long steep technical hill, turn around ride down on the same bike, changes everything. The ability to go explore and ride unridden terrain is far more appealing to everyone with e-bikes. Wether you see it as good or bad, opening that door is huge. I predict in the coming years, freeride will have a new wave of energy, and you will see a whole lot more of it happening with pedal assist.

Specialized Kenevo Specialized Kenevo
Specialized Kenevo

What about downhill e-bikes? Does that defeat the purpose of an e-bike, or open up new doors for what is possible on a bike?

That is a good question. It hard to say, but here is what I think: It does not at all defeat the purpose, and yes it does open up new doors for what is possible. But, I think the definition of a DH bike will be different with e-bikes.

Take my Kenevo for example. It is built off the Enduro, an aggressive all mountain bike. I built up the bike with a dual crown fork offering a higher front end, more rake, and a longer wheelbase. So now you have a bike with aggressive all mountain frame geometry (steeper seat tube angles, higher bb heights) which allows you to climb hills so well, but you also have longer travel suspension and higher front ends that allows for full downhill riding. It is a fine line, but I think the DH bike as we know it today will be different, or maybe a new genre will open up. The frames will have to be a little more catered to climbing, and the drivetrains will have gearing similar to an all mountain bike. Once this happens, the possibilities will be wide open.

What are you doing to improve people’s views of e-bikes? Do you see their opinion’s changing?

I think the biggest thing I want to do is show people that you are still getting a workout on these bikes, and yes I see opinions changing right away! It’s pretty cool to see some haters turn into advocates after one ride.

It’s a misconception that a lot of people have, as did I in the beginning. But really, the opposite is true. You are getting a much better workout, and I think these bikes will improve people’s cycling abilities in a big way. I don’t blame people for thinking that e-bikes will ruin the sport, but its just not true. So for now, I am trying to help people understand the benefits of riding an e-bike.