Greg LeMond is perhaps America’s most influential cyclist. The three-time Tour de France champion was not only the first American to win the Tour in 1986, but the first tour rider, of any nationality, to win the prestigious race on a carbon fiber bicycle.
LeMond has made bikes in the past, but his name has been absent from bike shops for the lion’s share of the last decade. That absence is coming to an end. LeMond is reentering the market with his new company, LeMond Bicycles, with two products to start, the Prolog and the Dutch, both ebikes.
Both bikes hope to shake up the electric bike space with their high-power, low-weight carbon fiber frames, ease of use and affordability. The Prolog has high end components like a Shimano GRX groupset, integrated lights and a 250-watt Mahle X35+ motor with a 20 mph top assist speed—all that in a light 26-pound package producing a 45-mile range. The Dutch offers the same performance with a step-through frame and an upright riding position, at only a pound more than the Prolog. Both models come in at $4,500—on the more expensive side of the ebike market, but more than reasonable based on the spec of the products.
We wanted to know more about the bikes, and the company namesake’s thoughts on ebikes in general, so we spoke to the American cycling icon himself.
Around on Bikes
Around on Bikes: Greg, with your history in cycling, you’ve made bikes before. Now you’re coming back in the industry. Why now? Why ebikes?
Greg LeMond: I started my bike company officially in 1986 after winning my first Tour de France on a carbon fiber frame. I realized that equipment as a pro racer is really important so I started my bike company. Can I find the best equipment? Can I race on the best equipment? I wanted that freedom, and I have passion for products. But after a few partnerships in the bike industry, I was a bit burnt out on the industry. It took a lot of joy out of the industry for me.
But when I got on an ebike for the first time in 2013, I was blown away. I had broken my back in a car accident that year and the bike’s seat was too short, but I was doing 35 mph in a sprint. I really started doing some investigation into ebikes from a commercial perspective after that.
There’s going to be an explosion of ebikes. There are older riders in their 60s and 70s. they realize they are not in the shape they once were. And they still want to ride in the Alps, even if they are not fit enough to ride in the Alps like they did before. With ebikes they can.
And what’s been great is my wife and I can go for a ride together—which has never happened in 40 years of marriage—if she’s on an ebike.
There are also very few sports like cycling that can allow people in not great shape to get in shape. With a normal mechanical bike there are hills. Ebikes go faster; it’s more inertia; it makes it more enjoyable. That’s part of the joy: for people to have lifelong habits of health it has to be enjoyable and a lot of workouts are not enjoyable. I think that’s the beauty, that’s the opportunity ebikes bring. They enable people to change their lifestyle.
AOB: When ebikes first came on the scene, some folks were naysayers. Do you hope that your involvement and history helps push past any stigma?
GL: It’s funny, I get serious cyclists going “I can’t ride an ebike. Maybe after a workout I can ride it to work so I don’t sweat.” I say, “wait ‘til you get on it and you go out and ride. You’re going to change your mind when you get on it. You’re going to love it.”
You are going fast and you are feeling really good. You’re going to start sweating. It’s not just about riding with your bike to go on a tourist ride, you’re going to have fun doing it—sweat on your way to work too.
Any time people can get on a bike it helps. If you look at the popularity of bikes in the last two years you can see people are wanting to change; they are wanting experiences and I think an ebike can give that to people and make you feel like you’re a kid again. Plus, there is the whole other opportunity of ebikes and mobility and commuting.
AOB: Let’s talk about the Prolog. Many ebikes are big and heavy with cumbersome external batteries, but the Prolog doesn’t have a big battery or visible motor. How important was it to have a bike that not only moved well but looked great?
GL: I think there are a fair amount of people that would buy an ebike if it didn’t look like an ebike. I wouldn’t want to be riding on some of the ebikes I see out there today; they look horrible. There are very few great designs out there.
Design was very important to me, aesthetic. I still think bikes need to look good. It all has to make sense. We have a great industrial designer and he and I went over literally every millimeter of that bike. It’s been a really great process. That’s why I chose the downtube hidden battery and hub wheel and hub motor, and it’s really easy to repair. We made it a great all-around bike. It is pretty much gravel bike geometry; you can ride it on the road and on dirt.
Safety is really important to me as well. Our tail lights aren’t just lights from the back, they’re also light from the side. It’s 70 lumens. That’s quite a bit of light for tail lights. That was really important, to not have to install and reinstall your lights. That’s the concept. I really wanted to bring products where things were seamless. You don’t have to add this and that. We want to do that across the line.
But the thing I got most excited working on was the Dutch-style bike. My wife, that style bike was her favorite when we lived in Belgium and Amsterdam. It is probably the most popular mode of transportation there. But whereas those are all really heavy, ours is lightweight, just a little heavier than the Prolog. It has all the conveniences—basket, bike rack—and it’s light enough to carry up the stairs. And if you do run out of battery, you can still ride it. It weighs as much as a lightweight mountain bike.
AOB: That blew my mind reading the stats for that bike, step-through frame, basket on the front, upright riding position. In the Netherlands and Belgium, these bikes are often steel, really heavy. A lot of people leave them locked on the street. They can’t lift them up the stairs. How is this bike being so light going to change how people ride and use these bikes?
GL: I don’t want to be a pure road race brand. Yes, that’s in my DNA, but I’m not that anymore. I’m a recreational bike rider too. My favorite bike rides have been in Amsterdam with my kids by a canal on a Dutch bike. The Prolog is the bike I’d like to have on a ride out of the city, take it on the gravel, go anywhere. But in the city? The Dutch bike is the bike I would ride.
Part of our focus is that there are a lot of people in cities—Paris, New York—who can’t leave their bike on the street; it is going to be stolen. In Amsterdam they ride heavy $300 bikes and leave them on the street. They’re great to go from your house to the store a couple blocks away but if you want to go to the countryside, enjoy yourself, it’s too heavy. We bought a leading direct consumer ebike from Europe. It looks cool, but when we got it it was a tank. It was so heavy. I have to help my wife load it into a car—it’s that heavy—with the same battery power as ours.
Then she got our lighter bike, 30 pounds difference in weight, and she was dropping me on our rides. It had the same battery power, but it weighed so much less. Truly, low weight makes for a much more quality ride. A lot of people say why does it matter if I have a battery? Well, what if you do run out of juice? That happened to my wife on the other bike and she could barely ride it home. Convenience, ergonomics, those things are really important to me.
AOB: What does the world look like in 10 years with bikes and ebikes?
GL: What you have happening around the globe is major cities reconfiguring how they want to design their cities. You have Paris. Just last year, they used to have one bike lane, two lanes for cars. Now it’s one lane for cars, two lanes for bikes. That is happening globally which means more bike-safe routes, more people on the roads.
The safer it is for people, that is going to change everyone’s way of commuting. I’m hoping America will adopt that too. It all depends on safer roads. I do see at least in warmer climates like L.A., moderate climate cities, a dramatic increase in traffic and we are just at the beginning of ebikes.
AOB: Designing both these bikes, how important was it making sure the rider had fun?
GL: Well it’s critical. I am probably biased on the fun side to the Dutch bike. Riding a proper made Dutch bike is fun in a city.
The prolog is your ultimate all-around bike. It can be your road bike, your gravel bike, your city bike. It’s a bike that can be ridden in the countryside on gravel, on the road, so it’s a versatile fun bike.
I look at those experiences, riding along canals with my kids, exploring the countryside and what people can get from ebikes. Ebikes make people bike riders for life. I believe in trying to share cycling—get people hooked on cycling—that’s important to me.
Learn more about the Prolog and Dutch at lemond.com