Elon alum breezes in Pike's Peak cycling event
Jesse Lee '11, a former Periclean Scholar, joined with a business partner to demonstrate the possibilities of pedal-electric cycling.
By Natalie Allison '13
Forget everything you think you know about tricycles. Jesse Lee ’11 is about to show you the future.
Lee and a business associate with the North Carolina-based FFR Trikes, a manufacturer of reclined, pedal-electric tricycles, each rode a production model trike this month in the Pike’s Peak Cycling Hill Climb in Colorado.
Lee’s colleague, FFR co-founder Tommy Ausherman, set a speed record for the course, finishing first among all event participants with a time of 23:32. Lee crossed the finish line nearly a minute behind Ausherman to claim the second-place spot.
Though bragging rights were fun, Lee said, the team was more excited to demonstrate the possibilities of environmentally friendly transportation. Their hand-assembled trikes today serve a growing market across the United States.
The reclined position of the tricycles makes for a more aerodynamic and comfortable ride, Lee said. Racing on what he calls one of the most challenging sections of road in the United States, the approximately 12.5 mile course with scores of curves climbs 4,720 feet at an average grade of 7 percent.
“As transportation from an environmental perspective, it’s incredibly sustainable,” Lee said. “An FFR trike is my primary means of transportation. I sold my car and this is what I use full-time now.”
Ausherman first developed a pedal-electric trike prototype in 2009 as a way get to class at Appalachian State University. Having to make a trip to campus on a busy road, he needed to keep up with traffic and started tinkering in his garage for a solution.
Lee has always had an interest in the outdoors and learned about Ausherman’s work while studying as a Periclean Scholar and Leadership Fellow at Elon. They teamed up with other friends and classmates in an unsuccessful 2010 attempt to travel from coast-to-coast in an earlier FFR Trikes prototype that used solar panels. Though the journey ended prematurely, the project raised money for the Periclean Scholars' ongoing work in Sri Lanka.
An environmental studies major and leadership minor, Lee said his current occupation fits in well with his studies. His FFR trike batteries cost only 12 cents to fill with energy from a regular outlet and release no emissions.
Because the pedal-electric recumbent trike combination is not a commonly recognized means of transportation, Lee said, he and Ausherman know their business requires constant effort to market products and expand clientele.
But the unique process of developing their products and trying them out for himself has kept Lee satisfied.
“For me, learning happens when I'm hands-on,” Lee said. “I love the theory, but the application is critical for me to really retain information. Being able to get my hands on the development side of something like FFR Trikes is awesome because I can learn while creating something I can go pedal around on and travel an incredible distance.”