Remember 2016? The E-Bike was on it's meteoric rise, like Trump and Brexit, people weren't sure and there was alot of opinions....For some, if you'd bought one you'd given up on real mountain biking and threatened the very fabric of our sport. The argument? It's got a motor, land access, erosion it's dumb. The counter being why not when you could lap the local between finishing work and kids dinner 3 - 1 over a normal mountain bike a, injury recovery and they are fun. The concept in mountain biking was relatively new and most of us didn't really know how to feel. That summer was the first time I rode one of these monstrosities around a car park. Meh was the reaction, no engine, heavy, where's my real bike gone?
Fast forward to summer 2019 and E-Bikes are everywhere, nearly every brand has one in their product line and the debate still rages online with content filters from one side and Josh Bryceland making edits in Pila from the other. What happened? The bike industry happened, trends make money and this is definitely a money maker. The E-Bike hate is very real for some and it's causing a whole heap of trail access issues in parts of the world. They are sold and rented en-masse to anyone, one could argue a positive or negative argument for people who would otherwise not be getting to the areas they are without a motor.
Many have embraced the E-Bike revolution, a large portion of our clients own one and bike parks across the UK have the soft whir of electricity to go with the bird song.
Positive / Negative? We weren't sure, but to be honest we've never put much thought into it, not our bag, let them do their thing.
Many of the E-MTB's sold and rented across the globe are used in a manner most of you won't like, literally replacing mountain bikes, riding the same trails and generally getting in the way of the purist with these loud engines and whizzing past you on the climbs. Amongst all the anti E-Bike rhetoric, how many of the detractors have they actually ridden one? The internet is full of keyboard warriors gagging for an excuse to spill some hate but we'd venture very few have actually had more than a car park spin on a decent E-Bike.
Plenty of terrain to explore in Liguria
They've never been on MTB Beds radar. Our partner Transition don't have one (apart from a prototype power assist Petrol) and have no intentions to make one. Our clients haven't been asking for one to rent and they can't bring them on holiday if they own one as the battery isn't allowed on the plane. Our interest was peaked mid summer 2019 during a recce trip for the new Trans Liguria Tour, where over an awesome Italian feast we thrashed out an E-Bike holiday idea with one of our new partners and guides, maybe it was the wine talking, or maybe it had legs...
Later in December, Rich spent a day with the lads from Peaty's in the Forest of Dean, UK and had one of the best days riding in a long time, on an E-Bike. Slapping turns in the mud and grinning like idiots in between quick fire business chat on the climbs. He called and said they're cool, it's a thing, lets go ride E-Bikes somewhere.
It was time to find out what the electric bicycle was all about
E-BIKES IN FINALE!
The MTB Beds team met up in Finale Ligure mid January for catch up and with amazing weather conditions to greet us we set about grabbing espresso, meeting our partners and planning for 2020, setting aside afew days to get some proper riding on E-Bikes. Our good friends at Oddone Bici hooked us up with 3 Cannondale Moterra's, with not much real experience on E-Bikes we didn't know a good one from a bad one. Issued with two different models and with two different motors (Bosch & Shimano) we figured it would at least be a learning experience.
Off into the Ligurian back country we went, in typical style when there's no clients to look after, we didn't prepare at all. We took no snacks, no hydration, 1 small multi-tool, no pump and one tube between the 3 of us. (We are too used to our One Up EDC's and pumps strapped to the bike) Luckily Scott our media guru took his £5,000 camera, drone, 3 lenses, 2 Go Pro's and spare batteries so at least we'd be documenting it.
Hopping onto one of Finale Ligure's finest uplift services Ride On Noli, we took a lift to Nato Base to save on some battery time, getting us up to around 1000m above sea level, where we'd see how far we could get on our batteries and how much fun we'd have riding like we would normally.
As soon as we dropped in a grin appeared, sure most of that was just riding a new bike in Finale Ligure and we don't get to ride together as a crew as much as we'd like anymore. But was surprising how much the bikes felt normal and capable. Sure, it did feel like a mountain bike with a case of beer taped to the downtube, but you could hop, jump and move around relatively easily. The low centre of mass meant the bikes held a line better than their short travel suspension should. The welcome boost of power (yes full turbo) was pretty cool. The only thing holding us back was the thought of landing or hitting something on a bike so heavy and the 'normal' bike components not taking the strain.
Rich testing the E-Bikes floatability
Rich soon found the limits of his bikes nuts and bolts on one of the first descents of the afternoon. This may or may not be related to a couple of flat land hucks and wall drops. All we heard was the sounded of plastic hitting the deck and there was Rich, full of grins but his bike around a battery lighter than it should be. This took around half an hour to piece back together trekking back up the trail (no drama on the E-Bike) to find the bolts, shims and covers that had flown off into the bushes. Once fixed it did not seem to effect him one bit, hucking and sending the bike which thankfully stood up to the rest of the day. Check your bolts!
Cromagnon trail in Finale Ligure
We weren't past the gimmick stage but we started making our 2-D ride 3-D. Whatever you see, get up it, go over it go through it. Once the initial fun wears off, if you take these bikes out and treat them as normal would you get bored real quick and prefer to be suffering on the climbs or simply be on an uplift? We set off into the back country to try and ride 'properly'.
This lasted about 10 minutes before we'd found a hill climb challenge and a frozen puddle (January remember) to wheel spin, which turned into drifting which turned into power slides. We'd lost 1 bar each of our power, it was nearing lunch and had worked out that the Shimano Steps 400w system seemed to give better power than the Bosch 400w motor but the battery was INSANE in size and weight, it had also lost it's 1 bar of energy quicker.
One of the added bonuses of E-Bikes is if you need to film or photo a section more than once, going up is absolutely fine. infact going up is as much fun as coming down. It totally makes sense why you see motocross bikes or E-Bikes coming up a mountain bike trail, it's hilarious. Don't do it, it's pretty sketchy and dangerous, but it definitely got our fun meters set to a different level.
We'd made our way after an hour of trekking, filming, shredding and laughing to the start of the Super Groppo trail, way into the Finale Ligure riding zone and about a 20 minute descent into the Feglino, riding was fun. It's not quite as normal, the bikes aren't exactly chuckable in the same way your own bike is, but they don't limit what you can do and in some ways increase possibilities. We stopped, filmed, photographed, then rode back up and did it again, it's all a bit easy to do with a motor.
Grabbing a sandwich in Feglino, time to sit down and take stock. We'd rinsed half a battery and laughed all day, ridden fast, ridden far and we had way more in tank to do more. So we did.
These things are rapid. We took on a steep, windy road climb that takes 10 minutes in the uplift van in 8 minutes, and we got to the top still fresh as a daisy. We had pedalled to the top of a Finale Ligure classic, Cromagnon. Used in the Trophy of Nations in 2019 and in the Enduro World Series years before, it's a challenging trail. Technical, rocky, with plenty of small pinch climbs and awkward sections that would play to E-Bikes strengths and weaknesses trying to ride 'normally'.
E-Bikes handle the tight, technical and slower pace better than you'd imagine. Once you get used the the weight, which is massed low and central they corner really well and the added boost opens up the way you can approach a turn and power out. It would definitely be tricky to follow someone on an E-Bike if you're not on one, and vice versa. Braking points, straight line speed and line choice are very different. Perhaps not so much on one of the newer, lighter bikes. No doubt fun was still being had but the novelty was wearing off real world applications becoming clear.
When we broke it down we figure it comes down to creating a unique experience where the E-Bike thrives. Quick, straight forward holidays that take riders who have never ridden an E-Bike, or those that are already convinced but don't want to buy one or can't take their current sled on holiday.
For us, for now, E-Bikes are a fun way to spend afew days shredding and exploring. For others it's easy to see how they would be an amazing self shuttle machine or a way to get back on two wheels after injury, or just to get more shredding in at the local when time is limited. In a holiday format? We'll be announcing something real soon that will definitely be worth a crack for anyone who loves a good time. Don't hate it till you've tried it!