Energy Bike – Electric Bikes and Tourism, The Future…
During the Enduro World Series in Punta Ala, there were a number of electric mountain bikes available for testing, with a few finishing in the hands of quite a few famous journalists for testing whilst getting around the race trails. Currently electric mountain bikes are the minority style of bike out on the trails. Only in recent years with the development of the advanced electrical technology needed and the general public acceptance of the electric bike concept, is a slow revolution taking place with more Ebikes to be found in more places.
Directly after the Enduro World Series, Energy Bike a Tuscany based tourist organisation with a focus on Ebike tourism, organised a tour with a cross section of riders and journalists to explain the electric bike concept and the implications they have for bicycle tourism. Up until now the concept of electric bikes has been seen suspiciously by some in the purist sector of biking, however their virtues and advantages by some are yet to be understood properly. With the bikes now currently on offer it is possible to ride almost everywhere one can ride with a normal mountain bike. In addition to this it is possible with an Ebike to ride in places and over distances that aren’t possible with a normal mountain bike.
“It’s The future…” (Steve Jones, Dirt Magazine)
With powered pedal assist, the rider pedals as normal and the motor gives an extra push when necessary. In the real world this means that the rider can conserve as much energy as they want and suddenly it becomes possible to ride further and faster than before. Not withstanding this it also becomes possible for riders that don’t necessarily have the fitness levels of professional level riders to undertake longer riders than they would normally and be part of a group of expert level fitness riders who might be riding normal bikes.
With these factors in mind the Energy Bike tour had a selection of riders come and try the Ebikes, from a fast fit professional level rider, to a hobby rider that has very little fitness at all, and everyone in between. The fun factor came with our trail choice. We stayed mostly on the gravel Enduro World Series transfer roads but used a few single trails from stage 5 of the Enduro World Series. Ok, so the older hobby riders didn’t manage the single trails, bit too steep for them, but once it flattened off they were fine going down the easier graded ones.
What actually kept everyone together and having fun was the Electric bike factor. Each rider was able to ride at their own pace, with the motor assist enabling different levels of rider to stay with each other as the assist balanced out the fitness and ability levels. The greatest fear of most riders is running out of battery power, however that didn’t seem to be a problem with the greatest discharge only being about 30 percent. The batteries are rated for up to 90 km on eco mode, which is a fair judgement with the models that we were using, this battery range would allow a good length normal tour to take place for a average fitness rider.
The technology that has been developed by Bosch and Panasonic for Electric mountain bikes, invokes the batteries being used in various forms, stored on the frames and the motors either being placed around the bottom brackets or in the rear wheel. Weight distribution is all important as the bikes currently are heavier than a normal bike, but not to the point where it affects performance or ease of use in most easy going trail conditions. Some brands have put batteries in back pacs which is also a great solution for weight distribution. The range of electric mountain bikes on offer is not that large at the moment, with offerings from Enel green power designed towards the easy going everyday appeal doe a city user who wants to go up a few gravel roads, whereas Flyer a Swiss company, who have a long distance single track bike as their objective for Electric bike use. The bikes used had varying levels of component setups with Flyer specifying Fox 130mm travel 32 forks with a Fox RP23 rear shock, Shimano XT Ice tech brakes and 29er DT Swiss based wheels. Overall giving a high quality positive feeling bike to ride.
The ride finished off at a local vine yard which had one of the most amazing cellars we have ever seen, surrounded by stunning Italian views.
As part of the wine tour there was an exceptional lunch enjoyed by all in one of the most stunning locations you can imagine at the bottom of the World Series trails near Castiglione della Pescaia.
The point of all of this became very clear. Electric bikes and their application fits perfectly into bike tourism for the masses, our very wide ability level crew managed to ride 25 km up and down hills and stick together. If we had all been on normal bikes it would be fair to say half of the riders wouldn’t have made it. These characteristics are promoted and utilised by Il Cicalino’s MTBeer, and Massa Vecchia, the two main proponents of Ebike tourism, in Tuscany and Italy.
This simple Electric bike concept is in some ways being used by professionals as well. Julian Absalon one of the top world class cross country riders has been known to use Electric bikes in his training. In order to maintain a constant level of power and heart rate in his training zones, the motor in the bike can cut in and out in varying strengths to keep the rider in his optimal training zone, thus training more effectively.
Summing it up, Electric mountain bikes what are they and where will they go? Well it seems that it is a great way to open up the sport and tourism to the unfit and uninitiated, or it could just let normal riders go further in the same time and in extreme cases a training tool. There is no doubt that Electric mountain bikes are still in their infancy with correct geometries, component setups, battery placement and weight distribution still to be worked out and under constant development. Major bike brands are all starting to look at this market now, not just the specialist startup brands. All of these factors are crucial to having a functional electric mountain bike that works well so that the everyday user can ride effortlessly. These though are points which will develop and find their feet, for the moment we are at a point where we can say electric mountain bikes are fun and really open up distance and what’s possible for a normal person to do on a bike with implications for tourism in places like Tuscany being a fundamental focus for the use of E-bikes. With the average rider enjoyment increasing by covering greater distances and enjoy more trails than would nornally be possible.