Photo Epic: Riding 137km of Trails in a 10km Radius on New Bike Day

May 11, 2021
by Mary Wragg-Moncorge  




Is there any better day than new bike day? I can’t think of one. My husband will tell you that I don’t do Valentines' Day, wedding anniversaries or even birthdays, but new bikes? Those are my favourite days. And like any over-excited child there is only one thing to do: play with your new toy until you are too tired to carry on.

Here in France, we have just come out of our third national lockdown, and in the very south, we are have been under a curfew since November. My original plan started under lockdown when I got a delivery date for my new bike. We were confined to a 10km radius, so if I couldn’t go far, how much could I do at home? Could I ride all the trails in our valley in a single day? With the curfew running from 7pm to 6am, I had thirteen hours to see how much I could do.

As anybody who has owned an eMTB for a while will tell you, battery math is a big part of riding one of these bikes. Sure, my bike has a 630Wh battery, but even on eco that was going to limit me to around 3000m climbing and then need six hours charging before I could go again. More than that, I don’t think riding in eco is much fun - the assistance basically compensates for the weight of the bike, so you may as well ride a regular bike. The only way to make this work would be multiple batteries and I need to thank Ben at Shimano, and Fab and Benjy at Canyon for lending me batteries for this, and Olivier at La Roue Libre for having the last two charging adapters in France in stock.

Armed with three batteries, I began mapping routes around the house, with the house as the central point for food, water, and a quick battery change each time. For me, this isn’t a physical challenge like Everesting or trying to scale Olympus Mons in one go (my challenge for the year is revenge at the Trans-Vesubienne), rather it was supposed to be about fun - how many trails could I ride? How much descending could I do in one day? And could I get some good photos for a story as I went? Even with three batteries, it is not as simple as sticking the bike in Boost and flying up every climb though. If a battery takes around six hours to charge, then each loop needed to be around three hours when a ride in Trail is closer to two hours, and I also wanted to be able to run the final couple of loops in Boost when I would be getting tired. I mapped around six loops and decided to see how it felt on the day.

6 09am yes we ran late . Here we go
6:09am (yes, we ran late). Here we go!

The valley awaiting the sun.
The valley awaiting the sun.

There is not much on-trail climbing here in the South of France - it tends to be roads and fireroads fortunately they are lovely places to be at 6am.
There is not much on-trail climbing here in the South of France - it tends to be roads and fireroads, fortunately, they are lovely places to be at 6am.


As I climbed out of the valley I reached the morning sun.
As I climbed out of the valley I reached the morning sun.

Heading out the door at 6:09 am precisely, I headed for the piste behind the house to tackle the trail that scares me most in the valley first: Candaniel. It’s not the steepest or gnarliest trail in many ways, but once you get down the descent there is a long, awkward traverse out along the valley with constant exposure, pitchy climbs, and overgrown bushes trying to push you off into the gorge below. All of that before breakfast does a far better job than a quadruple espresso to start your day. The plan was to join that trail onto a loop up to Ze Holy Trail, my second least-favourite, but my GPS bugged on my battery levels, so I popped back for a fresh battery first. Ze Holy Trail is more conventionally nasty, unforgivingly steep, and rocky all most all the way down to the village followed by another short trail to get to the main road. By now I had covered around 40km and 1,500m descending with three trails ridden.


Candaniel - first trail of the day
Candaniel - the first trail of the day!

Loose moving rocks before breakfast Not pictured the massive drop to my left.
Loose moving rocks before breakfast? Not pictured: the massive drop to my left.

The final part of Candaniel mellows out for a blast through the mossy forest.
The final part of Candaniel mellows out for a blast through the mossy forest.

I m very lucky to have had these - I m not sure how many people would be keen to invest 1600 for this pair We really need Elon Musk to figure out and alternative to Li-ion batteries so we can do this kind of ride on a single battery.
I'm very lucky to have had these - I'm not sure how many people would be keen to invest €1,600 for this pair? We really need Elon Musk to figure out an alternative to Li-ion batteries so we can do this kind of ride on a single battery.


A quick change and ready to go again.
A quick change and ready to go again.

Loop three took me up to the Col de Brouis for Brollercoaster, then down over the Italian border to Olivetta on Polivetta before traversing home along the Botanical Trail - a riverside traverse through a gorge. For number four I popped the bike in Boost and tackled the GR descent and Bangkok Fast on the flanks of Mont Razet and Scuvion, a location that is hellish on a regular bike at midday as it bakes you on the white gravel. Fortunately, zipping along at 20km/h on an ebike there is a bit more wind to keep you cool, making riding on that side far more enjoyable, and the descents are some of the longest in the valley.

Change 2.
Change #2.

The climb to Col de Brouis is pretty nice for a road climb.
The climb to Col de Brouis is pretty nice for a road climb.

On a good day you can see Corsica from here sort of - it s an optical illusion but still very cool .
On a good day you can see Corsica from here (sort of - it's an optical illusion but still very cool).

The top of Brollercoaster starts out mellow then drops into a fast run down to the village of Piene Haute.
The top of Brollercoaster starts out mellow, then drops into a fast run down to the village of Piene Haute.


These waterbars make perfect rollers to play with.
These water bars make perfect rollers to play with.

The shepherds around here use patou to protect their flocks from wolves. For the most part they are lovely friendly dogs but they are still working dogs and you need to get off the bike and respect their space as they will do some real damage if they think you are a threat.
The shepherds around here use patou to protect their flocks from wolves. For the most part, they are lovely, friendly dogs, but they are still working dogs and you need to get off the bike and respect their space as they will do some real damage if they think you are a threat.

More rock.
More rock.


Dropping from Piene Haute across the Italian border to Olivetta Polivetta starts with a wide open grey earth gulley before winding across the mountain and down.
Dropping from Piene Haute across the Italian border to Olivetta, Polivetta starts with a wide-open grey earth gulley before winding across the mountain and down.

There is a small bonus trail that drops back into Olivetta from the border.
There is a small, bonus trail that drops back into Olivetta from the border.

The Botanical trail has only just been reopened after the devastating storms last Autumn...
The Botanical trail has only just been reopened after the devastating storms last Autumn...
...although I was still a bit nervous dropping in here as having to climb back out again would have sucked if the trail was still not passable.
...although I was still a bit nervous dropping in here as having to climb back out again would have sucked if the trail was still not passable.

The most personal loop for me was number five. It was on the mountain above our house and took in three trails that my husband and I have done a lot of the work to open and maintain. Black River traverses a ledge high above the valley, Serpentin is about as close to fresh loam as we get here, and I then threw in the classic Baisse du Pape descent before finishing on Chez Nous which drops down towards our house.

After four loops my shoulders felt like they needed some attention.
After four loops my shoulders felt like they needed some attention.

Dropping into Black River.
Dropping into Black River.
From this ledge you get a commanding view of the village below.
From this ledge you get a commanding view of the village below.

Serpentin is very different to almost every other trail in the valley - it is one of the very few that was shaped with bikes in mind.
Serpentin is very different from almost every other trail in the valley - it is one of the very few that was shaped with bikes in mind.

The very end of Serpentin is a steep chute into a streambed.
The very end of Serpentin is a steep chute into a streambed.

By this time holding onto the bars through the rock steps was no small accomplishment.
By this time, holding onto the bars through the rock steps was no small accomplishment.

By now we were past five o’clock and time was running out to get the final loop in on Mont Agaisen - the location most people think of when they think of riding in our valley. From the top of the road at Baisse de Figueira I took the GR up to the edge of the Parc du Mercantour - a national park where bikes are strictly forbidden - and then down Bandite de Berrins, Bramafam, and through the bike park back to the village. It was then a case of racing through the streets to get home before curfew.

Grey earth for the final descent.
Grey earth for the final descent.

After the grey earth Bramafam goes into the trees.
After the grey earth, Bramafam goes into the trees.

Still smiling
Still smiling!

Bramafam is one of my favourite trails on that side of the valley - the lower part is smooth fast and flowing - perfect for when your eyes are going a but funny after thirteen hours on the go.
Bramafam is one of my favourite trails on that side of the valley - the lower part is smooth, fast, and flowing - perfect for when your eyes are going a bit funny after thirteen hours on the go.

Final trail done - cooked.
Final trail done - cooked.

All the numbers.
All the numbers.

Sore hands
Sore hands!

Through the day I covered 137km, 6,018m of climbing and descending and a total of nine hours moving. More importantly, I rode 15 trails and I’m not sure you could even manage that with a shuttle. Yes, I could name another 15 or so around the valley so I’m not sure how realistic riding all of them within a day would be. Certainly, I could have done more if we weren’t stopping to take photos, but this was not supposed to be about the numbers. My Garmin GPS gave me just 21 hours of recovery after, something I can manage with an intense hour of running, although my arms and shoulders wouldn’t be as sore this morning, and it is something I think most reasonably fit people should be able to manage (if they can find the batteries this year). This was supposed to be about was celebrating my new bike and I rode it on every mountain in our valley until my hands were almost too sore to hold onto the bars, what more could you ask for?





52 Comments

  • 98 34
 I feel as if the title probably should have stated that she did it on an e-bike. That makes it much, much, much less impressive.
  • 30 5
 I'm not sure the goal was to impress anyone - mostly just a write up on a nice ride.

But yeah, I fully admit to thinking "damn, that's a big ride" at first. And then I saw a mention of batteries.
  • 10 0
 I think we all knew it was coming...but I wanted to believe it wasn't on an E!
  • 8 3
 137km is still a very long way and a long time to be on any type of bike. I agree it detracts from what is implied in the title but its still a solid effort
  • 10 1
 Photo E-pic. It’s in the title Smile
  • 2 1
 it's still impressive, but I feel you
  • 3 1
 @toast2266 "Mary Moncorge christens her new bike with a seriously impressive ride." That's the actual caption of the article... What I find seeriously impressive is the price tag of two extra batteries! 800 each? What the actual f***k?
  • 3 0
 also lets us know what to expect rather than refer to immediate pic views
  • 15 6
 I'm not even an Ebike supporter but how sensitive are people that they cant even read an article about someone doing a massive epic trail ride without being triggered by the fact that they didn't do it on the type of bike they deem acceptable. I'd venture to say that kind of mileage is what really the only thing Ebikes are good for (other than impaired riders) If it was a 25 mile ride then OK heckle away but I'd love to see any Ebike haters cover 85 Miles in a single day on rough trails and say it wasn't a work out battery or not.
  • 9 15
flag mikealive (May 11, 2021 at 17:36) (Below Threshold)
 @IsaacO: Wait, who's triggered again? Yeesh..
  • 2 7
flag Primoz (May 12, 2021 at 21:51) (Below Threshold)
 The moment I saw it's an e-bike I stopped reading, scrolled through the comments and got here.

Is it easy to do a 137 km ride on an e-bike? No, far from it. With how heavy they are they are pigs. I tested one about a year ago doing a 1800 m vertical (45-ish km) loop and was tired after it. But not legs tired, just manhandling the bike kind of tired. I did a very similar route 6 weeks ago on my bike and was of course completely knackered, but the legs took the brunt of it. And it wasn't going up that was the problem, you just grind away in that regard and wait for it to be over, it's getting down that's the hard part with the tired legs.

So yeah, this ride is a huge workout with the batteries, but a completely different one, and still a MUCH easier one, than doing it without batteries.

To be honest, I strongly prefer the pedal powered version that I did to the e-bike version. However you try to spin it, the e-bike has a motor.

As for 'e-bikes are made for these types of rides', are they? The ride I did was on a ~25 kg Bosch bike and I drained the battery during it with the bike beeping it's empty just before the top of the last climb. Some more vertical could be squeezed out from it without any turbo mode. But as you can see, battery swaps were required here.

And why for the love of god would I pay a few grand more to ride a 10 kg heavier bike just to do 2000 vertical in ~3 hours instead of 5? I know I'm lucky to be in the shape where I can do it under my own power, but still.

I've had thoughts about doing an 'everesting' ride (9000 m vertical, but not repeating any of the descents) around here, but came to my senses, it's just too much. What I am still itching about is doing a 3000 m vertical day around here with a a few crazy friends (I have enough of those, luckily). Should take about 8 hours or so. Won't be 137 km, but should be in the 60 to 70 range.

Like it was mentioned, it would be nice not to clickbait people into e-bike articles without an upfront mention of it. This is an impressive thing, but not nearly as impressive as doing it on a proper bike. Like I said, no matter which way you spin it, this was motor powered. Sorry...
  • 22 0
 Could you imagine having that many awesome trails within a 10km distance of your house?
  • 27 7
 Hard to argue that doesn't look like a ton of fun. Probably the best way to entice people skeptical of EBikes is content like this.
  • 52 35
 Now do it on an actual bicycle
  • 21 28
flag enduroNZ (May 11, 2021 at 12:23) (Below Threshold)
 Fool
  • 6 4
 Already did on a road bike a few years back , definitely not as fun or enjoyable
  • 1 0
 @marymoncorge: yeah, I can imagine riding those trails on a road bike wouldn't be fun or enjoyable Wink
  • 9 0
 10 hours on the saddle is realy hard. I have raced a 300km Brevet (tarmac) and I know how hard it is. Adding the fatigue from the trails, the ride is more impressive!
  • 4 1
 Thanks man.
How did the brevet go? I have a gravel race at the end of June with that distance
  • 1 0
 @marymoncorge: as you know, it is a race of the mind. You just dive into the mind and soul while pedaling. So the goal was accomplished.
  • 6 0
 Looks like amazing trails! Great way to run in a new bike and celebrate deconfinement! One of the things I love about the trails here in France is the accessibility, fire roads, farm tracks, sheep trails, they all seem to lead to another fantastic place to ride with awesome views. Congratulations.
  • 6 1
 Merci beaucoup . We are super lucky to have an amazing trail network thanks to old farming trails and military fireroads
  • 6 0
 French trails seem like a riot
  • 9 0
 They are indeed. And no hate from other users like pedestrians, they even cheer for you
  • 2 0
 @marymoncorge: That's a dream! Stark contrast from the US
  • 6 0
 @GotchaJimmy: I know, I lived in Marin county, CA and around the Bay area for a few years.
  • 8 1
 Great read
  • 7 1
 Question is, did she carry extra batteries for the Ryobi?
  • 2 0
 You are in a very great area for riding! No need to put the bike in the car to reach the first trails. The electric screwdriver to put the cover during a battery swap, made me laugh! No the kind of tools you usually see in most of the backpack.
  • 3 1
 We made the decision to move there gor the riding and indeed not using the car to go workouts. Only tool with a T20I had
  • 5 4
 My Mother's family, was born in Corsica and most live in Marseille and I don't even speak French. Anyways, I'm going to make it over there in the next couple of Summers to hit these epic trails. As far road climbing, got to say that an e-bike is the only way to go. Boring energy wasting climbs up, and 1 way descents make perfect sense for a motor.
  • 6 1
 Do it, it is lovely here. Plus the trails are amazing!
Go to Corsica as well, it is my favorite place: stunning landscape, amazing food, great people and the GR20 iconic trail route
  • 7 3
 I did something similar for my 40th. 56 miles and 15k’ of vert. Also an ebike, tons of fun. Good for her.
  • 5 0
 Drove that far in my car once
  • 4 0
 A compact drill!!! Really???
Geez, these E-Bikers are getting out of control!!!
  • 5 2
 My husband made me do it . I told him I would get hate for that but jokes aside, the only T20 I had was on that one
  • 2 0
 @marymoncorge: did you also carry an electric tooth brush with you? it seems to be a fine line where manhood needs electric assistance in daily life. the e-bike hate seems to be only the tip of the iceberg.
  • 2 0
 @ruedi: She didn't carry it with her - she changed the batteries at the house, it would only make sense to carry it if you carried the batteries too.
  • 3 3
 Sooo good! I really want an extra battery. Throughout the year i average 6000m/day with lift service and i usually call it a day when my hands are sore. Climbing/pulling on the bars for that same 6000m would definitely make your hands super sore. What a day. "How long did it take you to get used to your new bike?" "One day and gtg!"
  • 5 1
 This was pretty cool. Great photos and storytelling
  • 4 0
 Great ride, great photos! Nice work you two!
  • 2 0
 Wow those spare batteries are expensive. Cant wait for those to come down in price
  • 4 2
 What a great way to enjoy your new bike. 6000metres of elevation is very impressive
  • 14 12
 I was excited until I got to the third paragraph and saw the word eBike.
  • 3 2
 Best part was reading the dismount for the local working dogs. Respect...for the dogs
  • 1 0
 Check out the Merritt Crown..........
  • 2 1
 quo vadis biking....?
  • 5 7
 Next time she might use a motorcycle, what I am I talking about she did use a motorcycle.
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