I wasn’t totally surprised by the response. Some riders thought it was a great idea, albeit an ambitious one, some didn’t know what to think, while others that I approached dubbed it the e-douche tour. “It’s e-mountain biking afterall,” was their sarcastic response, as if I was suggesting that they join me on a guided jet-ski tour of the Florida Keys with dolphin escorts. I felt like I had to tread lightly while inviting friends from BC’s established riding community as most were still not sure what to think of e-mountain biking, myself included. The plan was a non-supported seven-day traverse through the Swiss, Italian and French Alps; a combination of the Haute Route Traverse and circumnavigation of Month Blanc including a solid dip into Italy’s Aosta Valley. An aggressive and rugged mostly singletrack point-to-point route across some of Europe’s highest peaks, on e-mountain bikes.
The truth is, I’d only ridden an e-mountain bike a handfull of times, I had a lot to learn and devising riding routes was the first challenge. I’d planned dozens of multi-day trips in the Alps with our guiding company Big Mountain Bike Adventures
, but this reconnaissance mission was the first on electric-assist bikes. The goal was to spend as much time as possible riding in the alpine, using mountain huts for overnights while taking full-advantage of our precious 500-watts of power but avoiding running out of juice; no one wants to pedal or push a 50-pound rig for long. Besides distance ridden and meters climbed daily, we had to take into consideration riders’ weight, what level of assist to use relative to the terrain (eco, tour, e-mtb or turbo), if we could charge the batteries at lunch and of course being able to charge batteries overnight. Some mountain huts didn’t have sufficient power to charge batteries which meant careful planning. In the end we opted to each carry an extra battery which we planned to use.
Fresh off the overnight flight to Geneva, we gathered at the Sierre train station on a sunny afternoon in late-July with chamois on, ready to ride. In the end, our crew consisted of six seasoned and grizzled BC riders each with decades of high-performance pedalling and a long list of adventures under their belts; it would be a tough group to impress. First up was to pack our 25L riding bags that needed to fit everything from a toothbrush to an extra riding kit to cameras and chargers and water and snacks and tools and extra parts and first aid kits and clothes for sleeping and the dreaded extra battery for the bike, including charger. Our bags were packed as tight as could be and weighed about as much as a small and angry fat toddler.
The next morning, we set out from our historic hotel at 2337m along an amazing stretch of singletrack in beautiful sunshine with views of the villages of Zinal and Grimentz far below and the mighty Matterhorn at the end of the valley. The next few days were spent crossing the Valais region of Switzerland roughly following the famous Haute Route ski traverse that goes from Chamonix to Zermatt. We rode along ancient waterways, through flowery villages and over high-alpine passes and bombed down mountains including the 2135-meter singletrack descent from Becs de Bosson to the remote alpine valley, the Val D’Hérens. It would have been rude not to, we ended our Swiss days by sampling a variety of fendant wines, the Valais’ symbolic light and aromatic white, as our multitude of batteries blinked and charged away into the wee hours of the morning.
Next up was Italy and the amazing Aosta Valley which we entered via the remote Fenêtre du Durand. Unlike the rockier Swiss side, the Italian trails had more dirt and forested trails which was welcomed. With the help of local guide Patrick we devised a route high above the Aosta Valley on trails that were knocking out everyone's previous Top 10's of all time, little-known trails that had seen few mountain bikes. And being bella Italia, lunches were delicious and always washed down with a few dopio espressos while evenings were spent diving into courses of polenta, cured meats, pasta, cheeses and crushing Brunellos and Chiantis like the Pope crushes sermons.
The Aosta Valley wasn’t all loam and fine dining though, we had a tough 40-kilometer day to conquer with 2200 meters of climbing punctuated by a steep hike-a-bike to the feisty Col de Malatra, a piton-laden finish that resembled a climbing route more than a mountain bike trail. On the final push we removed batteries from bikes to lighten them up and aided each other with the human-chain technique. It was tough. The reward was spectacular, a 1345-meter descent to the beautiful Val Ferret at the base of the imposing Mont Blanc, Europe’s highest peak at 4808 meters.
Arrivederci Italia, we eventually crossed into France on the remote Col de la Seigne and swung around the Mont Blanc massif on the popular Tour du Mont Blanc route via the village Les Contamines. The Tour du Month Blanc was busier with hikers, but still an amazing ride as you'd look over your shoulder and up, way up, to see the imposing Queen of the Alps piercing the clouds. After several mediocre cafe au laits, a case or two of dry Burgundies and 340 kilometers of pedalling, 15,077 meters of climbing and 16,298 meters of descent we rolled into Chamonix on a glorious sunny afternoon. We made it.
By the second day of our trip e-douche was never muttered again, it was quite the opposite. Over the week we learned a lot about these assist-bike: that e-mountain bikes are capable of travelling impressive distances over truly big mountain terrain, that they’re capable of cleaning some head-shakingly technical climbs, that they eat up descents like a downhill bike, that good suspension is as important as ever, that long leisurely lunches in the sun are advised to charge batteries and that hike-a-biking e-bikes should be avoided at all costs. In the end, it was unanimously agreed that e-mountain bikes and big Alps’ adventures are a match.
This e-mtb adventure is offered by Big Mountain
as an epic eight-day guided trip, albeit without the hike-a-bike. Check it out here
But look, lots of us have done multi-day high alpine routes around the world. I can't help but ask why? As Yvon Chouinard said about climbing "The whole purpose of planning something like Everest is to effect some sort of spiritual and physical gain and if you compromise the process, you’re an a*shole when you start out and you’re an a*shole when you get back.”
You comprise the process, and you compromise the experience. It's the years of training, backcountry experience, knowledge of how to move quickly and efficiently in the mountains, being completely self-supported. The best experiences I've had in the backcountry come unexpectedly, perhaps it was when I pushed well beyond plans for the day and bived at 10,000 feet, or found a cool trail and took it not knowing where I would sleep that night. Being confined to finding a power socket at the end of the night or limiting your days based on your charge deprived you of so many opportunities. Great video and photos, but in my eyes this is no different than the rich a*shole who pays a sherpa to carry his backup up Everest, set up his tent, and put that mint under his pillow.
E bikes have made the world a better place simply because they are getting people back on bikes who had given up on riding. They are also great for commuting compared to a car. The world would also be a better place if pseudo-spiritual egotistical hikers would stop trashing ruining mountains like Everest to fulfill their "adventurous" egotistical desires.
You have thrown the sport of mountain biking under the bus to prop up the fraudulent image one of the worst, most unsustainable outdoors activities known to man. Shame on you.
The answer to your question "Why?", would probably be because they thought it would be fun for them.
And it looks like they were right. Who cares what Yvon Chouinard said, what makes his opinion relevant to what anyone else wants to do?
You do what you want to do, and leave the rest of the world to do what it wants to do.
The planet is large enough for both analogue and E-bikes, the latter can offer some people an experience some of us can't comprehend such as when I saw Martyn Ashton, once a superb MTB, Trail and stunt rider until his accident left him paralysed from the waist down, if not for an E-bike then he would have never been able to ride the Fort William Downhill track as he did a few years ago again, to see that man's face light up with joy, the crowd going wild, the total euphoria of the atmosphere said to me that none of us are to judge what is and isn't a Mountain Bike so long as it puts a smile on your face, but don't take my word for it, look it up on YouTube and then tell me E-bikes don't have a place in our chosen pursuit.
I'm lucky that I own my own business so can leave work early in order to get out on my bike but sometimes that's not always possible but I don't worry about it, as you say, "just get fitter" is very often easier said than done but when I do get out I really enjoy it and if a time ever came that I stopped enjoying it would be the time to stop.
Enjoy your family and when time allows, enjoy your bike and remember, it's about the smiles in your miles.
Other than that, beautiful. What an experience.
about the experience then why even mention that ebikes where involved. Why would it even matter? Unless of course ppl need to understand that the experience is causally linked to ebike possesion.
Don't fill kid's minds with scare-tactics, 'ooh the world will end if you don't recycle kids'! Teach them to love and appreciate nature. There's a difference, and the latter doesn't have a serious impact on the hopelessness and depression young kids are experiencing because us 'adults' are constantly threatening them with the end of the world.
Just my $0.02.
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