So, I know what you’re thinking. I’m a good few years late to the party. The E bike express train has well and truly left the platform and is well on its way to delivering its passengers to a destination which less than a decade ago was pretty much unreachable to all but the fittest riders.
It sounds like some sort of fairy tale, but modern E bikes have unlocked the sport to countless riders, some completely new (just listen out to the unoiled chains as they ride past…) some old timers who just need a bit of a boost and also to what seems to be a hoard of emerging young and fit riders.
I’d like to think that I fit into the latter category. I’m a lifelong mountain biker, was once part of a professional road racing team and would consider myself to be relatively fit so you may be thinking, what’s the point in an E bike for someone like me?
I’m sure you have heard stories about how great they are or you may been effortlessly dropped by someone whilst on the trails, but It was time for me to find out for myself what all of the fuss was about and make my own decision. It just so happens that my friend Nikki Whiles has a lovely looking Marin Alpine Trail E2 which happens to be in my size, so I asked him if I could take it out for a tear up around the local trails.
First job was getting this behemoth into the car. Lets not beat around the bush here, E bikes are pretty hefty and I must admit, I had doubts on its ability to hold traction in what ended up being the only 2 wet days in the last 5 weeks or so…wonderful!
Bike built, saddle height adjusted, “motor” switched on, it was time to ride. As soon as I sat on the bike and got pedalling, the weight disappeared and the bike felt wonderful. In eco mode I was already half wheeling my friends on their 29” enduro bikes. It was clear to see that I was already putting them under pressure and I wasn’t really trying.
We hit the first trail. Twisty single track with some relatively technical root sections and drops. The roots are greasy and I’m on a bike which I’ve ridden for approx. 10 minutes. I get through the first few corners and pop off a natural root sender into a berm and quickly became able to completely steamroll my way through anything and everything.
After one run I was completely stoked. My confidence was at an all time high, the bike felt like I’d ridden it for months. Even in Eco mode, the extra power that you’re able to put down over greasy ground is astonishing. It gives you time and space to line up jumps and gaps that perhaps you wouldn’t have tried before. When you get to the bottom of the trail, instead of sitting down and gathering your breath, you’re pretty much ready to go straight back up and do it all again.
As the evening’s session went on, it became quickly apparent that I may as well go and get another quick run in whilst the other guys were riding back up the fire road. I did this again and again and by the end of the session I had done a good few more runs than the other boys, all without breaking much of a sweat.
Was it worth it?
I set out to find out why there were young fit guys riding these bikes; the answer is plainly obvious to me now. The amount of riding you can pack into a short period of time is just worlds away from what you’d normally manage. Short on time and want to squeeze in a quick ride? Tired from being a parent all week and have a 2 hour window to ride? Don’t get to ride very often and all of your friends are super fit ? You get the jist….
The big question. Are they worth the extra money over a non e bike? For me the answer was a resounding yes. I was blown away by its ability to cover vast amounts of ground on the steep uphill’s and also technical downhills. Its rock solid stability and ability to plough through the rough stuff just inspired so much confidence. Did my enjoyment suffer because the bike wasn’t quite as flickable as my normal bike? I don’t think so, I got so much more riding in, that I was able to hit the same trail multiple times and experiment with different lines without the worry of wasting my energy.
What about the changing tech?
MY biggest concern is the speed at which technology is moving forward. You only have to look at what Specialized have done with their S Works Levo SL to see what I’m talking about here. An E bike which looks pretty much like a normal enduro bike. Just don’t look at the price… I suspect that in a few years, most E bikes will be a good deal lighter and less bulky than the current generation. Where does that leave you when you come to sell your potentially outdated bike? You also need to consider that E bikes have more to go wrong compared to a normal bike. It’s not all that uncommon to hear stories of motors failing which, without a warranty, is going to cost you handsomely to fix.
Am I converted?
For me, the moral of the story is that if you love riding and want to ride more, an E bike is going to put a very big smile on your face. I’m going to put my money where my mouth is and get one ordered, let’s just hope there is some stock….
Many thanks to Nikki Whiles for lending me his superb Marin Alpine Trail E2. Give him a follow-he said he needs more followers!
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