Put Your Ego in Your Pocket!
An OMG! E-Bike experience with Magic Places Director, Matt Barlee
About three years ago I found myself in Garmisch, a gorgeous little town that bumps up against the mighty Bravarian Alps, with five days to relax and decompress between running tours at the Haute Route Pyrenees and Haute Route Dolomites, and we know what a bike tour operator likes to do in his down time. Problem was, I didn’t have a bike, but thanks to the wonderful guys at The Bike Centre, that was quickly rectified, albeit not in a manner I would have planned.
I walked into the shop hoping to rent some fancy euro-race-mountain-machine, ride some epic single track high in the hills, and have the time of my life, all the while stopping to take selfies of my mud-caked, shit-eating grin to make my MTB friends at home green with envy. Unfortunately, my hopes were dashed by a chaotic group of visiting Italians (is chaotic a redundant word here?) who effectively cleaned the shop out of any rentals, leaving me to choose between something that looked like a yellow electric guitar with wheels and a big, black, heavy-as-hell Cube E-Mountain Bike. Despite it’s repulsive yellow colour, the guitar would’ve won out, if it wasn’t sized to fit Herve Villechiez. “The Cube will fit you,” said the store owner enthusiastically, but before I even realized it, my racer-inflated ego jumped out of my mouth and scoffed something about E-bikes not being real cycling. He chuckled, obviously having had this conversation before with numerous other self-titled world champions of everything cycling. “You’ve never ridden one, have you,” he smiled. “Just take it, you’re going to love it! Besides, nobody’s with you.” I felt like I was being sold drugs, and casually glanced around the store to see if anyone was seeing the deal go down. The Italians were boisterously (again, redundant?) arguing (or agreeing, I really don’t know which) over who was paying, hands waving vigorously with so much gesticulation that I’m pretty sure I could have bought a contraband elephant without detection. “Fine, I’ll take it,” I hissed beneath my breath, unable to resist the lure of this two-wheeled anti-Christ of all that is pure and just in cycling.
After 13 minutes of feigning to browse through the store (all the while avoiding the E-bike, lest someone think I’m renting it), the coast was clear, and I hurriedly scribbled my signature , threw them my card, and rushed out the door with the bike. I scanned the street nervously in case the Velominati may have been alerted to my travesty and were descending with sirens and lights blazing, and with no SWAT team evident, I threw a leg over, pushed the power-assist to ‘Max,’ and sprinted away from the scene of the crime, weaving through cars like Jason Borne.
It took about 8 seconds for me to realize something – this heavy beast can MOVE! My second epiphany came about 20 minutes later, as I’m climbing a grinding double-track up through the forest above the town – I’m smiling. While climbing! And it just got better and better as the minutes turned into hours. I got to experience all the joy, excitement, and occasional sphincter-tightening close calls on this E-Bike that make mountain biking such a special pursuit for me. I was converted.
Fast forward to 2018 as I’m organizing rental bikes from France Bike Rentals to outfit our upcoming BBR19 charity bike ride to celebrate the 75th anniversary of D-Day. Where I once derided them for being a ’cop out’, I now love how E-Bikes have created the opportunity for many of our BBR riders to participate in this demanding 80km/day, 7 day epic tour, that would otherwise have been a Bataan Death March. Additionally, with the massive leaps in battery technology, E-Bikes have ‘levelled the field’ between stronger and weaker riders, allowing friends and partners of varying abilities to enjoy riding together, sharing the sights, sounds, and smells that make cycle touring the absolute best way to explore this beautiful world we live in. The E-Bike revolution is upon us, and I’m honestly embarrassed that I didn’t embrace it immediately. Quite simply, it puts cycling in the hands (well, under the bums, really) of more and more people.
More people on bikes. More smiles. Fewer cars. Where’s the bad in that?