I am a regular cyclist, riding over 100km a week, with a vertical climb of around 1000 meters up and down the hills near my house. Often, as I am sweating and climbing up a steep hill , I will hear a clicking sound and then someone on an ebike passes me, smiling. I usually pass them later on, as soon as the road flattens out a bit or starts descending. I have often wondered about ebikes. Friends who are not active in sports at all have started riding up steep mountains to enjoy nature and the mountain huts that serve delicious food and provide incredible views before riding back down to the valley. They have done this thanks to the new ebike technologies which are spreading throughout the world – growing 30% a year. Some people consider ebikes cheating and only for older or inactive people. Yet gravel and ebikes are the biggest growth segments in cycling.
I tested a BMC gravel bike with a Shimano drive train and battery on a rainy and cold spring day, starting at Riva on lake Garda and riding up into the beautiful mountains above Lake Garda. This was my first time both on an ebike and a gravel bike.
My first impressions: before getting on the bike I checked the tires and noticed they weren’t fully inflated: my immediate reaction was to request that the tires be inflated more, but I was told that gravel bike tires should not be inflated to the max to allow for better grip on the rocks and gravel and to better absorb impact, since the bike does not have shock absorbers. Once riding, I got a quick instruction on how to change gears and to change ride mode – eco, trail, boost, off. I learned the hard way that you have to put the bike into low gear and shift the mode to boost if you want to climb a sudden steep trail, because if you are in a high gear – even if you put it on boost – you won’t make it up. Battery consumption depends on how often you use boost and whether you are putting in some effort to peddle. During our four-hour climb and descent, I used up a bit more than half the battery’s power. The bike is great, speeding quickly to 25km/h, and then it stops assisting – according to EU regulation that allows only a maximum assisted speed of 25 km/h. When you are going over this speed – especially downhill — means that you are actually peddling, no assistance. That is why non-ebikes can easily pass an ebike rider going downhill.
I went with a group of testers – using the BMC eGravel bike powered by Shimano battery and drive train. We had such a good time, we returned home very late. Had I peddled my non-powered bike up those mountains, I would have been exhausted – instead I must have used up about 30% or less of the energy usually required, even though I did sweat. The bike is very stable on the paths and going down the rocky hills and fast on the road – the power is fun to use – a different type of bicycle experience.
Most of the mountain bike rentals on Lake Garda are ebikes – since tourists prefer an assisted climb to see the beauty of the mountains and enjoy the views without too much effort. Try one regardless of your level, and have fun…….It’s the future!
written by: Laurence F. Hopper