How an electric mountain bike can take your adventures to a whole new level
By Mallory Mae
Recently I was asked the question, “Why do you ride?” The answer was easy: “Freedom, a quiet mind.” Spinning pedals slow my spinning mind, and satiate my need for adventure.
My spinning mind has been questioning the e-bike craze lately. See, my first love is hardcore cross country, through and through. I live for the pedal up, and love carving my way around berms on the way down; hardtail happiness. Isn’t it “cheating” to ride an electric bike? When I was invited to give an electric mountain bike a try, I accepted the invitation with a fair amount of skepticism. Before I knew it, I was being fitted for a Trek Powerfly LT 7 at Epicenter Cycling … and curiosity was quickly replacing the skepticism.
Loading the long-travel, full-suspension electric mountain bike into my truck, I couldn’t help the smile on my face. I had a new toy to play with. The bike boasts a tantalizing geometry that allows the rider to slash through new terrain. Additionally, its frame ensures a balanced weight-to-speed ratio as a function of the straight down tube (designed with fork caps in mind). I could not wait to pony up.
With two days to connect with my demo bike, I chose Wilder Ranch State Park for the first ride. This Santa Cruz gem boasts the terrain and steep climbs that would acquaint me with the bike’s mechanics. I completed that day’s responsibilities by 3pm which meant a late take-off for January light. My steed was waiting for me; hopping on, I instantly felt the giddy rush of pure joy experienced by kids trying an activity for the first time.
My adventure kicked off with some street riding before hitting the bike path to Wilder. By the third stop light I found my equilibrium and used the surface area of the 27.5 mid-fat tires to maintain a strong track stand. I soon turned onto the riverwalk, and hit “touring” mode. With the bike in high gear, I found myself hitting dirt two times faster than I would have otherwise. I could have gone faster, but I used my maiden pedal to get a feel for the weight and balance of the bike. I began my ascent primed and ready to see what this new machine could do.
On this first time out, my plan was to focus on understanding the motor; specifically, how the motor was beneficial past the pedal assist. Instead, this well-intentioned goal was mostly overshadowed by responsibly enjoying the speed potential perpetuated by the mid-drive motor. The motor assists the rider up to 20 miles per hour. Pedaling uphill in “turbo” mode, my objective became “How close can I get to 20 mph?” My first day I PR’d at 18.7 mph. I was sweating while pedaling uphill at nearly 20 mph. It felt amazing.
For my second ride, I planned to tackle a solid cross-country loop through Hollister Hills State Park. This area is known for being sandy, and during the wet season offers some good technical pedaling.
Now that I felt comfortable with the balance and mechanical characteristics of the bike, I could fully appreciate the frame’s form derived from function. Therefore, my intention on this second ride was to challenge myself to max cardio while maintaining that magic connection between pedal and rider … the flow of cadence that soothes the soul.
Map in pocket and route in mind, I stepped off. While the previous day’s ascents were mostly double track and fire road, I was now climbing singletrack … and the bike and I clicked.
As I rode on, I realized all the training potential inherent in the geometry and mode functions of this electric mountain bike. Because of its 1×11 drivetrain and four speed modes, you can put as much or as little resistance into your climb as desired. Making my way through the cross country trail system, I experimented with the pedal assist along the spectrum of resistance.
One of the coolest training benefits of the e-bike came to me as I was clicking through gears and modifying modes. I realized that the motor could assist me in focusing narrowly on balance and core strength (high gear, more assist), as well as flexibility and coordination (low gear, more assist).
This discovery lured me off my planned route. I went into a daze flexing my hips while climbing technical terrain. The pedal assist gave just enough boost to eliminate any negative kinetic momentum (gravity). More simply, I shredded up some technical singletrack, and had so much fun doing so, I got totally lost in the gut of Hollister Hills.
Weaving my way through manzanita trees on the sandy trails, I found myself so enamored by nature’s beauty it felt like a fairy tale. I stopped at the top of one climb and sat down with an orange to appreciate the vista: a wide-open canyon. There was a California condor soaring over the valley, and in the periphery I spotted a red-tail hawk, mid-dive into the field-mouse haven below. With the sun sinking into the canyon’s horizon, I took out my map to route my way back to the parking lot.
I exceeded my planned route by 15 miles. Had I not ventured off the beaten path, my adventure would have been great. However, due to an optional boost from an electric mountain bike, my adventure was grand. Indeed, the e-bike’s pedal assist didn’t detract from my love for pedaling; it in fact turned a 20-mile planned route into a 35-mile adventure, all in the same time frame. I discovered that an electric mountain bike is both a training vehicle for the body to accumulate balance-derived strength, and a supreme tool for quieting the mind and experiencing freedom.
Are YOU ready to take your journeys farther, to explore more and plunge into the natural world around you? Hop on an e-bike and let it take YOUR adventures to a whole new level; skeptics, dare to be surprised.
Mallory Mae started surfing at age 7, and fell in love with mountain bikes 15 years later. Consequently, discovering that mountain biking is “fluid dynamics in a different medium (hydrodynamics vs aerodynamics)” mechanized a giddy fire in Mallory to follow bikes for personal and professional stability. A former lifeguard and teacher, Mallory is passionate about helping people. She does this these days to promoting the benefits of a bicycle-centered lifestyle. She is the latest addition to the crew at Epicenter Cycling (Santa Cruz and Aptos) where she builds bikes and drives the mountain bike shuttle. Most importantly, she gets to write about bikes — dream job! Email Mallory at firstname.lastname@example.org.