E-bikes (Electric Bikes!) are big news in the Alps. In fact they are big news across the bike industry. For a start it is a growing sector and industry always craves growth. The latest figures I can find from bike-eu.com make it look like 23% of the 325,000 bikes sold last year in Switzerland were e-bikes, bringing the total number of e-bikes in the country to 400,000. It seems that these e-bike sales are in addition to the regular bike sales.
I've been a two-wheel fanatic since my youth and I find this pretty logical. E-bikes are democratising cycling, making it available to all, not just the fit. That is especially the case in the mountains. I've just spent 6 days cycling across the Alps to Nice and kept thinking that with an e-bike this trip would be open to everyone who is willing to ride a bike. Unsurprisingly I saw plenty of people doing just that, the IGN map I had was adapted for e-bikes too.
The Portes du Soleil is working hard to promote e-bikes, they have been for a few years, 20+ shops have them for rent, most of the information you need including a map is on this webpage
And this year an e-bike festival.
My usual advice stands in this area. Unless you are a confident bike rider heading off the road onto the trails comes with some dangers. I recommend hiring a guide to start with. For the intepid I have highlighted some of the easier trails in the Portes du Soleil area here:
Each year the Portes du Soleil hosts a huge MTB event called the "Pass'Portes du Soleil" I've always taken the opportunity to have a free go on the Lapierre e-bikes that are available for demonstration. This year for the first time there is an e-Pass'Portes route. In fact they have taken one of my favourite routes and added in a couple of lifts for good measure. It'll be a great day out if you get a chance!
Some people don't see the point of e-bikes, here is my take on the pro's and cons.
- They mean you can MTB in the mountains without lifts, so out of season, late in the evening or out of the area. That can save you 27€ a day on a lift pass!
- They can bring a disparate group of abilities together. The fit ones won't have to wait for 20 min at the top of the climb....and then announce they are ready to go 10 seconds after the less fit have arrived!
- As above for couples that want to ride together. They no longer have to use a tandem!
- Biking is a wonderful sport that some people shy away from because of lack of fitness. The e-bike can solve the problem.
- E-bikes are expensive
- They are heavy
- E-bikes are almost a motor vehicle...and with that in mind could cause issues with other users of our wild spaces.
- Once you have ridden one, getting back on a normal bike seems like hard work!
- They are a rapidly changing technology, next year's e-bike will be better and cheaper than this year's!*
* I have hired a bike each year for the last few years and each time I have thought...they are "nearly" there. This year I used a 2017 bike and I think the manufactures have nailed it. Beyond the weight of the bike (which you don't notice when riding) and the range (I rode 30km and ascended 700m), I could not think how it could be improved.
*I have just seen that Bosch (one of the main manufacturers of e-bike motors) is adding ABS...http://www.bikeradar.com/road/news/article/e-bike-abs-braking-50226/ ...it looks like you can always make something better!