While people tend to hear about professional riders performing adrenaline-pumping feats, for many people the sport of mountain biking is mostly about getting out and enjoying the wilderness. With the recent development of motor-driven, electricassist bikes, recreational mountain biking has become more accessible than ever. While some physical fitness is still required, suddenly riders can enjoy the sensation of superhuman strength, tackling longer distances and uphill trails with relative ease.
On Canadian Wilderness Adventures’ Great Canadian E-Bike Adventure tour, visitors to Whistler can ride the Giant Full-E, a 500-watt, dual-suspension E-MTB around a custom-built network of trails in the scenic Callaghan Valley. Guests wind past 1,000-year-old trees toward Alexander Falls, while professional guides provide helpful biking tips and share information about your surroundings.
As an avid mountain biker, I was happy to give the Giant Full-E a test ride myself. After easily completing a normally challenging loop of trails in recordshattering time, I immediately understood the appeal of electric bikes! The differences between the E-MTB and a regular MTB are noticeable, but overall highly empowering and never encumbering.
Here’s what I think first-time riders should know about pedal-assist bikes: With no throttle, operating these E-bikes is simple. The motor automatically starts assisting when you push the pedals and stops when you pause. The power kicks in smoothly, so it will never lift up your front wheel or flip you over. E-bikes are equipped with a full range of gears, and you do still have to shift between them as you would on a regular mountain bike — the pedal assist won’t compensate enough to allow you spin up steep hills in a fartoo-large gear.
While electric bikes are much heavier than a typical mountain bike, the assist they provide more than makes up for the difference as you pedal up or along the trail. E-bikes are also equipped with powerful hydraulic disc brakes, so a gentle squeeze on the brake levers will bring you to a halt.
There are only a few buttons on the handlebar-mounted control unit. The only functions are to turn the motor on/off, switch between power-assist levels, and turn the display’s backlight on/off. There are three power levels, so casual riders can boost the juice while experienced bikers can provide more of their own output.
To sum it up, if you are comfortable riding mellow off-road trails on a normal mountain bike, the hardest part of adjusting to an E-MTB will be keeping the silly grin off your face as you experience the empowering boost it provides! Many of CWA’s employees have tested the E-bikes themselves, and found the ride less strenuous, making for a whole new feeling of fun on the trails. “It made biking really, really fun again … it picks the pace up, (and) makes the whole experience faster and more fun. It takes the hard part out and leaves all the good parts,” says CWA co-owner Allan Crawford.
The Great Canadian E-Bike Adventure tour route consists of wide doubletrack trails that include some rolling hills and gentle downhill slopes, but advanced skills are not required. As you still exert some effort on an E-MTB, the tour is best suited to active individuals. However, adjustable-assist electric bikes do make it easier for groups of varied abilities to enjoy riding together. Each guide rides with up to five guests, and water, helmets, gloves, riding glasses and rain jackets are provided as needed.
Including round-trip transportation from Whistler Village, Canadian Wilderness Adventures’ E-MTB tours take about three hours to complete. As soon as the trails are snow-free (approximately midto late-June), three tours will depart each day at 9 a.m., noon and 3:30 p.m.
For more information visit canadianwilderness.com.