A pleasure to get started on a mountain e-bike in the Vysočina region

“When you look at a tree, you come across a tree,” our guide remarked wisely.

We were on electric mountain bikes in the dramatic Cairngorms. In one of the motorcycle’s boost modes, it was easy to overwhelm pedaling with the help of an engine, thus hitting inanimate objects too boldly stable to get out of our way.

That was why our cycling sage – Chris Gibbs, the main guide to H + I Adventures for mountain biking holidays – advised us to wear knee and elbow pads as well as a noggin.

Jude climbing in the Cairngorms.  The heather was home to millions of little biting beasts, which made Carlton joke that this was Glen Midgie

Jude climbing in the Cairngorms. The heather was home to millions of little biting beasts, which made Carlton joke that this was Glen Midgie

Jude riding in Glen Feshie on an e-mountain bike Merida with EP8

Jude riding in Glen Feshie on an e-mountain bike Merida with EP8

WHAT IS THE EP8 UNIT?

EP8 is a Shimano electric bicycle drive unit, a 2.6 kg motor in the center area, behind the front gear. It’s an “auxiliary pedal”, so you have to keep pedaling to increase battery performance. In other words, e-bikes are not motorcycles where you use gas and you don’t have to pedal. Like almost all e-bikes in the UK and the EU, an e-bike equipped with EP8 provides assistance up to 25 km / h or around 15 mph.

However, speed is not everything and the EP8 provides incredible torque (actually 85 newton meters of torque), so you can easily overcome steep hills. The motor is built into the wheel frame just like the battery, although it is also removable for easy charging.

There are third-party engines that can turn standard bikes into e-bikes, but the EP8 system is something that bike companies suggest around rather than something that can be attached to your own bike.

EP8 is what is known as the “middle engine” system, because the drive unit is a bit in the middle of the wheel frame. Another e-bike system is that the engine is in the rear wheel hub. Most European e-bikes now use medium motors because they are more efficient and it is better to have a weight in the middle of the wheel than on the rear wheel.

Metaphorically wrapped in a helicopter-style bubble wrap, we felt like children again. Well, I did it anyway, so I had the crazy urge to jump forward to splashing water to soak my wife with my spinning rear wheel.

‘Oh thank you!’ Jude shouted sarcastically.

“I’m peeing now!”

“Ha, ha, you just waved the tide,” Chris laughed.

“Next time, you’ll have to be faster to get him back,” he suggested.

“He wanted me to scream; he did it on purpose,” Jude replied, knowing I wanted live sound effects for the podcast I was recording.

“It’s not a Scottish bike ride until your feet are wet anyway,” Chris warned, also with a radio microphone.

“By the time you walk through several mountain streams, making your way through the pines for peeling, it’s practically a spa treatment.”

We were at the majestic Glen Feshie on the third and final day of a private tour organized by Shimano’s bicycle components brand, who wanted me to try out its latest EP8 electric mountain bike assistance system (see box).

Electronics? In wet Scotland?

Despite the rain, jumping over splashing water and Jude dipping her bike into the creek as I photographed every millimeter of her fall in burst mode on my iPhone, the batteries on the bike survived.

And even though we took several long rides through the valley – I especially liked my joke about Glen Midgie – in the highest power modes, we never even came close to completely discharging the battery.

I am an experienced mountain biker; Jude is a relative newcomer. Relative in that she last rode a mountain bike – and even carefully then – about 20 years ago. Since then, the MTB has not ridden much and has certainly not been on any of these new, fully sprung eMTBs.

Being an omniscient old man, I was guilty of relying on riding styles from a young age, so it was an education for me to watch Chris show Judo how best to overcome obstacles on the trail, such as roots or fallen. branches and show off the best stance on the bike for downhill.

“This is the time to take advantage of that drip column,” Chris advised, pointing to an electronic device that slams the saddle and its seat post with a push of a lever and a boom, so you sit lower on the bike and are therefore less likely to be thrown forward.

“Pull out the saddle and start to fall nicely,” Chris said, exaggerating his stance over the motorcycle as he rode forward.

“Like a big gorilla!” he laughed.

Instructor Chris Gibbs riding across Fhearnagen Creek in Glen Feshie

Instructor Chris Gibbs riding across Fhearnagen Creek in Glen Feshie

Oops!  Jude falls into the Fhearnagen stream.  Carlton notes that the batteries on her bike survived the sinking

Oops! Jude falls into the Fhearnagen stream. Carlton notes that the batteries on her bike survived the sinking

Chris explains Judo's driving technique as they descend to H + I Adventures HQ near the Beauly Firth near Inverness

LEFT: Chris explains Judo’s driving technique as they descend to H + I Adventures HQ near the Beauly Firth near Inverness. RIGHT: ‘Ride like a big gorilla!’ Chris said

Jude crossing the Coire Follais stream near Aviemore. EP8 on the motorcycles the group rode are “auxiliary pedal” units that provide “incredible torque”

Jude and Chris going to Glen Feshie.  Chris leads trips on e-bikes and non-electric bikes.  He likes both, says Carlton

Jude and Chris going to Glen Feshie. Chris leads trips on e-bikes and non-electric bikes. He likes both, says Carlton

The screen on the handlebars of the Merida e-bike with EP8 equipment shows the speed and the rider switches between eco, trail and Boost modes.

The screen on the handlebars of the Merida e-bike with EP8 equipment shows the speed and the rider switches between eco, trail and Boost modes.

“You have plenty of room for the bike to move under you, and you have 160mm suspension so you don’t have to turn around every stone,” he shouted, crashing into a large rock and rolling over it. lighten.

“If you can relax in your arms and legs, the motorcycle will swallow it for you,” he promised.

“So just nice and easy; along this line; here on the left. “

Prang! Jude crashed into a tree.

“I’m sorry,” she shouted unscathed.

“No, don’t apologize,” Chris reassured her.

“The trick looks far ahead. See where you want to be, because when you look at a tree, you come across a tree. When you look behind a tree, you sail right past it. ”

Hotel pictures Bunchrew House from a drone next to the Beauly Firth near Inverness, with the Kessock Bridge in the distance

Hotel pictures Bunchrew House from a drone next to the Beauly Firth near Inverness, with the Kessock Bridge in the distance

“Bunchrew House is an ideal base for mountain biking in the hills above Inverness or for traveling to the Cairngorms,” ​​writes Carlton

A few hours later, Jude’s technique — and, to be honest, mine — had improved tremendously, and she had been able to climb the roots of the steep that would have knocked her down the first day.

And she could also go after them with the help of an engine, but she still had to tread.

Chris leads trips on e-bikes and non-electric bikes. He likes both.

“At that moment.” [electric mountain biking] he clicked for me, “Chris recalled,” as I began to reduce my energy. There would be climbs that I would never do physically on a regular bike; as super technical or super steep, but the e-bike with the drive down gave me just that [power] that I was still working really hard physically, but suddenly I was able to do things I wouldn’t have done otherwise. “

View from the bar of the ancient cedar Bunchrew House, set in the 17th century

View from the bar of the ancient cedar Bunchrew House, set in the 17th century

A sign explaining the history of the Bunchrew House cedar tree

A sign explaining the history of the Bunchrew House cedar tree

Jude agreed. Better technology was now getting her down the hills, but with eMTB she was now also able to overcome steep rocky climbs that she probably wouldn’t have been able to do on a mountain bike with only pedals.

“You still feel like you’re on a mountain bike,” she agreed.

Don’t you feel like you’re riding a motorcycle, I asked?

‘No!’ she replied, almost offended.

Our ride ended and when it started to rain, we drove to our luxury accommodation, the historic Bunchrew House next to the Beauly Firth, just a few miles west of Inverness.

We already had our highland spa treatment – mostly mud – so we took a shower after dinner, a silver service in the dining room of the old hotel with oak paneling and large bay windows overlooking the sea.

We had a good meal while Chris and I talked about how we were going that day when the sun was setting behind the Black Isle hills in the distance. Luxury.

  • To listen to Carlton’s podcast out of the way, click here.

TRAVEL FACTS … AND MORE ABOUT THE STUNNING BUNCHREW HOUSE

Jude drinks in the view from Bunchrew House Dining Room

Jude drinks in the view from Bunchrew House Dining Room

Bunchrew House is an ideal base for mountain biking in the hills above Inverness or for traveling to the Cairngorms. The hotel is also popular with those who travel – or drive – along the North Coast 500. The Scottish response to Route 66, NC500, is a spectacular route that winds along the coastal roads of the North Highlands.

Bunchrew is a Scottish mansion with references to Jacobite Risings. It was built in 1600 by John Forbes. Fans of the historic television series Outlander will be tickled that the house has ties to both the Fraser and Mackenzie clans. The walls of the hotel, which have a touch of country home, are decorated with original oil portraits of the Fraser-Mackenzie and Forbes families.

H + I Adventures is a stone’s throw from Bunchrew House. Group trips begin and end at this newly built headquarters. H + I used to mean Highlands and Islands, but did not return to initials until the company began offering overseas MTB trips. H + I has three group trips in Scotland: the Highland Odyssey, which runs through the Cairngorms and then to the west coast and up to Torridon in the northwest.

There is also a week-long trip to the Cairngorms, traversing from east to west from coast to coast. A private three-day H + I tour with a daily shuttle to Cairngorms costs £ 1,550 per person, with Bunchrew House accommodating a minimum of two people for two nights with breakfast and dinner included.

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