Feature

Electric Adventures

January 17, 2020

Story by: Greg Hill
Photos by: Bruno Long

The topic of electric mountain bikes tends to be a polarizing conversation these days and people can be defensive and confrontational, no matter what side of the coin they’ve chosen. In my mind, the general adoption of e-bikes as a means of transportation is a given and the conversations would be more constructive if they focused on how and why they can improve our lives and took a step away from a judgmental “no way” stance.

I’ve spent the last two years of my life focused on proving the potential of electric adventures. I gave up using fossil fuels to access my adventures and have worked hard at the idea of exploring what it means to adventure sustainably. Living in British Columbia, 98% of our electricity is renewable hydroelectricity. If there’s ever a place where an electric vehicle make sense, it’s here. A major challenge I gave myself when switching to a more sustainable way of adventuring was to try and summit 100 peaks through the use of my skis, climbing shoes, running shoes, or on my mountain bike - accessing everything with the help of an electric car. By accomplishing this goal, I proved that electric cars are viable as adventures vehicles but couldn’t help but wonder what other modes of transportation could help the process. What were some ways in which I could travel further into the backcountry where my little hatchback didn’t want to go? Or what about other people that were interested in the idea of a sustainable adventure but couldn’t afford a $45,000 car?

Naturally, my electric exploration took me into the field of e-bikes. I had ripped around on an Instinct Powerplay in our trail network which is usually for shuttling and it was an eye-opening experience. My friend and I rode right from town, climbed to the top easily, laughing and chatting on the climb, and had an absolute blast coming back down. The Instinct Powerplay proved itself to me as a viable way to work the local trail network, but what about as an adventure mobile?

Last spring, I set up a Growler Powerplay for going places in a simpler way and without the use of my electric car. I’d set it up for nearly every type of adventure I could think of which included panniers and baskets on the front and back for my climbing gear, running gear, and most importantly my ski gear. It's a little odd for such a sick mountain bike to become a gear-laden donkey, but I promised it some great adventures.

I had no idea how useful this e-bike was going to be. Since I’m a skier first and foremost, my first goal was to ride my e-bike out of town, and climb and ski Revelstoke’s iconic peak, Mount Begbie. I’d skied Mount Begbie many times before, but setting out and riding 15km to the trailhead, summiting, shredding, and then an E-asy ride home was both simple and rewarding.

That trip up Mount Begbie was just the start of my time on the Growler Powerplay and what truly blew my mind was something I hadn’t expected; the fact that it opened up the door to adventures for others in my family. My 13-year old daughter took the bike for a 20km ride simply because she was having a great daydream and wanted it to continue. She’s not one for cardio and I’ve always had trouble motivating her to get and explore with me. There was another day where she was determined to join me on a road ride, and spent the time coaching me on the climbs with both encouragement and enthusiasm.

My 70-year old dad, who is not a very active person, threw his leg over the Growler Powerplay and joined me on a road ride up to the Revelstoke Dam. While I huffed and puffed my way up the valley, I couldn’t help but recognize how special it was to be able to go and exercise with my dad. Opportunities like this have never come along before, and it was the e-MTB that made it a reality.

Last July, my friend and I borrowed two Instinct Powerplay’s and headed to Joss Mountain for what was sure to be an epic ride. I was sitting at 98 summits accessed electrically and I wanted to get to the top of a mountain by e-bike. The Joss Mountain trail ascends 1100m and is about 17km return with several hike-a-bike sections. This trail was built to access a summit lookout for monitoring wild fires and was not designed to be ridden. For the sections that were too steep to pedal (even with the assistance of the drive system), the “walk-mode” feature kept us moving onward and upward towards peak #99.

 

 

 

 

 

All summer, I used the Growler Powerplay to rip around town, get groceries, go rock climbing, and cut down the time spent getting to trailheads. Sure, I could have ridden by normal mountain bike to them but this allowed me more energy for the activities themselves. And being honest with myself, even though it’s only 2 km into town I sometimes get lazy and don’t want to pedal my mountain bike. The e-bike helped me overcome that that laziness and all of a sudden it just seemed simpler with less involved to ride than drive.

Now that it’s winter again, I’ll use the bike less as the roads here are completely covered in snow. Yet when the roads are clear I’m happy to pedal up to the local ski resort, Revelstoke Mountain Resort, where their electric-run lifts align with my own beliefs. When the roads open up again in the spring I’ll be back pedalling up logging roads to access deeper backcountry ski routes.

I knew getting onto an e-bike made sense with my eco-conscious activities, but I didn’t really realize how many doors it would open for me and my family. The potential of these bikes is as endless as the dreams I can create.
 
Previous Feature Guiding in the Dolomites I’ve spent several years riding my mountain bike through remote, little-known places around the world. Usually, I’m barely back at home before the next wave of wanderlust comes over me and I feel the pull to set off again. 
Next Feature Frozen Bikes and Big Descents: Thomas Vanderham takes on the Variables of Trans-Cascadia With a career spanning two decades, Thomas Vanderham has dabbled in just about every style of riding going – he’s clearly best known for his freeriding edits – but it’s been some time since he’s participated in anything with a timing chip. “This was a little bit of a departure for me, but I’m always open to new experiences,” he says of his experience at Trans-Cascadia; a 4-day backcountry enduro held in the depths of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest in Washington state.