Video: Crossing Switzerland, Italy and France on the eMTB

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I wasn’t completely surprised by the answer. Some drivers thought it was a great idea, although ambitious, some did not know what to think, while others I approached called it the e-shower tour. “After all, it’s electric mountain biking,” was their sarcastic response, as if I offered to join me on a guided jet ski tour of the Florida Keys with dolphin escorts. I felt like I had to walk lightly while inviting friends from the established equestrian community of British Columbia, because most of them still didn’t know what to think about the electronic mountain bike, including me. The plan was an unsupported seven-day crossing across the Swiss, Italian and French Alps; a combination of the Haute Route Traverse and the circumnavigation of the White Month, including a solid immersion in the Aosta Valley in Italy. An aggressive and rugged point-to-point route, mainly on a single track, through some of Europe’s highest peaks, on electric mountain bikes.

The truth is that I had only ridden an electric mountain bike a few times, I had a lot to learn and designing driving routes was the first challenge. I had planned dozens of multi-day trips to the Alps with our guide company Big Mountain Bike Adventures, but this reconnaissance mission was the first on electric bikes. The goal was to spend as much time as possible riding in the Alps, using mountain huts for overnight stays while taking full advantage of our precious 500 watt power but avoiding running out of juice; no one wants to pedal or push a 50-pound rig for a long time. Besides the distance covered and the meters climbed daily, we had to take into account the weight of the riders, the level of assistance to use in relation to the terrain (eco, tour, e-mountain bike or turbo), if we could charge the batteries at lunch and of course be able to charge batteries overnight. Some mountain huts did not have enough power to charge the batteries, which required careful planning. In the end, we chose to each carry an additional battery that we planned to use.
After the night flight to Geneva, we met at Sierre station on a sunny afternoon in late July with chamois, ready to go. Ultimately, our crew consisted of six seasoned and grizzled cyclists from British Columbia each with decades of high performance pedaling and a long list of adventures under their belts; it would be a difficult group to impress. The first was to pack our 25 liter riding bags that had to fit everything from a toothbrush to an extra riding kit, including cameras and chargers, water and snacks and extra tools and parts and first aid kits and clothes for sleeping and the dreaded extra battery for the bike, charger included. Our bags were packed as tightly as possible and weighed about as much as a little fat and angry toddler.

The next morning, we left our historic hotel at 2337m along an incredible strip of singletrack under a beautiful sun with a view of the villages of Zinal and Grimentz far below and the mighty Matterhorn at the end of the valley. The following days were devoted to crossing the Valais in Switzerland, roughly following the famous ski crossing of the Haute Route which goes from Chamonix to Zermatt. We walked along ancient waterways, crossed flowery villages and crossed high mountain passes and bombed mountains, including the 2135 meter track in singletrack from Becs de Bosson to the isolated alpine valley, the Val d´Hérens. It would have been rude not to do so, we ended our Swiss days tasting a variety of fendant wines, the symbolic light of Valais and the aromatic white, while our multitude of batteries blinked and charged up to early morning hours.

Then, Italy and the incredible Aosta Valley where we entered via the Durand Window remote control. Unlike the more rocky Swiss side, the Italian trails had more dirt and forest trails, which was well received. With the help of local guide Patrick, we designed a route over the Aosta Valley on trails that eliminated the 10 best of all time, little-known trails that had seen little mountain biking . And being bella Italia, the lunches were delicious and always washed down with a few dopio espressos while the evenings were spent plunging into polenta, cold cuts, pasta, cheese and grinding dishes of Brunellos and Chiantis as the Pope crushes sermons.

The Aosta Valley was not entirely silty and gastronomic, we had a hard day of 40 kilometers to conquer with 2200 meters of climbing punctuated by a steep bike ride to Colin Malatra, an arrival laden with pitons which looked more like a climbing route than a mountain bike track. During the last push, we removed the batteries from the bikes to lighten them and we helped each other with the human chain technique. It was hard. The reward was spectacular, a descent of 1345 meters to the magnificent Val Ferret at the foot of the imposing Mont Blanc, the highest peak in Europe at 4808 meters.

Arriving in Italia, we finally crossed France on the Col de la Seigne and turned around the Mont Blanc massif on the famous Tour du Mont Blanc route via the village of Les Contamines. The White Month Tour was more popular with hikers, but it was still an incredible race when you looked over your shoulder and up to see the towering Queen of the Alps breaking through the clouds. After several coffees with poor milk, one or two cases of dry burgundians and 340 kilometers of pedaling, 15,077 meters of ascent and 16,298 meters of descent, we drove to Chamonix on a glorious sunny afternoon. We created it.

On the second day of our trip, the electronic shower was never whispered again, it was just the opposite. During the week, we learned a lot about these assistance bikes: that electric mountain bikes are able to travel impressive distances on real mountain terrain, that they are able to clean up some frightening technical climbs, that they eat downhill like a downhill bike, this good suspension is more important than ever, long, quiet lunches in the sun are recommended to charge the batteries and that electric touring bikes should be avoided at all costs. In the end, it was unanimously agreed that electric mountain bikes and the great adventures of the Alps are a match. This e-mountain bike adventure is offered by Big Mountain as an epic eight-day guided trip, but without cycling. Check it out here.

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