The Great Shimano Steps E8000 Challenge
Much has been said about the power of pedal-assist e-bikes to get folks out into the countryside and how they can encourage those less fit, or less able, to keep riding in the hills that we all love. But there’s a whole world of fun to be had also for ‘regular’ mountain bikers too. We wanted to find a way of showing how averagely fit mountain bikers can have an absolute scream on an e-bike. Sportline kindly loaned us one of its Ariel-e bikes, equipped with Shimano’s top of the range E-8000 electric groupset.
The hill climb challenge
One overlooked benefit of pedal-assist bikes is how well they can take on technical climbs. Even (and even especially) on Eco or Trail mode, the motor translates the ugly, binary pulses of leg power into smooth forward motion, meaning that rocky, grass or gravel climbs can be conquered with way more success than on a mountain bike with a fit rider on it. Just down the road from the office here is one of our favourite descents; all rocky ledges, loose leaves and damp, loamy corners. It’s so technical that no one really bothers doing it as a climb. Maybe on a summer’s day when you’re feeling peppy, but you’d be off and walking in 20m the rest of the year. An ideal e-bike climb then!
We assembled a motley crew of three Singletrack staffers and gave them a challenge of riding to the top of this zig zag monster, turning round and riding back down again. We wanted to see if the climb was possible and to see if it changed the relative speeds of the riders. Would the slowest rider become the fastest? Would turbo-powering it up the hill triumph over a more steady approach? But most of all, does an electric assist bike make ridiculous climbs that you’d never consider, doable? In which case, that blows out of the water how we look at our local, mental trail map. If tough descents can now become climbs as well, then that opens a whole world of possibilities. Riding back up the same trail, or doing favoured loops the wrong way, or just getting to the top of the next hill and the one after it.
We’ve made a little video of our experience. Will they make it to the top? Who will win?