Lockdown has had some surprising and unexpected benefits. If you’d told me a year ago that despite being restricted to trails you can reach from your front door, one year on I’d be a much better rider for it, I’d have been sceptical at best. But that is indeed what has happened.
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It’s not been purely down to lockdown of course. It’s been a combination of staying local, having an e-MTB and my favourite trail being short and part of a sessionable loop. These three things have combined to accelerate my riding skills progression – something that I have badly needed for quite some time.
The misconception with eMTBs from the very start has been that they are somehow only of use to people who are old, disabled or just lazy. If you are fit, healthy and young then you should seemingly restrict yourself to pedal power alone for your off road fun. That’s never sat well with me, ever since I first threw my leg over an ebike at the London Bike show almost a decade ago. To me they have always been a tool that would allow me to not work out less but actually do more. More miles, more hills and ultimately more fun.
I have a gym membership that I use to try and keep in shape and that means that when I go for a ride my prima facia reason is to enjoy myself and on an eMTB I have found i can do that more often and go further each time. My watch keeps telling me I’m actually getting fitter even though I’m electrically assisted. Case in point is Hannah’s recent experience here where she earned not one but two biscuits by burning enough calories while exploring on her Canyon Stoic eMTB. (Amanda’s biscuit recipe is available here BTW)
But back to the matter at hand and how I managed to become a better rider in a year. The trail is about 500m long and although it has a couple of undulations it is generally all downhill. It’s not particularly technical but it’s very natural and most of the features are part of the landscape. I’ve been riding it for years and so have many other locals. This trail is not unlike hundreds if not thousands to be found around the country. It’s part of a loop that has a long, wide, gravelled constant gradient climb back to the top and it’s that which causes most of the exhaustion when trying to session it on an ‘acoustic’ bike.
Since I don’t ride this trail for fitness the energy burnt on the climb is opportunity wasted as far as I’m concerned. Typically I will give this trail three or four runs before I start to find the climb is beginning to impact on my ability to ride the trail harder. Of course, if I was fitter I’d be able to do more and I get the anti-E-MTB argument there, but the fact is I’m not so this is my personal limit. A limit on my number of attempts to ride the trail is literally a brake on my skills progression – and that’s where the e-MTB comes in. In my case it’s the Canyon Spectral:ON. Details to be found at the bottom of this article.
E-MTBs are coming of age in terms of the fine tuning of their assist powers and also their handling. designers are learning where to put the extra mass in order to limit the sacrifices in trail handling and there’s no question that today’s e-MTBs handle so much better than previous incarnations that are just a few years old. The technology is moving at a rapid pace and each generation of e-MTB is introducing dramatic improvements. If you haven’t ridden one for a few years then I strongly urge you to give a modern one a go again.
On this single day, within the space of less than two hours I took my riding skills to a new level. I more than tripled my number of runs compared to my ‘acoustic’ bike and crucially I hit every feature on this trail that i’d been putting off for ‘next time, maybe’.
I will be back with my acoustic bike to ride this trail again soon but it’s thanks to the unique opportunity that truly sessioning it on an e-MTB for just a few hours that I’ll be able to hit every feature on this trail in a single run.