Sessioning trails on e-MTB is quickest way to improve skills

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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.

Mark rode the Canyon Spectral:ON

Comments (8)

    It’s funny I was in my local woods yesterday. I cleared a fair bit of dead fall and debris, usually it can be frustrating with fallen trees blocking the ( unofficial) trail they would need hours with a chainsaw But using my Kona Remote Control I was able to buzz around and put together a nice alternative. I measured it on Strava and it was exactly 1 mile. Happy days There are a couple of short punchy uphill sections which aren’t a problem with a bit of assistance. Linked them all together turned out best ride of the year so far, no substitute for Quantocks Exmoor etc but under the circumstances I’ll take it.

    Any chance STW members can get a discount on an e-bike, seen as you are sponsored by them

    Great vid, but I’m convinced that this is one of those multiple riders/Stig things, so you could accomplish 13 laps on just one snack.

    Great video showing the fun you can gain from an e-bike. I have been bikeless for a while – multiple mechanicals so have been lucky enough to hire an e-bike for a month. My commute to work has never been so much fun, a brute of a climb each way is now just smiles for miles. Absolutely love the bike, definitely got me thinking about a purchase sooner rather than later (bank balance permitting).

    They’re clearly great for individuals but in terms of damage to trails it was probably better when people were limited by their fitness. Doing three times as many runs is clearly going to cause more damage, especially to natural trails. Mud is far less of a hinderance when you’ve got an extra 250W of power.

    Dancing!.. on a mountain bike trail… in Lancashire. Was it the sunshine?

    Well worth the watch even for just the old guy dance at the end, I often use mine for laps of the Glentress enduro race section down from Ewok Wall to Ponduro, a good few minutes of joy followed by a nice boost ride back up the forest roads. My very own bit of private uplift sessioning out the back door ;)

    Been wondering why ebikers are now going down our local trails faster than a pro-downhiller – obvious when explained

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