We set out to find out what’s happening in the most tech-savvy, hard-hitting corner of E-Mountainbikes by plucking out the two most extreme models and taking them to Germany’s gnarliest downhill track. In a story that pits the Haibike XDURO Dwnhll 9.0 and the ROTWILD R.G+ against each other, this is a somewhat nostalgia-ridden tale of past victories, van-life, kebabs and squeezing in runs. It might leave you with the sense that the title of this article is perhaps misleading.
Bircher muesli and kebabs
For decades, this small, idyllic spa town in the northern part of the Black Forest has been a haven for the downhill community, hosting the German Championships multiple times. The name alone – Bad Wildbad – is enough to raise goosebumps on my skin, reminding me of the heady days when our magazine’s race team (formerly known as Mag41) won the gold and silver medals at the German Champs. Back in 2011, I was the team manager, and landed just outside the top ten with an eleventh place finish amongst the elites. We spent the seasons touring Europe, racing European and World Cup races, sleeping in the camper and getting loose with calculated risk at how long we could hold off the brakes on tracks that not many hikers would even dare to walk down without climbing ropes. Each morning we’d wake to freshly brewed coffee and Bircher muesli. For lunch we’d dine on coca cola and a downhill-doner kebab, while dinner always came with a BBQ, beer and some cool tunes playing out in the riders’ camp.
Chasing seconds, breaking spines and making a comeback
While the purpose of this head-to-head was to determine exactly how potent today’s E-MTBs have become, it also served as the perfect opportunity to relive the good old days. For the purpose of the test, I called on ex-downhill racer and test rider Jens Kraft, who left the sport after breaking his spine in a race but was happy to make a return to a downhill bike for this test. Injuries like his are not an everyday occurrence, but it’s still worth mentioning that downhill mountain biking is an extreme sport. You should only venture on tracks like those in Bad Wildbad once you’ve got sufficient experience, but there’s always going to be an inherent risk with such a sport – especially if you’re planning on letting off the brakes.
When downhill is no longer downhill
Having removed the competitive element, this test was fortunately more about fun than chasing seconds. And these two downhill rigs were starting this down on the valley floor…
This test saw the Haibike XDURO Dwnhll 9.0 go against the ROTWILD R.G+. Weighing in at 24.38 kg, the Haibike retails at € 7,999, while the ROTWILD, which is a kilogram lighter, commands a price of € 8,999. These figures put both bikes around 8 kg heavier than today’s high-end downhill bikes, but there’s added bang for your buck: we rode up the small, paved road on the Sommerberg in turbo mode, covering 300 vertical metres at 17 km/h. With a fully charged battery, both of us (80 kg each) were aiming for at least 4 downhills, which shouldn’t have been a problem…