Those who travel by bike usually head off-road, off the beaten track. Into nature – away from the hustle and bustle. Instead of heading out to the countryside, however, our editorial team has been hitting up the cities, or rather the metropolises. We tell you why it’s worth visiting them with your ebike!
To be clear, we know that some of you out there are working your butts off every day. Get up early, hardly any time for breakfast, bend over backwards at work, have dinner, watch some Netflix, go to bed. At the weekends, you might have two or three hours to spin the cranks and take a few deep breaths in the woods. You might even live in a metropolis and all you expect from your bike holiday – time permitting – is peace, quiet, nature and a handful of trails. But what if you could make even more of it?
- “The usual, please!”
- Discover the city, discover yourself
- “No more than a pretty facade.”
- Common knowledge
- City ≠ noise!
- A city can change your life
- Bon dia Barcelona– A change of perspective in explorer mode
- Viennese melange – In tension between tradition and modernity
- Zurich’s double life – An exciting blend of NYC and Berlin?
- Lisbon, the city of explorers – In Turbo mode between Vasco da Gama and overtourism
- Berlin Calling – So Berlin
- On a speed date with Frankfurt – A city with ups and downs
- A city that almost has it all – Paris, the brand
- „Roma non basta una vita“ – A lifetime isn’t enough to experience Rome
“The usual, please!”
First of all: we define ourselves as nature lovers, our vocabulary consists of whips, reach and doubles. Not too long ago, we still referred to cities as Mordor. The idea of holidaying in a metropolis wasn’t one we’d have even in our most drunken states. Enjoying a trip like that seemed completely absurd. It didn’t fit our image either. Who are we, some tourists? Besides, the traffic is too loud, the air is too polluted, there are far too many people, the distances are too far between, and we want to shred – sorry – ride green trails. Even the logistics of a city trip are way too much of a challenge. No way! So, for years we stuck to: “the usual, please.” That way, at least we knew what we were getting. The question always seemed: why experiment and possibly spoil our long-awaited and well-deserved holiday? What does a city have to offer, anyway?
Eventually, we noticed that we’d become so entangled in the web of our routine that we were stuck, unable to break free. Surrounded by tasks and caught in the same perspective. The mountain behind the house that we’d ridden so often was the highlight of our weekends, the cherry on top of our week, even though it had grown mouldy by now. When we did go on holiday, we went directly to Finale or a nearby trail centre with a very familiar view of the countryside. Do you recognise yourself in this description? Then it’s high time you do the same thing we did back then. That is to change things up a little, to break out and discover something new. Time to charge the batteries and just head out in any direction. Time to explore in Turbo mode.
Discover the city, discover yourself
Do you feel uninspired and urgently need a new perspective on things? If you visit the metropolises of this world with their very own sound and pace, you’ll also discover new sides to yourself. Take Frankfurt, for example. The first reaction of the editor in charge of this proposal was: “Frankfurt? No way!” Of all the City Escape destinations, none of us was very enthusiastic about visiting Germany’s financial capital. Red light district and the European Central Bank = no fun! But you’ll always walk away from a trip like this being smarter and more inspired. In addition to an infinite variety of long trails overlooking “Mainhattan”, what we found was a new place in ourselves. Frankfurt is the city of movers and shakers! The people here don’t just talk about projects, they get to work and make them a reality. In short, this is where things get done! We took this mentality and new perspective back home with us and immediately started an exciting, still secret project. Frankfurt provided the necessary motivation and the urge to start something new.
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“No more than a pretty facade.”
A city is rarely the way you expect it to be. Who would have thought, for example, that Paris is more than just a pretty facade, and that even its bicycle lanes are getting wider? When you visit a city, the prejudices often outweigh the anticipation. But every city will teach you to think differently. On our trip to the French capital, we kept having our prejudices proven to be wrong: we found well-built trails with relaxed locals who even spoke English within half an hour’s distance from the Eiffel Tower. A city of chaos and traffic jams? In the centre of the fashion capital, you’ll increasingly find people rolling up the sleeves of their haute couture and swinging their legs over a saddle – the traffic is easing, the air quality improving. Admittedly, we’ve been drinking even more wine and leaving more buttons open on our linen shirts since this trip. But expanding your horizons through travel never comes without risks and side effects.
In Berlin, we couldn’t stop the party. Wait a minute, isn’t that another one of those prejudices? It’s not because, while we did visit two or three clubs at night, we also celebrated some well-built trails, the capital’s diversity and our insights into new realities during the day. For some, it’s a city that’s kind of crazy and different, for others, it’s an overrated and annoying hype. And for others still, it’s a place to escape narrow-minded views, to be inspired and to live an alternative lifestyle. It also forced us to question old patterns of thinking and open up to new things. Since Berlin, we feel more tolerant and open-minded and somehow happier because of that. After all, we were confronted with ideas that we’d never encountered in the countryside or any other city.
Of course, you can google everything, but first-hand experience is so much better. If you visit a city, you always learn something new. And, usually, it’s a whole lot more than just a few new words, which you can show off the next time you visit your local Italian restaurant. During our tour of Rome, we rode our eMTBs from Pontius to Pilate in Tour mode instead of a tour bus, and from the Trevi Fountain to the Pope with almost one pedal stroke. By the way, we also learned that honking your horn in Italy can mean much more than just “hey, you idiot!” and that ancient Rome continues to have a fundamental impact on our lives today. As early as 300 years before Christ, the Romans built the first concrete aqueducts (!), some of which still supply the city with water today – albeit restored. All Romance languages, such as Spanish, French and Romanian, are derived directly from Latin, and the same applies to many foreign words in German and English. Even motorways and roads originate from ancient Rome, some of which still get used today. So, a history lesson aboard bikes with knobby tires! We hoped to be able to use this newly gained knowledge at some point to just slip it in casually during a conversation. Or in a text about the benefits of City Escapes.
City ≠ noise!
How about surfing, biking or taking a stroll through the historic district? Lisbon proves that cities don’t always have to be a concrete jungle full of traffic jams and that you can find tranquillity in a metropolis. We were completely surprised by the wide range of trails on offer in this city, from whose port Vasco da Gama set out to discover India. Perfect trails through various kinds of vegetation with sea views and more than 7 minutes of descending despite being a stone’s throw from the city – who could help but grin in circumstances like these. On particularly hot days, we took a plunge into the refreshing waves after the descent with our bib shorts still on, ending the day by losing ourselves with a bottle of wine under our arms in one of the city’s small alleys. An absolute dream! One of our authors decided to stay right there.
A city can change your life
After reading City Escape Barcelona, a friend of ours ended a long-term relationship that hadn’t been working and moved to the iconic Catalonian capital two weeks later with nothing but his bike and a few bags. New city, new you. A change of scenery can provide an important impetus in life and free you from old habits. Finding your way around in a new environment in a foreign language lets the neglected neurons in your brain fire up and blaze new paths. Get out of your rut and into life!
A trip to the city offers the perfect break from the same old routine of everyday life. You’ll be hard-pushed to find anything as inspiring as a metropolis in which the world spins a bit faster than it does at home. And they’re easy to reach, too. Thanks to ebikes, you can explore a city on your own terms and rekindle that fire in your belly. So, pack your bags and go visit a metropolis! You will find some ideas of places to visit on the following pages.
Bon dia Barcelona – A change of perspective in explorer mode
Every year, millions of tourists visit Barcelona, some of whom know the city better than many locals. We are not talking about sangría buckets and the tourist traps on La Rambla, but above all about trendy cafés, creative boutiques, museums, architecture, culture and beautiful places to stay. The city is constantly changing and offering new things to discover. How unfortunate would it be if you remained trapped in your boring, everyday routine? So, it’s high time to look at Barcelona from a new perspective – from our Haibikes.
An eMTB is one of the best tools to gain new perspectives.
Aboard our eMTBs, we fly up the Carretera de les Aigües to Barcelona’s Tibidabo ridge. Every pedal stroke brings us a little closer to freedom. The narrow city streets turn into lonesome gravel roads – with or without pedestrians, depending on the time of day. There are a variety of trails in the nature reserve that lead either to Sant Cugat del Vallès or directly back to the city. We enjoy the mostly singletrack descent back to Barcelona. Our destination: Barceloneta, Barcelona’s famous beach, and a beer, of course!
If you don’t mind taking a short drive, you can escape the city centre in less than 30 minutes and discover the mountains of Alella or Cabrils: ocean views, typical Catalan restaurants and an incredible variety of trails, from flowing to rough, from easy to insane. And for those who want to take it easy, there are countless gravel roads that run along the entire Maresme.
Viennese melange – In tension between tradition and modernity
Vienna is different – you can tell that not just from the city but above all from its inhabitants. On the surface, Vienna consists primarily of ever-present museums, the magnificent, historic buildings and imperial palaces as well as extensive green spaces and the Danube. Culture is everything here, some of it so stark that you can’t tell what is a tourist attraction and what is meant to be serious as visitors let themselves get ferried through the historic city centre on horse-drawn carriages. Speaking of serious: if you’ve ever heard of Viennese Schmäh, you’ll know that the Viennese have their own kind of black humour, and they don’t care too much if non-Viennese understand their jokes.
Cruise through the Prater park, relax on the old Danube, stop at the beach café – Vienna is bike-friendly and there’s a lot to discover! Especially if you want to let your hair down and unwind.
But it’s not just the city centre that’s big on culture but also the mountains and forests of the surrounding area, boasting a vibrant and committed bike culture with an ever-increasing number of legal trails and even a trail centre! We drive to the Vienna Woods at Mödling, which is less than 20 km south of Vienna. They’ve recently opened an official trail, which our friends have been raving about. The nature reserve is characterised by a special kind of vegetation, freshwater springs and cosy cabins. The trails turn out to be great and the forest has a fascinating history – though it looks completely natural, it’s actually man-made. In the 18th century, Empress Maria Theresa reforested the southern heathland of the Vienna Woods with black pines to prevent the landscape from turning into a desert.
Zurich’s double life – An exciting blend of NYC and Berlin?
If you haven’t been to Zurich yet, it’s easy to get a biased and perhaps distorted view of this picturesque city on the northern end of Lake Zurich. The largest city in Switzerland is mainly known for its pretty old town and posh boutiques on the Bahnhofstrasse and is considered an important international banking and financial centre. Despite its population of “just” 400,000 people, Zurich ranks amongst some of the hippest places in the world, standing alongside Paris and New York. But the pretty town at the northern tip of the Swiss Alps leads a double life, split between parallel worlds which seem to coexist in peaceful harmony.
If we were to characterise Zurich in just one sentence, we could describe it as an expensive version of Berlin or a village-sized NYC.
The bike-friendly city lets the modern metropolitan person do everything they want aboard an eMTB, from sightseeing to secret escapes – in Turbo mode! So, we grab the Land Rover and drive to the area of Flims Laax Falera, about an hour and a half away by car, to shred Alpine trails. Less than 48 hours later, our heads are full of new experiences and memories: the fun Runca trail, the spectacular ride on the Vorab Glacier, the honey from the Segnesboden, marmots, a short visit to the gigantic waterfall, watching the sunrise in the Flimserwald, bathing in Lake Cresta. There’s more: campfire on the glamping grounds, sunbathing at the converted cowshed on the Alp Nagens, a cheese tour by Alpmeister Silvan… it’s a lot to process.
The city of explorers – In Turbo mode between Vasco da Gama and overtourism
A ship’s horn blows in the distance. Seagulls circle in the sky. The warm sun dazzles us and covers the city in a warm glow. Where the Iberian Peninsula meets the sea, these are the scenes of a normal winter’s day. We’re in Lisbon! The city of seven hills. The city of light. Or, simply, currently the hippest capital in Europe. So, what exactly distinguishes Lisbon from other European capitals and what makes it such an unforgettable city escape?
In Lisbon, you’ll be hard-pushed to find anything you can’t do.
The mild weather, the extraordinary hills of the city, the varied trails and the sea offer something for everyone. You can do it all in Lisbon. Just outside (or even in) the city, you’ll find places to surf, kite, bike, skate, paraglide or just go hiking. Just take Monsanto park, which is easily accessible and full of short but sweet trails that the locals look after and maintain. A train ride to the Sintra nature reserve brings you to the westernmost point of the European mainland. It’s a labyrinth of mountains and valleys, and winding through it all you’ll find both beautifully shaped and natural singletrack, putting a smile on every rider’s face. Infinite switchbacks, rock gardens and small jumps all heading to Europe’s westernmost point with a magnificent view of the sea – we’ve found trail paradise!
Berlin Calling – So Berlin
Lisbon has sunsets, Paris has the Eiffel Tower, but what about Berlin? Easy. Its underground scene, the creative community, the music. To find out what makes this controversial city tick, you’ve got to make your way into another world where parties are held underneath manhole covers where the thumping techno resonates. Berlin is loud, shrill, excessive and dirty. Or: political, cultural, diverse – a place of start-ups and artists of life. For some, it’s a crazy city that’s different somehow and that you visit once a year. For others, it’s nothing more than an overrated and annoying hype. And for others still, it’s a place to escape narrow-minded views, to be inspired and to live an alternative lifestyle.
Berlin is a city that thrives on the Currywurst-Champagne tug-of-war.
Berlin is also home to fixies and Dutch bikes, or so you think. However, its nightlife isn’t the only scene where you can let off the brakes – very few people know just how many cool trails you can find surrounding the city. Berlin is full of surprises, routes going in all directions. Since almost half of it is covered by forests, rivers and parks, it’s earned the title of Germany’s greenest city. In the north, lush forests with lakes and moors await, in Grunewald to the west, you’ll find a network of well-built trails on the Teufelsberg. In the south, there’s nothing but grass- and farmland, and in the east, you’ve got the Müggelberge with their official bike park route.
On a speed date with Frankfurt – A city with ups and downs
Wealth in the skyscrapers towering above, poverty on the streets below. Opposites collide in this often-overlooked metropolis sitting on the River Main. We rode our ebikes through the city German kids get warned about – and were out of the urban canyons and onto the trails in just 30 minutes. A perfect city escape!
Frankfurt steps on the gas where others have already started braking. We’ve rarely experienced a city that is so hungry and determined.
If you don’t feel like the dizzying heights of Frankfurt’s buildings, it’s best to explore the city at ground level. A bike tour along the River Main is a great way to get to know some of the city’s most important spots and historical landmarks. We explored the city by bike, covering everything from the curb to the skyline. If the city centre and its glass-clad banks are too much for you, you can find an official singletrack network to the north of the city at an altitude of over 800 metres that is second to none. On the mountain trails, some of which are up to 3.6 km long, bikers of all skill levels will get their money’s worth and a good dose of flow. The signposts, like those you’ll find on ski slopes, guide you through corners, drops and tabletops. We roll out of the forest into nearby Kronberg im Taunus, only to drink our first Äppler of the day and try a few local specialities in the nearest restaurant.
A city that almost has it all – Paris, the brand
When it comes to being a brand and depicting a certain lifestyle, Paris is in a league of its own. From cuisine to fashion and modern art, Paris is where it’s at. But how do you define the Paris brand and just how did it become so cosmopolitan? “Paris is everything one could wish for” the composer Frédéric Chopin swooned back in 1831. Does it hold true today? We shifted into gear to check out the city.
Paris is the city of lights, love, myths – and now bikes
Thanks to new laws that have been passed, the perpetual traffic jams that once dominated the cityscape are now being slowly substituted by a virtually constant stream of bike riders. We saddled up on ebikes to explore the new bike-friendlier lay of the land, scope out the execution of plan Vélo and take a ride with two Parisians to find out if cyclists, too, can fall in love with the city of love. It may not have long Alpine descents, but Paris is a do-it-all riding location. You’ll find scenic spots all around the city that are awash with classic woodland trails for riders of all skill levels. Whether you take the train north to forêt domaniale de Montmorency or go south to Fontainebleau – there’s something for everyone. Distributed throughout the area, you’ll find well-maintained trails that are a blast to ride with pedal assist. Without the help of locals or apps like Komoot or Trailforks, we would have been lost.
„Roma non basta una vita“ – A lifetime isn’t enough to experience Rome
There aren’t many cities that can compete culturally or architecturally with Rome and its 3,000 plus years of history. But does its stronghold on the past mean that the city doesn’t have a future? In search of the answer, we took lessons from Caesar and met the Pope, gorged on Roman cuisine and hit some antiquated rocks on Tivoli’s trails.
The world’s biggest open-air museum
Rome represents the Pantheon, Pope and pasta. But can you go mountain biking here? We rambled across Rome and its outlying regions with a crew of locals to explore the trail riding credentials left by the Roman ancestry. We make the obvious decision to do our first trail check in Tivoli, one of the most popular haunts for Rome’s bike riding community that sits on the Aniene River. Just 50 minutes outside the capital, it’s a firm favourite with locals, known for being the coolest spot in the summer with steep climbs, techy descents and uninterrupted views of the urban sprawl. When we hit the trails in Formello, it’s a whole other ballgame: flowy, fast and fun in an area that’s less rocky, with trails that are built to be more like a rollercoaster. The local diggers have nailed it for beginners and experts alike. It also serves as the official base of the nearby Veio bike park where you’ll find the Pecora and Capra trails: first left, then right and a small kicker into a steep descent down into the next berms. It’s the sort of bike park that satisfies every ability, without any of the hair-raising, tight-rope stuff of Tivoli. A perfect escape from the urban jungle.
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Words: Julian Lemme Photos: Diverse