Olympic and World Champion, World Cup winner, military athlete, Wok World Champion and now, towering above all else: eMTB rider. For many, the man needs no introduction: Georg Hackl, also known as Hackl Schorsch. We visited him at home in Bavaria’s Berchtesgaden and grabbed the opportunity to catch up with the luge legend over a bike ride.
It’s one of those grey, slightly dreary days with low-hanging clouds that shroud the usually postcard-perfect mountains around Berchtesgaden. The valley floor is covered with mist and there’s a distinct lack of views for us to enjoy. As gusts of wind blow down the valley, the curtains are pulled back for a few rare glimpses of the landscape behind. The best way to describe this sort of weather is unappealing: the sort when you want nothing more than to slouch on the sofa with a cup of tea. That, understandably, is how Georg Hackl feels about it too, but the self-proclaimed fair-weather rider is willing to make an exception for us so we continue with our plans for a bike ride to Gotzenalm for food at a hut. We’ve heard rumours about the luge legend’s passion for eMTBing and wanted to discover more.
From professional sports to the principle of small rewards
Anyone familiar with winter sports between 1988 and 2006 will probably have come across Hackl Schorsch. He dominated the sport for more than 20 years and still works as a sledge builder and coach today. While competing, he was known for his exacting standards and his tinkering to coax the best performance from his equipment. Unfortunately, a string of injuries led to his retirement from pro sports, but he’s since found eMTBing. For once in his life, it doesn’t involve lofty ambitions, but instead simply makes him happy with every pedal stroke. “What fascinates me about eMTBs is the fact that every bit of exertion you put into the bike is reciprocated with the same from the bike. It’s totally motivating.” We pedal up the fire road on the climb and he tells us how he’s probably even more active these days than when he was chasing Olympic medals.
Long rides, spare batteries and his motor of choice
Georg’s current love for eMTBing is irrefutable, but we recognise one common feature in all the tales of his exciting rides: they’re all incredibly long. Unlike what you might expect, he’s not a turbo-and-go, hammer-it-down type rider that burns through the battery immediately. Georg opts for significantly longer rides, and never in the same place twice. With a spare battery in his backpack, he’ll usually do more than 2,000 metres of ascending in each ride. On this day, given the fact that we’ve left the house without spare batteries, we’ve got to content ourselves with just 1,000 metres of climbing up to the Gotzenalm. The steepest ramp, Georg warns us, comes right at the end.
He’s a big fan of Bosch motors, we learn. Unlike the Shimano system, he’s found that Bosch is both more powerful, yet also more economical with the said power, which he believes makes it better in the mountains. As if to confirm his point, the Shimano-equipped bikes that we’re on today, both run out of juice frustratingly close to the top. As the display flashes red, Georg somewhat smugly shows his full remaining bar. We can try and fault the motor, but more likely it was our frequent temptation to ride in the more powerful modes.
Re-discovering your home turf
Georg is a proud Bavarian. He grew up here, went to school here and lived here all through his sporting career. If you didn’t find him on the luge track, then he was surely in the mountains. The routes he rides today are the ones that imprinted themselves on his mind when he was a kid, and you can tell he’s still deeply taken with the landscape. We don’t reckon he’ll ever get bored of the views over the Königsee lake or the Watzmann mountain. We finally make it over the steepest part of the climb and the route flattens off. Our stomachs grumble. The Alpine meadow up here has a mountain hut, whose owner greets Georg warmly. “But Schorsch, what are you doing out in this weather? It’s not like you!” He smiles wryly and nods at us.
We refuel with gröstl, a dish of grilled potatoes, salad, and an alcohol-free weißbier – something Georg insist ones. Hikers swarm into the hut around us and two cyclists enter, discussing their final steep bit of their tough climb. Discussion moves onto the sense behind eMTBs, and Georg can’t but say to the couple, “Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.” He lifts his head. “For me, every day without an eMTB is a wasted one.” – We couldn’t agree more.
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Words & Photos: Christoph Bayer